By Hany Elbanna

Ask any member of the construction community for two words that are must crucial to the success of a project and they are likely to give the same answer: time and money. In an industry where finishing a job ahead of schedule and under budget is crucial, it is important to keep up with current trends and cutting edge technologies. Currently, one of the construction scheduling industry’s most important new technologies is the 5 Dimensions Building Information Model (5-D BIM), a process that converts two dimensional drawings into three-dimensions. This process’ output displays a timeline that dictates when each phase of a project should be completed while also calculating updated project costs. Why is this technology so important? Simply put, it has the ability to save construction schedulers time and money. There are four main benefits:

1.)   Clash Prevention – Onsite organization and subcontractor scheduling is one of the more trying day-to-day worries. By employing a 5-D BIM, delays, potential design changes, and additional material costs due to schedule clashing can be avoided.

2.)   Workflow Management – A 5-D Building Information Model provides precise scheduling which gives project managers the opportunity to identify potential setbacks and implement appropriate supply chain and materials management.

3.)   Offsite Efficiency and Pre-Fabrication – Of all of the benefits offered by the complex 5-D BIM, perhaps the most important is the acutely accurate pre-construction visual of the finished project that will result. With this information, contractors can reduce waste, ensure accurate delivery of components, and improve on quality control by utilizing off-site fabrication of various project pieces.

4.)   Enhanced Communication – When a construction scheduler plans their project with the assistance of a 5-D BIM, the accuracy of the project’s plan and the plan itself become a singular goal that every team can clearly understand. A construction schedule that is developed by skilled specialists utilizing this technology can be a project manager, contractor, construction scheduler, or consultant’s greatest ally. In a constantly evolving industry, 5-D BIM is an important tool for construction schedulers. Its complexity and accuracy are invaluable when the saving of time and money is paramount, and adopters of this technology continue to see results.

Hany Elbanna is the president of HSE Contractors, a specialized CPM consulting firm, with multiple locations in the United States. They work on submittals for mega construction projects, time impact analysis and change orders management.

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By Jennifer Friedman

All good things must come to an end. However, if you wish to close your construction business, it is imperative to dissolve your company properly. By taking the following steps to dissolve your business, you limit your liability for lawsuits and regulatory fees, in addition to ending your obligations to pay annual fees and business taxes. Also, many of these steps will apply if you merely wish to withdraw from one or more states while remaining in business in others.

File a Certificate of Dissolution with the State

If you are a sole proprietorship, it is relatively easy to conclude your business by simply notifying the proper government authorities such as licensing authorities, payroll or income tax departments. If you are closing an S corporation, LLC or a C corporation, shareholders or members of the company must vote to dissolve it. Only then can paperwork be filed with the state office in which the business was incorporated. If your company was operating in other states, paperwork must be filed in each of those states as well. If you are only withdrawing from a state, you may still need shareholder or member approval, depending on your bylaws or operating agreement. And, you will still need to file a Certificate of Withdrawal in each state. The requirements for filing a Certificate of Dissolution or Withdrawal vary from state to state. This can potentially be a time consuming process itself. A professional registered agent can help move this filing along more efficiently.

Notify the IRS

You must settle any outstanding tax obligations with the IRS and submit required documents to formally declare your business as closed. The IRS website has a business closing checklist to help you with this process. Most states require a similar process with regard to their taxes. An accountant or tax advisor can also assist you in preparing these documents.

Close Accounts and Distribute Remaining Assets

As a construction company owner, you likely have many business permits; upon dissolution, you must cancel all licenses. Also, remember to cancel your Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS, once your final tax returns are filed. In addition, you should cancel any business bank or credit accounts to prevent issues such as business identity theft. After financial obligations have been taken care of, company owners can divide the remaining resources according to share of ownership or the terms of the operating agreement. Distributions must be reported to the IRS and, in many cases, to the states in which you have been paying taxes. By minimizing penalties that stem from improper dissolution, you can maximize your take-home allocation for your next business or personal ventures. Avoid legal complications and financial worries by talking to trusted advisors, such as a professional registered agent and accountant. Properly dissolving your company is a process that requires diligence, but if you take care to complete all the necessary steps, you will set yourself up for less stressful next chapter ahead.

Jennifer Friedman is the CMO of the small business segment of CT, a Wolters Kluwer Company, which provides legal compliance solutions to the small-business community. In this role, she directs all activities related to digital marketing and advertising to help build the brand through innovation, partnerships, and enhancing the customer experience.

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By Alexander Ruggie 

Many times when homeowners have a pipe burst or roof leak, they think that their house will never be the same again. The sad fact of the matter is that they are right, it will never be the same, but that can be more of an opportunity than just an unfortunate occurrence. Disasters like water damage can certainly destroy whatever they come into contact with in homes, but this also presents a chance for homeowners to switch things up and use the situation for improvements that wouldn’t have been made otherwise.

A roof leak is a clear sign that there are bigger structural problems happening behind the scenes in your ceiling or walls. This can mean thousands in restoration costs, but that money can be used more wisely than many people realize. These situations offer homeowners the chance to improve the insulation and decrease air transference within their attics or walls by taking advantage of things like energy efficient windows, home air sealing or spray foam insulation which are all vastly more energy efficient than traditional building materials and techniques. The initial cost of some of these approaches that homeowners can utilize may be slightly higher, but the return on that investment pays dividends when it comes to monthly utility bills.

Homeowners can also take advantage of the fact that builders are already doing a job and so the costs for adding elements to the project already underway such as solar panel installation becomes cheaper than it would be if it were a stand-alone project. A simple ceiling leak can require an entire roof to be redone, and this is truly low hanging fruit when it comes to making your home more green with repairs that are needed anyway. Dark colored roofs absorb more of the solar energy from the sun than light colored roofs do. This is called albedo, and it’s a product of reflection and thermal absorption from the sun. When redoing a roof, there are many techniques ranging widely in costs and applications depending on slope angle and the geographical location of the roof in general, but one of the easiest to take advantage of are coatings that will reduce the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by the home. These coatings also give the roof increased durability and also the capacity to repel weather elements, that all result in an increased energy efficiency ratings and overall lowered utility bills.

Disasters happen, and they can be devastating, but they can also give people the break that they have been looking for to cut the cord to grid power or, just to improve the efficiency and aesthetic look of their existing home. Nobody wants a disaster to happen, but if it does, nobody should miss out on a chance to make things better than they ever were before.

Alexander Ruggie is the Public Relations Director for 911 Restoration, a home restoration company that specializes in disaster recovery and water damage solutions. Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today?

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By Mike Karlskind

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is made up of 24 satellites orbiting the earth at speeds around 7,000 mph. At this speed, you could travel across the entire United States in about 30 minutes! Everyone from golfers to farmers rely on these systems to work and play. And what more can you say about “the Cloud?” Every day there are more innovative ways to leverage the Cloud to improve your business. Here are four ways GPS technology and Cloud-based applications can help your business cut costs and provide better service to customers.

  1. Reduce mileage and fuel costs: Today’s GPS systems automatically collect location data and transmit the information to any computer or device over the Internet. Managers can see where every field worker is, how long they spend on a job and their proximity to other workers and new job assignments. Using GPS jobs can be assigned to the nearest worker and GPS also ensures they arrive promptly at the next job. This dramatically improves worker efficiency, reduces mileage and fuel costs, and can mitigate overtime costs – savings no company can ignore.
  2. Streamline field communication and job dispatch: Your front office handles many calls every day related to worker arrival times, in-progress jobs, emergency service or sales calls. Frequently, field workers have the best answers to these inquiries. Being able to communicate quickly and effectively with staff in the field is a competitive edge. Dispatching detailed jobs to mobile devices is very efficient and requires less phone conversation. GPS allows the home office to tell customers ETAs without bothering the field worker. Short text messages can allow field workers to reply quickly to better serve the customer. Such prompt, accurate communication can be the difference between winning a contract and losing it, or keeping a satisfied customer happy.
  3. Ensure quality control and satisfied customers: By implementing easy-to-create mobile forms, you can create process checklists for your workers, and enforce best practices uniformly in the field. These forms can include sequential procedures that require checking off or adding comments. Or they can gather customer feedback when a job is complete. Embedded URLs can link directly help documentation, while workers can scan bar codes for warranty validation and record a client signature to acknowledge service approval right on-site. Customers notice these details and appreciate proficiency and superior service. And, of course, all this data can be instantly transmitted to the home office for faster processing and invoicing.
  4. Automate timekeeping and payroll processing: Clocking-in and clocking-out for workers and sub-contractors has traditionally been an error-prone, manual process using paper timesheets. And even as payroll hinges on accurate, complete timesheets, it is a tedious process for workers to fill-out and deliver to the office promptly.

      Mobile timesheets, however, allow workers to clock-in, record and submit their hours right from the mobile device with just a few clicks. This fast-tracks timesheet and payroll processing; by shaving minutes from an entire crew of workers, the savings adds up quickly from week-to-week. Moreover, the timesheets can sync with in-house accounting programs to make this a truly seamless process for both workers and administration. It all starts with GPS.

Mike Karlskind has more than 15 years of experience streamlining processes and optimizing decisions for service organizations in a wide variety of industries including computer services, utilities, telecommunications, capital equipment, home services, retail services, construction, insurance, and medical equipment.

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By Dale Allen 

Working in the construction industry during winter can be brutal. Even those lucky enough to work inside partially completed structures do not have the same comfortable environments most employees enjoy. Try some of these tips to stay warmer during winter when working on construction sites.

Dress in Layers

Layering helps keep warmth in and cold out. Thermal undershirts and socks are a good starting point. Cotton is a good material choice in drier weather and for damp or wet conditions, use synthetic blends. For workers that move from outdoor to indoor work and then go back outdoors, removing a layer or two while indoors will prevent overheating. Several light layers are also a better choice than one heavy layer. Bulky apparel can make movement difficult — which only contributes to discomfort. Also, if you are working in an area that requires arc flash protection, all of your winter gear should be properly rated.

Stay Dry

Becoming cold and wet can make construction work miserable. Look for outerwear that provides protection from rain or moisture in the air. Again, use the correct materials next to your skin to wick moisture from your body. Carry an extra pair of socks and thermal underwear in case you become soaked. Changing into dry clothing will make a huge difference in staying warm.

Use Liners 

Make use of hard hat and glove liners. While you do not lose more heat through your head than any other exposed body part, keeping your head covered will improve overall warmth. Your face and chest are more sensitive to temperature changes. Hard hats do not provide any real protection from the cold — invest in a good liner that also covers your neck, if possible. Gloves liners are an excellent choice for warmth and function. Thin liners will help retain heat without interfering with dexterity. Be sure to carry a spare pair of gloves and liners, especially if you are working in wet conditions.

Drink the Right Fluids

Obviously, alcohol is not a good choice for a construction site. Alcohol does nothing to keep you warm — it has the reverse effect and can be harmful. Drinking warm soups, broths or sugary liquids is the best choice for warming up. Avoid excess caffeine and stay hydrated. Finally, workers that must be outside should take frequent warming breaks. If work trucks are accessible, they can offer shelter from wind and rain. Employers should provide some form of temporary shelter for employees without other options. Portable warming tents are one solution. Be alert to signs of frostbite or overexposure. The initial signs of frostbite include a waxy appearance of the skin and numbness. Early signs of hypothermia include shivering and discoloration of the lips and fingers. Confusion and disorientation indicate a more serious level of hypothermia. Take action immediately if frostbite or moderate to severe hypothermia is detected.

Dale Allen is the national service manager of Rankin, one of the nation’s leading temporary climate solutions companies.

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By James White 

Running a construction company or being a construction manager comes with a lot of challenges, and it isn’t always easy to keep operations efficient. Fortunately, there are several online tools that can streamline daily activities and keep projects running smoothly. Let’s take a look at these tools that will help increase your productivity and reduce operating costs.

1) BuildingBlok BuildingBlok helps you coordinate with different teams on one convenient interface. You can collaborate with team members via desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone so everyone remains on the same page throughout all phases of a project. Document management is made easy through a global file manager where you can upload and save blueprints, contracts and other construction documents. You can also archive documents that aren’t being used at the moment, but may be important later on. The budget feature keeps tabs on your financial documents so you always know the details of your financial situation, including real time financial reports so you know how much a job is costing at any given time. By maintaining control over your budget, you can identify inefficiencies and take measures to avoid overspending. This platform also streamlines bidding and makes it easy to manage all of your construction-related contacts. Contractors have the ability to create their own profiles and state their areas of expertise. You can then communicate in real time to hasten the flow of information and quickly upload all bidding documents.

2) Fleet Management Solutions In the past, construction company owners and managers had limited control over managing equipment. However, nowadays there are several apps that make it easy to manage your entire fleet Security can be an issue, especially in certain locations. Machine System Security from Caterpillar can be utilized to prevent theft. In many cases, this will pay for itself when your company saves thousands of dollars by protecting high price equipment. Product Link™ can help you determine some areas where your fleet can improve in terms of efficiency. There is also the Vital Information Management System (VIMS) Supervisor, which takes information from a database and gives you production and maintenance reports on your fleet. You can often spot maintenance issues in advance and make repairs before they become a serious problem and cost an exorbitant amount of money.

3) The Cloud When it comes to the construction industry, the cloud can be used for everything from document tracking to data storage to monitoring project status. According to GetApp, “remote access to applications and information allows staff from construction companies to work collaboratively without being tied to a specific physical location. With cloud-based construction software, contractors can access their information from any device, portable computers, smartphones or tablets. The only thing you need is an Internet access.” This allows you to collaborate with contractors, subcontractors and architects while you’re in the office, out in the field or even at home. You and your team members can maintain clear communication and minor glitches can be immediately addressed. Implementing the right tech products into your construction company can be highly advantageous. Besides making the lives of you and your team members easier, you should see quicker project completion and more earnings.

James White is an experienced home improvement blogger who works in construction.

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By Jenna Puckett

One of the best ways to ensure construction projects are delivered on time, on budget, and within scope is by using a project management (PM) tool. However, not all systems are created equal. If you’ve ever tried to compare project management software, you’ve probably discovered that it’s just about as daunting as managing multimillion dollar projects: Where do you start? How do you know what’s most important? If balancing a portfolio of projects and optimizing each one is your goal, then PM software with strong resource allocation capabilities is a great place to start. Using software that gives you a picture of projects as a whole, rather than standalone tasks, will help you avoid resources shortages during construction projects.

Why You Need Resource Allocation

Resources extend beyond just financial allocations, and include any factor used to produce goods or services, such as: people, facilities, machinery, tools and equipment, materials, and even technology. A comprehensive PM system focused on resource efficiency enables you to quickly identify issues or conflicts that might occur. By providing up-to-date information about resource availability, you can see if one project has over allocated resources that can be redistributed to another project— as it happens. Access to real time status and performance information across projects can help you optimize resources and productivity by comparing metrics such as work-in-progress to average time to completion. Additionally, most PM systems include a visual interface, so you can easily see what resources are committed where with just one glance. The interface may include such visual tools as Gantt charts, Kanban boards, waterfall task management, or similar planning aids.

Top Choices for Resource Allocation

Keeping these benefits in mind, let’s take a look at some PM tools with the best resource allocation.

Viewpoint: Created specifically for the construction industry. With strong reporting tools, it’s no surprise they were included on Construction Executive’s 2014 Hot Products list.

Clarizen: A scalable solution for any sized business. Though not industry specific, the project portfolio management features and ability to assign work to individuals based on their skillsets and availability make Clarizen a strong candidate for the construction industry.

10,000ft: An extremely intuitive system that provides “big picture PM” with advanced reporting and analytics capabilities in just a few clicks.

Corecon: Provides detailed codes and reporting specific to construction resources and was named as Technology’s Hottest Product by Constructech Magazine for both Residential and Commercial categories.

Dexter + Chaney: A recipient of the Construction Executive 2013 Hot Product Award and vendor that offers a large selection of pre-built reports and integration with Microsoft Excel. Additional notable tools: EADOC, Buildtools, and Comidor. Managing multiple projects at the same time is not an easy task. But when your ventures are multimillion dollar construction projects, the task is even more complex. If you’re looking to successfully balance your company resources, project management tools with resource allocation are a must.

Jenna Puckett is a junior technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. She covers topics related to gamification, employee performance, and other emerging tech trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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By Jennifer Friedman

Construction business owners often face time and resource constraints. In a highly regulated industry with many documents and forms to file, in addition to tax and compliance deadlines, a registered agent can ease the burden of annual obligations on a business. It allows business owners to focus on securing job contracts and carrying out projects, freeing them from concerns that an important document or filing has been overlooked.

Stay On Track and In Good Standing

Signaling construction industry growth in much of the country, the Associated General Contractors of America reported that construction firms in 38 states and the District of Columbia have added jobs in the past year, but with that growth comes additional compliance responsibilities. A professional registered agent is a key resource to help prepare your business by handling important notices and filings from the state, such as annual report forms and also accepts notices related to lawsuits, ranging from contract disputes to wage garnishments. It helps your business maintain good standing which is key because it protects it from fines, potential license suspension and losing essential bids. Maintaining compliance as your company takes on more responsibility is critical. When you initially form your business, you must name a registered agent in your formation state. In some cases, the business owner may opt to serve as the registered agent. This can create problems because the registered agent must be available during business hours every week of the year. In addition, it can pose real problems for a contractor who is often out of the office on job sites. Having a professional registered agent means that important papers are received and delivered to you promptly.

Prepare Your Expanding Business

Did you know that a registered agent is required when you expand into other states? Businesses are required to have a registered agent that is a resident, with a physical address, in the state of incorporation. This means that an owner can seldom serve as a registered agent in the new state and is why enlisting a professional registered agent is a viable solution.  Plus, a professional registered agent can help track the compliance deadlines in the new state and make sure your compliance paperwork is handled properly. As your construction business grows, it’s important that you have processes in place to manage any legal disputes. When you have an official registered agent, the agent receives all lawsuits or summons directed to your business and will alert you of necessary actions you must take. Furthermore, construction companies often have to attain a multitude of industry-specific business licenses and renew them to stay in compliance. Without a registered agent, it can be easy to forget license renewal deadlines and enable competitors to report your business for suspension and penalties. A professional registered agent is an asset to your business and helps manage your ongoing compliance work, giving you the peace of mind to focus on your core business: construction.

Jennifer Friedman is the CMO of the small business segment of CTa Wolters Kluwer Company, which provides legal compliance solutions to the small-business community. In this role, she directs all activities related to digital marketing and advertising to help build the brand through innovation, partnerships, and enhancing the customer experience.

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By Susanna Blake

The seasonal nature of the construction industry means that many employers rely on contract workers, most of whom become established career contractors. However, for construction company owners, having a trusted crew of full-time employees has its advantages. As you plan to build a good reputation and long-term relationships with your customer, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of having a full time or temporary staff.

Pros of Hiring Full-time Employees

Full-time employees are often more invested in cultivating relationships with the company and the customers they serve. Established employees carry a sense of pride in their work as part of a team and are willing to go above and beyond to follow through on assignments and achieve greater customer satisfaction. In addition, employees depend on their employers economically, so they are more likely to try to build their own personal reputations within the company as skilled, professional, reliable, loyal, and able to rise to challenges to meet customer needs and to be rewarded for doing so. Another advantage of having proven full-time employees is that employers can take time off knowing their team is managing the work effectively and on schedule. For employers, having a team of reliable company employees also means a greater sense of continuity in the quality of work. When the amount of work increases, an employer with a dedicated team is not forced to scramble to recruit and train new workers. Additionally, with contract workers, owners may be met with varying degrees of skill sets and work ethics.

Cons of Hiring Full-time Employees

Hiring full-time employees can add additional levels of complexity, cos, and risk to employers. In accordance with numerous federal labor and employment laws, employers can be subject to minimum wage, overtime and federal leave requirements for their employees, among many other state and city compliance laws and regulations. To compete with other contractors vying for workers, employers may often have to offer such employee perks as bonuses and paid vacation. Along with typically offering a benefits package, the company also undertakes the responsibility maintaining compliance and appropriate paperwork related to all of the benefits. Another difference and potential downside for employers is the requirement to maintain a steady, predictable cash flow to ensure employees are paid in full on a regular, ongoing basis. As with all employers, construction business owners are responsible for maintaining employment and payroll records and withholding and remitting employees’ taxes, social security and Medicaid. Employers of full-time workers are also obligated to provide adequate training and professional licensing required for every employee.

When Hiring Regular Full-Time Employees Makes Most Sense

If you have year-round work and an established clientele with ongoing needs and expectations associated with your services, having a well-trained crew of regular employees will help you deliver consistent, quality work and high customer satisfaction.

When Hiring Contract Workers Makes Most Sense

If you are short on time and need to staff a job quickly to meet the needs of a client, being able to turn to a reliable contract worker can help your business meet the needs of the workload quickly. With these considerations in mind, construction owners should ultimately hire workers that will help them achieve long-term results that best serve the business and the work that they do for their clients.

Susanna Blake, PHR, is a senior human capital consultant at TriNet.

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By Nevin Sood

Having recently come across from the UK, it’s not difficult to see the difference that taxation and legislation on energy performance and carbon emissions has made, not only in the interests of companies to reduce their carbon footprint, but also the people involved in the conversations and innovations around healthier buildings and work environments.  The argument to reduce a building's carbon footprint is much easier made in the UK because of this, and although it is a controversial move for many, it seems to be driving the economy in the right direction. Am I suggesting that there be taxation imposed everywhere? I believe it could be a useful driving force, however, recognizing this is a tough battle in the United States, we must look for other ways to prove return on investment (ROI) for those involved with real estate that also resonates with CFO’s.

When assessing the long term costs of design, construction methods and materials specification, it is widely accepted that whole life cycle costing can demonstrate very clearly that cost and value are not the same. Many investors, owners and occupants, in both the public and private sectors, are prepared to consider a higher initial capital commitment today if an accurate whole life appraisal can show that this will create commercial advantages tomorrow. This is why clients need to be able to assess with greater clarity than ever before - a huge challenge which demands a new level of collaborative scenario modelling to calculate a far wider range of sensitivities well beyond the parameters of the past – the life cycle cost of a building, from building inception, through occupancy and well beyond.

Predicting future costs where carbon emissions are concerned has never been an easy task at the best of times, but recent energy variables and volatility have underlined how dramatically this cost can vary beyond the expected trends. The speed with which energy costs change – along with other utilities such as water - could play a major part in determining the commercial viability of new energy-saving technologies whose mainstream application has previously been purely academic. Then, beyond the energy savings, we can begin to look at the most effective spaces which people can operate in and be most productive. A better designed, adaptable and more engaging space has the ability to create more productive employees while attracting and retaining the right employees. 

While this may just seem like common sense to many, there is now a whole movement towards further proving this enabling those working for greener spaces to convince CFO’s of the ROI in the long term. When we consider the average building is 50 years old, it is easy to understand why looking at a buildings ROI can play a significant role in justifying the upfront costs when retrofitting or building new structures – they will be around a substantial length of time and changes now will ultimately pay off, well beyond the initial investment. As a result, a growing number of progressive companies and organization’s are applying whole life cost modelling to high performing property development, while also investing in research to establish the difference the space makes for employees - showing that these solutions are no longer the stuff of green dreams, but realistic possibilities which are commercially advantageous far sooner than previously expected.

Nevin Sood is a director at Turner & Townsend.

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