By Ryan Jensen

Although we are entering the end of the winter season, March will certainly bring a few final snow and ice storms to communities across the nation before warmer weather begins to settle in. That’s why contractors working with spray polyurethane foam (SPF) must remain vigilant about keeping the product at the manufacturer’s suggested temperature ranges.

If not stored correctly throughout the entire winter, SPF chemicals that are exposed to temperatures between 20 degrees Fahrenheit and 47 degrees Fahrenheit will freeze. More importantly, the chemical changes viscosity and degrades in a process known as Viscosity Drift. The foam thickens, making it difficult to use and stalling the pumps. Every 18 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature causes the SPF to double its viscosity. Once this process occurs, it’s difficult to recover the product. In most cases, it’s simply a loss to the project’s bottom line. Contractors have tried a variety of ways to protect SPF, and one popular method is the use of band heaters. Perhaps this is because heat bands are less expensive, easier to transport, and less cumbersome to store. However, these high-heat flux-style heaters localize heat, which damages the product and the drum. In addition, band heaters have unreliable thermostats that overheat the product, which impacts the foam ratio, increases density and results in loss coverage by the applicator.

According to the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), low-heat flux blanket-style heaters are the ideal solution. Heat blankets deliver safe, uniform heat to temperature-sensitive products and materials; prevent product waste by maintaining consistent temperatures; use energy efficient technology that saves time and money; and provide accurate and reliable thermostats. When selecting a heat blanket, it’s important to look for a technology that provides an even heat transfer. This means the temperature is the same across the entire surface of the blanket. There are no hot or cold spots.  Digital thermostat controls add an additional layer of protection, enabling contractors to select an optimal temperature. Customers who hire a contractor to install spray foam insulation do so because they want an effective and cost-efficient way to insulate their homes. It makes sense that these same contractors also want an effective and cost-efficient way to protect their SPF.  Although they most cost more, investing in heating blankets instead of heat bands to protect spray foam is a decisions that will pay off both in short -term projects and long term-profits.

Ryan Jensen is director of marketing for PowerBlanket, a manufacturer of heating blankets.   

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



By Erica Pierce

Contractors enjoy a lot of opportunity but face just as many challenges. Operating legally and profitably requires attention to detail and good use of resources such as an organized system to track expenses, create estimates, and budgeting for rainy days. 

Receipts and Expenses Forms

Contractors running their own companies pay many expenses out of their own pockets and need an easy, effective system to keep tax and VAT accounting records. A good system also ensures contractors don’t miss out on eligible claims. To claim everything allowable by the taxman, contractors must have documented expenses that follow HMRC rules.

Receipts are proof of business expenses. Contractors who are registered with VAT especially need receipts to claim VAT expenses. Although contractors can claim expenses any time, it’s most efficient to do it weekly, monthly or quarterly. Make sure expense forms include date of the expenditure, what the expense is for and the exact amount of the expense. A simple spreadsheet with columns labeled for date, amount, location and purpose will help you recall what the expenses are for come tax time.

Checklists for Estimates

In “Running a Successful Construction Company,” David Gerstel suggests using checklists to gather information for estimates. Again, this is where a spreadsheet will be useful. Gerstel says leaving the cost of items out of estimates will hurt contractors more than getting costs wrong, and using procedures and checklists helps with good calculations. Gathering information for contractor work requires several types of checklists to get the specific information that affects costs. These are the checklists that Gerstel recommends:

  • Plan Study and Preparation Checklist – create a list of things to do before a job, including reviewing plans, reading each page and noting questions, correlating plans (relating site plan to foundation plan, floor plan to roof plan, etc.) and making notes, coordinating with designers and engineers and highlighting unusual job specifications.
  • Site Visit – create a list of what to bring to the site visit, what to do with subs, what to check out in the neighborhood such as access and parking, particulars like power availability and important items to like hazards and space for access and movement of crews.
  • Subcontractor Quotes – create a list of what each subcontractor has quoted for their work with notes about what to clarify.

Contractor Accounting Software

Construction accounting software for Mac or Windows makes budgeting and estimating remodel work faster and easier by automating common steps in the process. Quickly generate accurate job estimates, track sub-contractor invoices, and keep all data and forms together in an easily accessible place and format with software.

Erica Pierce blogs about business and finance.

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


By Lachezar Stamatov

As a small contractor, you’ve probably contemplated the possibility of working on public work projects. If you’re just entering the arena, you might be wondering what steps you can take to leverage your chances of getting one. Here are our tips:

Register with Uncle SAM – In order for a federal agency to find you, it is absolutely necessary that you register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM is the database the government uses to find contractors for their projects. The government bases their decisions on such criteria as years of experience, physical location and size of the company, etc.

Increase Your Visibility in Other Ways – When you register with SAM, you also have the option of registering with the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS). The DSBS helps you in a different way – you can use its search engine to find out more about other small businesses and possibly look for a partner if a project is too big for your capacity but you still want to bid on it.

Look for Opportunities Yourself – Naturally, you can’t just register in the federal government’s database and wait for the projects to come to you. There are many ways for you to proactively find them, such as through the Federal Business Opportunities website. Just search the website to find contracting opportunities for projects exceeding $25,000. A similar tool you should also check out is the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Finally, at you can see contracts awarded by the federal government and learn more about how others succeed, identify common traits between them and make changes to your business practices if necessary.

Find Partners – Searching government databases and participating in networking events are both effective strategies to increase chances of landing a contract. Beyond this, registering with the American Express Open Forum is a great way not only to find more about government contracting but also to find potential partners. One of their studies found that businesses who team up get 50 percent more contracts. Indeed, in a recent survey among contractors, respondents said that they were sole providers for only 46 percent of their federal contracts. Make sure to check out the Small Business Teaming Pilot Program, too, where you can learn more about government allocated critical resources.

Save on the Price of Your Surety Bonds – When submitting your bid, you’ll probably wonder how you can make a lower-priced offer without sacrificing quality. One way to cut your costs is to find a good deal on your contract surety bonds, a frequent requirement on many public construction projects. The best ways to lower your price include maintaining a good credit score and demonstrating strong financial statements.

Lachezar Stamatov is a recent psychology graduate with interests spanning across various fields including health, food, technology and sustainable farming. He loves blogging about construction and surety bonds, and is a regular contributor for the Lance Surety Bonds blog.

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



By M.G. Bachemin

Whenever you embark on a construction project, whether it is in your home, business or neighborhood, safety should always be the main priority. Construction sites lead to great things but in the process, it can be a dangerous situation if people are not paying attention to safety requirements and regulations. Staying on top of your safety needs will help ensure that your project is finished on time and that no one becomes injured in the process.  

1. Nails and Debris – The foundations of construction are nails and screws. They keep everything together. Unfortunately, those tiny, necessary items can get everywhere. If you’re not paying attention, you could end up on the business end of one. And that hurts. Furthermore, other debris and glass can be found everywhere at construction sites and can be harmful if you’re not wearing proper safety features like gloves and eye safety glasses.  

2. Hanging or Exposed Wires and Hoses – Hanging or exposed wires can be troublesome at construction sites. Hanging wires can transfer unrestrained electricity as well as become entangled by other machinery. Even worse, if these wires and hoses become crushed and ruined, your construction project may take longer to complete. Most techniques to offset this occurrence are remedial at best and don’t offer much protection, instead use steel reinforced cable and hose protectors.  

3. Collapsed and Broken Equipment – If a part of your construction project is not properly reinforced or if the equipment being used is inadequate, you could be putting yourself and the labor you have hired to complete this project at risk. Use proper scaffolding and updated equipment to avoid major construction malfunctions like falling, electrocutions, injury or death.  

4. Employee Training and Rules – The labor that conducts the constructing is what should be protected on all sites, before things like cost and time. Make sure that you have a qualified staff that is properly trained and educated for the tasks they will perform. It goes without saying but we’ll say it anyways: being under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication should be strictly prohibited. Those that do not adhere to that rule are not only endangering themselves, but they are putting the lives of those employed and the future owners of your building at risk. Zero tolerance policies will ensure that safety is the No. 1 priority at all construction sites.  

5. Proper External Protection – All construction staff should in proper uniform while working on site. Proper uniform includes but is not limited to: safety gloves, long pants, rubber soled non-slip shoes, eye goggles, hard hats and reflective clothing if working in early morning or evening sites. These small features can help protect your staff from the dangers of construction sites. Also, signs advertising the need for hardhat protection should be posted in required areas for those visiting or new to the site.

This article was written by M.G. Bachemin in association with Brahman Systems L.L.C., the new standard in cable and hose protector for industrial traffic.

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


By Stephen J. Sheinbaum

If you are a small business owner in the construction industry, you’re no stranger to the seemingly endless costs required to run your business. From gas prices to building materials, equipment rental to repair, payroll to day-to-day operational expenses, the cost of running a construction company can be strenuous on any owner’s wallet. On top of these costs, most companies often don’t receive payment for a project until it is completed and the customer is fully satisfied with the end result.

This means some businesses can go months before they see an influx of cash. Now consider this: according to a study by Pepperdine University, banks reject close to 60 percent of small business loan requests. On top of this, banks reject more requests from small businesses operating in the construction industry more than any other sector. The past five years have made financing for the construction market quite difficult, though there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.

The Economic Downturn  

Following the collapse of the economy in 2008 – the worst since the Great Depression – the construction market was hit particularly hard. Building halted on both the residential and commercial sides, companies stopped hiring, and banks stopped lending. This credit freeze is still in effect – nearly five-and-a-half years later. For business owners in the building and construction industry, the prospect of receiving financing from a bank is a continuing uphill battle. Traditional lenders are refusing to provide capital, even for those projects needed and wanted by the public or private sector. For them, even viable projects seem too risky.

The Upswing for the Economy

As we enter 2014, businesses across many sectors are beginning to see signs of a stronger, sturdier economy. More specific to the construction industry, Q4 of last year showed significant growth in the construction sector. Just this week, Caterpillar construction equipment announced higher than expected returns, thanks to expansion across the industry. And according to the American Institute of Architect’s semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, a survey of the nation’s leading construction forecasters, the commercial sector looks to see the biggest gains in construction spending, with demand for institutional projects increasing at a more moderate level. 

It’s worth noting though that the AIA’s chief economist cites the credit freeze as a red flag for continued growth. Moving forward, we are expected to see continued improvements in the American economy and funding from private-sector development, and state and local governments should further boost industry performance.

Benefits of Alternative Lending for Construction Companies

Many small construction companies continue to feel the strain from operational costs and the scrutiny from big name banks. While this economic improvement may result in banks becoming more open to small business loans for construction projects, there are alternative funding solutions that manage to help fill the gap. These non-bank financers are able to provide short-term lending without the need to collateralize future returns.

This type of funding can enable, for example, a construction company to buy material for bigger jobs without needing cash upfront from a customer. If you are planning to seek financing in 2014, I leave you with a few recommendations:

  • Determine exactly how much financing you need and exactly where it will be spent.
  • Ensure all financial documentation is in order before approaching a lender.
  • Do your homework on a financing company before you apply. Make sure they have a solution that makes sense for you.
  • Understand how the payback amounts on a daily and monthly basis will affect your cash flow.

Stephen J. Sheinbaum has served as President and CEO of Merchant Cash & Capital since he founded the company in 2005.  Under his guidance, the company has grown from a single employee entity executing three transactions per month to its present status as one of the industry leaders. The company has provided more than $625 million in financing to over 12,500 distinct customers and a total of over 28,000 advances.

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



By Kenneth Davis

Getting young people into skilled trades in construction, contracting, plumbing and other necessary skilled jobs is proving tough. Young people are taking more technology roles, and older skilled trades jobs are left unfilled. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2014, nearly 30 percent more HVAC techs and 20 percent more plumbing techs will be needed in the U.S. That's about 100,000 skilled workers needed in the job pool.

Because a generation of skilled tradespeople are aging, about 170,000 workers will be leaving the workforce by 2016, and younger workers will be needed. But the interest in skilled-labor jobs is waning among young persons who are looking for more technology-oriented work. Today's young adults are growing up around technological gadgets and devices rather than screwdrivers, nuts, bolts and piping. A 2012 Manpower report noted that skilled trade workers were among the most in-demand on a global basis. Economists and others who study our work lives are envisioning a critical shortage of these types of skilled laborers.

In fact, a recent survey from tool equipment supplier RIDGID found that just 6 percent of high school students surveyed wanted careers as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, contractors and air conditioning installers. Working in skilled trades just didn't interest the teens; they had no mechanical skills; they didn't see opportunity in skilled trades, and that skilled trades were just not tech enough. But a trend of combining trades with technology is on the horizon. With the advent of hands-free tools like Google Glass coming soon to the general public, contractors and other skilled tradesmen may have opportunities to incorporate the technology into their chosen trades.

Commercial real estate growth in certain sections of the country continue to rise, and the AAOA also shows opportunities to rehab and refurbish apartment communities as well. Let''s look at how today's technology with Google Glass can help a contractor or skilled tradesman to make his work more efficient. Combining technology with trade Google Glass includes a mini-computer, photo and video taking capabilities, and a growing set of apps in its eco-system. This wearable platform could allow a home owner or apartment community manager to check a mechanical issue and diagnose it in real time using Google Glass video capabilities.

Bruce Cohen asked at the recent IdeaFestival industry forum in Louisville in September how he can use Google Glass in his business. Owner of BC Plumbing Co., Cohen thinks that collaboration with Google Glass could make his job more efficient with one of his employees in the field. Seeing the plumbing issue through the technician's Google Glass video capabilities, then receiving advice from Cohen, could help make a fix more efficient. Because Glass can transmit video to the Web, a person could see deep into a pipe or water issue and then get expert advice from an experienced plumber or technician online to fix the problem.

Instead of being on call throughout the day and night for home visits, a new type of tech-skilled tradesmen could evolve. Google Glass hopes to launch in 2014. At that time, there will be an opportunity for skilled trades people to experiment with wearable computing to further their work effort.

Kenneth Davis is an urban project manager for a land conservancy company. He also offers consulting for businesses interested in a green initiative and eco-friendly business model.

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


By Jeffrey Plummer

Windows have long been a point of weakness for energy efficiency in commercial buildings, but in an age when senseless bombings, natural disasters and crime combine to pose an ever-increasing risk to people and property, facility managers and builders face a host of new window vulnerabilities to consider. An often overlooked solution to help mitigate these threats is window film.

Window films, also called solar control films, can mitigate the sun’s damaging rays without interfering with building aesthetics. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that one-third of a building’s cooling load is from solar heat gain through windows, and nearly 75 percent of existing windows are not energy efficient. Window film can block up to 75 percent of solar heat gain through glass. While many variables impact energy savings – including the property’s climate zone location and other building envelope materials – energy saving window films can achieve as much as 15 percent energy savings annually with improved HVAC efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. It is not unusual for the film to pay for itself in savings within three years of application. Not only is the film beneficial for the property, it can also help block up to 99 percent of UV radiation that contributes to damage to furniture, carpets, woodwork, and occupying tenants.

Safety window films can help reduce property loss and damage in the event of a burglary attempt by making it far more difficult for criminals to penetrate the building through glass doors and windows. When windows have a layer of safety film protection, they will likely break upon impact but the film helps holds the broken glass in the frame; making it much tougher for an intruder to gain access. While not fail-safe, the difficulty in breaking through the filmed glass will often lead an intruder to give up on his efforts and flee the scene empty-handed.

Safety film is a more permanent, passive protection that does not need to be installed prior to an oncoming storm. It provides a level of protection 24 hours a day even to windows that are difficult to protect with other mitigation methods such as shudders, such as is the case in many large commercial properties.

Storms and natural disasters are difficult to predict and impossible to prevent and can cause significant damage to commercial property. Objects carried in devastating storm winds are often traveling at 120 to 175 mph. When even small objects, like pieces of wood, rocks or sea shells, get transported toward glass windows or large patio doors at these speeds, they can break the glass with relative ease. Safety window films not only offer a measure of mitigation from the hazards of flying glass fragments which can cause occupant injuries, they also help prevent wind, rain and other debris from causing severe internal property damage.

Jeffery Plummer is the senior vice president of sales, marketing and distribution for Madico Window Films based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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


By Thomas Carroll

Construction is inherently a risky business regardless of the size of your building operation. In the construction industry, 13 workers for every 100,000 are killed during the course of their work, compared to the mortality rate of five per 100,000 across all sectors. With this heightened level of risk, it is essential that thorough health and safety training be a core principle of every building firm, no matter how big or small. From back pain to cement burns and asbestos exposure to hand-arm vibration syndrome, the potential health risks of working in the construction trade are plentiful, which is why health and safety training is essential before the work begins.

The potential risks and hazards – The construction industry is unrivalled in the number of potential risks workers face on a day-to-day basis. Almost every job they undertake harbours an element of risk. These potential risks include:

  • An accident with a vehicle
  • A fall from height
  • Receiving an electric shock
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Handling heavy materials
  • Being struck by a falling object
  • Hearing loss from persistent loud noises
  • Contact with dangerous substances

What are your legal obligations? – By law, smaller building firms are required to fulfil a number of obligations:

  • Manage hazards and risks: any work undertaken should be carefully planned beforehand and managed and monitored whilst in progress to ensure it is being carried out safely and with no risk to the health of workers.
  • Train and inform your workforce: provide workers with the information and health and safety training they need to perform all tasks safely.
  • Work with the client: working closely with the client or home occupier to ensure the work is carried out safely and that both party’s legal responsibilities are met.
  • On-site Health and Safety Management  It is the responsibility of the on site manager, with the help of their project supervisors, to protect the health and safety of all those working on a project. This can be achieved by:
  • Identifying and avoiding any unnecessary risks,
  • Evaluating those risks which are inherent in the work,
  • Combating and nullifying risks as much as possible,
  • Implementing measures to protect workers,
  • Establishing effective and universal working practices,
  • Creating standardised procedures in the event of an emergency,
  • Informing workers how to control and minimize risk, and
  • Developing checks and measures to ensure workers are meeting the legal requirements.

Most importantly, it is essential that small building firms only accept work that they can perform safely. If you do not have the required health and safety competencies, then rather than take the risk, concentrate on those jobs you can perform safely.

Thomas Carroll is one of the UK’s leading providers of health and safety training for those working across a broad range of industries. For more information, email [email protected].  

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


By Kevin Kerridge

No matter what the project, as a professional in the construction industry, you understand that every project has unique challenges and risks. One mistake, miscommunication or misinterpretation can cause costly delays, accidents or even injuries. The good news is that the right insurance coverage can help construction professionals mitigate these risks and avoid costly and time-consuming lawsuits, even if they are frivolous. Proper coverage allows professionals in the construction industry to focus on what is most important: building structures, and their businesses. Although professional liability and general liability insurance are not a 100 percent safeguard against risk, having one or both of these types of policies can help provide you peace of mind. Below are three scenarios that, regardless of fault, can result in damaging lawsuits:

  • Misinterpretation of renderings: You’re nearing the final stage of completing a job with a challenging client – you know the one we’re talking about – and you’re just waiting on a final piece from one of your suppliers. Your client has unique tastes and has requested a custom, special order item, which you’ve assured them can be done. Unfortunately, your supplier misinterprets your request and delivers a costly item that will not work with your plans. In turn, your angry client sues both of you for professional negligence and demands that you reimburse him for lost time. You do not believe this is your fault, but you have been named in the lawsuit and must appear in court. In this instance, customized professional liability insurance, or errors and omissions insurance, can help protect you. Some policies may even appoint or help to pay for an attorney.
  • Personal injury: One of your employees is on a job site. He talks to the contractor about one of your mutual clients in a false and unflattering way. The client learns of this discussion and sues for slander. General liability insurance can help to cover the subsequent claim and even pay for an attorney to defend you if necessary. With the right policy, you’ll be protected against covered third-party claims for this type of damage.
  • Protecting home base: Over Labor Day weekend, you get the unfortunate news that there’s been a fire at your office, and there’s significant damage to your work space. You are forced to close during repairs, resulting in a high cost to you and your clients, both in valuable time on their construction schedules and in lost revenue. Not to mention you’re facing out of pocket expenses for repairs and new equipment. Property damage insurance generally covers first-party property damage. These policies can insure an office space against many disasters and can also provide business interruption compensation and lost income protection when it’s needed most.

Although professional liability and general liability insurance are no guarantee that you’ll never face a challenge, it does help offer peace of mind that, in the event you are faced with an unfortunate circumstance, you’ll be protected.

Kevin Kerridge leads the Hiscox Small Business Insurance unit for U.S. small business customers. Hiscox USA is the first United States insurer to enable small businesses to purchase insurance directly and online in real time. Self-employed professionals in the architecture and engineering industries can purchase insurance tailored to the specific risks of their industry to help protect themselves against potential claims and lawsuits, even if they are unwarranted.

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


By Frank Greene

The dramatic reduction in crime and consequent public perception of safety means that most American cities are now seen as desirable places to visit, live and work.  Public safety and economic vitality are fundamental elements of sustainable development, pointing the way to increased prosperity and opportunity. Most discussions of a greener, greater America have focused on the classic environmental concerns of resources, energy consumption, animal habitat, and pollution, treating the justice system as a legal abstraction silos away from the noble work of saving the planet.

The justice system was not designed: it emerged from hundreds of years of interactions between law and disorder, with new laws being created to address new conditions, with new precedents and policies arising as necessary.  With the Judiciary a separate branch of government from the Executive responsible for the police, jails, and prisons, the system that we know exhibits many of the features of a democracy — inefficient, contradictory, but well-intentioned. A systems approach to justice links the activities of police, judges and corrections professionals into a cooperative effort to reduce costs, increase public safety, and to improve outcomes for those who come into contact with the justice system. This linkage is driven by a vision and mission statement that guides the operations of the justice system.

This vision should be inspired by the goal of a greener, greater community/city, viewing the offender as a resource to be recycled and returned to society better equipped to live a productive life. Sustainable public buildings are emblems of a community’s commitment to its future: low cost to operate, pleasant places to visit, work, or even live, and nurturing to the human spirit. The LEED rating system identifies them to the staff and taxpayers as investments in a sustainable society, helping to “rebrand” the justice system as “green” if operations are aligned with sustainable principles.

A LEED Gold justice building can be a good neighbor with benefits that maximize the value of this investment in the sustainability of a community. Perceptions of fairness for families, as well as offenders, after court proceedings are much more influenced by how they were treated than by the verdict of guilty or innocent. The people who come to the courthouse seeking justice are most often those who least benefit from our society — low income, education, literacy, job skills, and therefore opportunity. After the experience of courteous, professional, respectful police, courts staff, and detention officers, working in partnership with social services providers, attitudes of hostility and alienation can transform to acceptance of responsibility and commitment to the work of change, fueled by hope and sense of possibility.

New sustainable police stations, courthouses, and even jails and prisons can communicate this renewal of mission for the Justice System. Open, transparent entrances and public lobbies with robust but unobtrusive security, access to information, and ease of use serves the public well and contributes to the perception of the system as caring and effective. Daylight, views to nature, and healthful environments illuminate the path to justice.

Frank Greene, FAIA, is a principal of CGLRicciGreene. As lead designer and as design collaborator on prominent courthouses, including numerous GSA Design Excellence projects, his work has garnered AIA and GSA Design Awards, LEED certification, and publication in architectural press. 

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



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