Incomplete Drawings

As estimators, we all have estimated a job with an incomplete set of drawings. We deal with incomplete drawings in many different ways… from asking questions, to adding in an allowance, or just leaving out anything that is not shown. Working with incomplete drawings is something that all good estimators can do and know which one of these approaches to use in different situations.INCOMPLETE

The real problem comes when the project is being built. You can’t estimate for how much time and energy those working in the field are going to spend trying to get answers on the incomplete drawings. The team a contractor puts on the job can make or break it the project. Reworks and change orders will start to come in, and the project will quickly become a problem project if not handled properly.

Getting Paid In Construction

Here is another good blog from Craig Martin, apartner at Lamson, Duggan, and Murray. Craig is the “go to” guy for all things related to Construction Law. Here’s what he has to say about one of the most difficult parts of working in construction… getting paid. And then check back with me, and let me know your thoughts.

Craig_Martin_ProfileSuspend the Work, but Don’t Get Fired by Craig Martin

Getting paid for your work is often times one of the hardest parts of a project.  If you find yourself working without getting paid, it’s easy to think, “I’ll just stop working until I get paid.”  While the law may support you in that decision, the contract may not and you may be found in breach of the contract if you walk off the job. (Article Continued)

Oh, by the way… Another of Craig’s blogs that I recommend is Playing Close to the Line Can Get You Burned.

Construction Jokes

It’s Friday! Enjoy the laughs and have a great weekend!smiley face 4

One morning a local highway department crew reached their job site and realized they had all forgotten their shovels. The crew’s foreman radioed the office and told his supervisor of the problem. The supervisor radioed back and said “don’t worry we’ll send some shovels… just lean on each other until we get there!”

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A young boy was canvassing a wealthy neighborhood, looking to hire himself out as a handy man. He had been pretty busy all day and decided to stop at one more house before calling it a day. However, it was the home of the nastiest, greediest man in the neighborhood.

When the grouchy man answered the door, the boy politely asked the owner if he had any jobs he could do.

The man was as mean as ever, but finally said. “Well, you can paint my porch. How much do you charge?”

“How about fifty dollars?” The boy offered.

The homeowner got a gleam in his hard eyes and agreed.

The man’s wife, inside the house, heard the conversation and said to her husband, “Fifty dollars? Does he realize the porch goes all the way around the house?”

The owner laughed rudely, “He should, he was standing on it!”

A short time later the boy came to the door to collect his money.

“You’re finished already?” The owner asked in surprise.

“Yes! And since I had extra paint I gave it two coats!” The boy pocketed his money and waved good bye. He was half way down the man’s sidewalk when he called back. “And by the way mister, that’s not a Porch, it’s a Ferrari.”

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A construction worker dies on a fishing mishap on his 40th birthday and finds himself greeted at the Pearly Gates by a huge brass band, and Saint Peter himself!

Saint Peter runs over, vigorously shakes his hand and says, “Congratulations!”

“Congratulations?” The construction worker asks. “For what?”

“For what?” Saint Peter laughs, “Why we are celebrating your birthday – you lived to be 160 years old!”

“But that’s not true,” says the construction worker. “Today was only my 40th Birthday!”

“That’s impossible,” says Saint Peter, “we added up your time sheets!”smiley face 5One day, a duck waddles into a bar at lunchtime and sits at the counter. He asks the stunned bar owner for a sandwich and a beer. The barman just stands there, staring at the talking duck.

“Hey, how about that sandwich and beer?” The duck tries again.

“Umm, yeah sure, coming right up.” The barman quickly recovers and draws the duck a beer. “Sorry about that, we don’t get too many ducks in here. What brings you in today?”

“I’m working on the building site across the street.” the duck explains as he finishes his sandwich and beer. He pays the bill, leaves a tip, than waddles out.

This continues for a few more weeks. One day the barman gets word that the circus has come to town. The circus owner stops in one afternoon, so the bar man tells him all about the talking duck. The circus owner is very interested in meeting the duck and leaves his number.

The next day at lunch the duck comes waddling into the bar. The barman shares the news while pouring his beer. “Hey, I was talking to this guy and he might have work for you. A good paying job at that!”

“Great!” The duck says, “Where at?”

“At the Circus! I told him all about your skills and he can’t wait to meet you.”

“The circus?” The duck asks, “The place will all those big canvas tents?”

“That’s right!” Says the barman, “They are in town for a week and I told them all about you.”

The Duck seems confused. “Hmm,” he rubs his chin. “What the heck does the circus want with a plasterer?”

smiley face 6Oh, by the way… Did you know that these are all jokes that have appeared in the Tempest Company Monthly Newsletter? Yep, you can get estimating advice, industry news and jokes. To subscribe to our newsletter click here.

Robots In Construction

This is a great article from Inside Unmanned Systems about what is happening right now with robots in construction.

Building Enthusiasm for Construction Robotics

The $4 trillion construction industry is a complicated, big business fraught with danger.

Every project, from high-rise towers and business complexes to stadiums and transport systems, requires a tightly choreographed symphony of people, equipment and materials. On any given project, multiple tradespeople work side-by-side to erect steel, pour concrete, locate and place mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, install windows, doors and walls amidst a vast array of equipment from cranes to power tools.

One misstep could cause injury or even death.

It would seem that robotic systems could provide an extra measure of safety, as well as a higher level of efficiency and machine-consistent quality. Yet, to date, the use of robotic systems on construction jobsites has been minimal. (Article Continued.)

Scheduling Terms Continued

I’m sure many of you have been waiting on pins and needles for me to finish up this list of scheduling terms. Your wait is over.

Early dates – The earliest an activity can start and finish based on its relationships and constraints. Called “Early Start” and “Early Finish”.

Finish On or Before – A constraint to set intermediate completion points in the project.

Lag – An offset or delay between an activity and its successor used during the schedule calculation. Lag can be positive or negative. A scheduling option allows the user to determine the calendar used when calculating the effect of lag on the project plan.

Late dates – The latest an activity can start and finish without affecting the end date of the project. Called “Late Start” and “Late Finish”.

Milestone – A type of activity used to represent the beginning or the end of a major stage or an important event in a project. Start and finish milestones cannot have durations, time-based costs, or resource assignments.

Must Finish By Date – An imposed finish date on a project that is defined in Project Details in the Projects window.

Predecessor – An activity that must occur before another activity. A predecessor activity controls the start or finish date of its successors. An activity can have multiple predecessors.

Relationship type – Defines how an activity relates to the start or finish of another activity. The four types of relationships are: finish-to-start, finish-to finish, start-to-start, start-to-finish.

Resources – The personnel and equipment that perform work on activities across all projects.

Start On or After – A constraint to set the earliest date an activity can start.

Successor – An activity that must occur after another activity. An activity can have multiple successors, each with a different relationship to it.

Total float – The amount of time an activity can be delayed without delaying the project finish date.

Oh, by the way… Here is the start of the list if you missed it.

ABC’s and D’s of Scheduling

Here is a list of scheduling terms that you might find helpful.

Activity – The fundamental work element of a project. Contains all of the necessary information to perform the required work. The lowest level of a work breakdown structure (WBS).

Activity Code – A code that represents an attribute of the activity. Use activity codes to filter, group, sort, and report activity information. Activity codes can be global, project-specific, or assigned to an EPS level.

Activity type – Controls how an activity’s duration and dates are calculated. The six activity types are: task dependent, resource dependent, level of effort, start milestone finish milestone, and WBS summary.

Baseline – A snapshot of project plan as of a particular point in time. This “snapshot” provides a target against which you can track a project’s performance based on schedule, resource or cost data.

Budgeted Cost – The estimated cost of projected work based on resource assignments and expenses associated to the project.

Constraint – A restriction you impose on a project or activity. Up to two constraints can be assigned to an activity.

Costs – The unit price or expense of an activity.

Critical activity – An activity with zero total float. If a critical activity is delayed it will delay the project as a whole. Critical activities are defined by either the total float or the longest path.

Critical path – The path of activities through a project that determines the project’s finish date.

Data date – The date to use as the starting point for the schedule calculation. Any data to the left of the data date is considered historical information. Any data to the right of the data date is the forecast of remaining work.

Driving relationship – A relationship between two activities where the predecessor early finish determines the successor’s early start. In the Activity Network, a solid relationship line indicates a driving relationship.

Oh, by the way… I will continue with the rest of the alphabet in the next blog.

Skilled Labor Decline

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you already know I seem to talk a lot about the lack of skilled labor in the construction industry. Now people outside of the industry are starting to join in the discussion. Here is an article from The Watchdog about this very topic. It seems there is also a trend to rename the so-called “blue collar” jobs to the “silver collar”. This is in part to the high starting salaries being reported. I say we need to do whatever it takes to get people to realize the important role that skilled workers play in the labor force.

Rise of the “silver collar” workforce: When a four-year degree isn’t the right move

By Rob Nikolewski │

This may come as bad news for parents who have spent tens of thousands of dollars sending their kids to expensive universities, but one path for young people getting a good job requires just a two-year degree or, in some cases, no college degree at all.

“The reality is, most jobs do not require a four-year college degree,” said William C. Symonds, executive director at the Global Pathways Institute at Arizona State. “What they do require is some solid technical skills. And the best way to get those is at a program lasting two years or less.”

The average amount of college student loan debt rose last year to an average of $28,400 while an increasing number of graduates either can’t find work or are working at jobs that don’t even require a bachelor’s degree to begin with, leaving many of them — their parents included — wondering if they’ve wasted their money.

“I think we made a real mistake as a country moving away from the vocational school option, absolutely. That’s where many of the jobs are needed,” said Symonds, whose organization concentrates on fixing what he’s called the “disconnect between education and business.” 

“There was so much emphasis on going to four-year schools, we have the highest college dropout rate in the world and the costs are out of control and students are taking on a lot of debt,” Symonds told in a telephone interview.

While it’s true statistics show that overall, those with bachelor’s degree and higher tend to make more money than those who don’t, there are some fields where workers who received associate’s degrees in two years — or certifications that can take as little as six weeks — are making good livings.

“I think we lost focus on the fact that middle-skill jobs also pay reasonably well,”  said David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, based in Colorado. “You get to them much quicker and for many people, the nature of the work is rewarding than the work that comes with a a bachelor’s degree because you’re working with your hands.”

Oh, By The Way… The article is continued here. After you finish reading it, come back and let me know what you think.

Estimators Sharing Experiences Part 2

I have received a lot of stories from my previous blog, in which I invited all of you to share the news of recent projects, run-ins with other professionals, and obstinate owners. I loved to hear these stories too and hope you keep sharing! So let me know your estimating anecdotes. Share them here, so that we all might learn a thing or two, or at least share a laugh.

 This one came from a friend of mine. He told me he had a recent run in with an architect. The estimator and architect came up with different numbers when they were looking at an excavation project. The architect had his answer in cubic feet and the estimator had his in cubic yards. After a little number comparison the estimator thought he had discovered the problem, so he asked “Do you know how many cubic feet are in a cubic yard?” At that point the architect scoffed, “Nine.”

At this point, I can just imagine my friend closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before he, as politely as possible, said, “Well, that’s a very popular answer. It’s not right, but a lot of people think it is!”

3D Printing in Construction

There is no denying how cool 3-D printers are, and people have been creating amazing things with them. It seems imagination is only the limit when we see life saving medical devices, prosthetic limbs, musical instruments, and dinosaur bones. Well, the construction industry can’t be left out! Here is an article about an architect/contractor who is planning to build an entire estate with 3-D printing.

3-D Printing In Construction