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Industry Insight Trends & Technology

What’s the difference between a cloud-solution vs on-premise solution?

The use of construction management software on the rise, and there’s no shortage of service providers eager to tell you why their solution is the best fit for your business. 

So how do you decide which is right for you?  

When choosing which construction management software best meets your business needs, one of the biggest factors you’ll need to consider is whether to deploy an on-premise or cloud-based solution. 

Deciding between the two is a complex process with a number of variables to consider, but in this blog, we’ll explore some of the key differences in order to help you make a more informed decision about which is best suited for your construction company.

Cloud vs On-Premise Construction Software

By definition, the most fundamental difference between a cloud-based and on-premise solution is where it’s located. With an on-premise solution, the software is installed locally on computers and supported by a server that’s also located on-premise (thus, the name). A cloud-based solution utilizes external servers managed by a service provider. 

cloud-based construction solution providing convenience to users

Key Areas of Consideration

When deciding between a cloud-based or on-premise construction software solution, here are four key areas to consider: 

Cost

  • On-premise: Building a system from the ground up comes at a high cost. On-premise systems cost significantly more upfront because of the server hardware, software licensing, deployment and IT support staff. In addition to the initial investments, companies will also incur ongoing maintenance and operating costs.
  • Cloud: A cloud-based, SaaS solution costs much less upfront than an on-premise solution. The subscription cost and payment structure vary by provider, but payments are typically handled on a monthly or annual basis.  The set up and run times for a cloud solution are much quicker than an on-premise system because once the subscription fees are paid, you can start using the service right away and don’t have to wait for an in-house infrastructure to be built and deployed.

Accessibility

  • On-premise: Remote or limited access is available with some on-premise systems through VPN services; however, limited access is not ideal when critical, up-to-date project information needs to be accessed quickly. 
  • Cloud: With more and more employees working remotely, and project members needing to access information quickly while on the jobsite, a cloud-based solution is the superior choice for accessibility and one of the biggest selling points for a SaaS solution. Many cloud providers also offer custom apps for smartphones, which makes accessibility and collaboration even easier.

Security

  • On-premise: Many companies simply feel safer hosting confidential documents on-site within their own firewalls, though it’s important to note it’s not always actually safer. What it tends to really boil down to is the desire to feel in control. With an on-premise system, you control the system and the backup and privacy policies.
  • Cloud: Most SaaS solutions offer comprehensive security features, and may even have independent security certifications that are more stringent than many in-house IT policies. Cloud service providers routinely employ up-to-date security features so you can feel confident your data is always secure and protected.  

Maintenance

  • On-premise: With an on-premise system, you’re responsible for maintaining the hardware and software, as well as backups, storage and recovery. This typically requires an IT staff, which can be difficult for smaller companies to manage with a limited budget.
  • Cloud: Using a cloud-based solution means you don’t have to worry about updating or maintaining hardware or software, because your service provider will handle that for you. Spending less time and money on maintenance and updates means you can allocate those resources elsewhere.

So, which one is better?

In the end, the “better” solution for you will depend on your unique business needs—but more and more businesses are shifting to cloud-based software because of the upfront cost savings, accessibility, reliability and convenience it offers. The construction industry is fast-paced, and the ability to access up-to-date project information quickly and easily—from anywhere and at any time—is critical to minimizing miscommunication and costly mistakes, as well as keeping projects on-track. 

Laptop displaying a dashboard for a construction job

To learn more about Premier Construction Software and why our comprehensive, cloud-based SaaS solution may just be the perfect fit for your project management needs, click here to schedule a personalized product tour. 

 

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

Categories
Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How does the use of construction project management software contribute to your risk management strategy?

Construction project management is often more about preventing and mitigating risk than actual project execution. While workers in the field concentrate on executing the work and quality control, management teams are looking ahead to see what potential problems they can identify before the next phase of the project.

Teams must work together to ensure project safety, schedule maintenance, and budget control. Communication and documentation are two of the most important tools available to do this. Construction project management software can help teams better track and respond to anticipated risk.

Before we get into how project management software helps teams with risk, we’ll look at the potential areas of risk on a project and how construction teams go about managing risk.

Potential Areas of Risk

Project manager stressing about the risks associated with commercial construction project job

There are many potential areas of risk on a construction project. Teams must identify and be aware of them all so they can work collaboratively to address them.

Safety – Construction is dangerous work. There are lots of physical dangers on a project that must be either prevented or managed. These days there are also health risks to consider. Additionally, if a project is being performed in a public space, public safety and health also have to be protected.

Financial – Contractors are vulnerable to financial risks such as unplanned costs and lower production rates. Tracking work costs and daily production, including delays and obstacles, is important to quantify these risks.

Contractual – Most construction project contracts push responsibility for costs and delays down to the next tier of contractor. GCs and subcontractors must read their contracts carefully, so they know what they’re responsible for.

Project – Projects are subject to delays and additional costs due to poor work management, scheduling issues, and unavoidable external conditions. Sometimes these problems can be avoided with better management and planning.

Stakeholder – Poor owner communication and delays in getting necessary information can lead to additional costs and schedule delays. There’s a higher chance of this happening when the owner is a public entity or there are several stakeholders involved in the project.

Environmental – Events such as natural disasters, weather, and fire can lead to damaged materials and work. This can set a project back and cause additional costs and delays.

Labor – Finding skilled workers is becoming more and more difficult, and trade subcontractors are scrambling to keep up with workloads and schedules.

Competition – Especially on hard bid projects, contractors are under pressure to be the low bidder, meaning there’s a chance they will cut corners to reduce project costs or cut scheduled time.

Construction Risk Management Process

The risk management process most contractors use is simple and straightforward. It involves three steps:

  1. Identify risks – First, the contractor must become familiar with all aspects of the project, including the scope of work and timeline for completion. Once they’ve done that, they’ll be better able to identify potential risks for the project. This is done by analyzing the flow of work, the individual tasks that must be completed, and the scheduled time, looking for potential conflicts or issues like those listed above.
  2. Prioritize risks – Next, the project management team will look at each of the risks they’ve identified and determine the probability that it will happen, potential severity of the risk, and its potential effect on the project. Risks with the highest probability and potential severity will be prioritized ahead of those with lower probability and severity. This allows the project team to make strategic decisions about how to address these risks, addressing the most probable ones first.
  3. Manage risks – Once the risks have been identified and prioritized, the team develops a plan to mitigate or prevent them from happening. They focus on the higher priority risks first, ensuring that they are addressed before moving on to the lower priority ones.

The risk management process detailed above is repeated many times as the project moves along. Risks that were present in the initial stages of a project may not be of concern later on. Additionally, new risks may be identified as work progresses and additional information comes to light. Teams need to be ready to respond to these risks proactively, so they should be constantly assessing the job for potential issues.

How Construction Project Management Software Can Help

Manage construction projects and submittals using Premier Construction Software

Construction project management software can help project teams reduce or mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it does provide a way to speed communication and document what is being done to address potential issues.

Reporting – Project management software allows teams to quickly see overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show items outstanding as well as who is responsible for responding to those items. For example, tasks such as completing punch list items need to be addressed quickly so owners can move in. Also, documents like submittals and RFIs require timely responses to keep the project moving. Knowing who needs to do what helps teams keep the project on schedule.

Tracking – These days construction companies need to track health checks and other safety-related inspections more closely. Daily recording of inspection results and health checks in project management software allows team members to see their status and predict potential problems. Recording the number of crews and where they’re working can also help with contact tracing, should that be needed.

Document control – Given the number of documents that are created and distributed during a project, having a central hub where they are stored is a must. Document storage, version control, and distribution can easily be managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are.

Communication – Just like for documents, having a central location for all your project correspondence is a necessity. Team members then have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. In addition, all communication is tracked and documented within the project management system. Specific items can easily be researched and recalled in minutes.

Budget – Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can view and manage the budget and costs from the project site, without having to request a report from the office. They’re also able to predict future costs based on commitments, allowing for early detection of over budget items so they can adjust them as needed.

PM Software Helps Project Teams Assess and Prevent Risk

Laptop displaying a reporting dashboard for a construction project managers

Construction project management software allows project teams to create processes to help them plan for and mitigate risks on their projects. These processes, combined with documentation and tracking, help ensure that teams are prepared for and respond to risks.

The ability to get up-to-date information, including contract documents, correspondence, and status updates, allows teams to see where they’re vulnerable to risk and take action to control or mitigate it.

Premier’s job dashboard allows project managers to assess the status of their jobs from one screen. Whether the job is running overbudget or there are pending items that require their attention, an all-in-one construction management solution can help your team identify at-risk items before it’s too late. To learn more about Premier Construction Software, 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.

Categories
Industry Insight Trends & Technology

How COVID-19 Has Shifted the Construction Industry in 2020

Things have changed in 2020; we all know that. With industry shutdowns, social distancing, and new safety regulations, there’s no way they couldn’t change. The construction industry is unique in the effects the pandemic has had on our work. Since much of our work still has to be done on-site and by groups of people working closely with each other, the industry has had to pivot quickly. This has led to innovations in several areas, with the most prominent being technology, safety, and communication.

Construction technology

There have always been early adopters of construction technology, and many companies have been on the cutting edge for years. But these adopters have been widely dispersed and technology hasn’t gained much momentum in the industry, until now. In fact, up until now construction has been one of the slowest industries when it comes to adopting technology.

In 2020 the game changed. Suddenly everyone had to adopt technology, whether they wanted to or not. Some tech, like video conferencing, everyone had to quickly adapt to, so we were all in it together. There is some technology however, that the construction industry had to adapt on its own.

Drones have been in use on construction projects for a few years now. So they aren’t completely new to the industry. But suddenly project teams had to rely on them to get information from project sites. Drones are now being used by roofing contractors to do takeoffs and inspections, by site teams to perform project walk-throughs, and as a tool for surveying parts of projects that are difficult to get to. Expect drones to continue to grow in popularity into the future.

Virtual reality (VR) has allowed project teams to view projects and do inspections without having to be present physically. VR runs the gamut from photographs that are sent to inspectors and team leaders to a full video tour by a project team member with a phone or by drone. While the use of photos and video have been around for a while, they were never used for formal building inspections. Jurisdictions have been quick to adopt these technologies due to the fact that they needed to limit their on-site visits. The use of VR has the capability to speed inspections and shorten schedules.

The use of robots and other equipment to assist with the installation of building materials has also increased this year. Glass companies are using additional equipment to help them install large panes of glass with only one or two real person team members. This has improved the safety of installation and also sped up production. The use of robots and equipment to assist with installation continues to increase, and probably will as we continue to look for ways to work smarter.

Safety

2020 has been the year for new safety and health regulations, including regular health checks and added PPE. Local jurisdictions have been quickly issuing new guidance to contractors on how to keep their job sites running during the pandemic, while keeping workers as safe as possible. Contractors have had to pivot multiple times this year, reassessing their safety protocols and making sure that everyone is complying with the new requirements.

Companies now have to implement health monitoring protocols into their job sites. On large projects this can be difficult, as workers are entering and leaving areas through multiple entrances, and sites aren’t always monitored. In addition, companies have to track where workers are working at all times and who they are working closely with, in case they need to do contracting tracing. They also must keep detailed records and have them available when requested. Many companies have turned to technology to assist them with this, including the use of wearables, location monitoring, and automated health checks. Until the vaccine is widely distributed, these protocols will remain in place.

PPE needs have skyrocketed this year. Suddenly facemasks and gloves were in short supply. Now that supplies have leveled off, it’s easier for contractors to get a hold of the PPE they need. Many sites are requiring face protection, gloves, and masks be worn at all times to keep employees safe. These protocols are likely to continue into 2021 and beyond, as we try to maintain the health of all on-site workers.

Manpower use and crew size have decreased this year. Large job sites that had hundreds of workers were reduced to tens. Many companies had to look at alternative ways to get their work installed. Some used added equipment or robots, while others looked to prefabrication. Fabricating assemblies off-site reduces the number of employees in one space, allowing more workers to continue working safely. Prefabrication also reduces the amount of material used, prevents weather damage, and is better for the environment. This is a trend that will continue to gain momentum.

Communication

In a Forbes article, Johnny Clemmons, SAP Global Vice President Industry Business Unit Head of Engineering, Construction, and Operations, said that in the future, “Information must also be democratized, digitized, and universally placed into the hands of constructors to make a real impact on the industry.” While communication has often been a struggle in construction, many companies were forced to step into the future whether they were ready or not. The face of communication on job sites will be forever changed due to the pandemic.

Videoconferencing immediately jumped into the forefront of everyone’s day-to-day life. Zoom calls and Teams meetups are the norm today. These meetings have allowed people to remain in contact with each other, see each other, and maintain some sense of normalcy when face-to-face meetings haven’t been allowed. While many are suffering “Zoom fatigue,” these calls have allowed team members to attend meetings and view sites without having to travel, saving time and money. Conferencing this way may continue to be the norm going into the future, especially as security improves.

Cloud storage allows teams to access files, documents, and photos from anywhere with an internet connection. Since many project executives have been working remotely or at home, the ability to have access to these documents is paramount. This has allowed teams to easily keep up to date with project changes and ensure that team members have access to all the project files.

Collaboration and communication among team members has been more difficult when they can’t meet around the table and have open discussions. Many have turned to project management software to assist in collaboration. The ability to review drawings or documents, make changes, and have them updated immediately has improved project communication and helped ensure that work is done correctly.

The new normal

While drastic changes in technology, safety, and communication have occurred this year, the industry has quickly adapted and integrated these changes into his everyday processes. Teams are now better poised to deal with changes on-site with the use of these tools. While the use of on-site technology and current safety protocols may be reduced once the pandemic has passed, the need for communication and collaboration among team members will continue into the future. Companies that adopt tools such as construction project management software will have more success in the future, leading to better projects and improved client relationships.

 

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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Trends & Technology

Strategies for Ditching the Paperwork in Your Construction-Based Business by 2021

With the recent changes in how we work, going paperless has become a necessity. The days of everyone working together in a centralized office may be gone forever, so we need to adapt.

Construction companies are particularly challenged when it comes to going paperless, mainly because we deal with so many documents and files. Keeping them updated and making sure everyone has the documents they need when they need them is difficult in the best of times. Now that we’re separated and many are working with smaller teams, it’s become even more complicated and difficult.

We’ve got five strategies to help you go paperless and increase your team’s efficiency. But first, we need to look at why it’s a good idea to go paperless.

Why go paperless?

project manager with archive documents

Because you have to. With face-to-face meetings and project visits canceled due to the pandemic, virtual documents are now the only way to go. Since everyone’s working from home or remotely, handouts for a meeting don’t make any sense. Besides, passing out papers at a meeting is risky as it might potentially spread the virus.

Accessibility. Since teams are working remotely with only small office staffs, there’s no central place to store documents. A virtual document hub gives all workers the ability to get the information they need. If your data is stored in the cloud, it’s much easier for employees to get the documents they need from anywhere, at any time.

Improved efficiency. Employees don’t have to spend hours searching for a document they need when it can be looked up in the project management software or cloud-based storage system. Files are stored securely and can be organized for easy retrieval.

Good for the environment. Saving on printing and paper costs is not only good for the company, but it also helps save the environment. These savings are good for a company’s triple bottom line.

Transition to a cloud-based filing system

The first step to reducing paperwork is to transition to a cloud-based file storage system. This can be a stand-alone system or can be integrated into other software that you are using. Stand-alone systems are often free with limited storage capability. A free account is a good way to test the product and make sure it’s a fit for your company.

Using a cloud filing system offers several benefits. These systems reduce the need for email communication, as files are accessible by anyone on the team. Since so many of us are overwhelmed by the amount of emails we receive each day, it’s easy for important items to get lost in our inboxes. A cloud system will reduce the chances of losing important correspondence.

Team members can also instantly access any information they need through a cloud-based system. There’s no waiting for someone to send a file, let alone find it. And they know the information is always up to date.

Files are available anywhere any time when they’re stored in the cloud. All you need is a tablet, laptop, or even a smart phone and you can view and even edit them as needed.

Use project management software

Laptop displaying a reporting dashboard for a construction project managers

Construction project management software allows project teams to organize documents and files and send correspondence easily and quickly. It keeps all the records of a project in one secure location and organizes them for easy search.

With all project files located in one handy location, there’s no searching emails or folders for just the right file. When combined with cloud-based storage, teams have access to all project documents at any time.

Getting current information, from the status of documents to cost reports, is key when managing construction projects. PM software allows team members to get status reports on submittals, RFIs, or the budget status with a quick inquiry.

Integrate accounting and project management software

When a company’s accounting software is integrated with their project management software, project teams can get up-to-date cost reports instantly. This access allows them to analyze the project from wherever they are without having to ask the office for a certain report.

Often project managers have to ask accounting to give them the latest cost report so they can complete their cost projections and know where they stand on the budget. When the software platforms are integrated, there’s no wasted time or energy waiting for a report so they can complete their projections.

Integrating accounting software also saves time and improves accuracy, as an entry to one system updates the other and there’s no double entry. This helps ensure that project records are accurate and current.

Use electronic signatures

Using electronic signatures reduces paperwork by allowing team members to quickly approve or sign a document from anywhere. There’s no printing required, and any electronic device can be used to provide the signature.

Using electronic signatures to sign change orders and agreements in Premier Construction Software

Electronic routing of documents also allows for tracking who needs to sign a document next. With this information, teams can quickly determine who needs to do what next to move a document along.

Update hardware

With everyone working remotely, you’ve probably already updated your hardware, but it’s still worth mentioning. Make sure that everyone on the team has the appropriate hardware in order to access documents and files electronically. This means everyone should have a tablet or laptop that they can use. Desktop computers don’t allow for mobility, making them less useful when going paperless.

You’ll also need to make sure everyone has access to internet and Wi-Fi so they can retrieve and download files, as necessary. Large documents or drawings can be difficult to download on a cell signal.

Paperless is here to stay

With the five strategies above, you should be able to take your construction business to paperless operations. It requires patience and determination to make any new system work, so take it slowly and begin with just one or two project teams. Once all the bugs are worked out, you can roll the new process out to the rest of the company. Easing communication between project team members will improve work efficiency, reduce rework, and increase project quality and profitability.

 

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.

Categories
Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How to Manage your Remote Workforce for your Construction Business More Effectively

Construction has been one of the slowest industries to integrate technology into its workflow. Most of the on-site work is still done by hand, understandably, but even services that could be easily performed with the help of technology have been slow in transitioning. However, now that coronavirus has changed the workplace for everyone, construction companies are looking to grow their remote workforce and are seeking technology to help them manage the work.

Moving from on-site management to remote working presents several challenges for construction companies. Companies are scrambling to figure out how to manage remote staff, maintain project productivity, and keep the bottom line intact. Luckily, technology offers several solutions that can help construction companies maintain their productivity without affecting project quality, all while maintaining safety and health requirements.

Project management software

One of the best technologies available today is cloud-based construction project management software. It offers benefits to construction companies of all sizes and trades.

Because the software and its data are stored in the cloud, it’s easy for field staff and remote workers to access the information wherever they are. And since all that is needed for access is an internet connection, team members can review up-to-date project information from their phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. There’s no additional hardware investment for companies to worry about, nor do they have to maintain a server or perform software updates.

Since all the data is updated on the fly, team members have access to real-time information on their projects. Communication is simplified when everyone has access to the same documents, drawings, and other correspondence.

When project management software is integrated with accounting, cost information and budget reports can be made available for immediate access at any time. Team members don’t have to contact the office to get the information they need to make financial decisions about their project.

Document controlmanaging construction documents on the laptop with Premier Construction Software

Construction projects create a lot of paperwork, and that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. In fact, if anything, the amount of required documentation has only increased with the addition of safety and health checks. A software package that can keep everything organized is a must-have.

Documents such as submittals and RFIs are usually routed to several people before they are complete. Tracking who is responsible for the next step can be difficult when using a spreadsheet. Project management software can help by automatically routing documents and notifying responders when it’s their turn to review or respond. This helps keep the documents, and the project, moving forward.

With everyone working remotely, signatures are also difficult to get nowadays. Allowing contracts, change orders, and other documents to be signed electronically can improve efficiency and reduce the need for additional paperwork. Management software allows these documents to be completed and signed in minutes instead of days.

Time tracking software

supervisor using time entry app to approve field worker's time

Many companies still rely on paper timecards to track their employees’ work hours and appropriately code their time to the phase of the project. Handling paper timecards can cause delays in payroll processing, especially when working remotely, as well as create the potential for time theft and inaccurate reporting.

Recent technology developments have made time tracking software the most accurate and foolproof way to keep track of employee time and job costing. Wearable technology and cell phones allow employers to track the location of their employees at any time during the workday using GPS. Since the software knows when the employee enters the worksite and when they leave it, it’s much more difficult for employees to steal time. Timekeeping is also more accurate when logged by technology than by human hands.

Once time has been recorded by the software, the timesheets are approved and coded by the employee’s supervisor. This reduces the chance for time stealing as well as inaccurate cost reporting since all time entries are being reviewed before they are entered into the system.

Settings are available to force the cost codes for time entry to match those determined by the job, so only certain codes can have time applied to them. This improves the accuracy of job cost reports and ensures that costs are being categorized correctly.

Project reportingLaptop displaying a dashboard for a construction job

Cost reports and budget analyses are only as good as the information that they are based on. When accounting information is available and integrated with the project management software, cost reporting is more accurate and up to date.

Changes are often made throughout the project and communicating the information between the field and the office can be difficult. With project management and accounting software integration, changes entered in the field automatically update the accounting system without the need for double entry. This saves time and money on useless repeat work.

If cost information is available to project teams through a cloud-based system, everyone is able to stay informed about the progress on the job from wherever they are. Relying on this information, the team can make project decisions based on real-time information that includes up-to-date costs.

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

Communication and check-in

When everyone is working remotely and in-person visits are discouraged, it can be difficult to stay in touch and know what everyone is working on. Setting time aside for daily or weekly check-ins with team members via phone or teleconference can help improve morale and offer a sense of connection when many are feeling disconnected.

Use these calls to set goals for the team, assign tasks to members, and report on the status of current items. It’s important to keep in mind that many tasks and duties may take longer due to the communication constraints of working remotely. Employees have a harder time concentrating and have many distractions when they aren’t working at the office. Keeping this in mind will help the team set realistic expectations.

For on-site project progress updates, video and photos can be used to accurately reflect the progress of work. These can be shared with team members, including project owners, who may not be able to visit the site like they are used to. Sharing these updates through a cloud-based system allows everyone access to see the progress, ask questions, and answer them if needed.

Technology improves efficiency and productivity

Transitioning from on-site to remote project management is easier thanks to recent advances in technology, including construction project management software, electronic document control, time tracking, project reporting, and online communication. When companies take advantage of these tools, their projects will become more efficient and productive, saving them time and money.

To learn more about how Premier Construction Software can help your team work more efficiently, get in touch with 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.