Enter your email:

Construction Topics




















Become a FB fan

Construction Network

Trades Hub


September 27, 2008

Gotta Love that Construction Supervisor Sangfroid

In Bridgeport, CT a bunch of contractors agreed to build a house quickly for the Habitat for Humanity Builder’s Blitz. The boss thought five days should be adequate.

“I sat down with my subcontractors and handed them the schedule and for three minutes nobody said a word,” recalled Glenn Tatangelo, a principal in Connecticut Realty Investment Group LLC and a board member of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County.

“Then Jay said I think we can do this in four days,” Tatangelo said of the ambitious schedule set by the home-building charity.

Jay Borkowski, construction supervisor for the investment group, said, “I saw gaps in the schedule where we could buy time. I looked at is as a 24-hour day instead of an 8-hour day.”

They started at dawn on Monday morning. Sure enough, they were done by Thursday evening. That’s some impressive construction supervision!

By the way, sanfroid (pronounced san-frwa’) is one of my new favorite words and means coolness and composure under trying circumstances. Have you got it?


September 19, 2008

And the Winner is…
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

The results for the Construction Forum contest show the following winning entries:

What is your favorite saying? Preconman said when things aren’t going well on the jobsite he says, “Great, all we need now are some monkeys and a football.”

The three words every Construction Supervisor wants to hear? “What’s next, boss?” said before you expect it, responded Doublehead.

My favorite story involved a Port-A-Potty (no surprise to anyone that knows me) and was submitted by Cliffjumper.

It was on a jobsite that was 1.5 hours away. After my uncle got there in the morning, he would do his daily ritual in the john. But for some reason one of the other workers had an urge to get to the job early and do his business on top of the closed seat lid (the unknown person would actually stand up on the seat ledge because you could see the shoe prints). My uncle always was the guy who found the fresh offering on top of the toilet lid.

So after a few days of this happening my uncle shows up the jobsite 2 hours early. He proceeds to cut every rivet that holds the seat part to the john walls and then waited. An hour goes by and the prankster shows up and heads to the john and closes the door, the next thing my uncle saw was the guy falling out through the door with his pant around his ankles and blue john water up to his knees. Needless to say the guy never left any more “presents” on the john seat.

Best Question (or Answer) posted in the Super to Super Discussion Forum goes to Panzrule for his discussion and comments about the high price of bituminous paving and if roller compacted concrete paving may soon be another option.

Finally, the Randomly selected prize goes to Metalmike for his safety director story.

I’ll be contacting these folks and sending them each a check for $100. We had 23 entries in the contest, which I suppose isn’t a bad start. I enjoyed all the entries and had lots of good laughs. JMLEB13 definitely gets an honorable mention for describing the fantasy safety director Marine Corps ass-whuppin.  This was fun, we’ll do it again.


September 15, 2008

Chump Change
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Since when did $100 become Chump Change? I’m having a contest at the Discusion Forum at where I’m giving away five cash prizes of $100 on 9/17/08. One of the contests simply asks for your favorite jobsite saying and another one for three words you like to hear on the jobsite.

After almost three weeks, I barely have as many people entered as prizes I’m going to give out. In fact, I have no entries at all in the category of Best Question (or Answer) posted in the Super to Super Discussion Forum. I know thousands of people have perused the Discussion Forum and hundreds have seen these various blog posts. So what gives? Doesn’t $100 motivate any action?

I remember a kid in high school who drank a whole big glass of tobacco juice spit, hocked up loogeys and other disgusting fluids to win $20. Yes, gasoline was $0.60 a gallon then, but I’m not asking you to chug spit either.

You have till 9/17/08 to post some entries.


September 12, 2008

What I'm Trying to Do with this Site

I love being on the jobsite and helping a Construction Supervisor or lead person. We may discuss a structural issue or a water pressure situation or how to deal with some personnel aggravation.  I enjoy learning and teaching. Both happen often when I’m on the jobsite.

My purpose for is to expand this learning and teaching to a world-wide community of Construction Supervisors. The Knowledge Database took me a couple of years to develop and provides useful information for anyone that builds things. But I’d like to go beyond a website that has lots of practical, reference data. I’d like to get interaction between Construction Supervisors and others in this amazing business of construction. The Discussion Forum can accomplish that goal.

Nurses, mechanics and lots of other interest groups have great Fourms where they ask and answer questions, vent and have some fun. There is no place like that for the Construction Industry.

I’m trying to make that place.

If you’d like a place like that as well, please register on the Discussion Forum and post something. I know it’s out of the comfort zone for most of you, but most of the fun in life comes when we’re out of our comfort zone.


September 10, 2008

Only 7 More Days to Enter the Contest
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m amazed at how few people have entered the contest by posting an entry on the Discussion Forum. Since I’m giving five $100 prizes, I thought lots of people would throw in an entry. In fact, I barely have five people entered thus far.

I understand it’s a busy time. I’m swamped these days, between banks wanting more information, inspectors going nutty on accessibility issues and just keeping up with shop drawings, job metings and estimates. I enjoy the work, but understand how overwhelming it gets sometimes.

The triathlon this past Saturday gave me some perspective. Hurricane Hanna decided to visit PA that day, so rain was a given. Then I woke up with a migrane headache, not a real bad one, but bad enough. Between the headache and a pulled calf muscle from two weeks ago, my time wasn’t stellar, but I got it done. And it felt great to be done!

Often I decide what to do in my life by how good it feels when I stop. Perhaps I should rethink that strategy? Oh well, it’s gotten me this far…however far that is and will probably continue to carry me along.

So make yourself uncomfortable and post an entry in Discussion Forum. You’ll be glad you did.

My goal for the discussion forum, by the way, is to have a place that Construction Supervisors from all over the world can ask and answer questions, post and read funny stories and just generally connect about this amazing business in which we all participate. It’s a new idea and will take some time


August 26, 2008

Win $500 if you can make me laugh or think
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

I decided to have a contest to encourage all you folks visiting the site to get interactive. I’m challenging you to post something in the Discussion Forum that makes me laugh or think (it’s harder to make me think). I’ll send $100 for each of the following categories:

  1. What is your favorite saying? Something you often say on the jobsite. (Stories and Humor)

  1. What are the 3 words every Construction Superintendent wants to hear? Here’s a chance to be creative. (Stories and Humor)

  1. What’s your favorite construction story or joke? I’m looking for someone to add some more humor to the site, so let me know if you’d be interested in writing more. (Stories and Humor)

  1. Best Question (or Answer) posted in the Super to Super Discussion Forum. Post or answer a real issue you are facing. (Super to Super)

  1. Just a random drawing from all the posts to the Discussion Forum. A chance to win for those whose participation doesn’t rise to the stature of greatness (i.e. most of us). (Any Post in the Discussion Forum)

The contest deadline will be September 17, 2008. I’m the judge and I’ll post the winners and send them each $100. I do this when I’m teaching Construction Supervision classes and find the competition and the reward keeps things interesting. And don’t worry, I won’t do anything bush league like award to family members (believe me, I’ve got three kids in their early 20s and have no interest in giving them any more money). So put some posts on the Forum that make me laugh or think. Give it a shot!


August 9, 2008

A Super Profile: Dereck Hench, Lititz, PA USA
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Dereck Hench works with me on almost all my projects. He co-owns Bottomline Contracting, Inc. which develops land for residential projects, builds lots of houses, has a sitework division and works in commercial construction. Dereck’s first commercial Construction Supervisor job was with me on the Lititz Library. That project remains one of the most beautiful, functional and cost effective projects either of us has ever done.

Starting as the clean-up kid for Hess Home Builders, Dereck learned the trades of carpentry, equipment operating, plumbing, roofing and the basics of a few others. He often worked under Andy Hess, an intelligent and competent Construction Supervisor who just understands how things work. Dereck says, “Andy let me learn by making mistakes. He’d tell me what he wanted and let me give it a try. He is a great guy to learn from.”

Dereck uses a similar approach as a Construction Supervisor, telling workers and subs what he wants, then listening to their ideas about how it may be done better. He considers this open mindedness an asset, as it develops the confidence and the respect of his co-workers.

I’ve noticed that Dereck continually seems to get great production and cooperation on job sites and asked him why that works so well. He responded, “You know, if I see a guy struggling with a task, whether moving a piece of HVAC equipment or stacking a cube of block, I tend to jump in and help him. I can see it’s appreciated (my employees on the jobsite also do this sometimes). Even though it’s not really our job, when you show you’re not afraid to work and jump in and help someone, everything just goes better on the project.”

Dereck’s favorite project to build was the The Oaks Professional Office Building in Lancaster, PA. It was a great design (Bob Hoffman with Beers and Hoffman was the architect), with an excellent set of plans and details and great Owners to work for. Using the Hambro steel joist system in a commercial building was also a good challenge.

Every time he drives by the building he says, “Isn’t that an awesome building?” His wife or his co-workers say, “Yes Dereck, you say that every time you drive by.” I understand since I do the same thing.

The most challenging part of Construction Supervision for Dereck is separating friendships from working relationships. Since we work with many of the same people on various projects, friendships develop. As Dereck says, “Often you want to bend for a friend, but usually I don’t budge. At the end of the day, there can only be one boss on the project.”

When I asked Dereck what people should know about him but don’t, he responded, “How hard I work to get answers for the trades…to keep things moving. How much time I spend bugging people (I bug everyone else as much as I bug you) to get me answers when we need them. I think lots of people say they will try to get an answer for a problem but don’t really push to get it done.”

Dereck’s most embarrassing moment was when he was really chewing out a Drywall Contractor, loudly and with profanities flying, when the very meek President of the non-profit organization came walking up behind him. Dereck didn’t stop with the diatribe, he just chose his words a bit more carefully.

Dereck relaxes by snowmobiling, four-wheeling and fishing.


August 1, 2008

A Super Profile: Phil Geyer, Lancaster, PA USA
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Phil Geyer doesn’t demand respect from Sub-Contractors, but he sure gets it. People on his projects go to extremes so they don’t disappoint him. Phil has completed many substantial projects ahead of schedule and under budget mainly because of the respect he receives…often tempered with a bit of fear.

This former Marine strives to live the code of honor, courage and commitment of the Corps. Serving in a Force Recon unit in Viet Nam, Phil learned about teamwork. He still tries to build strong teams whenever he can. While working with me at Consolidated Construction in the mid 1990s, Phil appreciated our highly functioning team and the level of respect with which we treated each other. He said, “I learned not to blow up and choke people.”

Phil was building a factory for a German company a few years ago. He prides himself on high quality workmanship on his projects, but nothing was good enough for this German customer. Remarks like, “If Germans were building this it would be done better” and “A German would never do it like that” brought back the version of Phil that hasn’t mellowed with age.

After one Owner comment too many, Phil said, “Let me tell you something, if Germans were building this it would fall to the ground! Look what happened in WWII.”  As you can see, Phil can still get fired up.

Phil started in construction as a concrete worker and rose to foremen with Stief Concrete. After hurting his back, he decided to move beyond the world of concrete. Beahm Construction hired Phil as a Superintendent and gave him a 10 screen AMC movie theater to build. The sloped floors and tricky concrete details went well on the project, but Phil had lots of OJT for the finishes and mechanical and electrical work. Phil says, “I had a good PM who helped me make it look like I knew what I was doing.”

Beahm Construction later gave him the Nittany Lion Inn at Penn State University to build. It was a large, difficult project and the Owner was thrilled by the completed product. Phil really enjoys finishing projects in which the Owner’s expectations are exceeded.

These days, Phil’s biggest annoyance comes from dealing with Subs and their safety issues on projects. He seems to have to explain to them daily both the cost and the ramifications of someone getting hurt. It’s turned into babysitting in recent years.

Phil says his style of construction supervision is to treat people with respect, but it’s like playing baseball, they get 3 strikes and then they’re out. His advice for Construction Supervisors? “Keep on top of things, don’t just talk about it one day, but follow up day after day.”

For relaxation, Phil likes to spend time playing with his grandchildren and walking in the woods around his home.


July 29, 2008

Little Mistake = BIG Cost
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

We’re building a big parking lot with pervious paving and learned a tough lesson yesterday. If you know about pervious bituminous paving, you’re familiar with the deep layer of crushed stone that needs to be placed below the paving. In our case it’s a 3′ to 4′ deep layer of #3 stones that will provide storage volume for the stormwater until it seeps through the geotextile and  into the subsoil.

We had lots of meetings with the Township officials, inspecting Engineers, Design Engineers and Geotechnical Engineers to make sure we had the right materials and were doing the work in an acceptable way. Everything seemed to be going well. My old boss Ed Abel always said, “If you  think everything is going well, you obviously don’t know what’s going on.”

Yesterday morning I got a call that the quarry delivering the stone didn’t work Saturdays, so they hauled from another quarry last weekend. That stone was called #3s but had lots of fines, including some soil. They hauled and placed over a thousand cubic yards of stone.

As we met on site with all the players mentioned above, it slowly turned into one of those “Oh crap” moments. The amount of fines in the stones was apparent and anyone with experience in construction knows that stone dust does a good job of stopping water infiltration. We discussed all sorts of possible solutions, but couldn’t do better than the obvious one: take the wrong stone out and put the right stone back.

So a simple call to the quarry, asking for “#3 stone”, not “clean and washed #3 stone” is a Little Mistake that equals a BIG Cost. There are so many opportunities in Construction Supervision to make these kinds of mistakes, I sometimes wonder why any of us even do the job. We make so many decisions in a day, in which any one could be a huge mistake. Yet we go on making the decisions and doing our best. Why?


July 21, 2008

Help Someone Today
Filed under: Construction Superintendents,People Skills — Tags: — nedpelger

One of the great things about this crazy construction business is the wide open interactions we all have with so many different people each day. As a Construction Supervisor on a jobsite today, you may deal with loony carpenter who thinks the power lines are sending him secret messages, a structural engineer who you are fairly certain has never built anything in his life, an inspector who seems to enjoy torturing you and a boss who pushes, pushes, pushes. Challenging, yes…boring, no.

Yet with all this interaction, I challenge you to not lose your humanity in the process. Take some time to help someone today. Think about a person working under your authority that shows promise, that you like and think could advance. Encourage that person today, give he or she an assignment that tests capacity. Hone your ability to discover ability in others.

Your day will go better. If you consistently practice this habit, your years will go better also. The people you help almost never forget it (I can certainly name the people that went out of their way to help me, can’t you?) and your company benefits by having more competent pool of employees.

Consider the words of that old German philosopher, Goethe (pronounced Ger-ta):

If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.

Help someone today to become who they are capable of becoming.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »