Search

Meek's Lumber & Hardware Blog

Your site for industry news and more!

Category

Industry News

Technology Is Bridging the Gap

Between the pre-plan stage and the final product, there are a lot of steps. Technology is helping to bridge the gap between design and construction to make the end result more efficient, cheaper, and better all around.

According to experts, using some semblance of digital tools on the job boosts productively 50-60% on average. Technology is allowing the contractor to have input earlier on in the process which cuts down on the time during the build.

Another tool that cuts down on waste is laser scanners. These can not only garner exact measurements, but also help to create 3D models of the projects for review. Combining these models with drone footage, the engineers, builders, and owners can all see a clear picture for the project as a whole.

We’re excited to see new innovations helping to make the job safer and better for all parties. What tech-based projects are you excited to see? Let us know in the comments below.

Advertisements

2017 Housing Market in Review

Last year, houses were selling fast. Combining the mass of millennials buying homes with the supply shortage made for an interesting season.

According to the National Association of Realtors, on average, homes spent an average of three weeks on the market. This is lower than ever before.

Their studies also found that first-time home buyers were fighting some strong currents. In most cases, sellers would receive multiple offers, investors would pay cash, and/or prices kept climbing. This kept a good portion of potential buyers out of homes.

As the younger would-be buyers pay off their student loan debt more and more each year, the influx of buyers will continue to increase at staggering rates. In the current climate, buyers will be looking for houses, leaving plenty of opportunity for new builds to meet the new demand.

This is where the contractors come in. The demand for houses is higher than it’s been for years, and experts don’t foresee a halt in sight.

Green Construction – Where does the contractor fit in?

We’ve written previously about the push for “green” or sustainable building and the rising trends. Many of you have asked, where does the contractor fit in?

While there is truth that the architect and the owner usually make the choice on how green a building is going to be and what (if any) LEED certification they’re going for, contractors play an important role too.

There are a few stops along the way that you have a major influence on. First, you know the product and how it works into the structure of a home. If you’re used to working with one brand and they develop a product that has less environmental impact, you’ll be able to suggest an alternative during the bidding stage of the project.

From there, you are likely going to be the person picking out and picking up the materials. You can talk with the store to see what options are available for your specific set of plans. When it comes to LEED certifications, every detail is essential. If a subcontractor picks up some material and the General Contractor cannot trace back where the product came from, the certification can be denied. In this case, you would have to resubmit the entire material’s package documenting that the proper products are being used.

Once on the job, there are many tools at your disposal for keeping your project green. For starters, you can swap out any old bulbs for LED systems. While yes, you may be slightly paying more for the initial bulb to start, they will last for years longer and lessen the project’s environmental effects.

If you’re building a new home with solar, you can install that first and run that power on the job. This works as a test of the system and saves on-the-job costs.

Whether you’re building a house from the ground-up or repairing a HVAC system, there are simple steps and adjustments you can make to please not only the environment, but the customer and the budget as well.

As we hear of new techniques to try, we’ll be sharing them here for anyone to test out! If you have some ideas, leave them in the comments below and let’s start a conversation!

Building Green Translates to More Green $$$?

Home sale prices are showing a trend when LEED standards are involved. With sustainability on the rise across the country, green-construction is leading to increased resale values.

According to the USGBC’s 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, green-construction as a whole is projected to go from $55 billion spent in 2015, to just under double that in 2018 at $100.4 billion.

As consumers are looking to lessen their carbon footprint, LEED custom-built homes are a foot above the rest. Looking at the market, younger buyers are looking for first-time sustainable homes. Obviously, the municipalities are shifting towards renewable energy sources as well to cover the rising demands.

With solar companies moving in, the build of a home will be changing to accommodate the energy influxes. Studies are finding that homes with pre-existing solar are selling 20% faster and for around 17% higher margins than homes without.

As cities throughout California and Nevada strive to reach net-zero energy in the coming years, sustainable building will become the new norm.

As we hear about new green building trends, we’ll share them here to keep you in the loop!

What Do You Need To Know About OSHA’s New Silica Rule?

Starting next Saturday, September 23, the new OSHA silica rules will be in full effect. Any contractor who does anything involving respirable crystalline silica, now is the time to comply.

If you (or any of your subcontractors) cut, grind, or blast concrete, stone, or brick, these new rules are just for you.

The initial silica standards were put in place in 1971 after forty years of questions and complaints. Now, these stricter standards are in place to lessen the amount of dust that workers inhale. It’s important to note, this not only applies to you the contractor, but to anyone working with or around these materials.

Many people are asking, “What’s the big deal?” and we’re here to answer that question. It’s imperative that we all make a change now. The particles are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. If someone were to inhale the dust, the repercussions could be lethal. From lung disease to lung cancer, kidney disease, or pulmonary disease, the negative possibilities clearly outweigh the extra paperwork.

The new limits have been reduced from 250 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms over the course of an eight hour day of work. The fines are steep too. The maximum fine for non-compliance is $12,675 for a violation, $12,675 per day for any failure-to-abate violations, and $126,749 for repeated violations.

On the employer side, there are initiatives in place to make everything safer for all parties.

In addition to the decreased exposure limits, there are also six things all contractors and General Contractors need to take care of.

First, firms must have a written exposure plan for any silica related instances. This plan could and should include wearing respirators, wetting work down.

Second, someone must be in charge of that plan.

Third, someone must be tasked with keeping up housekeeping items so silica dust is kept to a minimum. In this case, using tools like a wet saw or using a vacuum device to reduce the volume of dust would be fantastic.

Fourth, if an employee is exposed to silica and/or has to wear a respirator for 30+ days, employers have to provide medical exams. The exams include chest x-rays and lung-tests.

Fifth, all workers must be trained on how to limit exposure to silica.

Lastly, there must be a set of records on the overall exposure to silica and/or any related medical treatments.

So, whether you’re a one-person operation, or a fifty-person team, these standards are going to affect everyone. Keep an eye on any of the subcontractors you work with to make sure everyone is protected.

If you’re looking for more information, check out OSHA.gov or download this book to learn more on staying in compliance. This free document explains what an OSHA office will be looking for and why they might issue a citation.

If we hear anything else on these new standards, we’ll be sure to share it with you on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/MeeksWestern) or here on our blog at MeeksBlog.com.

OSHA Launched Recordkeeping App

OSHA Logo 11.14

In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the plan to release online injury and illness reporting tools. This would allow employers to submit their completed 2016 forms as mandated by the new electronic record keeping requirements. The deadline for the new mandates was pushed back from July 01 to December 01 to allow all employers a chance to review the provisions.

The online “Injury Tracking Application” or ITA can be accessed HERE, starting August 01. According to OSHA’s website, the data reporting process has four steps:

  1. Create an establishment.
  2. Add the 200A summary data.
  3. Submit data to OSHA.
  4. Review the confirmation email.

When it comes to submitting the data, users will have three options:

  1. Manually enter the data using the web form
  2. Upload a CSV file to processes one or more establishments at the same time
  3. Transmit data electronically through your existing automated recordkeeping systems

Of course, the OSHA ITA site also has a FAQ page to answer most questions you may have. For more information, visit www.OSHA.gov.

Technology Improvements Helping Homebuilding

At this year’s PCBC, change was a huge topic for discussion among the homebuilding industry. Looking at the market, there are a few pieces of the puzzle that technology is helping to put together.

construction-site-build-construction-work-159306

First, there will be technology will be involved in the process from start to finish. From apps on the builder’s phone to 3D printing, the possibilities are endless. Builders can now schedule appointments and job timelines from the palm of their hand. This increases time productivity.

Beyond that, with all of the camera technology on the market, buyers can now tour spaces from the web or event using virtual reality glasses. This helps to increase customization and ensures the space is exactly what the customer is looking for before the project is completed.

With 3D printing, computers can make live renderings of homes and make the sales step easier. If a customer can imagine their space in its entirety before you ever break ground, you’ll make the sale and save a lot of time in the long run.

With the limited land spacing available, finding a way to make a profit while also building a desirable and affordable home can be challenging. Today’s homebuilders are looking at these technology innovations as way to ease some of the stress. As we hear about other advances, we’ll be sure to share them with you all here!

Canadian Softwood Tariffs — Cause for Concern?

Washington is proposing a new tariff on Canadian lumber imports. While these conversations are nothing new, prices have already been increased close to 20% overall in anticipation of these new fees.

WoodHomeFrame2

Canadian softwood lumber makes up just under a third of the total lumber in the US. To have new tariffs introduced could have drastic implications for many both in Canada and across the country.

For Canada, the higher tariffs could cause infrastructure failure. As lumber mills have to increase their prices, their potential for business could decrease massively, causing job loss and in some cases could have irrevocable damage on the reputation of the company.

Within the United States, prices could increase across the board. It takes about 15,000 board feet of lumber for a new home. That said, the 20% increase on Canadian imports could add around $3,600 to the initial costs of building a new home.

WoodFrameHouse1

To combat this and keep the cost down, the US must looks elsewhere to meet the demand. First, there would need to be an increase in domestic lumber production. This would result in additional deforestation and could have permanent damage on the planet’s ecosystem.

Another option is looking at other countries the US partners with. On one end, domestic producers will have to stop selling to international companies. To subsidize what is obtained through Canada, mills have been selling to other countries at a competitive rate. The focus would have to reign in to meet the needs of American projects first, before going oversees to sell.

On the flipside of that, the US could talk with other governments to see if they can work something out regarding the necessary lumber. Whether this involves lower tariffs for imports or exports, the price cuts would have to be shared on both sides to be beneficial.

Depending on the severity of the shortage and/or the increased prices due to tariffs, the US could risk losing affordable housing for home buyers. There is a lot of uncertainty in the market, but we hope to hear more from Washington on this soon.

Whether or not the new tariffs are agreed on, done away with completely, or something else entirely, only time will tell. Continue to check out MeeksBlog.com for any updates.

Affordable Housing — Smaller is Better?

By now you’ve all seen or heard something about “tiny houses.” Some states are tackling their housing shortages by going small.

Oregon is working on passing legislation specifically related to tiny houses, built on site or prefabricated, that are 400 square feet or less. These laws aim to cut back on the affordable housing shortages seen across the state.

Rather than having just anyone build a tiny home, the laws aim to help the builder and the homeowner. These homes would follow building codes, but these would be tweaked to fit the smaller, more narrow spaces and lower ceilings.

If passed, we could see something similar roll through California and Nevada in no time. We’ll keep you posted on any new developments in Oregon or closer to home here.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑