Skilled labor shortages in the construction trades have had a major impact on the industry.  It drives costs up, can result in delays, but worst of all, it threatens the integrity of the built environment.

Perhaps the biggest issue contributing to the skilled labor shortages is the lack of young people entering the industry. For the past several decades in the US, educators have strongly pushed students away from vocational training and skill development to focus on college prep as the exclusive option following graduation from high school.

That isn’t likely to change anytime soon. The next problem the construction industry has in terms of skilled labor is how to train and educate those that do find themselves in the trades. And for that, most education techniques still go back to hundreds of years ago when guilds ruled various trades and workers apprenticed under masters to learn on the job.

That’s why I think this 360 VR video from the Eastern Illinois University represents what the future of education looks like for the construction industry:

To view the video properly, you’ll need the Chrome web browser on a computer, or use VR goggles with your mobile device.

Quantum mechanics, at first glance, seems like it has nothing in common with human behavior. But what if human behavior was actually influenced by quantum mechanics?

One of the most mind-blowing experiments I recall learning about in my advanced physics classes is the famous double-slit experiment. Without getting too deep in the weeds of quantum physics, the experiment basically demonstrates that a particle behaves one way when there is an observer, yet behaves completely differently when not actively observed. In other words, whether or not someone is observing the experiment directly impacts the outcome of the experiment.

If particles behave differently when being observed, what about living, breathing human beings? Does quality of human work product improve or decline when workers know they are being watched? (more…)

With 1.4-million square feet of habitable space, spread out among 61 floors, the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco is projected to be the tallest building “West of the Mississippi” topping out at 1,070 feet above ground.

(It should be noted that while the top of the spire at the Wilshire Grand in LA will reach 1,099 feet, Salesforce will still have the highest occupied floor at 970 feet. Until, of course, some third building is erected to surpass both of the former…) (more…)

All this week I’ve been observing destructive testing at a high rise. At a building across the street, workers are taking down scaffolding from a 20+ story condo project after repairs were made to the building’s exterior.

More than a few times over the past several days my colleagues and I have observed workers not tied off to proper fall protection performing extreme acrobatic feats while carrying fairly large and unwieldy sections of scaffolding using both hands.

Watching these hard working folks putting their life on the line with every step has been eye-opening  and terrifying, while at the same time providing me a real sense of gratitude that my job isn’t nearly as risky.

And then I saw this: 

(Via Construction Junkie)

Who even knew that there was a contest to see who can demolish stuff the best? Canadian firm Priestly Demolition, Inc. (PDI) won the 2016 World Demolition Award for best project for their masterful work on a project in Ontario, Canada.

Due to environmental concerns, a bridge needed to be removed without using explosives. In just a week’s time, braving subzero temperatures, PDI successfully dismantled the bridge. Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond has more:

The original Nipigon River Bridge was constructed in 1937 as a simple steel deck truss bridge. 37 years later, in 1974, steel girders replaced the truss and it had remained the same ever since. In 2013, a $106 project was started that would replace the old bridge with a new 4 lane bridge and close down the old one. PDI was contracted as the demolition company responsible for removing the old bridge.

The Nipigon River is the largest tributary of Lake Superior and, because of that, there were many environmental concerns for the river wildlife and surrounding habitats. Not only that, but the company had to worry about the recently constructed first half of the new bridge which sat directly adjacent to the old bridge. The old bridge stood 100 feet (30m) above the water and spanned 827 feet (252 meters). Without being able to disturb the water below, the team ultimately decided to jack the bridge up and use hydraulic rollers to move the girders off of the supporting piers and onto land.

Without further ado, I present a 24-minute long video produced by PDI showing the process in depth:

Garrett Huffish, writing for Digital Trends, reports that the first on-site 3D-printed residential home was built in Russia for about $10,134:

Printing the self-bearing walls, partitions, and building envelope took the machine 24 hours to complete. The final result is the first house printed as a whole with an area of 409 square feet.

Erecting the house during the coldest time of the year in Russia was no easy task. The concrete mixture used in the printing only sets right in temperatures above 5 degrees Celcius. Meanwhile, the outside temperature was sitting at minus-35 degrees Celcius. A simple solution was found by setting up a sealed tent around the construction site to keep it warm enough.

Here’s a video:

Learn more at Apis Cor’s website.

Housing shortages abound throughout the modern world, and in the UK, the situation is not much different than here in the US. Also not much different: substantial claims of defective construction due to cut corners in an effort to meet demand.

In fact, the country’s National House Building Council, which provides 10-year warranties covering most newly constructed homes, reportedly paid out £90-million (US$110,852,100) to homeowners in 2015-2016. According to the Guardian, this is nearly triple the amount paid to resolve claims from a decade before. Here’s more on the story:

This week the Guardian reported that Bovis is set to award people who live in some of its newbuild homes a total of £7m in compensation, in response to claims that houses have faulty plumbing or wiring, missing insulation, and other serious defects. Some people say they were offered money to move into homes that have not been completed. When the news broke, the Bovis share price fell by 10%, wiping £100m off its stock market value.

This is just one part of a bigger story of complaints about Britain’s construction giants – and what happens when the rush to build leads to corners being cut and houses left either unfinished or deeply defective. On social media there are hundreds-strong groups telling their personal stories: “The toilet leaked into the living room and when my plumber came to fix it he found the toilet had not been installed correctly”; “having my kitchen ripped out for the second time”; “no insulation in roof”; “mould growing all over the house … too dangerous too live in as I have asthma”.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on to build as many new homes as possible. Even if it is behind on its targets, the government still wants a million to have been put up by 2020. The year 2015 saw a big jump in completed builds: 142,890 homes were finished, a 20% year-on-year increase. Last year the number was put at more than 150,000.

Fortunately, nobody was injured in this wild adventure. During construction of a facility, the concrete crew lost control of a gas-powered concrete polisher, and neighbors looking on captured the fairly dangerous but equally hilarious scene on video.

Normally, the polisher’s handlebars are held by a worker who sort of floats the spinning polisher at the bottom of the machine over the freshly-poured surface of the concrete to create a smooth texture. In this case, the polishing disc is stationary, but the rest of the machine is spinning around. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog.

It is more difficult to describe the action than just show it. Without further ado, I present the adventure of the rogue concrete polisher:

(Via BoingBoing)

Appfluence, a project management software provider, recently did a guest post for Construction Junkie that shares the results of a survey the company conducted of 20 different construction project managers, as well as a handful of executives from various construction firms. Their goal was to establish a sort of benchmark by which other construction project management professionals could gauge their own daily progress.

Here is an overview of their findings:

Emails: If you find yourself dealing with more than about 40 emails per day, look for ways to cut back. One way to do this is make sure that each email contains clear, easy-to-follow instructions. This will reduce back-and-forth. For those of you spending too much time digging through your inbox, consider saving important correspondence and document as they are received in a system like Priority Matrix.

Meetings: While meetings can seem like a waste of time, as long as they are run efficiently, they are a great way to share information with your team. To get the most out of meetings, plan your meeting minutes according to pre-existing information about project status and close the meeting with clear action items for each individual.

Construction Document Management: Whether you’re using a software solution or simply shared folders to manage your documents, consider utilizing a project administrator to keep track of it all. If your projects aren’t large enough for a full-time person in this role, this position can act as the point-person for documents on number of projects for your firm simultaneously.

Project Management Software for Construction: Oftentimes, the software used on a project can be determined by factors outside of your control as a construction manager. However, the most important factor may not be the software itself, but earning your teams buy-in to use it consistently in order to keep information centralized in one place for quick access and effective operations.

In my experience, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in terms of construction project management software. There are plenty of tools that can handle most, if not all aspects of a project, but as pointed out above, you don’t always have control over which tool will be used on a construction project.

The real key differentiator that I’ve seen between OK project managers and great project managers is that the great ones have their own internal workflows and processes that can be adapted to any tool available.

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a method of designing buildings using sophisticated 3D software that makes it much easier to visualize how various components and systems come together in a 3D space and how they will interact or interfere with one another. Perhaps most importantly, BIM facilitates identifying potential conflicts/defects prior to construction, and is a very powerful tool for sustainability by supporting the integrative design process.

Unfortunately, the construction industry isn’t exactly well-known for its rapid adoption of the latest technologies and the majority of A/E/C firms have yet to implement BIM as part of its workflow. Since few A/E/C professionals use BIM, even fewer are going to be able to articulate the benefits of using BIM to building owners.

For that reason, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has developed the National BIM Guide for Owners. Here’s what they have to say about it:

A building information modeling (BIM) guide for building owners has been developed under the auspices of the National Institute of Building Sciences. The National BIM Guide for Owners is a new guide that building owners can adopt to provide a documented process and procedure for their design team to follow in order to produce a standard set of BIM documents during the design and construction of the facility, and for maintenance and operations of the facility upon handoff. The National BIM Guide for Owners is based on the foreign, federal, state and local BIM guides that currently exist, but geared to a generic facility with uniform requirements for use by a variety of government, institutional and commercial building owners. It references a range of documents and practices, including those contained within the National BIM Standard-United States® developed by one of the National Institute of Building Sciences’ own councils, the buildingSMART alliance®.

You can download the full guide in PDF format directly from NIBS.