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Green Residential Building

This is where the future is.

Although I initially resisted this snowball-rolling-down-the-hill, I now see some real benefit to our economy and our environment from green residential building techniques.

You see, I paid attention when there was great talk of the "new" way to build sustainable homes from straw bales. I was leery and sure enough, the homeowners had some trouble with mold and some very expensive repairs. But green residential building technology moved on and improved while I was still pondering the old straw bales.

Today's eco-friendly building is embracing energy savings and quality materials, ensuring that the homeowner isn't left with a lemon. Some of the new green residential building trends include:

  1. Moving from new construction to remodels.
  2. Increased solar and wind generation in homes.
  3. Zero-net-energy technology.
  4. Local and state incentives and green mandates.
  5. Fresh water conservation technology in the home.

If you haven't already dipped your pinkie in the green residential building pond, this might be the time to take a night class or borrow some library books on the subject. Don't be left behind.

Home Security System Companies: A Feature in Your Houses?

I ask this question because it seems to be part of a growing trend. Home security system companies sending fliers, brochures and coming by the job site to push their services.

Maybe this is the norm, and has been for a while, in large metropolises, but it's a relatively new thing in rural parts of the nation. Do you hire home security system companies? And if so - do you contract for one house, or for all your spec houses?

Here in Kansas, the trend seems to be separate from general electrical wiring jobs. That is to say, the electrical contractors are not tackling this lucrative niche in the market. Instead, the home security system companies, themselves, are selling and installing their own product almost exclusively.

If any of you out there are electrical contractors who are slow right now, look into this. Despite the economic slowdown, this speciality is growing quickly. It might become a new, and lucrative construction opportunity for you.

Build it, sister.

A Degree in Construction Management?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 10 percent of all construction management jobs in the US are held by women.

While 10 percent isn't a lot, it's a darn sight better than where the nation was 50 years ago.

Girls looking for a degree in construction management may now focus on green building or other environmentally-aware positions. As the face of construction changes, so will the face of those managing the industry.

10 percent today--50 percent tomorrow. There's no looking back. Check out our list of Builder Chick friendly construction schools.

What Caused the Housing Bubble?

A lot of factors, I'm sure. From greedy lenders to a consumer-driven run on homes in certain areas. One thing's clear, when the bubble popped, the entire nation suffered. The construction companies in California and Nevada don't even resemble the massive crews of ten years ago.

Did government have a hand in the bubble? Probably. But to what extent?

I included this little film today about the Federal Reserve back in the 90's when we all thought nothing could go wrong.

There are more reasons for the bubble that eventually brought us to our be sure...but this just might be one of the first. This is making me rethink bills like the Home Star Program.

Boston Fed

Click the 4-directional arrow box at the top right to enlarge the screen for easy viewing.

Insubordinate Employees

Disagreements are never pleasant but when they arise between the boss and the employee, trouble might be brewing. But, keep in mind that, as the boss, you can't control everything that is said. And if you have an employee with a valid gripe, you could suffer if you try to shut her down unfairly.

  • Take the time to find out if the insubordination is real or if she is responding to a problem on the work site that needs to be fixed.
  • Talk to her alone. If you berate her in front of others, you're just asking for trouble.
  • Stay visible. If you must confront an employee, get out of earshot, but remain where others can see you.
  • If the problem concerns safety on the job, take a closer look. An unresolved safety issue could come back to haunt you if you refuse to listen and remedy the situation.

The bottom line is to treat your employees with respect but don't let employee insubordination disrupt the job site.

Air Tools: Choosing the Right Ones

Everyone uses air tools these days, and if you're a do-it-yourself weekend warrior, you could save yourself some elbow grease if you choose your air tools wisely.

  • Make sure you have the correct power source at home. That nail gun won't run without a compressor. It's not a stand-alone tool.
  • Get a nail gun that you can comfortably operate. The biggest framing nailer out there won't do you much good if you can't use it overhead without taking frequent breaks.
  • Look for durability with air rotation tools. Ratchets and air wrenches are great for replacing the manual twist, twist, twist of hand tools.
  • Get a two-handed sander to reduce elbow strain. Sanders are great but even a small vibrating or orbital sander will tire your arm if you can only use it with one hand.
  • Go small on air saws. reciprocating saws and air shears can making cutting at heights easier, but they will cycle your compressor frequently. The big stuff is still cut with skill saws and tables saws.

I'd be interested in hearing what your favorite air tools are. Do you keep them on your belt for quick changing? Or do you attach one and return to the compressor to switch? I read this guy's advice on how to choose air tools and it gave me the idea for this article.

Do You Have a Small Business Credit Card?

My banker once told me that the best kind of credit card to have in my purse is a small business credit card. Supposedly, because the purchased items were used to "grow" my business and also because the purchases, and the interest, are deductible on my income taxes.

Still, you must shop around for your small business card to get the best rates and terms. As a business, you probably have many purchases that are deductible and if you have a credit card with a lower interest rate than you pay a supplier - and no finance charge for quick payoffs, you might rack up enough "frequent flyer miles" to take your guy on a holiday vacation to somewhere with white sand beaches. Okay, that's my dream, but you can still benefit from a small business credit card.

  • Obtain your small business credit card through a local bank.
  • Talk to your banker about your construction goals and ask for a low rate.
  • Keep your banker in the loop, especially if you have to make a late payment.
  • Pay your other personal and construction loans on time.
  • You'll need an Employer Identification Number, not a SS number.

The caveat: Don't put personal charges on a small business credit card. It's too confusing when you're doing your books and the IRS might not think it's clever.

Construction Project Management--Are You On Top of It?

There's no doubt, really. If you have good project management skills, your job runs smoother, you experience fewer scheduling conflicts and you save money. But project management is more than something you learn in college, it's an intuition. If you can't sense growing problems before they become too large to handle, you'll lose time and money.

The basic steps in project management include:

  • Listing the project goals.
  • Charting the project by phase.
  • Determine a chronological order.
  • Solicit the experts (subs).
  • Create and schedule the time line.
  • Tie the project together in a synopsis.

To successfully layout a project management plan, you must start with a  well defined goal and make it fit your budget. If the numbers don't crunch, either you must raise more capital, or revise your project management plan to suit your budget.

What will the New Health Bill Mean for You?

A battle is raging in Congress over the future of your health care but what will the passage of that bill mean for the construction industry? That's yet to be seen.

If you're a self-employed contractor or a subcontractor, you will have to purchase your own health insurance policy, but no numbers are out on what that coverage will cost. If you can't afford the premiums, and that's likely, if you're between jobs or slow due to the economy, you'll have to pay a penalty. The amount of the penalty may be adjusted for your income, but it might be around $1500 per year, per family.

If you go that route, you will won't have insurance unless your income falls into a category where you qualify for a free policy.

Now, I'm all for helping out our fellow man but something seems a little fishy here. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the bill, but it seems that there may be a group of people above the poverty line, but below the income level that would allow them to freely purchase $20,000 per year policies.

And most self-employed construction workers appear to fall into that category. So, the bill bears watching.Alternately, this guy has some current info on how to get medical treatment without health insurance. And we offered some methods for avoiding construction injuries last month.

Keep building...keep happy.

Finding Free Online Classes and Courses

Do you need help setting up your bookkeeping system? Would you benefit from learning a little html coding? If you're busy working and don't have the time or money to devote to classes for a formal education, you can learn lots of little things in free online classes.

I was looking for some free internet marketing ideas for my blog when I came across this guy, who claimed there were lots of free online classes in many disciplines that I could take...just for signing up.

Long story short, I followed his advice, and his links, and now I'm registered at Self Made Scholar for an Internet Marketing course and I'm enrolled at Yale, yes, that's Yale University, in a Political Philosophy course.

I'm impressed and I'm ready to learn. Of course, you can still take the traditional college route when studying construction.

How about you?

How to Videos & Articles:

Reducing Workplace Accidents in the Construction Industry

You already know construction is dangerous but there is a fine balance between staying safe and slowing down the work schedule.

The answer lies in taking a responsible approach to reducing workplace accidents. We've compiled a list of the most common areas of danger on the construction work site.

In general, the goals must be to:

  • Reduce falls
  • Prevent explosions
  • Prevent excavation accidents
  • Leave safety guards in place
  • Insist on eye protection
  • Train in scaffolding
  • Cap rebar
  • Clean the site
  • Insist on hardhats
  • Match the worker to the job

Check the safety of your site against our list.

Making it Possible for Young Women to Attend College to Learn the Building Trades

Do you belong to a professional builder's association? If so, why not set aside some money to help young students go to college to learn a building trade? Nothing supports the idea of women in construction more than putting our money where our mouth is to benefit other women.

The Professional Women in Building Council in Asheville, North Carolina, is doing just that. They are offering scholarships to current high school seniors from their county who want to study one of the building trades.

The cost of college today is outrageous and for some kids, it's beyond their means. Help, for these kids, from any sector, is a blessing.

If your group is looking for ways to give back to the community, consider scholarships. And check out our list of schools that offer a degree in the building trades.