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With construction in New York City at an all-time high, the New York County District Attorney’s office earlier this year announced what it termed a new Construction Fraud Task Force. In an Aug. 5 announcement, accompanied by a press conference by District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the office said the purpose of the task force was “to identify and prosecute citywide corruption and fraud in the construction industry.” 

Along with the announcement, the DA issued a press release regarding the task force’s first two prosecutions. Both indictments sprung from the same accident at a construction site in Manhattan where a worker died as a result of an earthen wall collapse. 

Recent trade shows and conferences are proof positive that the future of green building is innovation. Hundreds of companies filled massive exhibition halls, displaying cutting-edge building materials, lighting solutions and innovative materials and technologies that are improving building performance, energy efficiency and the comfort and health of building users. 

Some of the most intriguing products and services on display in 2015 were imagined and engineered by startups and smaller firms that, in some cases, are partnering with established enterprises to bring disruptive services and technologies to the traditionally conservative construction and building materials markets.

The sound that struck me most the first time I visited a jobsite was not the sound of tools — it was the sound of shouting. Something had deviated from the plan, triggering a very red, flustered project manager to verbally lash out at a particularly unfortunate contractor. 

More than 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” captured this dynamic. The play’s protagonist needs to borrow money from a loan shark, who insists on an absurd agreement: If he cannot be paid back, he will carve a pound of flesh out of the protagonist’s chest.

Insurance seems like a necessary evil for most contractors. It’s the price of doing business, and a price that is frequently too high, especially in major metropolitan areas like New York City. Construction firms think they pay what insurers will charge simply because the market will bear it.

Insurers look at it from a different perspective. To them, insurance is an absolute necessity, an incredible system to deal with an uncertain world. The costs they impose should serve as a market-based incentive for risk businesses to act safer. If prices rise, that’s an indication of increased risk, and construction firms should start thinking about how they can be safer.

The popularity of Builder Board has been growing stronger throughout the remodeling and building industry due to its all-around performance and time-saving attributes. It’s light, liquid-resistant, flexible, defends against high-impact drops and is 100 percent breathable. Builder Board truly has become the standard in floor protection, saving industry professionals millions in costs every year. Still, there are always ways to improve performance and Surface Shields has done exactly that with its latest innovation: Builder Board Breathable Tape. 

For floors that require protection while still curing, a completely breathable system is needed. Yes, Builder Board is breathable, however, cure lines will form if the wrong tape is used to seam it together. This new breathable tape is formulated to allow vapors and moisture to escape, preventing stained lines from appearing on concrete and other curing floors. 

In 2013, West Virginia’s School Building Authority (SBA) began planning the construction of a new elementary school in Franklin, W.V., a rural community of less than 1,000 people. The school district needed a fixed-cost project that could be finished within a short construction window through the harsh West Virginia winter, while meeting high expectations from the community for a quality product. After considering traditional options for the area like steel, concrete and masonry, an innovative mass timber system was chosen for its low cost, speed of construction and environmental benefits. 

In many ways, construction companies should select from the pool of talent within their organizations. When promoting an internal leader, the individual knows the work rules, intuitively understands the culture and is a walking source of institutional knowledge. The internal candidate understands the hot button safety issues, the personality quirks of the team and the organizational discomfort with specific policies unique to a construction company. In essence, the internal leader is a known quantity. He or she has a well-defined cost, and possibly modest expectations for increased compensation due to the impending promotion. Certainly, the morale of others may rise as evidence of promotions becomes suddenly real. At least, that’s the ideal. The real world is usually less black and white. Promoting the wrong person from within can be extremely expensive – 10 to 20 times the cost of the individual’s annual salary. Selecting the right person regardless of source is always the best solution, even if it’s not the easiest one. Unless there is a clearly-defined, obvious, and well-thought-out choice waiting to take the helm, limiting the selection pool to internal candidates is a mistake more often than not.

Walking the floor of the annual NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS) in January, the sense of optimism among the more than 55,000 attendees was apparent and undeniable, with good reason. After nearly a decade-long effort to fully recover from the Great Recession, economists were predicting that 2015 would finally see a surge in new housing starts. 

Sage Construction and Real Estate traveled to Las Vegas to talk to attendees about whether they were also feeling just as confident heading into the New Year. The majority of people I talked to were encouraged by the economists’ predictions, many had seen, in their own business, evidence that the surge had already begun. And now, six months later, those positive predictions have come true, even beating many economists’ expectations. Yet, while the recovery creates more business opportunities that make everyone happy, it comes with a new set of business challenges: having the qualified labor to complete the jobs.  With the massive purge of construction jobs in the downturn, much of that talent re-geared to work in a different, less volatile industry.

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