Construction Workforce Trends

Schmidt Associates regularly tracks and discusses impacts to the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction industry so we can be prepared to respond. We have seen a tightening in the labor market, which results in higher construction costs for our clients. As clients ask what is causing this, we found a report by McGraw Hill Construction* that summarizes it well.

Due to a lack of people applying to jobs in the construction industry, many builders and contractors have seen an increase in the cost to build a project. As the industry changes and new trends emerge, there is a feeling of uncertainty about how well-prepared the workforce of the future will be. This tightening in the construction labor market is felt down the line for the architects and engineers as well.

Possible causes for a decrease in the workforce:

  1. The Housing Bust

Loss of jobs leading to workers being displaced. They relocated elsewhere, and had to give up the industry all together for something else

  1. The Great Recession

They lost their jobs or had to change jobs in order to increase their household income. If the construction industry appears to be an “unstable” field, then people were more likely to not go back to their previous jobs after the recession mended itself.

  1. Younger generations aren’t interested in venturing into the construction industry

Also, companies wanting to hire a more seasoned employee, not taking the risk of hiring on the 19-24somethings age group

  1. Baby Boomers are retiring

This includes less workers, along with a loss of leadership

  1. The industry is changing and requiring less traditional skills

These requirements (to keep up with the new, transformative industry trends) of certification, new knowledge, and more training could be deterring people from the construction industry.

The construction workforce shortage has impacted Schmidt Associates in some of the following ways:

  • Delays in projects due to less workers on the site
  • A concern about getting experienced, skilled workers with the current technology and collaboration knowledge
  • Carpentry/millwork, Electrical Contractors, and HVAC/boilermakers are near the top of the list of trades with the most shortages are expected

 

*Interested in reading the full report by McGraw Hill Construction, you can find it here.

Give it a Shot

Did you know Schmidt Associates has developed an expertise in the niche field of outdoor Shooting Ranges? With about 55 million Americans owning a gun, the need for safe and secure ranges has increased. Flip through our Issuu publication on shooting ranges, and learn about best design practices on these projects:

 

 

 

 

Q&A Session with Steve Siroky

Steve Siroky—Construction Delivery Systems Manager—fits right in surrounded by a world of hard hats, construction equipment, and contractors. But then you talk to him and it is apparent there is so much more to him. Recently, we sat down to get to know him a bit better.

 

 

 

Let’s start with your background.
Well, I am a graduate of Oregon-Davis Schools in Hamlet, Indiana. I tried to go to Wabash College for a year, when I realized that I just wasn’t the all-male school type. I left the college, took a year off and traveled the southwest for four months. I returned to Purdue University and studied construction management. A week following graduation, I married my wife, Susan (who I met at Purdue). I started my professional career in residential construction, then I moved into pool and church construction. Eventually, I landed at Schmidt Associates.
SteveSiroky_wife

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, have you been on any interesting job sites along the way?
Of course, they are all interesting in their own way! However, I lived in Singapore for 9 months during the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park Pool, Singapore. It was always about 90 degrees with 90% humidity. That took me weeks to get used to that climate—I couldn’t go outside for more than a couple of hours per day in the beginning.

What do you do in your free time?
Susan has been begging me to get a hobby for years. Inspired by a Schmidt Academy (internal training program) about container gardening, I started preparing our backyard for a garden and I started a hazelnut grove (12 trees) back there too. I also spend a significant amount of my time working with the Via de Cristo—a 3-day Christian movement started by the Lutherans in the early 80s.

Do you travel?
Yes, my wife and I travel A LOT and will have hit all 50 states before the end of the decade. I think my favorite place is Bali—an island and province of Indonesia. We went there immediately following my job in Singapore. It was perfect weather, surrounded by beautiful beaches and mountains. Since it is a mountain island, everything had been terraced, which made the landscape even more beautiful. And its location near the equator meant that they had a completely different landscape than we see normally.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
My wife took up pencil drawing a few years ago, so I keep a few of her drawings here. I also have a photograph of my grandfather (my mother’s father). It’s a picture of the two of us when I was five. He was my inspiration to go into construction, as he was a carpenter by trade and built cabinets. Growing up, we lived on the farm in a house down the road from him. My sister and I went there every Friday night to play poker, eat popcorn, and watch westerns.

SteveSIroky_hazelnut     SteveSiroky_gpa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa and I also did a lot of projects. I remember this one time, we tried to build a satellite dish, but could never get it to work. This was probably around 1980 when new a 6’ dish was $10,000, so I decided I wanted to build one. We were never able to get the concave form right, so it never worked. I am sure Grandpa knew it was never going to work, but he did it with me anyway.

Just a few minutes with Steve and you will instantly see that he is a wonderful story teller and has so much to share. If you get a few minutes, feel free to give him a call!

 

Also learn about Sarah Hempstead, David Logan, Tricia SmithCharlie Wilson, and Tom Neff

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 2

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12. We’ve touched on the first half, lets look at the last six:

RED FLAG #7: Ignoring or dismissing General Requirements (Division 01)
General requirements order how a project is to proceed, including payments, changes, substitutions, meetings, coordination, mockups, and closeout. Part of the contract documents, these requirements often are dismissed by a contractor when challenges surface.

 

RED FLAG #8: Unrealistic construction schedule
The construction schedule is a map the contractor makes to spell out how to get from here (incomplete project) to there (complete project). It provides direction on when tasks are to be completed. Unless the construction schedule has subcontractors’ agreement, it is unrealistic. The bigger problem may be that each subcontractor (or crew) determines what to install when it sees fit, at the expense of the project as a whole.

 

RED FLAG #9: Slippage from unrealistic construction schedule
If work durations expand or milestones are missed, the contractor must present a corrective action plan to get back on schedule, or the projected completion date will slip further behind.

 

RED FLAG #10: Ignoring or dismissing an updated construction schedule
If the contractor is reluctant to update and distribute the construction schedule when it needs to changed (see red flag #9), all parties are forced to get from hereto there without a map. This is not a good idea and will likely result in rework.

 

RED FLAG #11: Blame-shifting
A contractor who resorts to blaming anyone (Owner, architect, subcontractors) or anything (weather, material availability, existing conditions) else for poor performance is usually grasping at straws. There are legitimate reasons why a contractor may have challenges, but resorting to blame-shifting for their contractual responsibility indicates you may be past the point of expecting a good outcome.

 

RED FLAG #12: Taking excessive risks relating to sequencing/weather
Installing products out of sequence (i.e. installing drywall before the roof), and failing to protect installed work (wet drywall) indicates the contractor is taking too great a risk by gambling on the weather.


Our list of 12 red flags is not exhaustive, but they are the ones we consider to be the most common when a construction project goes awry.

Have you observed these red flags (or any others) on your projects? Let us know. We’ll share your experiences on our blog so others can learn from them.

Read Part 1 here

 

 

 

Construction Manager as Constructor – How is the CMc Selected on Publicly Funded Projects

In our last blog on Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc), we discussed what differentiated this delivery method from others. We also talked about what made a CMc different from a more traditional CM or Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa). This blog will look at the process required by law to formally select a CMc on a project funded by tax dollars.

 

In the private sector, an owner can select or hire a CMc based upon any criteria they desire: relationship, experience, personnel, or any other metric. In the public sector, there are very specific requirements.

The owner is required to make a public notice regarding Request for Proposals (RFP) for their project. The RFP is required to include:

  1. Statement of the owners planned criteria, process, and procedures to be utilized during the RFP process. This must include:
    1. How the RFP response will be evaluated
    2. How the CMc will be selected
    3. How the CMc will be awarded
  2. How the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) will be established, if required by the Owner.
  3. A statement on the insurance requirements for the project.
  4. Description of the CMc’s history of contracting with or hiring MBE, WBE, and VBE.
  5. Documentation showing the CMc’s good faith efforts to fulfill the state’s goals for contracting with MBE, WBE, and VBE.

RFP Response evaluation

The owner must describe how the evaluation process will be handled. If a scoring method is utilized, then it must be enumerated. If a rating system will be implemented, ratings must be defined. Fees & qualifications are also required to be a part of the RFP response. Therefore, they must be a part of the criteria as well. Will the various requirements be weighted differently or equally? Will fee be a 20% weighted criteria and experience a 30% weighted criteria? All of these matter in how the RFP responses will be scored.

CMc Selection & Award Process

The owner now has to make a selection—the reason the previous discussion about criteria for evaluation is so important. The evaluation process will be questioned. Owners will get asked to provide the scoring used for each submitting firm and RFP. The owner should test their scoring with different potential scores in the categories determined. There should also be discussion about making some categories a pass/fail instead of a rated score or grade. If there are criteria that the owner determines is so important that a response should not be successful without it, then that category could be a pass/fail item. That might be project experience type or an experience level of key staff to be assigned to the project. Maybe it is a fee amount limit. The options are numerous. The requirement to describe the selection process to the CMc’s is important. The firms responding to the RFP need to know what is important to the owner to help determine if this project should be pursued. These companies will be making estimates on how they believe they compare to the competition in the marketplace.

A savvy owner will understand what they are asking for and the likely responses that the CMc firms in the community will provide. Planning the criteria and the selection process out thoroughly will help avoid surprises. In the end, this is a public process. The owner needs to be prepared for the transparency necessary in this process. In the next installment, we will discuss Guaranteed Maximum Price and how it can be implemented.

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 1

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12, but let’s start with the first half:

RED FLAG #1: Incomplete Bidding Documents or Qualifications
When specifications require the contractor or its employees (project manager or superintendent) to submit “similar project experience,” verify the submitted documentation. Visit the contractor’s website, check references with Owners and subcontractors, search Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You’ll never again have more leverage with a contractor than you do before you sign the contract.

 

RED FLAG #2: Incomplete Initiation Documents
Executing initiation documents, such as submittal and preliminary construction schedule, subcontractors and products list, LEED action plan, performance and payment bonds, and certificate(s) of insurance, before the contractor mobilizes is critical to starting the project on the right foot. These documents are not just “hoops to jump through.”

 

RED FLAG #3: Slow Mobilization
Most contractors are eager to begin construction since it provides operating cash flow. If your contractors are slow to begin (or mobilize), they may be revealing a general lack of initiation or an incomplete project plan.

 

RED FLAG #4: Slow Submittals
In general, subcontractors will not begin work until they have an executed contract from the contractor. If you do not have a flurry of submittals in the first month, it may indicate your contractor is unable to get subcontractors to commit for their proposed bid amount—a tell-tale sign their bid may not cover the cost of the work.

 

RED FLAG #5: Changing Subcontractors
Once contract(s) have been executed, the construction team (contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers) should be fixed, barring bankruptcy, legal action, or other unforeseen catastrophic event. Changing subcontractors for other reasons usually indicates your contractor is “shopping the job”— attempting to reduce costs and pocketing the difference.

 

RED FLAG #6: Installation Proceeding Without Being Previously Approved
Contractors propose submittals (product data, shop drawings, etc.) indicating what products they intend to furnish and how they intend to install those materials. If products are delivered to the site and (even worse) installed without being properly submitted and reviewed by the architect, this may indicate your contractor is worried about the progress of the schedule and attempting to cut corners. The architect’s review of submittals is a critical quality-control measure that should not be omitted.

 

Read Part 2

 

 

 

Construction Manager as Constructor

For public institutions, there are three project delivery methods approved by state law: 

  1. Design-Bid-Build
  2. Design-Build
  3. Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)

In this blog, we will discuss Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)—a new construction project delivery method signed into law in March 2014. Public educational institutions have been able to use the CMc method since that year; in June of 2017, all other state institutions will also be able to use it.

Contractors work on projects with different project delivery methods. The same contractor might be working on five projects—all with different delivery methods. It doesn’t change who they are as a contractor. It does change the roles, responsibilities, and contractual obligations they have on a given project. This fluidity of delivery methods can be confusing when owners think of companies as “Design-Builder”, “Contractor”, or “Construction Manager”. These are all delivery method roles—not definitions or limitations on them as companies.

A defining characteristic of a Construction Manager (CM) contract (of any type) is the timing of their involvement in the project. In the traditional Design-Bid-Build delivery method, the construction entity is not involved until the “Bid” portion of the project. Design occurs without the involvement of a construction entity. When a construction manager is involved by contract, they are involved in “pre-construction” activities. Therefore, during design, they can be contracted to offer schedule, budget, and constructability input or feedback to the owner. This early involvement can be beneficial if the owner and/or design firm do not have strong construction experience to draw upon internally.

CMc is sometimes also known as Construction Manager at Risk. This implies that there is additional risk being taken on by the CMc that “normally” does not exist. “Normally”, is related to the standard term of CM. In the construction project world, CM refers to a Construction Manager as Agent (CMa) or Advisor. The CMa is a construction partner in the long-standing Design-Bid-Build project delivery method. Their role is to serve the owner as an adviser or non-constructor. They advise on schedule, constructability, scope of work, etc. They do not self-perform any portion of the work. It is truly the work of managing construction—while not pounding any nails or laying any bricks. The contracts they manage as a CMa are all held (or signed) by the owner.

As a CMc, or at risk, work can be self-performed. In addition, the contracts for the other firms performing work (subcontractors) on the project are held (or signed) by the CMc, not the owner. These two realities create the inherent risk being assumed by the CMc. By holding these subcontracts, the CMc is responsible for the schedule, quality, and cost of the work covered by these agreements.

In order to create a transparent and open competition for publicly funded work, the CMc law signed in 2014 requires some very specific steps, processes, and communication. In our next blog, we dive in to specifics and complexities of the law making that possible.

 

Check out the second blog in the series

 

 

Roof 101: Low-Slope Roof Material Options

Low-slope roofs have 3 main options:

  1. Built-up
  2. Single-ply membrane
  3. Monolithic sprayed foam

To begin with, built-up roofs can be of two basic types and have a fabulous reputation at Schmidt Associates. Built-up roofs can be composed of coal tar or asphalt and the asphalt can be hot applied or cold adhesive applied. Coal tar roofs are the oldest low slope systems used in North America and are built to last for 40-50 years. The multiple layers create a built-in redundancy and a self-healing tendency. With coal tar, the layers of tar never fully harden and the heat from the sun softens the tar allowing it to naturally fill cracks and holes to prevent leakage. With the asphaltic type built-up roof, the layers are attached or adhered with hot asphalt or cold adhesives.

Another nice thing about built-up roofs is that they can be applied anywhere and are capable of being placed on all low-slope roof building shapes. Coal tar roof, however, while it is a great option, is not as widely used today as it once was due to the oil companies making tar less accessible and more expensive and attributed carcinogenic effects during installation, plus it requires hot (flame) application. Asphaltic built-up roofs are fairly common on industrial low-slope roofs.

Next we have the single-ply membrane system, which too is broken down into 3 subcategories- rubber (EPDM), thermal plastic (TPO), and plastic (PVC). EPDM has been utilized the longest and makes patching problems easy and relatively inexpensive. The newer options, TPO and PVC, are both made out of plastics that are melted together with heat. These options eliminate or reduce the possibility of leaks and also come in colors other than black, making them a popular choice. PVC roofs have been used since the 1970s while TPO has been used for the past 15 years. Both are expected to maintain the highest quality for approximately 20 years.

Lastly, we have sprayed foam monolithic roofs. These roofs are also known as “foam roofs” and are not recommended by Schmidt Associates. They are expected to last for 10-15 years, but historically Schmidt Associates has seen problems with the surface after only 3 years. The foam material was originally made for interior use and is extremely sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light, causing it to deteriorate with sun exposure. The sprayed foam roofs must be covered with a thin coating to protect them from the UV light. The foam application is also difficult to control, which often creates bumps, unevenness, and other various cosmetic defects. Condensation on the substrate can be very detrimental to the ability of the foam to stick to it as well.

Of further concern is birds. They love to peck at the foam and eventually break through the top coat of the foam allowing for water to seep underneath. The water is then trapped under the top coat which expedites the deterioration of the foam in the sun. Thus, this roof is really only good for climates with little sun, rain, or snow.

Despite these issues, sprayed foam monolithic roofs do offer an advantage over other roofs in that they are monolithic, meaning no seams, and the ease of initial application and reapplication. To repair and replace, all you need to do is spray down another layer of foam.

What Schmidt Associates Prefers and Why

All in all, you can’t beat a roof with a long life expectancy that doesn’t require frequent repairs.

If choosing among steep-slope roofs, Schmidt Associates would recommend using the classic shingles because of its life expectancy and the minimal maintenance and repair required.

If choosing among low-slope roofs, Schmidt Associates would recommend the plastic option for 3 simple reasons. First, both TPO and PVC is heat-welded, giving it good seams that prevent leaks, thus also preventing expensive repairs. Second, the plastic membranes comes pre-made, making it extremely easy to apply during the construction process. Lastly, TPO is the most affordable option.

Have any further questions? Reach out to our experts!

Pavement Inventory & Maintenance Studies

What is it?

A few school corporations and townships have recently been asking Schmidt Associates to put together a plan book regarding the conditions of their pavements. In short, these pavement inventory and maintenance studies are analyses of the existing pavement conditions, asphalt or concrete, at a particular site.

Here’s how it works…

The pavement is evaluated and rated with a scale that helps determine which sites or areas are most in need of help. Pictures, notes, and maps used to mark the specific problem areas are used alongside a rating chart to best outline the problems and areas needing the most attention and improvement. After the assessment is completed, Schmidt Associates will determine the estimated repair costs for each area needing repair. Finally, we prioritize what areas need to be repaired first so that over a period of time your ratings will get better and your cost for repairs will slowly decrease as problems are strategically tackled. In sum, this process will prioritize the most important repairs for someone’s site and help set a strategic budget plan to complete repairs over time.

The finished plan book includes:

  • Executive summary of the site conditions
  • Pavement and concrete assessment forms (rating charts)
  • Estimated repair costs per site
  • Site plans and maps with marks showing what needs fixed where
  • Photographic documentation
  • 5 year plan outlining the year to year timeline for improvements

 

What we look for, and the benefits of repairs

The major reason why owners should assess and repair their pavements is for safety and cosmetic purposes. If you want to keep your site from looking run-down or becoming unsafe, sealing and repairing your sidewalks and parking lots can go a long way. In short, it may not be glamorous work, but it needs to be done.

When doing our assessments, here is where we look, and what we look for…

Where We Look:

  • Asphalt running tracks
  • Asphalt tennis courts
  • Hard surface play areas
  • Parking lots
  • Entrance and exit drives
  • Concrete walkways/sidewalks
  • Concrete aprons and steps
  • Concrete curbs
  • Parking bumpers
  • ADA ramps and accessibility issues

 

What We Look For:

  • Overall condition of pavement
  • Cracking (Area covered and size of cracks)
  • Deterioration (Does it need a mill and overlay or full depth replacement?)
  • Parking lot striping/paint
  • Poor drainage conditions

 

pavement pavement 2

 

50 Letters From Architects: Our Contribution

This is part of a series of blog postings of Schmidt Associates architects’ responses to the American Institute of Architects (AIA)-Indianapolis invitation to write letters to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Architects submitted big or small ideas to improve the urban built environment for Indianapolis and were on display at The Hall during June and July of 2014.

Dear Mayor,

One of the most exciting aspects of architectural design is the initial conceptual planning and collaborative interaction. Few people ever see that part of the process, and only see the finished building or space.

Toms Graphic

I would like to propose a series of interactive zones around the city that could be called “conceptulons”. These zones would promote interactive discussion about the process that generated or is still generating activity. It could be a combination of touch screen and information technology and wi-fi hot spots.

Sincerely,

Tom Neff, AIA, RID, LEED AP