Industry News

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.

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Construction Trends to Watch in 2017

We’re almost half of the way through the year and now that the sun has finally come out, everyone’s back to building!

With five months behind us, we can see that the industry is booming with business. Now that everything is starting to dry out, we’ve seen a few indicators of what’s to come in the meantime.

First, there are only so many bodies in the market. Many contractors and union workers are seeing a labor shortage. After the bust, many people had to find different career paths. That said, there is huge potential with the younger generation. With on-the-job training, and in some cases, technical schooling, younger people can learn from the experts and start a career right away.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is the tiny house movement. These smaller homes, paired with other modular builds, are growing in popularity. On the homeowner’s side, these are less expensive due to lower material costs and shortened build times. On the builder’s side, these homes can be built quicker and safer because most work can be done inside and supervised throughout the process.

Across the board, experts are pontificating cross-work is going to rise throughout the remainder of the year. Teams of people can get jobs done quicker and more efficiently overall which benefits both sides.

That said, we’re seeing the cost of raw materials increase. Once the trees dry out, we should have a better picture of what quality and quantity of materials we will be able to get and pass along to you.

As always, technology has some fun things in store for us in 2017. Between Virtual Reality applications, drone capabilities, and bluetooth tools, this year will have all job types covered. Most tool companies are working on power tools that will do more, with less charge and more battery power. Beyond that, gone are the days of having your tools stolen. Many are including bluetooth function in their tools and batteries so you can track battery levels, performance, and of course, location.

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OSHA’s New Silica Standards

As you know OSHA is always working to keep workers as safe as possible. Recently, OSHA issued two new rules to protect you from exposed respirable crystalline silica.

So what exactly is that and how does it affect you? If you ever use drills, grinders or jackhammers, chip things by hand, or operate heavy demolition equipment, chances are, you’ve been exposed to the chemical dust. Estimates show that about two million construction workers are exposed to silica.

Under the new standards, any process that exceeds the permissible exposure limit (PEL) must be adapted to lower the level of exposure. For example, if you’re using a handheld power saw on any affected materials, you have to swap to a system that feeds water continuously to the blade.

If you’re looking to cut siding, but you don’t want to use a water saw, you might want to look into the Bullet Tools SharpShooter. It is perfect for cutting siding because not only does it not need electricity, it is dust free! Forget masks, messy cleanups, or exposure to silica.

While many jobs are affected, it is important to note that if you’re pouring concrete or removing concrete formwork, you’re only exposed to low levels.

To find out more on the exact PELs and how to measure them, learn more about what equipment is affected and the required protection factors, and/ or to find out additional information, please visit http://www.osha.gov/silica.

 

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Understanding the FAA’s Stance on Drones

 

droneIn 2016 we saw the use of drones grow substantially throughout our industry. In turn, we also saw the growth of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulations on the use of commercial and recreational drones. We’re here to clear up a few questions we’ve heard from our customers.

Initially, the FAA had over 3,300 drone pilots sign up for their testing slots. The number of licensed private pilots is 171,000. The FAA is expecting the number of licensed drone operators to grow beyond that in 2017. Keep in mind, if you’re flying a drone for fun, you do not have to apply for an operator’s license, but you still have to follow the FAA safety guidelines. To find out more on the “Fly for Fun” guidelines, please visit https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_fun/.

When the rules were first put into place, drones could be used on a case-by-case basis for commercial jobs. No longer is this the case. Now, rather than seeking the FAA’s permission each time, there are formal guidelines in place for all flights.

02.2016 DroneThe newest rules put in place require drones to:

  • Weigh under 55 pounds (including weight of packages)
  • Have anti-collision lights
  • Fly under 400 feet
  • Fly slower than 100mph

Drone operators must:

  • Perform safety checks before each flight
  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Pass a written aeronautical knowledge test every two years at an FAA-approved facility
  • Pass a background check

Within the construction industry, a lot of exemptions were made for FAA-approved drone flights. In total, close to 40% of the exemptions made in 2016 were related to construction and infrastructure industries.

Builders, real estate agents, surveyors, and more are looking to cut costs and increase property knowledge by taking to the sky. So long as you follow the rules, flights can be both safe and successful.

Still to come are rules on keeping the drone in your line of sight during use and flyover statutes. As we hear more on these regulations, we’ll be sure to share them with you here. For more information on the FAA’s drone guidelines, visit https://www.faa.gov/uas/.

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Technology on the Jobsite is Here to Stay

phoneTechnology is becoming an increasingly integral part of the daily-tasks on the jobsite. While new programs and equipment typically leads to higher productivity, there is an adjustment period.

It’s important to remember that you’re going to have some pushback from the more traditional contractors. This is normal, but once the programs or solutions are proven, these team members will likely be more willing to adopt the features. When you’re introducing something new to the mix, stress how exactly it will help your team and take it from there.

One key option to test out is swapping from paper to e-copies. Rather than lugging around a box of blueprints, you can have a phone or tablet with all of your files on it. This not only allows you to easy zoom in and out of plans, but allows you to share notes with the other builders instantly. Not only will you save on printing costs, but your time between revisions and ultimately, your entire job should pass quicker with just a single switch of materials.

With all of this, it is also key that you train all team members and sub-contractors on your processes. Once everyone is on the same page, they are able to communicate efficiently and get the job done faster and with less waste.

Share some of your favorite construction technology finds below!

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Home Values Increase While Inventory Decreases

Home values were at an all-decade high across the nation in 2016, closing out the year up 6.8% over 2015.

There is a significant challenge buyers and builders are facing in 2017 due to the limited housing stock available. According to the National Association of Realtors, eight in ten areas in the country lack enough single-family housing for the increasing demand.

This translates to a larger need for new construction across the state, specifically targeted at first time home buyers. Also, for builders, many current home owners will be choosing renovation over repurchasing. According to Houzz’s forecast for the year, 10-12% of homeowners will look into redesigning some portion of their home in the coming year.

Ultimately, we’ve got the supplies you need, but owners should make sure they have enough labor to cover the jobs to come later in the spring and summer.

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Specialty Contractor Work On The Rise

construction-site-build-construction-work-159306The revenue of specialty contractors has been on the rise for the past few years, jumping almost 10% in 2016. Experts are predicting another great year of growth for contractors in new construction specifically. With so many jobs in the market, large business owners are relying heavily on field experts. This is where the bank of specialty contractors comes into play.

By examining reports for the nation’s market, signs point to success in the western United States. As California and Nevada continue to focus on lower energy and more renewable sources, electrical and utility contractors are in high demand.

Focus on being selective in the jobs you are taking and align yourself with a good base of contractors in other fields. Together you can tackle any job that comes your way.

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Manage Your Credit Account Online

billtrust

Did you know that all M-Pro Platinum credit account members have access to their statements online? Members are able to view,  download and print invoices and statements from a computer or a cell phone.

From the BillTrust Page, you are able to make a payment, receive online confirmation about payments, and view the online payment history. So if it’s the middle of the month and you are wondering if you’ve paid your bill, within a few clicks you’ll have your answer!

Through the site, you’re also able to set up different notifications to alert you about your bill.

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Furthermore, you can also add and manage additional users for your company.

Whether you’re the bookkeeper or the owner, you have your account information at your fingertips 24/7.

To access your account, visit http://meeks.billtrust.com.

 

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How to Avoid Higher OSHA Fines

OSHA Logo 11.14

Starting August 1, 2016, OSHA penalties are increased 80%. Couple that with the more stringent inspection processes, an OSHA fine today could cripple a company.

Previously, serious violations would result in a $7,000 penalty and for repeat offenders, $70,000. Now, the fines could result in $12,600 and $126,000 penalties respectively. Most small to medium sized businesses don’t work an additional $10,000+ into their job budgets. So what can you do to avoid these fines?

First, study up on the rules and make sure everyone on your team knows the processes to follow.

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Second, encourage your employees to point out potential violations and offer rewards for safety.

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Third, research mobile apps that can help with safety, inspections, paperwork, practices and more. If employees can keep track of the rules from the palm of their hand, they can
constantly be compliant.

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Finally, get ready for inspections early. You can find checklists on the OSHA website and go through each item and make sure you’re in the clear. By educating employees and keeping a close eye on everything, both on the jobsite and off, you can avoid the fines and save yourself a lot of money in the long run.

 

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Water Usage Enforcement Changes

Last year’s fire season was the worst on record with over 10.1 million acres burned nationwide. Now that summer has winded down and we’re heading into fall, we’re feeling the effects of the drought.

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While statewide bans have been lifted, most counties are launching their own restrictions leading into 2017. Most will face stricter water usage monitoring and harsher enforcement.
There are a few things that will be banned once the new legislation goes into effect. Going forward, you can be fined for washing cars or equipment without having a shutoff nozzle or hosing down sidewalks and driveways. When you are on the job, make sure you’re keeping an eye on your water usage. For more information on the regulations in effect in your area visit www.NIDwater.com or www.Waterboards/ca.gov.

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