New construction technologies to attract younger workers, a push toward green building and the good and bad news in safety — these highlight some of the top stories in April. Here’s a look at some of the stories that caught our attention:
Joysticks and Simulations: The New Construction Recruiting Tools
The New York Times recently featured the construction recruiting struggle in its article: A New Recruitment Tool for Construction: The Joystick. The article notes that construction firms are starting to turn to technologies that strike a more familiar tone with younger generations of workers raised with video games and smart phones. Among them: simulators that replicate jobs like earthwork or steel assembly done by heavy equipment. One company, Eutaw Construction, recently purchased its first simulator, an excavator by Caterpillar, and is actively working with community colleges and nonprofits to tout the technology and boost interest in construction. The article notes that simulators are already popular among youths, who use them to get a feel for things like flying planes or building automobiles. Now, they’re being looked at to make construction more appealing to throngs of younger workers that have turned away from construction jobs in recent years.
The Takeaway: This is yet another example of forward-thinking contractors choosing to adapt rather than fade away. With the way technology in general is progressing these days, it’s becoming vital for contractors to modernize their operations. With baby boomers retiring in droves and younger workers wary of an industry they view as boring, dangerous and vulnerable after years of double-digit unemployment rates, any way to quell those perceptions is welcome. Technology is one of the few ways the industry has made inroads with effectively addressing the skilled labor shortage. Those contractors late to the game with technology adoption might find themselves struggling to stay competitive.
$14B ‘Green New Deal’ for NYC Has Opportunities, Drawbacks for Contractors
A $14 billion ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio aims to reduce greenhouse emissions up to 30 percent by 2030. As noted in Construction Dive, the aggressive plan for New York City would include significant investment in construction of community parks and open spaces, more than 300,000 affordable housing units, installing more than a million square feet of heat-resistant rooftop coatings and requiring that all new building roofs are topped with plants, wind turbines or solar panels. The plan would also include the passing of new, more stringent emissions legislation for buildings of more than 25,000 square feet and potentially ban inefficient “classic glass and steel skyscrapers.” Owners of existing buildings that do not comply with new regulations could face fines of $1 million or more.
The Takeaway: There is a lot to like about this, as it could spur both new and retrofit construction opportunities, and the mayor in a press release, noted this plan would create “tens of thousands of good-paying jobs…” and boost the construction industry in the area. Plus, this plan is a step in the right direction toward driving environmental change. That said, banning certain types of materials could drive contractors’ costs up and limit design and build options. And, getting used to and consistently complying with new regulations could be a dramatic learning curve — one that contractors who are equipped with modern construction management software would be dramatically better prepared for.
Viewpoint Client Encore Electric Honored as Nation’s Safest Construction Company
In early April, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Willis Towers Watson honored 57 different construction firms at its 2019 Construction Safety Excellence Awards (CSEA) luncheon. Of those 57, one company stood out as its grand award winner — Encore Electric, Inc. The award program is the industry’s elite safety excellence awards program for companies of all sizes and occupational divisions. CSEA recognizes those construction companies that excel at safety and health performance, examining each candidate’s commitment to safety and occupational health management and risk control. A full list of all 57 winners is available here.
The Takeaway: Congrats to Encore Electric and all of the 2019 winners! Safety is one of the biggest challenges in construction, so maintaining an impeccable safety record is an impressive feat. As a Viewpoint client, Encore deploys Spectrum Construction Software as its construction management platform. Having a modern, cloud-based management solution for collaboration, compliance management, accounting, project management and more helps all team members work better together, enhancing safety and reducing risk. But it doesn’t stop there. Having sound safety strategies in place and achieving the buy-in of the entire team to use modern technology and best practices to ensure safety in the field is vital — and something that Encore clearly excels in.
Seattle Crane Collapse Puts Contractor Safety in Spotlight
Tragedy struck last week in Seattle as a crane being dismantled at a new Google campus in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood crashed to the ground, killing two crane operators and two others on the street below. Several others were injured in the accident. In the wake of this incident, questions have been raised about wind conditions and the decision not to restrict the flow of traffic below the worksite. The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has opened investigations into the four companies involved in taking the crane apart. Among the areas of focus; whether crews followed the manufacturer’s instructions for dismantling and removing the crane pieces and protocols for traffic and other safety controls during the process.
The Takeaway: Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, one thing is clear: this is another tragedy in which accidents at construction sites or recently finished projects have caused harm not just to workers, but to the public at large. Because of this, large construction projects around the world are being put under a microscope. Accidents happen, but the more organized and prepared contractors and crews are, the better the chances of reducing such tragedies. Modern technologies have made it significantly easier to ensure that all important safety steps are followed. Cloud-based project and field management software ensure safety collaboration is being achieved, all proper steps are being followed and all documentation is in place. While technologies like drones, AI and robotics are replacing human risk with automated processes. Construction will never be perfect, but it can be done smarter and safer.
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