The More You Know

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!

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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!

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Get Your Home Ready For The Chill

ME 2016 Snow Pics (2)

As the year is winding down, there are a few seasonal home maintenance to-do’s to think of.

First, take some time to clean your garbage disposal, sink aerators, air filters, and washer water filter before your holiday guests arrive.

Next, fix your squeaky door hinges before the winter swell sets in. You’ll also want to check your window seals to keep the heat in. Take a look at your shower and bathtub caulking. If water can get in, mold can grow in those gaps.

If you have a fireplace, have it cleaned before winter sets in. Also, do a quick roof inspection for leaks too.

Lastly, check your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors and refill your first aid kits. If your home is prepared for winter, you will be too!

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Understanding Insulation and R-Value

Insulation is typically something you only think about when you’re either putting it into a home or tearing it out. Did you know that you can add to the R-value of your insulation,
without starting over?

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R-value is the resistance of heat transfer through the insulation, so the higher the R-value, the less heat is lost. The more heat you can keep in during the winter, and the more heat you can keep out in the summer, the lower your utility bills should be.

When you’re looking to add insulation, the best place to start is your attic. This is where you get the most bang for your buck. If you were to upgrade your insulation from three inches to twelve inches, you could save 20% in the winter and 10% in the summer months on your heating and air bills.

To measure your existing R-value, all you’ll need is a tape measure, a pen and something to write on. Place the tape measure down and touch the ceiling board to get the height. For fiberglass and cellulose insulation, once you have that number in inches, multiply it by 3.5 to get your R-value.

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Depending on where you live, your recommended R-value  will differ. If it’s a colder climate, you’ll want to have a higher R-value for your home. To find out what your R-value should be, visit http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/.

For more information on R-value and other technical information, visit the U.S.
Department of Energy’s website at https://energy.gov/energysaver/insulation.

At Meek’s, we both sell and install Johns Manville Batt, Blow-In, and Blow-In Blanket insulation. Whether you’re looking to do it yourself or have it done for you, we’re here to help! Just ask your local store for more info.

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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.

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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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Fix It Now to Save Money Later

When it comes to your home, it is better to take care of the small things before they become major problems for you and your budget.

VA Gary_Bushes Trimmed (2)

The first place you want to check is your greenery outside. Overgrown planting can eat away at your home’s foundation and exterior walls through mold and rot. Plus, roots can make their way into your main lines and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage in just a few weeks’ time. To combat this, trim your shrubs regularly. If it is a continuous problem, you might consider removing these problematic plants and replacing them with dwarf varieties planted at least three feet from the foundation.

04.15 Deck3

Next, inspect your deck. Soft boards could be a sign of rot and could lead to a full deck collapse. Take a walk around your deck with a flathead screwdriver. A good rule of thumb is if you can insert it more than ¼” or if the wood feels spongy, you are likely dealing with a decaying deck. While you’re at it, check the rails and make sure there isn’t any wiggle. Replace any damaged boards, using new screws and leaving a gap for proper drainage between boards. This one should go without saying, but just in case you live in a heavily treed area, check your tree branches. In a storm, the wind could send large branches crashing down onto your roof, cars, or even loved ones. Trim the tree and while you’re on the ladder, check your gutters.

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Beyond the leaves and debris, make sure your gutter is clear and flush to the house. If it is clogged or tilted, water could be sent down the sides of your home. This can lead to rot in your siding, mold inside the wall cavities, and possibly frame damage.

These smaller problems like cracked rails, overgrown grass, cracking grout, etc., can make for some pricey repairs down the line. If you’ve got a project, but aren’t sure where to start, stop in and let us help!

 

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Get Your Home Ready For The Chill

03.2016 TAMKO Roofing Image2

As the year is winding down, there are a few home maintenance to-do’s you should have on your list.

First, take some time to clean your garbage disposal, sink aerators, and washer water filter before your holiday guests arrive.09.15 Sink

Next, fix your squeaky door hinges before the winter swell sets in. You’ll also want to check your window seals to keep the heat in, as well as your shower and bathtub caulking to make sure no water can get in and no mold can grow.

If you have a fireplace, have it cleaned before winter sets in. Also, do a quick roof inspection for leaks too.

Lastly, check your smoke & carbon monoxide detectors and refill your first aid kits. If your home is prepared for winter, you will be too!

 

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Keep Your Team Safe This Winter

The weather this autumn season has been brutal and we’re heading into winter in just a few weeks. Combine the extreme cold with rain or snow and there’s bound to be some problems on the jobsite. There are a few things you can do to protect your crew both on the job and off.

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For starters, make sure your team is dressed for the weather. Anyone outside should have access to a coat, gloves, hats, etc. to keep their core warm as the temperature drops.

If it’s particularly cold out, be sure you take extra time to inspect the jobsite each morning. Check for icy areas, hanging icicles, frosted tools, and more. The more cautious you are, the less likely you are to have an accident later.

Keep all paths clear and sanded to keep your team from slipping. If there’s snow on the ground, while it might be convenient to shovel it to the sides, be careful not to pile it to high. This can obstruct sight from one jobsite to another or serve as a tripping hazard if placed too close to the walkways.

Portable heaters are another great option when used properly. Make sure your heater is placed on an unobstructed fire-resistant surface with plenty of free space on all sides. If you’ve got gas for a tool, it is probably not the best plan to place that right by the heater.

if you take these proactive steps early, you can continue building and keep your team safe all season long!

 

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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.

05.15 CADrought
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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