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April 12, 2013

Third World Construction Friday Fun
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Here is a video that should make you grateful if you live in the developed world.


That method of constructing multi-story buildings makes me almost nauseous. The poor quality materials, the lack of inspection and oversight and the untrained labor makes the many building collapses in India make sense.

Be glad if you live in a place with working codes, building inspectors and penalties for not playing by the rules.


April 9, 2013

The Value of Openness
Filed under: Innovation in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

PA Gov Corbett ordered an investigation into the the PA Turnpike Commission corrupt contract awards. Seems Denver based Cider, Inc. has been acting badly. The quote below from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review amazes me:

In 2005, Ciber won a state job even though its $3.2 million bid was almost seven times that of the lowest bidder, the grand jury said. Within a year, turnpike officials increased that contract by $58.3 million, which the grand jury called “dramatic and unprecedented.”

One of the guys working at Cider also managed to get his inexperienced daughter paid $100/hour by the Turnpike Commission. Cider was recently tied to a kickback and corruption scheme in New Orleans.

So what’s the take away? As we try to contract more efficiently, getting away from the 100% complete design (generally over-designed and full of errors) and straight competitive bid process, we open more opportunities for corruption.

The key, though, whether in public contracting or your own business life, is to become more open in every way. Look at every process you perform and think about a way to make it more open and above board. Strive to make accountability clear.

Don’t be afraid to show real costs to your customers. Work with folks that are smart enough to understand that you need to make a living as you help them get what they want. You’ll find this business much more enjoyable with more folks working together on your team.


April 8, 2013

Earthwork Dangers
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Two kids exploring a hole on a house construction site in NC were killed yesterday. The six and seven year old cousins climbed into a trench, supposedly over 15 feet deep, that was dug earlier in the day by the guy building the house. The photo below shows the scene.

What a poignant reminder for safe trenches and also for covering up work to keep curious kids from getting into trouble. We work in a dangerous business, we need to continue to remind each other to work to the highest safety standards.


April 5, 2013

Breaking News
Filed under: Ned Weirdness — nedpelger

I just saw this photo today and thought I needed to share.

The caption was BREAKING NEWS – With talk of war in Korea, France surrenders just in case.

This made me laugh out loud several times and hope it amuses you as well. Even though I love France, this just tickles me.


Thank Your Building Inspector Today
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Yesterday a building collapsed near Mumbai, India that killed at at least 41 people with dozens more missing or injured. The photo shows the rescuers searching for survivors.

Four of the floors were completed and occupied, while another three floors were completed and a fourth was being built. The problem, though, is that the building was designed for only four floors and the others were being added without permits or oversight.

The article states:

Building collapses are common in India as builders try to cut corners by using poor-quality materials and multi-storey structures are built with inadequate supervision.

A local resident, who did not give his name, said the site was only meant to hold a smaller structure and said officials turned a blind eye to the problem.

“They made an eight-storey building of what was supposed to be a four-storey building. People from the municipality used to visit the building but the builder still continued to add floors,” he said.

Police will arrest the builders, but think of all those that died (11 of them were children) and take a moment to be thankful that you work in an environment with plan reviews, permits and building inspectors. Tell your building inspector this story and thank him for the work he does. It helps keep competition fair…and keeps us out of jail.


April 2, 2013

The Art of Pricing
Filed under: Innovation in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

The article Pricing Experiments You Might Not Know, But Can Learn From has some great testing insights into selling and pricing. One of the fundamental truths in business: pricing is an art, not a science.

We think our customers make purchase decisions completely rationally, deciding on the option with the highest utility. But the above article shows that neither our customers nor ourselves tend to make pure rational purchase decisions.

So what do I take away from the article and my own experience for construction pricing?

  1. Asking people what they want to pay (their budget) rarely works. They almost never have enough data to really know what’s reasonable.
  2. Helping them know what’s reasonable is your job. It’s particularly valuable to let customers know what similar projects, built by others, have costed. Knowing construction cost databases, even showing the Means Cost Data pricing, is worthwhile.
  3. When trying to get a decision, remember that choosing between three prices is generally easier than choosing from two. Think about the pricing psychology and present estimates accordingly.

As is the case with most areas of business, there’s more to pricing than just doing the work. Take some time to learn about pricing and run some tests to gain some insight.

Too many folks in this crazy construction business work for decades with almost nothing to show for it but callouses. Take some time to think and learn about pricing. There should be some reasonable rewards for all the risks you endure in construction contracting.


April 1, 2013

Storefront Design Tip for Retail
Filed under: Doors and Windows — Tags: — nedpelger

We’re building a small multi-tenant retail building and the owner just asked us to change the front glass design. We had stopped the storefront at 18″ above the floor to avoid using safety glass. The owner thought about future tenant changes and how much easier it will be to move doors around if the glass goes to the floor.

Garrety Glass, our alum/glazing contractor, suggested we put a horizontal mutton about 30″ high, noting that lots of folks walk right into a clear glass sidelight. Seemed like good design advice, especially after seeing the video below.


The guy steals a purse in Perth, Australia, then runs right through the safety glass sidelight (interesting to see how that glass fails, by the way). The most amazing thing, though, is that the thief managed to get up and get away.


March 29, 2013

NOLA Musings
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

TBW and I took a few days and vacationed in New Orleans. From the gorgeous Spanish architecture of the French Quarter

to the compelling sculptures in City Park,

we loved what we saw. The WWII museum was a special highlight. It’s expanding in several directions, almost doubling in size. The exhibits were well done and the Tom Hanks narrated 4D movie was amazing. Planes flew out from the screen, smoke billowed, the seats shook and rumbled as tanks drove by, the experience was unlike any other movie I’ve seen.

On the city bus tour, we had the most unique driver/tour guide. He started most sentences with, “I want to make you aware”, then repeated his facts (some of which were clearly made up) two or three times. After tossing out the fact he’d say, “Can you believe dat?” His delivery just cracked me up, so I was hugely amused throughout the tour.

When he got to the Katrina section of the tour, though, he suddenly got real. He’d experienced the devastation first hand. He knew folks (and showed us where they lived) that took their families into the attic, then broke through the roof with a hammer as the water rose, then floated on top of the house as it raised off the foundations, then hopped onto another floating house roof as the first one broke apart and were finally rescued 12 hours later by a boat. He said every drop of rain that hit you in that high wind speed storm felt like a bullet.

Our guide believed that Katrina was a disaster and a blessing. NOLA went from no work and tourism being the only industry to construction being #1 and tourism #2. He said anyone who wants a job in construction can easily get one. This last photo of a bumper sticker made me smile and gave credence to the vitality of the market.


March 22, 2013

Friday Fun: A Story of Bidding for Fun and Profit
Filed under: Ned Weirdness — Tags: — nedpelger

I came across this story and thought you’d appreciate it:

Three contractors were visiting a tourist attraction on the same day. One was from New York, another from Texas, and the third from Florida.

At the end of the tour, the guard asked them what they did for a living. When they all replied that they were contractors, the guard said, “Hey, we need one of the rear fences redone. Why don’t you guys take a look at it and give me a bid?”

So, to the back fence they all went to check it out.

First to step up was the Florida contractor. He took out his tape measure and pencil, did some measuring and said, “Well I figure the job will run about $900. $400 for materials, $400 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.”

Next was the Texas contractor. He also took out his tape measure and pencil, did some quick figuring and said, “Looks like I can do this job for $700. $300 for materials, $300 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.

Without so much as moving, the New York contractor said, “$2,700.”

The guard, incredulous, looked at him and said, “You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?”

“Easy,” he said $1,000 for me, $1,000 for you and we hire the guy from Texas.”

Hope you have a great weekend. Remember to spend some time planning and some time laughing.


March 21, 2013

Tablet vs Paper?
Filed under: Ned Weirdness — Tags: — nedpelger

Take 38 seconds to gain a useful insight into the changing world of technology. And watch a pretty woman named Emma make an important decision.

Check out this short video at Vimeo.

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