By Jenna Puckett

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of construction project management software, such as analytics and reporting tools that can streamline operations and provide accurate, real time insights into project cost and efficiency. However, if you haven’t gotten around to implementing such software yet, you’re not alone. Construction companies spend less on IT than any other industry and continually struggle to both manage project data and use it to their advantage.

Centralizing Construction Information Is Key

Incredible organization is required to successfully manage large architecture, engineering, and construction projects with countless moving parts. Each part of a construction project generates vast amounts of data. When all of this information is kept in separate spreadsheets and documents, it’s difficult to make fast, data-driven decisions. Let’s examine some of the ways these tools can improve your operations.

Collaboration Through Document Sharing

Vast amounts of documents are exchanged during a project: purchase orders, change orders, requests for information, drawing sets, contracts, submittals, photos, and so on. Electronically managing documents improves communication between all parties. Additionally, with all your documents organized in one place, it’s possible to streamline the search process. Many platforms have advanced search functions designed to help locate relevant information by inspecting document contents or metadata tags, erasing the need to manually sort through papers.

Labor Tracking and Performance Management

Project management tools can replace handwritten field reports, daily logs, and timesheets with employee time tracking solutions. Tracking labor progress as it happens allows managers to remotely capture accurate time and attendance records, which tells them where workers and what kind of labor costs they should expect. If one group is running over budget, managers can “drill-down” to see the source of inefficiency, such as labor or supply. This can help answer questions such as, should you replace your plumbing subcontractor or just buy from a different supplier?

Equipment Tracking

Asset management, equipment tracking, and tool assignment are all features that allow managers to know where tools and equipment are. These features allow you to track, and record metrics like equipment use, location, hours used, and mileage. This data can also be used to verify payroll hours, determine if additional equipment is needed, and assess operator performance.

Real-time Information for Swift Decisions

The opportunity to manage construction operations remotely is a major benefit of project management tools and the data they can generate. From increased collaboration and organization, to labor tracking and equipment management, such data allows managers to view bottlenecks and immediately determine if a project is on schedule. This information doesn’t just help streamline projects. It can also be used to build more accurate bids in the future. Companies can look at past projects and estimate the time, cost, and resources necessary for similar future projects. For companies looking to gain a competitive edge by streamlining their operations, project management tools and data are key.

Jenna Puckett is a staff writer for TechnologyAdvice. She covers topics related to gamification, employee performance, project management, and other emerging tech trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].  

By Anna Karadzhova

The job of a construction project manager is extremely heavy with responsibility. It requires a great set of skills, which is perhaps one of the reasons construction companies are struggling to fill positions for construction project managers. To make your work more cost-effective and streamlined, look no further than these five expert tips.

No. 1 – Use Great Software Software for construction project management can automate and streamline as much or as little of your work as you want, helping you finish tasks on time and stay within budget. Depending on how much you can spend, there are different options to consider. Some software providers, such as Build Tools, can create a custom solution that has only the features you want, so you don’t pay for anything extra. If your budget is tight, cheap or free construction apps can still go a long way.

No. 2 – Reduce Construction Bond Cost A great way to make you public construction project bid as low as possible without sacrificing quality, is to save money on your construction bonds. The easiest way to get a good premium is to contact a surety bond agency that has many partnering sureties. The agents will do the shopping for you and match you with the surety that offers the best deal. Good agents can also give you additional tips on decreasing your construction bond cost, such as showing strong financial statements and putting all of your experience on your resume.

No. 3 – Improve Your Communication Skills You don't just have to deal with employees, but also with project owners, clients, engineers, architects and the construction crew, making good communication skills an absolute must. Try this quick quiz to get an idea of how you're currently doing. One of the most crucial parts is being able to identify conflicts, so you can settle them before they turn into full-blown problems. You don’t want a dispute that goes out of hand to delay your project and get you into additional trouble.

No. 4 – Log Daily Activities Some projects will require you to write a log for reasons of compliance, but you can go beyond that to really keep the chaos at bay. Keeping a log of daily activities, all details included, can help resolve disputes that arise later on, be it with your boss or with a dissatisfied client. This can also give you peace of mind. In order to avoid getting lost in a big project due to the many tasks you're tackle at once, you can create “milestones” which will help you touch base with the main timeline.

No. 5 – Choose Reliable Subcontractors You may be a diligent worker, but your success also depends on the people you engage. You can't fully protect yourself from accidents, but you can minimize the risk by choosing your subcontractors wisely. Working with the same subcontractors is great if you are happy with their work. But if you're not satisfied, check out apps like SmartBidNet, to look for subcontractors that best match your needs.

Anna Karadzhova loves delving into the nitty gritty details of bonding for the construction industry. She regularly contributes premium content for JW Surety Bonds.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].

By John Dybsky

One of the ways construction professionals can set their business apart is by recommending energy-efficient products to home and building owners. Even more beneficial than the potential savings these products can provide is a contractor who understands how energy-efficient materials coexist with other building components. Low emissivity (Low-E) windows are energy-efficient windows that account for 90 percent of all new installations, according to the National Association of Home Builders. These windows are quickly becoming the standard with the federal government providing tax incentives and both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy developing energy-performance criteria for window specifications. In multifamily buildings, the benefits of switching to Low-E can result in between $126 to $465 in utilities savings, according to the EPA. Low-E windows typically contain two insulating glass units separated by a space. Argon or another inert gas is then contained in the sealed space between the two panes of glass. The term Low-E comes from a low emissivity coating applied to one pane of glass.

This coating has two purposes:

  • Reflecting out the sun’s short wave infrared energy in the summer; and
  • Keeping in the home’s long wave infrared energy in the winter.

Bottom line, these windows have plenty of benefits for home and building owners, making them energy efficient in the summer and winter. However, the same qualities that make these windows attractive to homeowners are also causing significant damage to some types of exterior siding. Over time, as the argon gas permeates the window’s seal, the center of the panes are forced inward. The extra reflectivity, combined with concavity in the glass, turns the window into a powerful mirror. This concentrates sunlight, creating a direct ray of heat onto the siding of adjacent houses that can range from 160 to 200 degrees F.

If a home is clad in vinyl siding, the heat caused by the windows can be sufficient to create irreversible buckling and distortion with extended exposure. Most instances of vinyl siding distortion occur in the inside corner of a home or on the opposite wall of a nearby home. Homeowners in more than 16 states have reported melted siding due to these windows, and unfortunately for proprietors, the damages aren’t covered in vinyl siding warranties, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute. Since replacing the siding will only lead to more melting, and the benefits of Low-E windows are so numerous, contractors are turning to different siding materials for homes that use or are near these windows. Frequent alternatives to vinyl include wood and fiber cement siding. However, the windows have potentially devastating effects on wood siding as well, causing four house fires, according to an investigation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, many builders are recommending fiber cement siding as a siding material that will withstand the heat reflected from Low-E windows. Fiber cement siding is non-combustible and non-ignitable, meaning it won’t distort at the high temperatures of direct heat. While vinyl starts distorting at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, fiber cement can stand up to 2,500 degrees without softening or distorting. As energy-efficiency becomes the standard, construction experts must consider accompanying materials that can play nicely with products such as Low-E windows.

John Dybsky is the Senior Marketing Manager at James Hardie Building Products, where he currently oversees the development and implementation of new marketing strategy. He has an MBA in Marketing from the University of St. Thomas, and 30 years of progressive experience in the building industry. 

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].

By Riggs Kubiak

It’s no secret that New York City has limited space and a high price tag, but builders are getting resourceful with their projects.  Conversion is the new age of development, and New York City builders are taking advantage of existing structures to bring them to another level of extravagance. How are they doing this?  Using creativity and flexibility, builders are turning existing structures into luxurious condos.

When approaching conversion projects, there are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Partner with developers and real estate professionals who share your vision.
  • Location is key – always scope out the surrounding areas to be sure the project will be worth your time and effort.
  • Limitations may be present with pre-existing structures, but innovation and flexibility will allow builders to be successful.
  • Conversions can save time, money and resources.

In New York City, building up and out can be difficult and extremely costly. If a building is structurally capable and has the potential to be transformed however, the savings may be worth it.

Riggs Kubiak is the CEO and founder of Honest Buildings (HB), the world’s leading connection engine for real estate projects. From architects to engineers, contractors to technology experts, HB helps professionals find and meet the perfect people for their real estate projects, fast. With an innovative suite of products and nearly $350 million in deal flow to date, HB is changing the way real estate connections are forged.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].


By Jennifer Friedman

As the year winds down and you set goals for the upcoming year, expanding your business might be on the horizon. Whether you are a contractor, engineering firm or material supplier, understanding the process of expansion across state lines is essential to your future business success. It is important to note that every state has different laws and regulations when it comes to doing business within its boundaries. If your company accepts contracts, has a physical presence, or employs people in a state, you will most likely be required to be “on record” in that territory.

There are two routes to consider when filing your business in a new state: foreign qualification or incorporation of a new limited liability company (LLC). The first option, foreign qualification, allows a business to legally operate in a state other than where it was originally formed (or incorporated). Foreign qualification is the most common and least troublesome approach when expanding your services or products to new states. Business owners simply register (or qualify) for a Certificate of Authority from the state where they wish to conduct business. States also require that businesses maintain other licenses and adhere to compliance obligations. Another option is to incorporate or form a new LLC in the new states where you will operate. When a corporation or LLC is created in a new state, the new company is domestic in the new state, making it a separate entity. To see which path is best suited to your business, here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind as you plan for expansion.       

Liability separation. Creating a new corporation or LLC in a new state minimizes risk. If one company declares bankruptcy, assets of the company in other states do not have to be used to pay for the bankrupt entity.        

Corporate formalities. When your business incorporates in another state, there are more business procedures that must be put in place such as drafting and implementing bylaws, issuing and recording stock transfers, and holding shareholder meetings. These formalities can take precious time and resources away from the core of your business offerings. (This is true to a lesser extent with a newly formed LLC.)    

 Separate owners and management. Tying into the corporate obligations of incorporating in a new state, each new entity must have its own stock, shareholders, directors and officers. Again, similar requirements apply to an LLC. For example, there must be managers appointed.    

 Tax documentation. Each new entity needs a federal tax employer identification number (EIN) and to file a separate tax return. For businesses with multiple entities across various states, working with a tax professional is recommended to properly structure the companies effectively. Expanding your business to new states is a thrilling prospect, but careful considerations have to be made before you proceed. Failure to investigate the options available, or implementing an ill-suited strategy, can hinder your company instead of propelling it forward. Whether you choose foreign qualification or incorporation for each state, take time to assess the pros and cons to each approach and how they will align with your business goals.

Jennifer Friedman oversees marketing activities for the small business segment of CT, a Wolters Kluwer Company, providing legal compliance solutions to the small-business community. As the CMO of CT small business, Jennifer directs all activities related to digital marketing and advertising to help build the brand through innovation, partnerships and enhancing the customer experience. Visit CT’s website for more information.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].



By Sheryl Southwick

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be a challenging adjustment for construction companies. Because of the nature of the construction industry including seasonal workers and employees and determining which employees should be eligible for health care benefits can be tricky. For a construction company owner to remain compliant and avoid ACA tax penalties, it’s important to keep on top of the latest ACA developments. Here’s what is coming up next.

The Employer Shared Responsibility (“Pay or Play”) provisions of the ACA take effect for Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) starting in 2015. The ACA requires ALEs to offer health insurance coverage (that meets certain minimum standards) to its full-time employees or potentially pay a tax penalty.

First, a quick recap of the Pay or Play rules. If your company employed an average of 50 or more full-time employees, including Full Time Equivalents (FTEs), during months in the previous calendar year, your company is an ALE. Therefore it must offer medical coverage to full-time employees and their eligible children to avoid potentially paying ACA penalties. In addition, to avoid penalties:

  • The medical coverage must meet the standards for minimum essential coverage (MEC) as defined by the ACA;
  • The MEC must meet “minimum value” thresholds. A health plan meets the “minimum value” standard if it is designed to pay at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population; and,
  • The MEC meets “affordability" requirements.  Coverage is considered “affordable” if the employee’s required contribution for the lowest cost employee-only medical plan that provides “minimum value” is no more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s wages, based on one of three IRS safe harbor formulas.

 Here are several things to keep in mind as we approach 2015:

  • FTE Count:  Companies with 50 or more FTEs generally must offer coverage to at least 70% of their full-time employees beginning with the first day of the benefits plan year in 2015. Employers with 50 to 99 FTEs may qualify for transition relief to delay the effective date until the start of the benefits plan year in 2016.
  • 2016 Changes: In 2016, companies generally must offer coverage to at least 95% of their full-time employees.
  • Full-Time Employees:  Full-time employees are employees who are reasonably expected to work, on average, 30 or more hours per week and are generally benefits eligible under ACA rules.
  • Variable Hour Employees: If the company cannot determine whether a newly hired employee is reasonably expected to work at least 30 hours of service per week at the time of hire, because the employee’s hours are variable or otherwise uncertain, the company will need to establish an initial Measurement Period to track variable hour employees’ work hours. This initial measurement period will also apply to new seasonal employees, generally hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less, and new part-time employees expected to average less than 30 hours per week.

Once the standard or initial measurement period ends, benefits eligibility will apply during a subsequent period of time known as the stability period. The stability period can be as long as the measurement period, but not less than six months. An employee’s benefits eligibility status is locked in during the entire stability period, regardless of actual hours worked.

An employer may also designate an administrative period between the measurement period and the stability period to process data, notify employees of their status and enroll eligible employees.

Once established, Measurement, Administration and Stability Periods can be difficult to change. 
In order to avoid tax penalties, accurately recording, tracking and reporting all employee hours is critical.

Finally, complying with ACA requirements may be more difficult for larger companies with many employees. In order to avoid ACA tax penalties, companies that currently do not offer employee benefits may start offering affordable medical plans in 2015, which will affect the bottom line. However, if managed properly, companies can avoid tax penalties, and therefore help minimize costs to the company.

Sheryl Southwick has more than 15 years of experience in retirement and benefits, helping ensure that companies are in compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. As director of compliance at TriNet, Sheryl helps small business owners navigate the complex issues of compliance.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].

By Daniel Nicely

One of the chief selling points for using zinc in construction is its green features. That is not surprising, given that the metal exists naturally in our air, water and soil. It is most commonly found in the latter – in fact, the 24th most abundant natural element in the earth’s crust. Being plentiful does not necessarily translate into being sustainable, of course. Having said that, here are the many reasons zinc is a great green product.

The Advantages

For projects seeking LEED certification, using zinc as a building material often contributes to achieving points in the grading system. This is because the material is fully recyclable from construction scrap to end of use, which lowers the energy required for manufacturing. Indeed, when zinc’s expiration date occurs, it can be easily dismantled, ground up and repurposed for re-use in items ranging from tires to paint and more. The energy used to transform metallic zinc metal into rolled zinc for building applications (2 MJ/kg) is lower compared to that same procedure in comparison with other non-ferrous metals. For example, the energy required to produce zinc from ore is a quarter of that of aluminum and half that of copper and steel. Zinc also possesses a long lifespan and requires low maintenance. Roofs and walls made of zinc have lasted up to 100 years in Europe, where using it for building began in the 1800s. Regarding low maintenance, zinc naturally develops a protective layer over time called a patina that will “self-heal” if scratched or removed. Additionally, zinc rainscreens can create thin air barriers for heating or cooling purposes. This can reduce the use of energy used by HVAC systems.

The Drawback

If zinc is mixed with other materials, it can be more difficult to remove and recover it for recycling than if it is processed by itself into rolled zinc. The extra time and expense involved to secure this mixed zinc for scrap metal may deter from it being recycled. This is the only known non-eco-friendly aspects of zinc. None are related to the building process itself, where zinc has been a leader in securing in LEED Platinum and Gold certifications. Overall, indications are zinc is quite sustainable to use for all building purposes – residential, commercial and more – and deserves greater consideration for future construction in this regard.

Daniel Nicely is the managing director at VMZINC® -US and Umicore Building Projects, where he manages the sales team for the United States and Mexico. He has been with Umicore since 2006, as the director of architectural sales and the director of market development. An architect by training, Nicely worked in architecture for 10 years prior to taking his talents to VMZINC® and Umicore.

He can be contacted at [email protected]. Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].    

By Rudy Rodriguez

In the construction industry, many clients harbor a distrust of contractors because they’ve been burned by shady and unethical behavior in the past. Unfortunately, even ignoring the outright scammers who pose as contractors, many legitimate construction companies do engage in some practices that they shouldn’t.

Unethical Practices

In the roofing industry, many clients come to believe that leaks cannot be permanently fixed because they’ve never had contractors who actually do the job right. This isn’t necessarily because of incompetence. There are roofers who won’t make a permanent repair on a leak, as that makes it easy to secure guaranteed repeat business. Other contractors will use a change order to bill more during a project in order to cover mistakes they made, or simply to pad the bill because they want more money for a job. These are the kinds of practices that give the construction industry a less-than-savory reputation.

Why Ethics Matter

Without getting too much into high school philosophy, ethics are a fundamental aspect of a successful company. Without ethics as a value, your business is at risk of a bad reputation, and you may have difficulty retaining good people. As soon as prospective clients stop believing that your company will do a good, honest job at a fair price, the future of your company is in serious jeopardy.

Making It Right

In being an ethical company, your biggest obstacle is the potential disconnect between the owners and workers. Simply put, management can’t monitor every employee 24/7 to make sure they’re doing the right thing. However, you can – and should – still build your company on a foundation of ethics. Start by emphasizing the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated. Encourage workers to ask themselves if what they’re about to do would hurt the clients. If so, they shouldn’t do it.


Company culture plays an important role in operating by a core value like ethics or integrity. Simply stating that you’re an ethical company won’t go very far if the workers are cutting corners, overcharging, or lying to clients. Make it clear that your company takes ethics very seriously, and then follow through on that promise. This also extends to management. Don’t work with unscrupulous vendors or suppliers, be ethical in your personal life, and serve as an example to be emulated. It’s not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do--and that makes it worth the effort!

Rudy Rodriguez is the owner of Castro Roofing, a leading commercial roofing company serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. 

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].

This is the second of a two-part series.

By Mike Karlskind

In my previous post, I spoke some about the benefits of mobile technology for a dispersed workforce. Now, let’s consider the “device” part of the equation. 

Selecting the Right Device

To be able to leverage mobile apps and the efficiencies thereof, employees will need to be equipped with either a smartphone or a tablet; these generally carry the same user experience, the main difference being the size of the device. Form factor is an extremely important consideration in the construction industry, where it will likely be treated like another job-site tool. In that case, a tablet is probably too large for journeymen workers. The smartphone, however, is ideal clocking in and out of assignments, tracking mileage, getting details on a new job and completing forms when out in the field. Tablets provide greater flexibility to handle paper-based processes, and can handle more complex apps; they may be an option for your foremen. Also, if voice calling is not necessary for your workers, a tablet could be the better choice because you can avoid paying for a voice and data package through your wireless carrier. Interestingly, for many companies, tablets are replacing the clipboard; they can share up-to-the-minute data as well as manage paperwork. Construction firms could take a lesson from their peers in this regard. Another aspect to consider is durability. There are many smartphones that are built for rugged use, while tablets for harsh environments are not as common. There are a variety of cases available ensure that the smartphone or tablet will not be damaged, but those will add to the bottom-line cost of the device.

Service Plans: The Long-Term Cost Consideration

Many employers may only factor in the cost of a device when they think about equipping mobile workers, and often lean toward Smartphones because they cost considerably less than a tablet. But what businesses don’t always consider is the long-term, recurring costs related to using each device. While a smartphone may be less expensive than a tablet, the service plan, which would have to include voice and data, could cost $40 or more per person each month. On the other hand, many carriers offer tablet-only data plans for $10 to $15 a month, which give the workers the ability to be connected anywhere and everywhere and use the enterprise apps. If your employees already have their own mobile phone, it may be more cost-effective over the long-term for them to use their personal device for voice communications and for the company to provide a tablet with its lower-cost, data-only monthly service plan. Before making a decision on which device is best for your mobile employees, you will want to calculate the total cost of ownership, which is the price of the device and the monthly fees associated with the wireless service plan to support that device. As part of that calculation, do not forget to factor in the estimated savings you expect to achieve from leveraging a mobile application. In many cases, saving an employee a few hours per month through improved efficiency – such as requiring less time doing paperwork or eliminating the need to drive to the main office – will more than cover the cost of supplying a smartphone or tablet and the associated voice and data plans.

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.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].  



This is the first of a two-part series.

By Mike Karlskind

The consumerization of field service offers a tremendous opportunity for any business that consists of a dispersed workforce, chief among them construction firms. The use of mobile devices and applications to streamline operations, reduce costs and enhance productivity of workers in the field is more than incremental.

Although these applications are helping individuals do their job better no matter where they are, they also require some thought from company management about which device is the best to meet employee needs in the field. Considerations about durability, efficiency and associated costs all factor into the decision. There are a lot of devices on the market to choose from (Notebook? Smartphone? Rugged PDA? Tablet? Some combination of all of the above?).

The Savings Associated with Going Mobile Whether you choose to equip your employees with a smartphone or a tablet, the proven savings come in the mobile apps. For example, let’s look at a scenario featuring a plumbing company with 50 employees in the field, who each earn an average of $20 per hour.

With a mobile app that automates employee time tracking, provides documents in the field and allows instant customer signatures for completed jobs, thus reducing the paperwork and associated time components of these tasks, the company will eliminate 2 hours of overtime per employee each week, for an estimated savings of $37,500 annually. By not having to constantly come back to the home office to file paperwork or pick up assignments, the company is able to reduce mileage each week by 100 miles, saving about $21,000 a year. Simplifying the back office tasks of processing payroll and managing paper could save another $22,500 a year. And these productivity increases may also allow workers to complete more jobs per day, which could add revenue of $62,500. Under this scenario, when calculating the impact of these various improvements associated with equipping your employees with mobile devices and apps, this company achieves a positive impact to their bottom line of more than $143,000 annually. Not too shabby. Because the productivity and financial benefits of mobile apps can be material, the investment in upgrading to smartphones and tablets is fairly easy to justify. However, as you put a plan in place, it is important to make sure that this investment can grow with your business. Once employees see the benefits of the first app they use, they will want to use their mobile devices for other daily business activities. For this reason, it is vital to “futureproof” devices and service plans to handle the current and future needs of your employees and your customers. In my next installment, I’ll dig a little more into the nuances between smartphone and tablet computers.

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.

Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].  

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