By Stephen Ellis

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on any given day, nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation. Because of the nature of the job, injuries do happen, sometimes fatal ones. The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for all industries. As such, it’s crucial for construction sites to create and maintain health and safety standards for the organization for both the well being of the employees and the well being of the company. To further encourage and sustain employee health and safety in the workplace, consider implementing these three practices.

Implement Strict Safety Policies

Ideally, a workplace is hazard-free. However, some trades, such as ground construction and mechanical engineering inherently involve precarious work and unstable environments. Having a set of safety policies in place can minimize danger. Spread awareness by labeling unsafe environments, posting general warning signs and referencing the qualifications needed to enter various regions of a worksite. Also, employees not designated to work in certain high-risk positions should be discouraged from entering hazardous zones or attempting jobs they are not certified to complete.

Follow Safe Work Practices

A system of safe work practices can lessen the number of at-work injuries. Invest in products designed to prevent slip and fall accidents, such as anti-slip safety mats, restroom handrails, and entryway umbrella bag dispensers. Keep a clean and clear site to prevent workers from tripping on or getting struck or cut by hazardous materials. Additionally, using personal protective equipment such as hard hats and safety goggles, as well as utilizing proper work zone safety awareness will also limit injuries.

Provide Health and Safety Training

Ensuring a safe culture requires strong commitment from the top down, and safety must become everyone’s responsibility. Therefore, it’s important for every construction company to implement required safety-training programs for all employees to partake in. These programs should include first aid and emergency action plan training. Each work zone should also be supplied with first aid kits so small injuries can be quickly remedied. As required by jurisdiction, fire and emergency drills should be held on a regular basis.

Also, ensure these procedures are taken seriously and require active engagement. Last, encourage employees to be responsible and take sick time when necessary without reprimand. Health and safety standards should be a part of every business plan. In addition to saving life and limb, a commitment to improving workplace health and safety standards can help a business avoid potential lawsuits and other monetary loss. Further, an employee-focused culture that emphasizes health and safety creates a positive environment for optimal job satisfaction, morale, and productivity.

Stephen Ellis is manager of risk control for TriNet.

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By Craig "Tooey" Courtemanche

While I write this, file cabinets in a job site trailer are being filled to capacity, a superintendent is misplacing a thumb drive with the latest drawing set and a subcontractor is days behind schedule because he’s still trying to get sign-off on a key submittal. And that’s just on a single project. All of these problems have a common base cause: using outdated technology to run a construction project.

Whether the approach is using email with Excel files as attachments for communications, or attempting to run in-house file servers in the name of “securing our data,” the result is the same: outdated technology used for project communications and collaboration wreaks havoc on the bottom line of too many construction businesses. Here are the three aspects of construction project management that are getting hit the hardest by the use of older technologies:

  • Team collaboration is harder than it should be: Client-server applications designed in the 1990’s and run on in-house servers provide limited accessibility to project data. User licenses and VPN access requirements drastically inhibit communications and collaboration as team members wait to retrieve newly updated information before continuing their work. Project staff are required to suffer through slow VPN connections and remote desktop applications, and are routinely forced to hunt through emails with outdated attachments.
  • Communications are overwhelming: With thousands of emails and multiple revisions going back and forth, the volume of communication can be endless – this makes keeping updates to contracts, insurance documents, project plans, RFIs and change orders impossible. With no streamlined system in place, there will undoubtedly be details (and dollars) lost.
  • Projects are slipping their schedules because of a lack of information and communication: Keeping projects on schedule is imperative to profitability, and avoiding delays requires every party to deliver their work on time. Without the ability to monitor deadlines and anticipate delays in permitting, inspection, or obtaining equipment, valuable time and resources are lost. The solution to overcoming these challenges is cloud-based construction software. Cloud-based solutions can be implemented quickly, without requiring complicated or expensive maintenance or updates. Software automates communications processes and workflows automatically, creating a central hub for real-time project information. The files that the project team needs to get their jobs done are no longer on a single in-house server or on a lost thumb drive. Instead, this data is stored securely in the cloud—ready to be used and shared by all team members. Perhaps the biggest advantage of cloud-based construction software is the ability to access project data on smartphones or tablets from the field. When project team members have the capacity to archive and track emails, contracts, drawings, daily logs, RFIs, submittals and punch list items from their smartphones, they also have the ability to answer any project related question instantaneously. The ability to diagnose problems in real-time and resolve them quickly increases project team collaboration, escalating efficiency and drastically increasing project margins. Accurate, up-to-date project information, securely delivered to all project team members on any Internet-connected device – that’s the promise, and the reality, of today’s cloud-based construction software. Soon enough, the days of working with paper logs and outdated in-house servers will be only remembered as an unloved remnant of the past.

Craig "Tooey" Courtemanche is the Founder & CEO of Procore Technologies Inc., a cloud-based construction management software provider. More than a decade ago, Tooey founded Procore in order to leverage the power of the internet to improve construction project management. Today, hundreds of thousands of construction professionals worldwide manage their projects with Procore's cloud-based construction project management software.

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By Matt Lanza

The construction industry seems to be in an optimistically uncertain state, economically speaking. Opportunities appear on the upswing, as plans for new development and construction projects take shape. That potential growth is tempered given that the construction industry still faces financial challenges. Many appear determined to be as “lean and mean” as possible until the market rebounds to its pre-recession levels. Accordingly, owners of construction firms are scrutinizing their bottom lines, looking for ways to be as financially strong as possible to compete effectively in the marketplace.

One often-overlooked strategy for accomplishing that goal is addressing the cost of certain forms of insurance – workers’ compensation among them. It’s no secret to anyone in the construction industry that they are required to pay high premiums for workers’ compensation insurance based on their industry’s claims as a whole. The construction company or trade service owner who has a low number of claims and is “the exception” to the industry norm often feels frustrated paying higher premiums based on the experience of others in the industry – rather than on their own individual company’s performance. That is where investigating the “captive” option can significantly benefit such a company.

Captives are not new, but in recent years, the popularity of this option has increased as businesses evaluate new ways to save on their bottom line. Initially, the captive was the domain of larger companies such as Sears or IBM, which in effect formed their own insurance companies. The same principle now works on a group level, enabling companies that are not the size of Fortune 1000 corporations to leverage similar advantages. Since insurance companies make money on profits after evaluating claims paid out, it stands to reason that lower claims result in lower premiums.

For companies paying annual premiums of $200,000 or more in combined coverage (WC, GL and Auto), the group captive allows them to be “part-owners” of an insurance company and receive lower rates. The group captive is comprised of a number of different companies coming together in one group. This concept allows everyone to “put money into the pot,” to become their own insurance companies, and buy excess and reinsurance. Unspent revenues and investment dollars come back into the group and reduce everyone’s cost. The captive idea is advantageous for those with good records in a difficult industry.

With a captive market, the issue of proper claims management is better, and rates are better – often, much, much better! Anyone with good loss ratios, better than their peers, is a potential candidate for a captive. The same goes for any business owner who is diligent about loss control, claims management and wants to have a good environment for their employees. This approach will have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line, allowing the company to allocate resources where they are really needed. Construction businesses seeking to control costs would do well to ask their carrier about captives.

Matt Lanza is executive vice president of Knight International, providing commercial insurance and risk management solutions. Knight International is based in Braintree, Mass., and serves a national client base.

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By Chad Wenzel

In construction, dozens of trucks, generators, compressors and specific machinery are often needed to get the job done well. Virtually all of that mechanical infrastructure requires fuel every three to four hours, so it’s no surprise that fuel is among the highest recurring costs for the majority of construction operations. Unfortunately, fuel costs are largely out of any company's control. In today's global economy, fluctuating fuel pricing is unavoidable, but there are methods and techniques for construction professionals to understand, assess and mitigate these risks and effectively manage fuel costs.

  • Evaluate specific site needs. For example, some sites may require on-site fueling for individual pieces of equipment, and others jobs may need a fuel tank and pumps delivered (complete with special shields to protect against theft and pilferage) to facilitate a more flexible fueling structure.
  • Set up a contract with an on-site fuel delivery provider. This reduces employee time wasted on gas station trips. The best fuel suppliers will offer delivery day or night—even on weekends—and will have tanks that can accommodate more than one product (a critical consideration for sites that may require both standard gasoline and off-road diesel for heavy equipment).
  • Monitor fuel use to more accurately project future needs. Track usage closely and look for patterns daily. If you contract with a fuel supplier they may implement a technology like SMARTank™ Remote Tank Monitoring Systems, which use automatic tank gauges (ATGs) to notify you when levels are low. This type of truck-to-office technology can also provide fuel reports that assist with accounting, data management and fuel efficiencies.

Chad Wenzel is vice president of sales for Taylor, Mich.-based Atlas Oil Company, a premier fuel supply, logistics and services company delivering comprehensive solutions to customers throughout the distribution lifecycle, from crude oil E & P companies to refineries to retail gas stations and commercial end users nationwide, 24/7/365. For more information, call 800-878-2000 or visit

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By Barbara Anne (“B.A.”) Spignardo

The recent uptick in hotel development is a result of unusual, intricate pieces put together behind the scenes to create a healthy capital stack required to finance such projects. In order to narrow the current loan-to-cost ratio gaps in hotel development finance, it may be necessary to fit together several financing arrangements, such as the use of new market tax credits, EB-5 immigrant investor financing and historic tax credits.

New market tax credits (NMTC) target investment and development in low-income communities. The basic structure of a NMTC transaction involves the formation of a community development entity (CDE), capitalized by Investors with cash. The CDE uses the cash to invest in a qualified active low-income community business. Use of NMTC reduces investors' tax liability, thereby increasing economic return. Congress enacted the EB-5 program to use capital contributed by foreign investors. The EB-5 program provides investors with a visa, possibly maturing into a permanent green card, provided the investor satisfies EB-5 requirements. There is a minimum investment depending on the unemployment rate in the targeted location. EB-5 investors must create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs that meet specific requirements for U.S. workers within two years of the investor's admission to the United States.

Historic tax credits (HTC) provide an opportunity to generate equity to finance development of hospitality properties, for historic buildings located in downtown, low-income areas. HTC permit a dollar for dollar reduction in federal income tax obligations equal to 20 percent of the cost of rehabilitating a certified historic structure, or 10 percent for the rehabilitation of a non-historic and nonresidential building constructed before 1936. To qualify for HTC, both the project and the developer must meet requirements of the National Parks Service, as well as local regulations for the rehabilitation of historic structures.

Each of these pieces that may increase available capital pose certain risks for investors. One prominent risk associated with a NMTC transaction is of recapture of the NMTC by the IRS if the CDE no longer meets the requirements of an eligible CDE, the investments are not "substantially" used for low-income community investments, or the CDE redeems any equity investment. Challenges faced by EB-5 immigrant investors include delayed capital return and job creation requirements. In order to qualify for HTC, there are project and developer requirements that must be satisfied, as well as the possible risk of recapture of tax credits. H

otel development is re-emerging in reliable locations, however, with creative capital collaborations pieced together to minimize the difference between traditional lender-financing and project costs for such developments. Utilizing alternative financing arrangements such as new market tax credits, EB-5 immigrant investor financing and historical tax credits, each have their own challenges to overcome. However, if a developer is able to overcome the challenges posed by use of such financing arrangements, and piece these financing opportunities together, the rate of new development will accelerate. NOTE: For more information on the matters discussed in this post, please contact the author.

This post does not intend to dispense tax advice, and the author disclaims any such tax advice purported to be obtained from this article. For tax advice regarding the matters discussed in this article, a tax attorney professional should be consulted.

Barbara Anne (“B.A.”) Spignardo is a member of Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram’s Real Estate and Business groups in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at

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By Desislava Nikolova

The growth of Asia’s economic standing in the world is hardly news to anyone; however, as any investor can tell you, past results are no guarantee of future growth. While Asian growth has, to date, been impressive, it does face one looming problem that could limit future growth: an infrastructural bottleneck. Simply put, without improvements to infrastructure in the form of transportation networks (rail networks, airports, roads), updated electric grids, and sanitation, Asian economies cannot continue to grow, much less retain their rapid pace of growth.

Meeting this need and reach their individual development goals, though, will not be cheap. According to the Asian Development Bank, the current decade will see the entirely of Asia needing approximately $8 trillion in infrastructural work. Understandably, the lion’s share of this work will need to be directed towards India and China, but what few realize is that the cumulative need for Southeast Asia (i.e. Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.) reaches over $2.5 trillion.

Though these are staggering sums of money, when considering that the World Bank estimates that spending a mere 10 percent more on infrastructure can add 1 percent more to long-term growth, the potential return could be equally amazing. Aside from more generalized and abstract financial terms, here are some examples of how this translates into real, relatable terms as well as some examples of projects that are already underway.

  • China has an estimated need for 400 airports, with India expected to need at least 100.
  • Southeast Asia alone has a population of more than 600 million, which is larger than the EU or North America, and most of these people will be “middle class” within the next decade; however, infrastructurally, only 71 percent currently have access to electricity and only 25 percent have access to piped water.
  • A pan-Asian railroad which stretches from China to Burma, Singapore, and Cambodia is already under construction.
  • Access to Burma’s offshore oil and gas assets are driving construction in gas pipelines and access ports.
  • To ease traffic in Bangkok, Thailand is spending $67 billion to upgrade and add to its rail system, including the addition of high-speed rail lines.

Not only does this monumental undertaking present a benefit to Asia, but it could be just as beneficial to any companies who are willing to offer their expertise. Clearly, with the multitude of individual projects being discussed as well as the scale of the entire infrastructural project, planning firms, engineering firms, construction firms, and even management system firms will be in high demand. Simply being in demand, though, is not enough: a company needs to be able to handle the logistics, certification/licensing requirements, and logistics of working effectively in a foreign country.

Desislava Nikolova is a blogger and social media and online marketing coordinator for EVS Translations

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By Joe Eull

The next time you’re on a job site, take a look around and you’ll undoubtedly see concrete. It’s not surprising, of course, because concrete is the one of the most-used – if not the most-used – construction materials. It forms all or part of some buildings. It’s on our roadways and driveways and sidewalks. In addition to all the concrete that you can see, there’s probably at least as much that you can’t see. It’s on the inside of buildings, for example, and under the surface of roadways. That’s because concrete makes up the vast majority of underground water and sewer infrastructure. With all of the concrete in use today – and the knowledge that it’s been a key construction component for thousands of years – you might think that today’s concrete construction techniques have remained unchanged. But like most building materials, concrete today is stronger than ever before.

Here are a few of the most prominent advantages of precast concrete construction materials:

Strength –The tensile strength of concrete gradually increases over time, while other materials can deteriorate, experience creep and stress relaxation, lose strength and deflect over time.

Longevity – Studies have shown that concrete products can provide a service life in excess of 100 years. Many concrete structures, including the famous ancient buildings of Rome, are still standing after thousands of years.

Lower lifetime costs – Concrete’s superior strength means that installation is often easier, quicker and less costly, requiring less ongoing maintenance and a reduced likelihood of future problems.

While concrete as a building material is a quality product that can handle the stresses of traffic, the rigors of freezing and thawing, and the intrusion of water better than any alternative, contractors know that product durability is one part science and one part smarts. Even the highest quality concrete products can fail when improper storage, transport and installation come into play.

There are several resources – including the National Precast Concrete Association and the American Society of Concrete Contractors – that can share best practices and answer any questions about concrete construction techniques. As you consider building materials for upcoming projects, it’s easy to become enamored with the “next big thing” – whether it’s fiberglass, high-density polyethylene or engineered stone. But there’s simply no questioning the durability and lasting impact of concrete construction. There’s a good reason why concrete has been a tried-and-true material for thousands of years, so don’t trust your important projects to anything less.

Joe Eull is president of Eull’s Manufacturing, which produces precast concrete products in St. Michael, Minn. For more information, visit

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By Gary L. Rubin

Most construction professionals are aware that non-binding mediation has become a critical tool for seeking to resolve construction disputes.  Mediation is a cost-effective procedure which allows parties to vent their positions and communicate with each other “off the record” while avoiding the delay and expense so common in litigation and, increasingly, arbitration.  However, in order to achieve the potential benefits of mediation, it is important that the timing of the mediation be “just right”—i.e., not too early and not too late.

Timing is key because mediation often fails when the parties have not yet exchanged enough information to understand each other’s positions, or when they have already incurred so much legal cost that it is no longer possible to negotiate an amicable settlement.  Clients and their counsel should reflect carefully on the timing required in each case to reach an optimal result in mediation. At the outset, construction disputes normally arise in a context established by contract.  The parties’ contract may include detailed provisions concerning claim preservation, notice requirements, document submissions and the like.  The contract also determines (expressly or impliedly) whether unresolved disputes will be decided by a court, in arbitration, or otherwise.  Sometimes the contract imposes conditions precedent which must be satisfied in order for the initiating party to proceed with a dispute. 

In virtually all cases, there is an information exchange of some kind triggered by the initiating party’s request for relief. The responding party usually reacts, at some level, by trying to decide whether the claim has merit or whether there is any basis for an outright denial of the claim.  Unless the claim is resolved at an early stage, the initiating party must continue to press his case in whatever forum is established by the underlying contract (e.g., court or arbitration proceeding).  Subsequent steps are then determined by the rules of the underlying forum, and by the actions of the parties and their counsel within such forum.

At the outset of every construction dispute (and at frequent intervals thereafter), the timing of potential mediation should be the subject of thoughtful review.  What steps are required in order to reach “critical mass” and make the matter ripe for settlement?  Among other things, counsel should consider the nature and extent of electronic discovery and deposition discovery (if any) which are genuinely needed to enable the parties to evaluate their respective positions.  Needless to say, the scope and cost of electronic discovery have become major factors in managing construction disputes, and parties should attempt to negotiate reasonable stipulations concerning these factors. Similarly, depositions often drive up the cost of adjudicating construction disputes, and counsel should evaluate whether depositions must be completed before mediation begins. In short, the “Goldilocks” principle is an important strategy for planning the mediation of construction disputes.  Mediation should not be conducted too early, and should not be conducted too late.  When the timing is “just right,” mediation can be a recipe for success.

Gary L. Rubin has practiced construction law in New York City since 1975. He handles a variety of matters including litigation in state and federal courts, arbitration, mediation, contract negotiation and claim preservation. Mr. Rubin is frequently appointed as an arbitrator in construction disputes.

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By Colin Evran

The concept of “shared economy” is nothing new but has now become a growing trend in multiple industries. It has aided small and large companies in creating new revenue streams along with saving money on expenses and losses.

Examples of Peer-to-Peer Economy Models

  • Airbnb, founded in 2008, helps owners of houses and apartments earn money on their real estate by booking rooms to fellow travelers. It currently lists more than 600,000 private apartments and houses that are available to rent to more than 11 million users.
  • Uber and other ride sharing companies like Relay Rides are enabling people to share cars and allow for cheaper taxi rides. In a matter of a few years, Uber is now worth more than Avis or Hertz.

Construction Industry P2P Examples 

The construction industry is certainly starting to benefit from the same trends. Companies are now being more transparent around sharing resources, equipment and even dirt.

  • Dirt Market was conceived as an online marketplace where large developers and contractors could meet to trade dirt, rock, sand and other basic construction materials.
  •  Contractors already rent equipment to each other bare or operated, but there was not a larger network where it can be done in a transparent way until now.

Idle Equipment Can Be a Money-Pit for Contractors

In a project based industry like construction, companies can be hot and cold in a matter of months. When things are cold, assets like equipment continue to accumulate depreciation and interest expenses which can be financially damaging to contractors; particularly on larger equipment which can cost upwards of a million dollars. Missed revenue opportunities from idle equipment can be very costly.

Why P2P Online Equipment Rental Services Can Help

An online service helps make rentals among contractors easy.  It standardizes contracts and insurance, makes scheduling transparent, and takes on some of the more administrative tasks like payment collections. It also allows renters to gain transparency by viewing real pictures of equipment and user ratings on quality or performance.  Lastly, it minimizes the fixed costs of traditional rental companies which can be passed onto both the renter as savings and the owner as income.

The Impact on Contractors

Keeping equipment utilizations levels high and operators working can have a huge impact on contractors.  This allows companies to retain their people and continue to generate revenue when equipment would otherwise be sitting in their yards.

  • On larger equipment including larger dozers, scrapers and excavators (greater than $100,000), contractors can earn up to $20,000 per month per piece of idle equipment, which certainly adds up when you have larger fleets.
  • On mid-sized pieces of equipment, equipment managers can keep their operators working and generate additional income in between projects. Examples include mid-sized excavators, compaction equipment, wheel loaders, motor graders and skip loaders.

How This Business Model Will Evolve

As long as the community of contractors continue to treat each other with respect and honesty, contractors could rent all sorts of things: from heavy equipment to supplies and materials like K-Rail, steel plates, concrete forms, traffic control equipment, etc.  P2P could even help contractors help share transport trucks, mechanics or specialized operators.

Colin Evran is founder of San Francisco-based Yard Club. The company’s platform enables heavy equipment owners to maximize utilization by renting to other trusted members of the construction community.  Colin grew up in the industry with his family owning a construction company for more than 40 years.  He received an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA from the University of Western Ontario.  Contact Colin at

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By Jessica Drake

Most companies re-roof or renovate sections of their office block in accordance with their annual maintenance plan. One of the most important things to consider when planning maintenance of this sort is to determine how to prevent the disruption of office work. The best way to minimize disruption that might be caused is to employ an interior protection contractor whose sole responsibility is to plan and implement a system that prevents the debris and dust of the construction-related project from contaminating an area that the customer wants kept clean. My motive in writing this article is to shed light on exactly how an interior protection system works. I hope to do this by explaining the various components involved in an efficient system.

How to Contain the Contamination

Interior protection installs various pieces of equipment to act as a temporary barrier between the construction area and the clean room. The barrier blocks dust, debris, unwanted odors and separates the construction workers and the employees thereby creating a work area that is both safe and free from distractions for the parties involved.

There are a total of four main components that form an ideal interior protection install:

a. Suspended ceilings: It consists of hanging tough plastic sheets that hang below the ceiling, can be referred to as a temporary ceiling and forms the foundation of most installs. They are usually put up before the remodeling/reroofing. It protects the machinery, employees and processes taking place in the area from all sorts of contamination.

b. Wall barriers: They play an important role in separating a construction project that produces dust, debris and/or odor from the working area. Construction wall barriers further create a dust and debris containment area. Temporary construction wall barriers involve installing the poly engineered film floor to ceiling creating a frameless wall – a protective envelope separating the workplace from the work zone – limiting the infiltration of dust and debris.

c. Custom applications: Every re-roofing or remodeling project has distinct challenges. Equally, no two temporary interior protection installs are alike. In the course of interior protection, numerous situations may arise which require custom applications such as zipper doors, curtain walls and suspended netting.

d. High-structure cleaning: This is the process during which all the dust and debris is cleared away. High-structure cleaning is performed during takedown of the suspended ceiling by using hand brooms, brushes, HEPA vacuums and other tools to clean and remove non-adhered dust and debris. If it weren’t carried out, the debris would rain down from all the nooks and crannies when the temporary ceiling is removed. It is important to hire a contractor who understands your need and is willing to design and install a system around those needs. Remember, safety comes first.

Jessica Drake has been in the sales team @Cleanwrap office for more than 3 years and has more than 35 years of experience. They work with clients to find a solution that will reduce risks from dust and debris contamination. Specialties include suspended ceilings, construction wall barriers, high-structure cleaning and various other types of custom applications.

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