Enter your email:

Construction Topics




















Become a FB fan

Construction Network

Trades Hub


July 2, 2013

Filed under: Construction — nedpelger

I’ve been writing this blog a few times a week for five years. It feels like time to take a break.

I plan to take the time I was investing in the blog and focus on efficient cloud computing for small construction companies. If I can pull together some tips and methods that would help others, I’ll get them out to you.

So please check back on occasion to see if I’m making any progress. I’ll leave you with my photo from a sculpture park in New Orleans.

As you climb the ladder of success, make sure to pay attention to what it’s leaning against. Don’t get to the top and realize you’ve been climbing the wrong ladder.


March 15, 2013

All the Firms Lost in the Flood
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

When I was a young teenager, I loved Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park. It was a great joy to then be a sound roadie on his 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. I remember a show in a little theater in Pittsburgh. Bruce got a note from a fan before the show about the fan’s buddy just dying in a motorcycle accident.

Bruce decided he was going to play Lost in the Flood, which he hadn’t played in years. I remembering him saying to the sound mixer and me that he was embarrassed about some of the lyrics (“Nuns running bald through Vatican halls pregnant, pleading immaculate conception”) and that he’d just mumble through that line.

His performance of that song that night moved me to heaving sobs. Great art can do that.  Here’s a video of a later performance of the song, also amazing.


What made me think about this song, though, was a project we’re pricing near Philadelphia. The developer/contractor built four of the six approved large condo multi-family housing buildings. Then came the the financial crisis of 2008 and everything just stopped.

The developer/contractor went bankrupt as did many of the firms who were working on the project. As I call though the contractor roster to get bids from the firms that built the previous buildings, I get lots of “Phone no longer in service” messages.

Those firms were lost in the flood. It makes me think about the close brushes I’ve had with financial catastrophe over the years. I know I’ve been blessed to not have to go through that painful process of bankruptcy. Today I’m going to remember in all my busyness just how blessed I continue to be.

As we all work in this economic recovery, getting busier and more stressed, let’s remember to keep our perspective. Do some things every day that truly matter the most to you. Move that ball down the field.


November 14, 2012

NYC Rapid Repair Program Seeks Contractors
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

If you are looking for work, ENR posted today that the Building Trades Employers Association of New York City has set-up a website for registering for work in rebuilding homes. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a recent press release, “We’ve come up with an innovative and unprecedented way to bring government resources to bear on this recovery effort.”

FEMA registration will also be required, since the program will be funded by FEMA, similar to the World Trade Tower clean-up after 9/11/01. Contractor teams will work their way through neighborhoods, assessing damage and doing repairs. This approach varies significantly from the normal situation in which every home owner and insurance company contracts individually.

I couldn’t tell for sure, but I think this program was open to both union and open shop contractors. So if you’re looking for work, you may want to consider this option.


September 10, 2012

Make Your Small Construction Co More Profitable and Efficient

I’m going to slightly change the direction of this blog. When I started writing over four years ago (wow, sure seems longer than that), I wrote for an intended audience of Construction Supervisors. I thought there was a real need for Construction Supervisors to learn, communicate with each other and grow. I still do, but found that few Construction Supervisors ever found their way to my musings. And if they did, they didn’t return.

What I did get, though, was a growing audience of folks involved in different aspects of the construction industry. I get about 5,000 unique visitors a month to the blog, but since so few leave comments, I’m not sure who does what.

I do know, though, that lots of my readers run small construction companies. Since I work with small construction companies everyday (concreters, masons, drywallers, plumbers, etc) I have a sense of what they need to do to survive and improve. With today’s construction related economy, many firms struggle to survive.

The current standard, I think, has small firms with much less overhead cost than large competitors, but also lacking in effective management processes. For example, few small construction companies do effective job costing, knowing how the costs are working during the project. Most simply wait till the end of the project and hope they didn’t lose money.

Most small firms don’t effectively manage contracts, change orders, submittals or keeping the drawings current to the field staff. Each of these items carries a substantial risk when managed poorly and reward when done well.

We live in fascinating times. With the smart phone and tablet computers, small construction companies could become better managed than large firms without increasing overhead. The time to embrace these possible efficiencies is now. The time to grow market share and profits is now.

So I’m going to write more about how to those things. I’m going to work with several of the small construction companies that I often use on my projects and see if we can increase our management efficiency (which gives the best information to the person in the field that’s doing the actual work).


June 1, 2012

Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

We’ve been working for about a year on the pre-construction services for a $50M student housing project. We were ready to start in a few weeks. Yesterday, I got the news that our construction team is out, the owners are bringing in national builders. Oops.


The gut punch feeling of receiving that surprising news hasn’t gone away. We have lots of trade contractors counting on this work, now scrambling for something else to do.

We all know that in this crazy construction business, that a job isn’t a job till signed and started…and not always then. Owners can change directions, permits get delayed, things happen.

When we lose a project we were counting on, though, we actually go through the grief process.

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

In fact, we don’t just pass cleanly through that process, we bounce back and forth between the emotions for awhile. I need to keep this insight in mind as I work through the end of project issues.

Age and experience help, though, because I know that time wounds all heels. In the long run, things seem to work out.


May 23, 2012

3 things to know about contract surety bonds
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Readers: I have a guest blogger explaining the basics of surety bonds today. I think she does a nice job of presenting the info concisely.

If you’re like most construction professionals, you’ve probably heard about surety bonds but don’t know much about how they work, why they’re required and how you can get them. To help you along your way, this article will summarize three crucial aspects of contract surety bonds.
1. How they work:

To put it simply, contractor bonds guarantee that a certain quality of work will be achieved when construction professionals work on projects. Each bond that’s issued functions as a legally binding contact that brings three entities together.

  1. By purchasing the bond as a guarantee of future work performance, the contractor becomes the bond’s principal.
  2. By requiring the bond to prevent financial loss, the government agency or project owner becomes the bond’s obligee.
  3. By backing the bond with a financial guarantee, the insurance company becomes the bond’s surety.

If a bonded construction professional fails to fulfill the bond’s terms, then the bond amount can be used to keep government agencies, project owners and consumers from losing their investments in a project.
2. Why you may need them:
The federal Miller Act requires all contractors to purchase surety bonds before they can be granted permission to work on publicly funded construction projects that cost $100,000 or more. Other state, county and city regulations have their own unique contract surety bond requirements. No matter why they’re required, most construction projects require three different contract bond types.

  • Bid bonds guarantee that contractors won’t increase their bids after contracts are awarded.
  • Performance bonds guarantee that contractors will complete projects according to contractual terms.
  • Payment bonds guarantee that contractors will pay for all materials and subcontractors used on a project.

3. How you get them:
Before getting bonds, construction professionals must undergo a strict application process that includes a thorough review of financial credentials and work histories. Contractors should work with surety providers that can fully explain all material clearly.

Surety bond premiums vary for a number of reasons, but contractors who have poor credit typically pay much higher rates for their bonds. Construction professionals who cannot qualify or afford to pay for the required contract bonds they need will not be awarded projects.

Although the bonding process can seem confusing at first, it successfully regulates the industry, limits fraud and keeps unqualified individuals from working in the market.

Danielle Rodabaugh is the chief editor of, a nationwide surety bond agency. Danielle writes articles that help construction professionals understand the legal implications of surety bonds as well as the bonding process. You can keep up with Danielle on Google+.


April 26, 2012

Construction Presentation Tips
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Do you ever need to convince someone that your firm is the one to hire? Here’s a great video that will make you laugh and give you an example to avoid.


Think hard about the work you do, who your best customers are and why they choose to work with you. Know where you add the most value and stick to that.

I got offered the chance to manage a $20M construction project today by one of my favorite customers. As soon as he told me about the project, though, I told him I wasn’t the guy to do it. It was a few hours further away then I normally work and was a type project I don’t typically do.

He’s worked with me on many projects and believes in my capabilities. He was amazed that I immediately told him I wasn’t a fit for the project and told him a good way to proceed. To be successful, we need to focus on what we do best and not be greedy. When we grab for work out of greed, nobody wins.

The video above reminded me of one that a cycling buddy sent me. If you happen to like riding a bicycle, take a few minutes and watch this video. I laugh out loud when I watch it. Cyclists truly are knuckleheads.


By the way, if you watched both videos, you noticed that they were produced on the site. That seems like a reasonable way to create some fun content.


April 25, 2012

Blowing it Up Here, Boss
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I never get tired of seeing buildings implode. I think about all the work it takes to plan, strategize and fight your way through a big construction project. Then I see it all turn to rubble in 25 seconds. It’s a metaphor, baby.

The Amway Arena in Orlando, FL was built a mere 23 years ago and cost $103M. I’m still wearing underwear bought 23 years ago and these folks can’t even make a huge building last that long. Watch the first 25 seconds below.


Watching this works as a de-stressor for me. I think I’ll watch it again.


April 20, 2012

Arrogance: Always the Wrong Answer
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

About a week ago, I blogged about the Tampa Bay Water Authority losing their lawsuit against HDR (their design engineers). The $97M lawsuit claimed that HDR incorrectly designed the new reservoir and caused the cracking and leaking. TBW rejected a $30M mediation settlement and went to a jury trial.

It only took the jury four hours to decide against TBW. Now the $24M in legal fees (about half for each side) will likely have to be paid by TBW. So how does TBW respond? With continued arrogance, they announced they plan to file for a new trial.

In construction, as in life, arrogance is almost always the wrong answer. That sense of superiority and self-importance rarely moves a problem toward resolution. So who’s at fault? It’s easy to blame the attorneys. I have no doubt they are recommending that they can get this new trial and win it.

Blaming the attorneys, though, misses the point. Remember the story of  The Scorpion and the Tortoise? It’s a fable about a scorpion asking a tortoise to carry him across a river. The tortoise is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the tortoise, the tortoise would sink and the scorpion would drown. The tortoise agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the tortoise, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.

It’s in the nature of a trial lawyer to be competitive and aggressive. A wise person understand that the decision to go to litigation shouldn’t be made by the attorney, but by the main stakeholder.

So I blame the head of TBW. The continued display of arrogance acts as a primer for how not to lead.

Fight hard, but take your losses with honor and humility. Tomorrow’s another day.


April 11, 2012

Tampa Bay Water Rolls the Dice and Loses
Filed under: Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m happy to report that a jury took less than four hours yesterday to unanimously decide that HDR Engineering wasn’t negligent in designing the Tampa Bay Water reservoir. I don’t fully understand the technical facts of the dispute, but I know that Tampa Bay Water rejected compromise and negotiation and went for the big $97M court win.

Tampa Bay Water had previously settled with their construction manager for $6M and the general contractor for less than $1M. Obviously TBW believed the HDR Engineering was primarily responsible. In fact, TBW rejected a $30M mediation agreement last October, in hopes of winning much more from a jury trial.

TBW hoped the damages it would receive from a trial would mostly fund the $162-million renovation and expansion design-build project it has initiated with Kiewit Infrastructure Group. Instead, that work will now be paid by tax payers.

I’ve seen the scenario several times from different vantage points. Attorneys optimistically  predicting big wins, not really considering the prospect of a loss. Remember: asking your attorney about litigation is a bit like asking your barber if you need a haircut. Look in the mirror and make your own decision.

Keep in mind the several million dollars TBW spent on attorney fees and what that roll of the dice got them.

Older Posts »