Industry Blogs

Over the last year, the construction industry like many other industries have faced various impacts from the pandemic. One of the largest hurdles they have had to overcome is the lack of access to job sites. Around the world safety restrictions have been instituted, ranging from international lockdowns to limiting just two people to each Read more

Over the last year, the construction industry like many other industries have faced various impacts from the pandemic. One of the largest hurdles they have had to overcome is the lack of access to job sites. Around the world safety restrictions have been instituted, ranging from international lockdowns to limiting just two people to each freight elevator, which a year ago were shuttling dozens of construction workers in one cabin. This has required construction managers to find innovative solutions to move projects forward without incurring additional risks or delays.

Integrating technology into the construction process has become a necessity for many construction teams to maintain communication with all parties, monitor site progression, and complete various tasks typically done in person. Technology platforms like OpenSpace.ai provide 3D photo documentation capabilities allowing project teams and stakeholders to virtually track and tour job sites they’re not able to visit in person. Other apps offering virtual assistance like advanced calendaring, geo-locating and equipment tracking, have all helped to ensure seamless continuity over the past year.

Outside of on-site challenges, access to commodities have caused issues with project progression. When foreign steel and lumber companies experienced supply chain shortages, many construction firms turned to domestic providers. As a result, understanding the global landscape with local market knowledge has been crucial when looking for and sourcing materials. Having local connections has enabled many construction jobs to continue with limited interruptions.

Maintaining a strong client experience, even while incurring internal and external challenges is important. Just like with their internal teams, construction managers need to make sure their key stakeholders and decision makers are informed, comfortable, and satisfied through the process. Especially if teams are unable to visit site locations, finding work arounds, communicating, and reinforcing commitment is key.

Through an integrated approach blending strategy and design with pre-construction and delivery, issues with access and other hurdles are resolved early on in the project. Combining these services into one process removes the risk of cost overrun, scheduling delays, and other risks. When construction is involved in the beginning, during the planning stages, potential issues can be communicated and minimized with a collaborative plan of attack. This enables teams to deliver projects more quickly without sacrificing quality. Especially during uncertain times, a seamless process and end-to-end experience can establish a long-standing partnership with clients.

An example of leveraging technology and an end-to-end process to overcome significant Covid-19 hurdles is when Unispace managed a project in Canada for an American client, and both the project team and client were unable to cross the border. The team had to get creative to move the project forward while keeping the client informed and satisfied. OpenSpace along with a streamlined communication across internal and external parties allowed Unispace to navigate the project completely remotely, without ever visiting the job site. This type of agile process is expected in the future as firms and their clients continue to navigate the evolving real estate landscape.

Managing large commercial real estate projects nationally and globally requires a seamless approach enabled by workplace intelligence and technology to meet the pace of change. The pandemic has challenged construction and design executives to push the boundaries and expand their horizons to incorporate new tools and processes. By leveraging technology, knowing the local markets, and focusing on the client experience, all within an end-to-end approach, construction managers can complete projects successfully even under difficult circumstances.

Tracy Lea Neff is a highly accomplished workplace design and delivery professional who has oversight of the North America Unispace Delivery team and all construction projects in the Americas. Recipient of the 2017 New England CoreNet Americas Real Estate Executive of the Year Award and a graduate of the 2018 CoreNet New England Leadership 2.0 Program.

Hiring, Inflation, Spending, and Travel will Trend Higher The U.S. will add more than 2 million jobs Between April and June, our great nation will add about 700,000 jobs per month on average. If I’m wrong, I’ll still have a job since I own my business, and I won’t be laying me off. If I’m Read more

Hiring, Inflation, Spending, and Travel will Trend Higher

The U.S. will add more than 2 million jobs

Between April and June, our great nation will add about 700,000 jobs per month on average. If I’m wrong, I’ll still have a job since I own my business, and I won’t be laying me off. If I’m right, America will still be down by more than 7 million jobs since the pandemic began.

Inflation will surpass 2%, with commodity prices surging

Actual inflation has trended well below expected inflation since the pandemic began in early 2020, but we’ll see it pick up in the second quarter of 2021. Supply chains are already unsettled, not just by trade disputes, Brexit, and COVID-19, but by a big boat that was stuck in the middle of the Suez Canal.

With a tsunami of demand coming from global consumers during the months to come, shortages of many inputs will worsen and prices will be pushed higher. Some of this has already happened. Softwood lumber prices are up 80% over the past year,¹ driving up the cost of building the typical single-family home by approximately $24,000.² Iron and steel prices are up 22%, and overall construction input prices are up nearly 8%.³

Consumer discretionary spending will expand dramatically

This one is obvious. With the household savings rate bulked up by stimulus and the suppression of many spending opportunities, consumer spending will take off during the months ahead. Retailers would be wise to invest intensely in their inventories in order to take advantage of surging demand.

Leisure travel will quickly return to pre-pandemic levels

It’s been a long year (365 days). If you didn’t need a vacation before, you need one now, and you aren’t alone. Book your flights now. Make your hotel reservations now. People are itching to travel (itchiness, as far as I know, isn’t a COVID-19 symptom), and you don’t want to be left behind.

From March 14-20, U.S. hotel occupancy rates reached 85% of 2019 levels, which means that many people are already on the move.⁴ You saw the pictures from Miami Beach. In some places in Texas and Florida, where pandemic restrictions have been lifted and have stayed lifted, hotel occupancy is already above 2019 levels. Oh, and make your restaurant reservations, too. While reservations are still down about 25% from the same time in 2019, that will change quickly as more people are fully vaccinated.⁵

Business travel won’t

Leisure travel will likely return to normal levels this summer. Business travel won’t. During the week of March 25, TSA headcount numbers were down 37% from the same week in 2019.⁶ Even as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, many businesses have learned that Zoom calls are easier and cheaper than flying across the country to meet face-to-face. So while business travel will pick up during the months ahead, it will be a long time before it is fully recovered. That means fewer people on their cellphones as you patiently wait in terminals.

What to Watch

Inflation, inflation, inflation. Whether or not the Federal Reserve or the Treasury Department believes it, the inflation risk is every bit as real as the Dodgers winning another World Series.

Enjoy!

Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO

Anirban is a study in contradictions. He has been called an economist with a personality, or alternatively, one with a sense of humor. He has twice been recognized as one of Maryland’s 50 most influential people. He has also been named one of the Baltimore region’s 20 most powerful business leaders. In 2014, Maryland Governor  Larry Hogan appointed Dr. Basu as Chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Commission. He teaches global strategy at Johns Hopkins University and serves the Chief Economist function for a number of organizations around the country. He has read every one of Agatha Christie’s novels, is an avid fan of James Bond, English football, Indian cricket, all Baltimore teams, and lives with his wife and two daughters, Kimaya and Kohena

 

The ever-growing expansion of technology and the emergence of globalization have made the digitization process an inevitable part of progress in various industries, including construction. New trends in technology are crucial for coming up with quicker, smarter solutions, and increasing efficiency while reducing unnecessary costs. While these trends have been met with certain reluctance by Read more

The ever-growing expansion of technology and the emergence of globalization have made the digitization process an inevitable part of progress in various industries, including construction. New trends in technology are crucial for coming up with quicker, smarter solutions, and increasing efficiency while reducing unnecessary costs. While these trends have been met with certain reluctance by this industry, over time they are becoming an integral part of the future. Here are some of the technology trends that are changing the construction industry that we know:

1. Building Information Modeling Technology (BIM)

Building Information Modeling Technology (BIM) is a software for 3D design that has found significant use in the construction sector. This software is similar to Computer-Aided Design (CAD), with the main difference being that BIM focuses on the design and construction of commercial buildings rather than mechanical and electrical assemblies. BIM is used to create digital models of what is going to be built, and not only that – it assembles metadata to be used within the project to improve its workflow and collaboration.

A study on BIM trends gathered data from 32 major construction projects and found that integrating BIM in construction resulted in 40% elimination of unplanned change, 80% reduction of time for generating a cost estimate, and up to 7% reduction of the overall time of the project.

Through BIM, the construction industry profits from more efficient designs, better accuracy, and reduction in errors due to digitalization. This software facilitates the detection of clashes in designs within a project, for example in the electrical and plumbing system.

2. HD Surveying and Geolocation

GPS-capable devices have become an inseparable part of living in a technologically-advanced era. This technology has luckily found good use in the construction industry, where it has enabled to predict and avoid inaccurate depictions of ground conditions through high definition photography, 3D laser scanning, and advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and drones.

GPS technology and sophisticated software have further aided spatial inspection and progress monitoring processes by enabling easy camera access to the location of equipment and sites.

3. Digital Twin

This relatively new but useful terminology in construction has enabled the digital representation of assets and systems in construction. The digital twin or replica mirrors a physical version of a project into its digital version, so project management is made easier by comparison of the two.

The digital replica offers a cost-effective solution for operating and testing real-life scenarios beforehand, so it minimizes possible errors and focuses on improving on-site safety. This technology syncs changes in real-time and is a tremendous advantage to the visualization, modeling, analysis, simulation, and further planning of a construction project.

4. AR & VR

By now you may have guessed that this next technological advancement is also beneficial to the visualization process of a construction project. The futuristic technology of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have entered the world of construction to allow for a special type of immersion into the project. AR technology adds and combines digital elements to a live view, which is useful for trial and error of ongoing additions within the project, whereas AR invites users for a complete immersion of the digitalized project, undisturbed by the physical environment.

What this means for the industry is that walkthrough tours with designers, contractors, and clients will become much more productive. On-site work conditions will be easier to visualize. Managers and workers can detect possible errors much more quickly, consequently avoiding additional costs and safety hazards.

5. UAV and Robotics

Construction efficiency is progressively on the rise through new developments in the field of robotics and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Additionally, robots have eliminated the need for hard manual labor such as lifting heavy weights and working with heavy machinery. This was done through the emergence of on-site production robots, and autonomous vehicles such as diggers and bulldozers.

This technology not only makes the construction project more efficient, but it allows for more precision and reduced cost and safety hazards in human labor.

6. 3D Printing

The rapid growth of 3D printing in construction is another addition to the technological advancement in this field. Through full automation, 3D printers eliminate the possibility for human error, which consequently saves a significant amount of costs through the reduction of material waste. Not only is it cost-efficient, but it also saves production time by digitally creating specific components of a construction project, or through its use through an arm attachment on the construction site.

3D printers also allow for printing materials and pieces in larger quantities, with the ability to tweak and make changes at any given time.

7. Facial Recognition & Biometrics

If you have a smartphone, you probably know of its facial recognition, fingerprint, and voice recognition features. This is known as biometrics, a field that uses physical and behavioral traits to identify human beings. This recognition system is slowly becoming a new trend on construction sites since it assists with tracking individual workers on the site. Through it, management can effectively grant and restrict access in certain areas of the site, reduce fraud, falsification, and abuse.

Biometrics is ideal for increased safety, as well as it makes payroll management easier.

Slowly but surely, the construction industry is adapting to new technological trends. The reduction of manual processes, however, does not necessarily mean fewer jobs for humans. Without the brains behind construction, the industry would surely cease to exist.

Boost revenue and customer satisfaction with these installation considerations Whether driven by rising utility costs, increased hot water demands, or environmental concerns, many homeowner customers are turning to propane tankless water heaters for a reliable, efficient water heating solution. Propane tankless systems provide reliability and efficiency, while supplying high volumes of hot water. Because these Read more

Boost revenue and customer satisfaction with these installation considerations

Whether driven by rising utility costs, increased hot water demands, or environmental concerns, many homeowner customers are turning to propane tankless water heaters for a reliable, efficient water heating solution.

Propane tankless systems provide reliability and efficiency, while supplying high volumes of hot water. Because these units only need to run when hot water is needed, their gas usage must ramp up quickly when meeting high demands for hot water. As popularity of tankless systems continues to grow among customers, it’s important for you to be aware of the proper installation techniques for the gas lines that supply the tankless unit.

Help your customers get the most out of their water heater by using these five tips:

Make sure to properly size the line

When it comes to proper gas installation, manufacturers may offer varying guidance, but following the National Fuel Gas Code is the most straightforward way to ensure you’re following proper procedures.

Properly sizing the gas line is critical to ensure a customer’s tankless water heater runs at optimal efficiency. Neglecting to consider the whole system load may leave your customers with an undersized and underperforming system. Here are five factors to consider when planning for correct sizing.

  1. Type of gas (propane or natural gas)
  2. Inlet pressure
  3. Total length of piping run
  4. Type and number of gas appliances in the home
  5. The maximum potential gas load of the whole home

Additionally, you can download and reference the Propane Technical Pocket Guide, which provides information on how to prepare for the installation of propane systems in residential and commercial construction projects.

Consider installing one size larger gas line

Calculations aside, manufacturers like Rinnai often suggest installing larger gas lines than ones used to service tank type water heaters. It can save you from having to retrofit to a larger gas line, which can cost several hundred dollars — whereas the cost difference between running a half-inch versus a three-quarter-inch upfront is minimal.

Consider incorporating propane

Propane offers a convenient and readily available energy solution, allowing you to install gas tankless water heaters even when natural gas isn’t available. Plus, a local propane company can bury underground tanks, and, in big developments, they can put in underground piping, too, so it works just like a natural gas system.

Incorporate flex pipes

Consider using flexible gas piping — such as corrugated stainless-steel tubing (CSST) — over fixed iron pipe for running gas lines, as flex pipes can speed up and reduce the costs of your installation.

Factor gas lines into your design

In many projects, you can bypass running a gas line all the way around or through a home by installing the unit on an exterior wall or outside instead. Doing this allows for shorter gas line runs and easier venting, too.

Visit Propane.com/Water-Heating for more information about propane water heaters and installation tips.

Bryan Cordill is director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at bryan.cordill@propane.com.

 

 

If you work in any industry that involves manufacturing using machinery, be it heavy duty vehicles or delicate devices used to make small items, you’ll know that your equipment is crucial to your enterprise. Machinery can be expensive and difficult to buy, operate and maintain – which is all the more reason to keep it Read more

If you work in any industry that involves manufacturing using machinery, be it heavy duty vehicles or delicate devices used to make small items, you’ll know that your equipment is crucial to your enterprise. Machinery can be expensive and difficult to buy, operate and maintain – which is all the more reason to keep it working properly, safely and to a high performance level.

In this blog we will discuss how to make sure your machinery can last as long as possible to serve your business both financially and in terms of quality.

Maintenance

No matter what your equipment is – it could be a company vehicle, factory equipment or waste disposal machinery – it needs to be properly maintained in order to survive its full lifespan. You can’t neglect machinery and expect it to carry on like normal; it needs to be consistently invested in by your company.

Here are a few tips for maintaining company machinery for top performance and longevity.

    • Follow the guidelines for professional maintenance. It’s easy to look at a piece of machinery that’s working fine and assume you can skip the advised maintenance. However, problems can arise from issues that aren’t visible for many weeks, or even months.
  • Training employees for proper use of machinery. One thing that wears down your machinery is it being used in an improper manner. Making sure to invest in legitimate training for all employees operating machinery can keep it running smoothly for longer.

Safety Assessments

The next important step for maintaining your machinery’s longevity is safety assessments. Whomever in your company is qualified to carry out these assessments should do so on the exact date required, carried out to the letter. 

Not only will this help make your equipment last longer, but it will also ensure compliance at every stage. Having machinery owned and operated by business employees means that, if an injury is sustained or the machinery is damaged, your company will be liable for damages.

In order to claim insurance and back up your company’s compliance, documenting regular safety assessments will make sure you don’t come up short in an extreme situation.

Consulting manufacturers when issues arise with OEMs

Lastly, it is crucial to go to the source if there is an issue with machinery. Sometimes it takes a manufacturer’s opinion and expert care to restore a piece of equipment to its original performance level. 

Your machinery should come with a warranty that allows you to consult manufacturers if there are issues with it down the line.

Even for small pieces of equipment, the manufacturer of an OEM, such as a compressor parts manufacturer, can provide insights that even trained employees may not be able to give. Maintaining a relationship with your OEM provider can give you access to their advice when you need it most.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining and updating expensive machinery can be a weighty responsibility. If you are looking for ways to break down the task more easily, allow this blog to help you ensure you’re doing all you can to improve safety and longevity.