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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.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How COVID Changed Construction

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus has changed everyone’s life. Those who had it will never be the same, and those who haven’t still live in fear. The construction industry is not immune to these changes. From a drastic material shortage to new ways to collaborate, the industry will never be the same.

Here are five ways the construction industry has been impacted by COVID.

1. Materials shortage

There isn’t a trade that hasn’t been impacted by the materials shortage in some way. It started with factory shutdowns due to stay-at-home orders and was followed by a trucking and shipping labor shortage. Now we have hundreds of cargo ships stranded outside ports waiting to be offloaded.

The materials shortage started with lumber, then moved quickly to steel and other building materials. Now there isn’t anything that hasn’t been affected. Approximately 68% of contractors surveyed said they were experiencing material delays in the 2nd quarter of 2021. The shortage has delayed projects and caused prices to skyrocket. At one time lumber was up over 300% from the previous year! And now we have additional supply chain issues to deal with in the coming months. There doesn’t seem to be a quick answer to this one.

2. Health becomes a priority

Gone are the days of going to work when you are sick. Since almost any symptom could be a sign of the COVID virus, everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms was sent home. Workers were told not to come in if they felt sick. Then, once tests were available, we went to testing everyone and quarantining those who tested positive. Whole crews or job sites could be knocked out and the project placed on hold due to contact tracing and the required quarantining.

Now we are dealing with vaccines, mandates, and whether to mask or not. What started as a health issue has become a political hot potato. It’s left companies in employees wondering “what next?” Things won’t go back to normal anytime soon. Contractors developed new ways to track symptoms and contact traces using construction software packages.

3. New ways to collaborate

When the stay-at-home orders first came out, design teams could no longer travel or meet on job sites. Everyone that could work from home did, which made collaboration much more difficult. But teams rose to the occasion and found new tools they could use to work together. Tools like drawing collaboration were used to keep everyone informed of design changes. And Zoom calls became the norm as teams worked together to make it work.

Even building inspectors started doing inspections using photographs and video conferencing. This sped up the inspection process for all involved.

Cloud computing and web-based SaaS software have changed the ways teams collaborate. Since most were working from home and travel was restricted, being able to access documents and information from anywhere became a necessity, not a luxury. Cloud-based technology and construction

management software, like Premier, helped contractors stay connected, scale their operations without having to rely on human resources, make investments in their companies that eliminated time-consuming processes, and identify cash flow issues and problem projects early. Without such flexibility, many companies found it hard to operate in the new environment.

4. E-Signing became more popular

One thing that couldn’t stop was payments, and to keep the documents flowing many companies had to rely on electronic signatures. Although they’ve been legal for years, they gained in popularity during the pandemic. Some states, like Oregon, started accepting remote notaries, while others had been for years. A remote notary session involves the notary and signer getting together on a conference call to witness the signature. This makes it easier for lien waivers and other documents to be notarized so they don’t hold up payments.

The more electronic signatures were collected, the more document management became a necessity. Companies had to track lien waivers, subcontracts, contracts, change orders, and purchase orders and know when each had been signed. Construction management software, like Premier, allows contractors to keep these documents organized and know exactly who’s missing. You can seamlessly connect your e-signature software with Premier software to collect the signatures you need quickly and easily.

5. Materials cost increases force price increases

It started with lumber, rocketing 300 percent from its starting price, then other materials started raising their prices. Now gas prices are rising, along with other supplies for construction projects. As prices rose, contractors started to pass on those costs to their customers. The cost to frame a house more than doubled during the height of the lumber price spike.

Some customers delayed projects to try to avoid high material costs, while others just paid the price. Many contractors started adding price escalation clauses to their contracts to protect them in this volatile market.

Conclusion

We can only hope that someday we’ll be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to life as we knew it. Some of the changes to the construction industry caused by COVID are for the better, like making health a priority and the rise of collaboration. Other changes, however, like price increases and material shortages, are best left in the rearview mirror.

 

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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How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. 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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Why is Drawing Management Important?

Today’s construction industry is finally starting to embrace technology. From project management programs to accounting software designed specifically for the industry, improved workflows and team-wide access are increasing efficiency. Drawing management is one of the areas most affected by new technology, and the results are tremendous.

But what is drawing management, and why is it important? And what can it offer the construction industry and your company? Keep reading to find out.

What is construction drawing management?

In today’s world of information at our fingertips, people outside of the construction industry might be shocked if they saw the stacks of paper plans still plaguing some projects. Sure, the architect or designer has these docs on their computer and local server, but everyone else might be working from a set of paper drawings. And, as revisions come in, those paper drawings don’t update themselves.

That’s the issue that construction drawing management aims to solve. Drawing management, when done correctly, is a central database of drawings that everyone involved in the process can access. They’re most effective when cloud-based, allowing anyone in the field or office to access the latest drawing at a moment’s notice.

Why is drawing management important?

Having instantaneous access to project drawings is obviously a benefit, as anyone can look at the same drawing, regardless of their role and location. However, there is more to it than that.

Drawing management offers clarity

Imagine a scenario where a question pops up on the job site. Maybe it’s an issue with a material, or the scope of work doesn’t jive perfectly with the conditions at the site. In the past, the designer would have to go to the site or wait for the PM to upload tons of pictures to an email. With a drawing management system, the process is streamlined.

Now, the PM can access the drawings from the tablet while the designer pulls them up on their computer screen. While on the phone, the two can look at the same drawing, manipulate, and make notes, mark-ups, or revisions in real-time.

Drawing management offers real-time revisions

Too often have site personnel worked off an older version of the drawings only to find out things changed and their work was incorrect. This causes delays and waste, both of which are the enemies of progress and profits. Sure, you can blame the crew or the management team, but that doesn’t change the problem at hand.

Project drawing management alleviates this issue by allowing for real-time revisions and updates. As the team on-site accesses the drawings, they’ll have the most updated version at their fingertips.

Drawing management centralizes storage

Document storage can be a hassle. Between storing drawings on different drives, sending revisions through email, and granting access to everyone who needs it, finding a document at the moment you need it isn’t easy.

With a drawing management system, you can store those documents in one place. And with automation, a drawing management system will ensure these documents are sorted properly and easy to find. Maybe even best of all, some drawing management systems offer unlimited storage, preventing your company from running out of the ever-more-expensive digital space.

Drawing management integrates with other processes

Once you have an established drawing management system, it should integrate with the other processes your company uses. For example, an RFI can be accompanied by a tag that takes the team directly to the drawing in question. Also, the team can tag change orders to drawings, allowing anyone reviewing the change a better overview.

Integrating drawing a management system with these processes offers a clearer scope, streamlines approvals, and allows the team to stay on the same page. 

Drawing management can be critical to your business’s growth

“Streamline,” “automate,” and “centralize” tend to be buzzwords circling around drawing management, but they truly are keys to your business’s growth. By implementing a drawing management system, you’re enabling your team to work faster and smarter while also focusing on the most important tasks.

Change the game with drawing management systems

Moving to a drawing management system is obviously critical to growing and getting a leg up on the competition. But not all systems are the same; some have more to offer than others.

Look for a drawing management system that offers unlimited storage and operates on a reliable cloud. Also, be sure it has all the features you need from a system in order to integrate with your chosen construction management software. Or, better yet, choose a system that rolls everything into one easy-to-use application, like Premier Construction Software.

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’s drawing management system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. 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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5 AI Solutions Construction Can Implement Today

Is the future of the construction industry already here?! With continued growth in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in other industries, why hasn’t construction followed suit? The industry continues to lag behind many others in the adoption of new tech, including AI, robotics, and machine learning.

In 2018 McKinsey posited five then-current technologies related to AI that construction could implement from other industries. Three years later, most of these are still science-fiction more than reality, but for how long?

1. Optimize project planning

Existing technology in the logistics industry allows delivery drivers to optimize their route planning to account for both distance and traffic. AI analyzes for the shortest route with the least amount of traffic to cut delivery times. The technology continues to learn through reinforcement learning, commonly called trial and error, the best way to go the shortest distance.

In construction, this technology could be used to analyze and assess project schedules to optimize them for the shortest time and best use of resources. By running thousands of alternatives, the technology could provide options that humans hadn’t thought of to perform the work most efficiently. AI could learn from past project data and over time correct itself with the best resource combinations and alternatives to speed up project planning.

2. Forecast risks and constructability of design

Pharmaceutical research firms are using AI to reduce R&D costs by predicting medical trial outcomes. The software uses predictive AI solutions to improve products without the additional cost of intermittent testing.

In construction, this technology could be used to forecast risks, predict constructability, and the structural stability of technical solutions during the planning stage. By testing for structural stability and constructability ahead of time, in the virtual world, it’s possible to save big bucks during the construction process. The technology can also be used to test various materials, limiting downtime during inspections.

3. Supply chain coordination

AI can currently be used to reduce downtime and oversupply of shipments in a supply chain. It also can be used to increase the predictability of shipments. This reduces costs, logistical burdens, and supply variability. We certainly could have used this technology during the recent construction material shortages.

As modular and prefabricated construction gain popularity, there will be an increased need for enhanced supply chain coordination. These types of construction rely on just-in-time deliveries, which can be more easily achieved using AI. The technology will also help control costs and overall cash flow.

4. Robots and 3D printing

Robots and 3D printing are already making waves in construction. They are being used by a few teams to provide affordable housing and reduce costs and project schedules. From this knowledge, researchers have trained robots to learn from simulations and used machine learning to replace software programming.

Robots are being used to construct panelized buildings and components for prefabricated and modular projects. The ability to use machine learning could shorten the timeframe even further and allow robots to quickly move from one task to another without lengthy programming.

5. Quality control

In healthcare, machine learning is creating opportunities to diagnose illnesses earlier through image recognition. The technology detects known markers for certain conditions to provide early diagnosis.

Using drone imagery and 3D models, the same technology could detect potential defects and help with quality control. It could notice anything from potential catastrophic failures to finish blemishes and alert the team in real-time.

Conclusion

While no one knows what the next technological breakthrough in construction will be, it’s safe to say it may come from one of these five technologies. All are using technology, machine learning, and AI to predict the future or inspect current work for future problems. By engaging technology early in the design and construction process, teams are saving time and money, as well as assuring the safety of building occupants.

Interested to hear more on AI? Jonas Premier can assist you with more information on how AI can empower your business to work smarter.

Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

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.