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6 New Year's resolutions for construction managers

It’s a brand new year and time to take inventory of your goals for 2016. Construction managers have huge responsibilities, so it can’t hurt to reevaluate and, if necessary, set some new strategies in order to rev up your results for the coming year.

1. Commit to safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ramped up its enforcement, as well as its rhetoric, regarding jobsite safety last year, and 2016 promises to bring more of the same. The agency is focused on all aspects of jobsite safety, particularly issues of fall protection. OSHA doled out major fines last year, including $85,000 to a New York contractor for fall protection violations resulting in a worker's death, $105,000 to a North Dakota contractor for violations related to a serious worker injury, and $264,000 to an Illinois contractor for a series of fall protection violations.

But it’s not just OSHA who has demonstrated a low tolerance for unsafe working conditions. Just last month, construction workers in New York City marched to protest unsafe working conditions after a New York Times investigation revealed a higher-than-average number of worker deaths resulting from the city’s construction boom, with immigrant workers accounting for a disproportionately high percentage of the incidents.

So now’s the time to make sure your safety bases are covered by holding daily meetings, posting OSHA forms and notices in the correct places, and making sure you provide your employees with the correct safety training and equipment.

If safer working conditions aren’t enough motivation, be sure to consider the fact that OSHA will likely raise its fines an estimated 80% by August of this year.

2. Accept technology as your friend

From building information modeling to drones to mobile apps, the industry’s technology front has burst wide open. Try to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of your workday by experimenting with some new technologies. 

Gaming technology is pulling BIM closer to a virtual world once confined to the Hollywood screen. Industry standard BIM products like Autodesk’s Revit and 3ds Max are getting a boost from gaming engines to provide the truest picture yet of what a finished building will look like, even allowing instantaneous design changes along the way.

And while there are still issues of regulation and registration to be worked out, drones  like those produced by Skycatch  are changing the way construction companies collect and process project data.

For a more inexpensive entry into the realm of construction technology, look to mobile apps. Just a few examples include PlanGrid, which can keep your project plans and drawings organized, and e-Builder, which can help manage an entire project. Prezi lets you take your presentations on the road, while you can collaborate and share documents and information with Bluebeam.

3. Be a DBE mentor

There is a shortage of qualified, disadvantaged business enterprises in the construction industry, particularly on the federally funded projects that require a certain percentage of minority firms.

Construction managers often encounter minority-owned firms that haven’t been through the lengthy and sometimes overwhelming certification process. You can offer to help with the mountain of paperwork certification requires, or help them find someone who can. Once certified, be available to answer questions, give advice and arrange an occasional sit-down at lunch to discuss issues on your project or any others they might be working on.

However, building a solid relationship with DBEs doesn’t have to be 100% philanthropic. The more quality minority firms you have access to, the fewer problems you’ll have meeting future DBE requirements.

4. Explore the green side of construction

Construction managers have varying degrees of design decision-making power. If you’re running the show as a design-build contractor, why not suggest a feature like a green roof or solar power? There are tax credits available for both of these green options, and they have a significant impact on maintenance costs as well as the environment. And if you can swing it, why not shoot for a net-zero building, one that produces as much energy as it consumes? Tesla made news last year when it announced its battery "gigafactory" in Reno, NV, will be a net-zero energy facility and will have carbon neutral operations.

If those big moves are out of reach, consider green alternatives to products or materials you’ll use anyway. There’s the Sloan hybrid urinal, which uses only 120 gallons of water a year. In addition, Honeywell has a new foam insulation liquid blowing agent that reduces contributions to global warming, yet increases foam yield, compressive strength and R-value. Another product that does not use harmful refrigerants is the Sanden CO2 Heat Pump Water Heater.

5. Embrace self-promotion and new marketing tactics

Competition in construction grows every day, so make 2016 the year you take your marketing efforts to a new level. And it’s OK to think outside the box.

Caterpillar scored big in 2015 with its Dozer Pride video created in connection with the launch of its new Cat D6N bulldozer. However, while Caterpillar has the resources to do all kinds of innovative marketing, top social media marketing tools like Twitter and Facebook cost nothing. Set up accounts with both of these giant outlets to keep your customers up to date with company news and to communicate with potential customers and employees.

If you have a website  which you should have, of course — practice a little inbound marketing and fill it with free and useful information. This will improve your search engine rankings and help establish your company’s expertise.

6. Explore new markets

Most construction companies have their niches  hotels, residential, shopping centers, office buildings, power plants. If it can be built, there’s a construction company that specializes in it. So why not explore a hot, new niche this year?

If you’re a residential builder, solar standard communities  where houses come already equipped with solar power  are expected to grow in popularity. There is also untapped potential in the tiny house movement. Home prices are soaring, and these small alternatives offer buyers many of the amenities of larger homes without the costs.

Special needs housing is also a niche worth looking into, as well as the aging-in-place movement. Both of these specialties involve modifications that make it possible for everyone to be as comfortable as possible in their own home for as long as they can.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 5.5 million older households include someone with mobility difficulty, yet they have not made accessibility modifications, such as no-step entryways and ramps. The study found that there is at least a $13 billion opportunity for the remodeling industry just by installing these features alone. This doesn’t include items like grab bars, personal alarm systems or no-skid tile.


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