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Women Must Fight Hard for Their Place in the Construction Industry

I recently read an article entitled, "Where is Roberta the Builder?" The author questions the subconscious idea that women should be at home or uninterested in things like building.  Oh, that's rich.

After I seethed a while, I concurred that he makes a valid point. Women make up only 10 percent of the construction industry and until we can raise those numbers - or at least become more visible in this industry, we will face men who think we don't belong here.

If you're like me, you grew up thinking construction was for men, that it just wasn't a real option for your future. Then, something happened; Maybe a teacher saw in you a talent for design or you took a shop class and you found out you were good at it. Really good at it. Your interest in the construction industry piqued.

But that still leaves us with a dilemna. How do we create a feeling of true equality when we're up against a traditional male industry? How do we turn the male resentment into willing acceptance?

The answer, I think, is with slow but steady persistence and visibility. We have to get out there and join the local builder's clubs. We have to take part in community events that allow others to see us at the top of our game.

And we have to do a good job. No matter if you're a man or a woman, if your work is better, if you're faster, or if you're cheaper than the competition, you have a fighting chance. People want quality and they want it at a fair price. Word-of-mouth may be the biggest promoter in the construction industry today.

I'm interested in hearing stories from other women in construction who have successfully (or not successfully) faced sexism in the industry.

Recycling Construction Waste?

Is this the newest step in green building? It might be soon in Stamford, CT.  The city fathers are debating the passage of a bill that would fine construction companies up to 50 cents per pound of construction debris not sorted and sent to the correct recycling station.

While I see the wisdom in recycling construction waste, I also see a big cost being passed on to the consumer. Right now, in large demolition projects, a wrecking ball destroys entire structures, leaving a pile of rubbish that may contain friable asbestos, asphalt, inorganic compounds, molds and toxins that may create health issues if the workers start picking through the rubble and sorting them out.

Which leads to taking special precautions when sorting potentially toxic materials. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but it adds a lot of expense to the contractor's budget, expense that she isn't going to eat. She's going to pass it on to her customers.

Think about this - most demolition takes place in buildings where fungus and mold may be present. After all, we don't tear down new buildings. At least I don't. Those toxins eventually disapate when returned to nature, via the landfill. Not so if we must disturb them now to sort out construction waste.

Instead of using a front-end loader to pick up and load the construction waste into dump trucks and dumpsters, we will be picking through it, piece by piece.

While this is a good plan for recycling, it might require gradual implementation to offset a large increase in construction costs to the consumer.

Most communities have some type of disposal laws right now that focus on removing specific toxins, such as paint, chemicals, rubber or other landfill toxins before dumping the construction waste.

I think it might be prudent to follow this same method, step by step.

The other incentive for this green building friendly initiative is to purchase the sorted construction waste from the contractors. If it's going to be recycled, someone is going to make a profit. That someone can fork over some dough to make sorting worth the contractor's time.

There are many ways to approach this and eventually, I'd hazard a guess that construction waste disposal will feature recycling regulations.

But, go easy. Our economy, especially the building sector, can't take another direct hit right now.

Notable Women in Construction

Kelly Dozier, co-owner and General Manager of Mad Dog Construction in Tallahassee, Florida, takes top billing during Tallahassee's Women's History Month.

Dozier, once a designer at the company, worked her way up the ladder of success to her current position. While she still designs homes, she is also active in the community and holds a Florida real estate license.

Congrats to you, Kelly. You exemplify what women in the construction industry are all about. We agree with Tallahassee, you're the real deal and an inspiration to every woman.

Build it, girl!

Home Construction: Have We Seen the Bottom Yet?

I keep thinking we've sunk as low as we can possibly go and that we're on the way back up.

But I keep having to face the fact that I'm wrong. Just this morning, March 17, the Census Dept. announced that housing fell again last month by 5.9%. Since 2006, the housing market has been in free-fall and we're all just waiting for any small sign of improvement.

As I mentioned yesterday, the First Time Homebuyer credit is set to expire at the end of next month. How will that affect a housing market that has not yet stabilized?

In addition to another slip in housing sales, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that builder confidence is also lower. In fact, builder confidence indicates that contractors do not feel encouraged that home sales will pick up any time soon.

The New Green Construction Code

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and improve energy efficiency, the International Code Council just released the brand new International Green Construction Code (IGCC).

The new regulations will affect new and existing commercial construction so take a look if you're in the building industry.

Some key points of the new regulations are:

  • Improvement of indoor air quality.
  • Preservation of natural site resources.
  • Installation of renewable energy systems.
  • Collection of rain water and gray water.
  • Architectural design guidelines for energy efficiency.
  • Carbon neutral building design.
  • Environmentally friendly concrete.

The bill is being tweaked and will probably face small alterations before approval. We already have a residential National Green Building Code.

Other bills, passed and pending, address many of the green building concerns.

April 30th: Deadline for First Time Homebuyer Credit

For home builders, April 30th looms large. It marks the end of the First Time Homebuyer's Tax Credit.

Since the burst of the housing bubble and the subsequent drop in home sales, contributing to the deepest recession in half a century, this credit, established by Congress, seeks to push new homeowners into the marketplace.

By offering first time homebuyers an $8,000 tax credit for purchasing a new home, the credit offset the lack of funding offered by private lenders. But what will happen after April 30th if the credit isn't extended?

Houses will continue to sell but maybe not right away. We might see an additional drop in sales contracts but, eventually, buyers will still be out there. Because couples get married and start their lives and they want houses.

It would be nice to see the credit extended a little longer but, if not, we'll still houses sell. April will be the month of many contracts as the buyers rush to get in under the deadline.

We're keeping a close eye on the situation here at Builder Chicks and we'll keep you on top of the latest news as it comes out of Washington.

Housing Recovery in the Near Future?

Well, the Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Homebuilding Index seems to think so. So far just in the first two and a half months of 2010, the index has seen a 14 percent recovery. That's good news.

But housing sales fell in January so we're still getting mixed signals. What will happen when the first time homebuyer's incentive expires at the end of April? We just don't know yet. Some think the incentive will be extended but I have a sneaking feeling that it won't.

The unemployment rate has moderated some but not nearly enough to signal a real recovery. And don't forget that we have large areas of the nation who've seen substantial housing value declines.

I think we're on the downhill side of this recession but I'm also worried that dropping the first time home buyer's credit too soon may set us back a couple of steps.

Favorite Tool Manufacturer?

Are you a Makita girl? Or do you insist on Dewalt tools?

I'm a fan of different types of tools from different manufacturers. I usually choose Bosch for my pinners and staple guns but I like Dewalt for my nailers.

My airless spray gun is Porter-Cable and it's lasted a long time and given me a lot of good service. The only reciprocating saw I'll buy is Milwaukee . I have one of their nailers, too, but I prefer Dewalt's round-head 2-inch framer. And I use Dewalt for portable compressors but I admit that I have a large Craftsman  compressor in my shop.

Like everyone else, I have a shop full of miscellaneous power tools and hand tools. What are your favorite tool manufacturers? And not just power tools. If you have a favorite hand tool, let me know. I'm always ready to try out a new tool, especially if it comes highly recommended.

And remember, use safe building practices.