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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

 

As pandemic restrictions are tightened again, and some areas go back into lockdown, workers are again being asked to work from home when possible. While construction companies are used to working from many sites, the office staff is generally located in a central office. Changing venues for office workers has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits and challenges for construction company employers of having workers work from home.

Benefits to employers

1. Higher productivity

When working from home, employees are often more productive than they are at the office. There are fewer distractions from coworkers stopping by to chat or ask questions. It’s easier to shut out time-suckers like email notifications and unnecessary meetings. A FlexJobs 2020 survey found that workers who thought they were more productive at home, were. Respondents cited fewer interruptions and quiet working environments as part of the reason for their increased productivity.

2. Recruit from a larger pool of candidates

When location isn’t a factor when hiring, companies can expand the pool of possible candidates for open positions. This can lead to hiring more highly skilled workers for key roles. When companies hire the best of the best, their products and services improve in quality.

3. Reduce turnover

The flexibility inherent in a remote job allows workers to stay with them longer. For example, if an employee needs to relocate because of a spouse’s job change, instead of quitting they can easily continue working for the same company from another location. Companies can keep key talent when there are fewer constraints on where they perform the work.

4. Reduce overhead costs

For some companies, overhead costs like office rent and supplies can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by employing a remote workforce. With fewer overhead expenses, profits increase.

Employees also save money. Since they don’t have to commute anymore, they save on gas, car repairs, parking, and lunches. This savings translates into more of their hard-earned money staying in their pockets.

5. Fewer sick days

Spending less time around other people, coworkers, and the public, results in less sick time. Workers reduce their chances of catching viruses, colds, and the flu. With less downtime, workers are more productive and are able to get more accomplished over the long haul.

Challenges to employers

1. Collaboration and communication

As contractors know, when teams are spread out over long distances, it can be difficult to maintain communication and collaborate with team members. Impromptu meetings and discussions are more difficult to have when workers aren’t in the same physical location.

Luckily there are several tech applications that can assist teams in maintaining their connections. From online messaging apps, like Slack, to videoconferencing programs, like Zoom, it’s easier than ever for teams to keep in touch when working remotely.

When it comes to accessing collective data, online SaaS programs allow everyone to get the data they need from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that everyone has the info they need when they need it. Using SaaS software also allows office teams to stay productive from wherever they’re working, as well as ensuring everyone is working off the same real-time data.

2. Distractions

While there may be fewer distractions at home than in the office, they are still a struggle to deal with. Children, pets, and household chores can quickly steal employees’ concentration. Workers must do their best to set boundaries and structure their work environment and schedule to reduce distractions as much as possible.

3. Technology struggles

Technology can be difficult to deal with, whether it’s at home or in the office. Programs crash, computers die, and internet connections are lost. While these problems can’t all be eliminated, there are some things that can be done to help prevent them.

  • Ensure that employees have the latest in hardware and software installed on their work-provided devices.
  • Develop a schedule for regularly replacing hardware every 2 to 3 years.
  • Employ IT workers or hire a company to provide remote service to all employees.

4. Time Management

Without the structure of the office environment to keep them on task, some workers may struggle with managing their schedules when working from home. They may lose track of their work time and blur the lines between home and work life. This can lead to added stress and burnout.

Allow workers to set their own schedules when possible, so they can effectively manage their work and home life. Encourage them to stick to their schedule as much as possible, with only occasional changes under special circumstances.

5. Dress code

When working from home it can be tempting to dress more casually than when working in the office. While an occasional day spent working in your pajamas is acceptable, workers need to be dressed properly the majority of the time. Clothing can be both professional and comfortable, keeping workers in the correct mindset when they’re on the job.

As construction workers and companies continue to navigate the ever-changing pandemic restrictions, it’s best to remain flexible, as this helps reduce stress. Teams can function successfully when working remotely with the help of technology and a little patience.

 

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Go Mobile: 5 Reasons to Transition to Mobile Devices for Construction Reporting

Construction is a unique industry, where most of the work takes place off-site. This can lead to unique communication challenges, many of which have been reduced thanks to mobile technology. 

In the 2021 Construction Technology Report, the annual survey found that every year since 2018 over 90% of respondents is using smartphones daily. During the same period, tablet use has been increasing. Construction companies are increasingly recognizing the value of going mobile.  

Here are the top five reasons construction companies use mobile devices on the job, according to the survey: 

  • Daily reports 
  • Photos and video
  • Time management 
  • Safety management 
  • Drawing management 

While most companies are actively adopting mobile technology, some still rely on tried-and-true paper documentation. Due to the nature of the work, this can lead to project delays and added costs due to rework. Adopting mobile technology has several benefits for construction companies. 

Benefits of going mobile

  1. Better communication

Construction projects require almost constant communication between team members and the office. A lapse in communication can lead to errors and rework. Using mobile devices allows workers to communicate with the office and other team members while still in the field. There’s less wasted time in meetings and going to the office. Improved communication leads to better outcomes in the field, reducing errors and rework. Team members’ questions get answered quickly and efficiently without downtime. 

  1. Access real-time information

Many mobile apps allow field workers to provide input to and pull up reports, drawings, and emails without leaving the field. Project managers can see budget reports at any time, so they know where the project is. Supervisors can access productivity reports and compare them to past reports. Team members don’t have to wait for reports to be generated, they can access them when they need them. This allows them to make better project decisions quickly, avoiding schedule delays. 

  1. Improve productivity

With access to data at their fingertips, workers spend less time in meetings, going to the office, and on phone calls. They can spend their time actively working on the project, instead of looking for lost documents, timecards, or other paperwork. Productivity is maintained and efficiency is improved through the use of mobile technology. 

  1. Improve organization

Mobile apps provide document management, helping workers find the information they need when they need it. Workers no longer have to spend time looking through multiple folders on a shared drive or combing through files in a truck. Drawings are automatically marked with revisions, making it easy to know when you’re working with the current version. This helps prevent mistakes due to lack of communication and reduces rework. 

  1. Integration

Integrating information between the field and the office improves productivity, prevents mistakes, and improves organization. Workers spend less time reentering data into multiple systems and are able to be more productive in their work. Data entry mistakes are reduced, and information is available at the touch of a button, instead of waiting for lengthy reports. 

Premier Construction Software allows teams to communicate in real-time, from the field and the office. This improves communication, gives teams access to real-time data, improves productivity and organization, and is completely integrated. The mobile connection saves companies time and money on slow paper processes. It helps ensure that everyone is working from the same data at the same time. 

If your company is ready to go mobile with your project management and accounting software, contact us for a demo or to answer any questions. 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Construction Forecasting: Developing and Maintaining a Project Budget

In 2015, KPMG reported that 31% of construction projects come within 10% of the budget. And it seems the bigger the project, the worse the financial uncertainty. In 2016, McKinsey reported that 80% of large projects go over budget. The research shows that contractors and owners are struggling to maintain their budgets throughout their projects. Forecasting costs has only become even more difficult in the last couple of years, due to the global pandemic and supply chain issues. 

Knowing how to build a project budget and manage it over the life of a project is a skill that can be learned.

Here are some tips we have gathered to help.  

Developing a project budget 

Developing a project budget begins with a clear and complete scope of work. You must have a clear picture of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done before you can price the work. Talk to the owner about their project and get as many details as possible about the work and their schedule. 

Using the description gathered from the project owner, develop a breakdown of the work that needs to be completed, also called a work breakdown structure or WBS. A WBS breaks the work down into small, manageable, quantifiable scopes of work. For example, installing drywall. A WBS helps in both budgeting and scheduling work because each task and can be quantified for cost and time. 

Based on your conversations with the project owner, you should be able to establish milestones in the schedule that have to be met. These may include equipment delivery dates or occupancy. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that let you know if you are meeting both the owner’s and your own milestones. For example, you may have profit goals or productivity targets that you must meet for the project to be successful. Defining these ahead of time will help you assess the project’s success as it progresses, not just at the end. 

When developing the project schedule and budget, provide an optimistic view, a pessimistic view, and a most likely scenario. Leave some room for changes and added work. By analyzing these three schedules and budgets, you can assess the probability that you will meet your goals ahead of time and start to plan for potential issues before they come up. 

Maintaining the project budget 

A project budget should be a living document that changes as the project progresses. Added work, scope changes, and schedule delays often affect the schedule as a project moves on. Project managers can use several methods to forecast costs to complete the work. They include using a work breakdown structure, using Excel formats, third-party templates, and construction software. 

Some contractors use the list or work breakdown structure method to estimate their projects and forecast future costs. This technique involves listing all the work that needs to be performed and breaking it down into manageable tasks, like WBS. Then each of these tasks is budgeted, scheduled, and tracked throughout the project. While this technique may work for smaller simpler projects, it can easily get unmanageable on larger construction projects. 

The next step up from a written list is using Excel templates to manage costs, schedules, and other information. Excel spreadsheets have been used to track costs, schedules, daily reports, budgets, and much more. If you have not developed your own forms, many are available on the internet. The problem with excel spreadsheets is that they are not connected, and not tailored to construction. 

Some companies rely on templates and use them to track all correspondence and data for their projects. These templates are created by third-party companies and not customized for a specific project or scope. Again, they are not connected, and the data is not centrally located. 

The most modern way to track and maintain a project budget is using construction software. Today’s software is available in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and all-in-one solutions that combine project management, actual costs, commitments, unanticipated costs, budgets, and communication together, where everything is in one place. They tie together estimating, job costing, timekeeping, communication, and financials. Using this information, project managers can more effectively forecast productivity and costs, providing a more accurate picture of where they will finish on the job and ensuring they are not caught with any surprises. They can review historical information and easily dive into the month-to-month variances to better understand the current budget and estimate at completion. 

Keys to better forecasting

  1. Get real-time data

When project managers try to forecast monthly, they often make mistakes if the accounting and job costing is not integrated into one software solution. Working with multiple software applications makes it difficult to compile the data taking several days or even weeks, leaving the Project Manager no choice but to base their forecasts on lagging information. Worst of all, they cannot trust the data to make accurate and informed decisions.  

Today’s financial construction software offers real-time data that automatically calculates the estimate at completion. This way you can easily compare your original estimate, current estimate, and estimate at completion. Software solutions offer great lock features allowing you to freeze the original estimate and forecasting period, forcing your team to properly enter any change orders in the correct period to record any movement on the job. This way, each month you can easily review the variances and see why the budget has moved.  

  1. Communicate

There is no substitute for continuous communication between contractors, owners, and design team members. When everyone is on the same page there are fewer hidden costs. Software solutions offer simple, integrated ways for team members to communicate in real-time about issues, change orders, and any concerns. With software introducing new and faster ways to approve and electronically sign off on commitments, ap invoices, and change orders, it ensures the estimate at completion is up to date and accurate. Members can easily approve, mark-up, decline, or reject key documents instantly. The ability to see what is outstanding and ensure you have your internal processes optimized to provide open, instant feedback, makes forecasting much simpler and more accurate. 

  1. Integrate systems

It’s time to say goodbye to disconnected excel spreadsheets. With real-time data, it makes it easy for a project manager to easily adjust the EAC using anticipated costs and make more informed decisions as to where the budget will end up. 

When systems are separated from each other due to the lack of software integration, time can be lost spent pulling information from multiple sources and compiling it into comprehensive reports. Teams need integrated data at their fingertips so they can act proactively view actual costs, commitments, change orders, pending items, etc. Using an ERP or all-in-one software financial construction solution provides project managers a macro and micro-overview of the budget as they can easily drill down into all the details waiting for other departments to provide information or for spreadsheets to be updated. 

  1. Automate

Saving time saves money. The more teams can automate daily data-entry tasks, the more time they can spend actively managing the work and proactively reviewing the high-risk itemsSo much time is being wasted on chasing down subcontractors, manually approving AP invoices, trying to collect signatures, and rekeying data from emails. An inefficient system makes it difficult for PMs to find the time to properly forecast. With proper construction financial software, the most time-consuming and complex tasks can be automated to save you valuable time and ensure you can scale the business without having to add more overhead. Best of all, you can start trusting your data and gain better financial control of your jobs and business.  

If you are ready to step up your forecasting game, look no further than Premier Construction Software. We have an easy-to-use financial construction software solution that will help manage your project from beginning to completion.  Get in touch with our team to schedule a demo today!Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Uncategorized

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Mental health awareness has skyrocketed in recent years. With celebrities, athletes, and public figures bringing this once-hushed topic into our daily lives, many industries are having long-overdue conversations. The construction industry needs to be one of them.

More so than almost any other type of business, the people who make up the construction industry are dangerously susceptible to poor mental health. In fact, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center places construction as the industry with the second-highest rate of suicide, behind only the mining, quarrying, and gas extraction industry. That’s a statistic that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The issue is this: overall mental health in the construction industry can’t improve if the tough conversations don’t come up and leadership doesn’t take action. Let’s take a deeper dive into mental health awareness in the construction industry and what we can do to improve it.

What is mental health?

While it’s one of the most affected industries, construction as a whole doesn’t talk much about mental health—in fact, the topic is often looked down upon. For that reason, folks who spent their whole lives building things might not be overly aware of what mental health truly is.

According to the CDC, mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

And, here’s a critical distinction: mental health and mental illness are not the same things. These terms are not interchangeable, and someone experiencing poor mental health is not necessarily suffering from a mental illness. This is an aspect of mental health that the construction industry needs to recognize.

Why is mental health in the construction industry so poor?

Before we can take steps to improve the mental health of the people that make up the construction industry, we have to identify what the issues are.

First, understand that stress is a major factor affecting the mental health of the construction industry. Long workdays, delays, employment uncertainty, contract disputes, and the generally physically taxing nature of the industry all wear people down. When you also consider the amount of money on the line for many contracts, the stakes are incredibly high for the industry. 

Employees are often afraid to take a sick day or leave early for fear of it affecting their jobs, as well. Rather than stay home when sick, hurt, or suffering from mental health challenges, they come to work out of fear they’ll be fired, scolded, or berated. 

We also need to look at the demographics of the industry. Construction is—and has thus far been—male-dominated, with men making up approximately 90 percent of the workforce. As a whole, males are less likely to discuss mental health than women for fear of being seen as weak or unable to cope with their challenges. As a result, they never reach out for mental health guidance, which is evident in the construction industry.

This is also an issue perpetuated through generations. The older generations never discussed mental health or even recognized that it could be an issue. By handing down trade secrets, techniques, and wisdom to the newer generations, they’ve unknowingly transferred this closed-off mindset toward mental health.

With this closed-off mindset comes the inability to recognize the signs of mental health distress or find healthy ways to improve it. Instead, depression, diminished physical health, high blood pressure, substance abuse, and other “accepted” issues plague the industry, many stemming from the taboo surrounding mental health. 

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Thus far, it’s been a very bleak outlook for the construction industry’s mental health. But, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. With a bit of awareness and encouragement, construction doesn’t have to suffer as it always has.

1. Improve Company Culture

Company culture has a lot to do with the stress that its employees feel. A rush-rush, hectic company that ignores accomplishments and harps on mistakes is not a great place for anyone to work, and it will take its toll on mental health.

Instead of that volatile environment, strive to improve company culture:

  • Recognize employees for their hard work
  • Throw events to show your crew you appreciate them
  • Have quarterly seminars with guest speakers and free lunches
  • Encourage employees to sign up for training
  • Allow employees to use their PTO time responsibly
  • Encourage breaks during the day

There are more approaches to take as well. While none of them improve mental health directly, they do create an atmosphere where employees feel valued.

2. Educate Employees

Many of the most affected employees don’t recognize the signs of poor mental health. For that reason, education is critical.

There is employee well-being training that will come to a workplace and educate the employees about mental health. This will inevitably be met with groans and eye-rolling, but with the right trainer, a lot of good things can happen. Holding regularly scheduled training keeps the conversation rolling, and as employees find benefits or takeaways, those training will begin to pay dividends.

3. Give Your Employees the Opportunity for Help

Even when someone recognizes that they aren’t feeling like themselves, they might not know where to turn. An Employee Assistance Program (or EAP for short) gives them that first step. These programs help with not only mental health at work but also the effects everyday life can have on a person. 

Also, provide your employees with contact information for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other similar programs.

4. Make Mental Health Awareness Part of the New Generation

One way to improve your company’s approach to mental health awareness is to sow the seeds early with the new generation. Whenever onboarding a new employee, be sure to discuss your training, sick day policies, and EAP so they know that their well-being matters. Just make certain that you hold up your end of the deal.

While this is certainly a “long game” approach, it’s much like farming for a healthier company. Planting the seeds with this generation will help remove the stigma over time and create a healthier, more accepting work environment where conversations about mental health are more normalized and less taboo.

5. Make Awareness Start at the Top

Construction is a taxing and tolling business, and successful business owners, project managers, foremen, and supervisors have all taken their share of blows. It’s important to understand that for mental health awareness to truly take hold, it needs to start with these leaders.

First, business owners need to believe in something if they expect their employees to follow suit. Attending their own training, reaching out for assistance when their backs are against the wall, and having these difficult conversations are all critical. Only then can the belief trickle down to the managers and supervisors. With management on board, the boots on the ground will have the support they need to take care of themselves and their mental health.

It Takes Awareness

Improving the mental health of the construction industry as a whole requires awareness. Once we’re able to remove the stigma surrounding asking for help, we might be able to lower the rate of suicides, depression, and health conditions while also improving productivity and safety. With the tips outlined in this article, change is within the industry’s reach. 

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. See how we can help your construction company to work smarter. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

 

 

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Building Green: Top Trends

Green building has been around for several decades now, and the technology that goes with it continues to grow. Many new inventions, and some repurposed older ones, are helping building owners and homeowners meet their commitments to a better environment, both inside and out. We’ve come up with a list of six green building technology trends that are shaping the future of green construction. Some have been around for a while, and some are fairly new.

Smart glass

Windows aren’t just for looking at anymore, they can help heat or cool your home or building. Smart glass protects buildings from solar heat gain during the summer months. Solar heat gain is caused by radiation from the sun. Windows are rated on a scale of 0 to 1 showing how much energy passes through the window. Smart glass uses a small electric charge to control both the tinting and solar heat gain, reducing the temperature inside. And the glass is well insulated to protect from cold weather during the winter.

The smartglass allows building owners to have control and flexibility when it comes to how much heat gain they want at any particular time. Reports say smart glass can save up to 25% on HVAC costs.

Smart appliances

Today’s appliances connect to the internet and to each other to allow you more control. For example, washers and dryers tie into your home’s smart meter, so they can run when electricity is the cheapest. And the refrigerator comes with a touch screen so you can connect to the internet and watch TV or videos demoing a new recipe. It can also check your shopping needs, as well as your current food inventory. And all this information is available on your phone, too, allowing you to control your lights and appliances even away from home.

Smart appliances can also tie into a home management system like Alexa. These management systems allow you to control your lights, heating and cooling, and other appliances from a central hub or app on your phone.

Biodegradable materials

Landfills are quickly filling up with building materials, either from building scraps or demolition debris. Many of these materials will have a long life sitting in the landfill before they break down. One trend that seeks to reduce the amount of trash in our landfills is biodegradable materials. Selecting natural materials like bamboo, timber, and linoleum, which all break down easily, helps reduce the amount of trash sitting in landfills. Other options include organic paint and insulation made from recycled denim and newspaper, instead of fiberglass.

Low emitting materials

Many building materials off-gas dangerous chemicals into the air during installation and after they are installed. This off-gassing of chemicals results in what most call the “new building” smell. Many materials are now available in low or no emitting versions. This makes it safer for those installing the materials, as well as people living and working in the building after it’s installed. Products available in low emitting versions include adhesives and glues, paints and coatings, composite wood, and flooring.

Net-zero energy

The goal of many building owners is to be net-zero energy. This means their building produces as much energy as it uses. Achieving this goal requires a combination of energy efficiency measures and renewable power. Efficiency measures often include additional insulation in walls, insulated windows, point-of-use water heating, and efficient HVAC equipment. Electrical power can be generated by solar or wind energy, depending on which is most prevalent. To store power until it is needed, the building can use battery storage or be connected to the grid. If it’s connected to the grid, it sells power back to the utility when it creates too much and takes power from the grid when it’s needed.

Net-zero energy is a lofty goal for any building or home. Owners can use alternatives, like purchasing renewable energy from their utility, to help offset the lack of renewable energy on-site. Or they may develop a renewable energy plant on a separate piece of land if that makes sense financially.

Carbon neutral

This trend is on the cutting edge as many building teams are working to design ways to reduce the amount of carbon needed to build and operate a building. Current trends include planting trees, using materials that trap carbon throughout their life, like carbon-eating concrete, providing the most efficient HVAC equipment to help reduce the need for power, and using renewable power sources, thus reducing emissions. Building owners can purchase carbon offsets to reduce their footprint. These offsets help support carbon sinks, like forests and the ocean.

Conclusion

The popularity of green construction continues to grow, and with it so does the technology. The goal of any green building technology is to make our buildings healthier and improve our natural environment. Inventions such as smart glass and smart appliances also make our lives easier and more comfortable. While biodegradable and low emitting materials make our inner and outer environments healthier. And net zero and carbon neutral are goals that many building owners are making a reality with their commitment to a better environment.

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction Software system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.