Unmanned Aerial Vehicles And Construction

A while ago I wrote a blog about the inspection of buildings by rappelling over the side. The article below from ENR talks about using the drones for inspections of the buildings or other things. It looks like the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or rope is still cheaper and faster than the use of scaffolding or lifts. I can really see where the use of UAVs and ropes would create a great pairing for the inspections.

Some Firms Are Not Waiting For Regulations On Commercial Drone Operations

When Greg Sherwin started tinkering with radio-controlled (RC) quadcopters three years ago, he wondered about using them for construction surveys and inspections. In March, his hobby became an occupation.

Sherwin was hired by Indianapolis-based Midwest Constructors as the concrete firm’s preconstruction director, but Neal Burnett, president, knew of Sherwin’s interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) when he brought him in. He immediately pulled Sherwin aside to discuss ideas for a new business.

Burnett recalls, “I thought, ‘Here’s a guy who knows how to operate all the systems, understands them, and has the same background as we have from an engineering and construction standpoint.” Burnett already had a business plan rolling in his head, but the problem was, “I don’t operate RCs.”

Burnett also had dreamed of using UAVs to perform inspections of buildings, bridges, industrial plants and other structures. “It’s really cost-effective, because when you put a guy on the side of a building you’ve got to have lifts or swing stages,” compared to which UAVs are “really very inexpensive—and with this you get the high-end definition.” Safety is another advantage, he adds. Continued at ENR.com.

Learning Curve By Richard Byfield



When I was young, or at least very naive, I traveled with the principal boss to a client team meeting.  Several of us were directed to tag along as this was a new project and we were all going to be working together within the architect’s office.  This new project was a hospital’s new surgery wing.  It was to be a complicated project with many elements to resolve and this included the integration within the existing hospital.

The principal was a great designer who specialized in surgery centers, so I felt privileged to become part of his project team.  He opened the meeting seeking all of the input he could get from the hospital administrators and the doctors involved in planning this new project.

Just listening to the questions and the answers gave me a basic understanding of the depth of knowledge necessary for the elements of a surgery center. While I took notes, I was not taking everything in as fully as needed, which I learned later that day.  The principal was constantly saying with every item of input that he would research each issue and have answers for them next week.

Back at the office, I said to one of my teammates just how impressed I was with the boss committing himself to so many issues.  And then I had a rude awakening.  I was immediately told that none of these issues were being done by the boss. “But,” I said, “he made the commitment.”  “No,” my teammate replied “that is why you and I were there.  Each of these commitments is ours, and we better perform well so that the boss does not look bad.”

What a revelation.  I did not even understand how I was to receive work assignments, and now I had so many that I did not know what I was to do.  Even worse, I had not taken complete notes to fully understand everything that I was now assigned.  The stress that I had just created for myself was a real learning curve and what a week of intense due diligence I had ahead of me.

Oh by the way… Thanks to Richard Byfield for writing a guest blog for us! Richard is a fourth generation Californian and holds a bachelor of architecture degree and MBA from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In addition, he also studied engineering at San Francisco State University. More importantly, he has worked from the age of 10 and now has more than 40 years of experience in the construction industry. Richard likes to offer a different perspective, to get us to think and discuss. So let’s discuss! Let me know what YOU think!



My Thoughts On Budgets

I have had some dealings lately regarding construction budgets, and I was asked to contribute my thoughts. The budget starts with the owner’s vision. There is no known dollar amount at this time, but there is always a cost. When the owner decides to go forward with the vision, they will usually contact a design firm to help them get the vision defined.

At this point in the project, the costs start to become a known entity. This is also the perfect time for an owner to get a competent cost estimator on board with the design team. The estimator and designer can help steer the vision in the right direction for the owner. The design team, including the estimator, can help assure that the design goes down the right path, by finding out what is important to the owner. Time, maintenance, lifecycle cost, and end use are just some of the factors that need to be determined before pen goes to paper. Having the right team in place will ensure that a good budget will be developed.

Oh By The Way … We rarely see this happen. Unfortunately, the owner may not want to spend the money for an estimator for the design team. The uninformed owner is not aware of the benefits an estimator brings to the project actually saves the owner money.



A Message From Tempest Company

There’s no beating around the bush. I was recently offered a position with another company, so this will be my last blog as an employee with Tempest Company. It’s been a great seven years working here, but I had an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up so I decided it’s time for me to move on.

Thinking back on all the projects I was a part of is still unbelievable. I know I will never forget a few of them, such as a man-made island in the Middle East or my trip to China. Never in a thousand years did I think I would have the opportunity to visit China and see the Great Wall. I will also remember the large embassy project in which I learned what a “Ha-Ha wall” is. Yes, that is a real type of wall, if you are wondering! While I can’t be too specific, because of our confidentiality clause, the range of projects that I was able to be involved with was an awesome experience!

Since I’m leaving on good terms, I have to admit it’s a bit sad to go. I enjoyed working here and will miss it. I also will miss the many relationships with clients I have developed from all over the country. I always enjoyed talking to them every so often to see how things were going “in their neck of the woods”.

I would like to thank Tempest Company for my employment and I wish them the best of luck. For everyone I have worked with – both in the office and my past clients – It’s a small world, so who knows how or when our paths may cross again.

Best regards,

Mark Mentele

Mark on the Great Wall, 2013

Mark on the Great Wall, 2013

The Bid is Due When?!

I was trying to meet up, on the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, with another estimator who works for a local contractor after he got off work. Since it was not only a Friday, but also the Friday of a three day weekend, I was expecting him to be able to head out a little early like most everyone else. Unfortunately, he had to get a bid out before he could call it a day.

An architect had actually scheduled bids to be due at 5:00 pm on that Friday! My first thought was, wow, what a “Debbie Downer” thing to do. (Kind of like the teacher who assigns homework over the summer!) My second thought, does the architect know this may inflate the cost of the project?

Historically, you will find that most people try to leave early on Fridays, especially when it’s a holiday weekend. So, in my opinion, it’s a bit misguided to have a 5:00 pm bid time right before the start of a holiday weekend. Not taking the bid date and time into consideration can create additional unneeded issues. What if there are problems? Any questions or clarifications may not get answered on a sub or vendor quote because they have already left for the long weekend.

The Ebola Virus Comes To Town – I’m Not Worried

Last week a doctor that has contracted the Ebola virus was transferred to Omaha. He is being treated in a bio-containment unit of the UNMC Hospital. Some people are uncomfortable with this patient being treated here.

I have done estimates for bio-containment facilities and know all of the planning that goes into the workers safety is unbelievable. The flow of everything is considered. Whether it is the workers and how they move about the space so they do not contact items that they should not, or the flow of air to keep all of the air moving where they want it. In my opinion, the most risk would be in the transportation of the patient to the bio-containment unit, not once he gets there.

Oh by the way… Here is a link about the Ebola virus coming to Omaha.



Epic Site Visit

Like many of you, I have been on a number of site visits over the years. As I stated in a previous blog, site visits come in a large variety… awesome, okay or disgusting. A while ago I had a colleague that was telling me about one of his site visits. This was the most incredible site visit I had ever heard of. When I call it epic, I don’t think “Epic” is an exaggeration or misrepresentation with this one! (It’s not like how my ten year old uses “epic” for just about everything. “Pancakes for dinner? Epic!”)

So just what was this epic site visit? This site visit was to multiple locations all over the world. The purpose of the site visits was to get a feel for what other companies comparable to their own were doing. They observed everything from the generalities, to the interworking’s of the competition around the world. Then they gathered the best ideas from all of the locations and combined them to make the “World’s Best” at their business in the USA. The site visits lasted a little over a month, and over a dozen people went on the trip. That is the most amazing site visit that I have ever heard of.

While the site visit may have been one of a kind, I think just about any site visit has it’s story. What are some of your site visit stories?

My most incredible site visit - Hawaii!

My most incredible site visit – Hawaii!


Construction Productivity

I came across this article from the National Society of Professional Engineers and thought I would pass it on to you.

It is no secret that productivity is down in construction! The Empire State building was completed in under teo years. How long do you think it would take today to complete a building like that? The One World Trade Center started in 2006 and may be completed in 2014.

Construction Productivity in Decline


Innovation and cutting-edge are not words frequently associated with the US construction industry, at least not in comparison to industries like robotics or aerospace, but even more unfortunate is that the industry’s poor image may be deserved. Data from federal agencies shows US construction industry productivity has a long history of decline that continues today.

“If you look at curves of labor productivity, the manufacturing industry has been taking off for quite a long time at a rate of five to six percent a year,” says Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Research Professor Emeritus Paul Teicholz. “If you look at the growth data for the whole [construction] industry, if anything, labor productivity is getting worse.”

The article is continued in the June 2014 Issue.

Labor Day

For all your hard work and dedication, you deserve a day off. What the heck! Go ahead and take a three-day weekend!

Happy Labor Day!

How Accurate Do You Need to Be?

I was reading a recent article about Walgreens making a mistake in their forecast and it cost two high ranking employees their jobs (CFO and pharmacy chief). They made a $1.1 billion error which is a huge amount! But let’s look at it on a percentage basis.

Analyzing the article, the forecast was for the fiscal year 2016 and the variance was about 13%. Instead of covering it up until after the fact, the incorrect calculations were corrected and restated. If this was a construction estimate, would people still be fired over the bust?

Estimating future costs can be very difficult because of the number of unknown variables. I don’t believe 13% is that far off for a project that wouldn’t start for another 2 years. In my opinion, getting the correct information out to everyone involved as early as possible is the most important factor. This allows for time to plan and adjust, minimizing the damage of the mistake. Trying to cover up a mistake only makes it worse in the long run.


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