Subcontractor Challenges by Construction Dive

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Construction Dive wrote an in-depth article about the major challenges that subcontractors deal with on the construction site.  

Most construction projects use subcontractors for specialty work.  Why would a general contractor (GC) self-perform a specialty such as fire protection when they don't have the code knowledge, design experience, or skill set necessary?  They hire a subcontractor to complete that work.  However, when GC's hire a subcontractor, they are passing along a burden to the subcontractor.  

Related:  Case Study - Air Handling Unit Retrofit

Oftentimes, the subcontractor needs to take responsibility for the scheduling of the project and fronting the money needed to complete the project.  In some cases, subcontractors need to front millions of dollars for a project and coordinate the scheduling with other subcontractors on the project.

According to Construction Dive, subcontractors have 4 major challenges.

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1.  Cash Flow

GC's often rely on subcontractors to front the money for materials and payroll with a "pay when paid" policy.  This puts extra strain on subcontractors, especially those without adequate cash flow.

2.  Scheduling

Subcontractors are responsible for coordinating with the other groups on a job site.  Working with other subcontractors and coordinating the schedule can be challenging when each contractor's priority is getting their own portion of the job complete. 

3.  Communication

Communication between the owner, GC, and subcontractors is difficult.  Each group's main objective is the same.  Finish the project perfectly and on time.  However, outside factors like labor shortages and scheduling mishaps provide a need for crucial conversations.

Related:  Streamlining Processes for the General Contractor

4.  Labor Shortage

The labor shortage has been an issue for years now.  Contractors are starting to turn jobs down because they don't have a means to adequately staff the job.  It is better to not take a job then to take one you can't complete well.  The reputation tarnish of a job turned bad is not worth it.  

5 Odd Artifacts Found at Construction Sites

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It's always fun to look at the strange things that are dug up at construction sites.  Things could be buried for centuries to be found at a parking garage construction site.  Let's take a look at the strangest things found recently.

1.  During Chinese Road construction, a 700-year-old mummy was found. 

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In 2011, a mummified woman was found during road construction.  She was incredibly well-preserved, dressed in silk, her hair and eyebrows were still intact.  Amazingly, she was 700 years old.

2.  A medieval hospital was found in Madrid at an Apple store. 

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In the 1850s, the bubonic plague was going strong in Europe.  Many hospitals got overwhelmed and had to be abandoned.  In 2013, the rubble of a bubonic hospital was found where an Apple store was being constructed.  It was determined that the hospital dated back to the 15th century.

3.  Pablo Escobar's Secret Safe at Home Construction

The government seized Pablo Escobar's Florida house twenty-nine years ago.  A new owner bought the house and began construction.  During the excavation process, they found Escobar's safe.  The government didn't release the contents though.

4.  Triceratops Fossil Found at Construction Site


During construction of a new fire and police station, in July of 2017, a triceratops skeleton was found.  The construction crew called the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and on August 28, 2017, the curator confirmed that it was a triceratops. 

5.  1700's Cemetery



A man from New Orleans was digging a backyard pool when he discovered a buried cemetery.  The cemetery dated back to 1700 with 13 caskets with human remains.  Nearby, in 1984, 36 corpses were found while excavating an apartment complex.


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Researchers Find that Adding Cigarette Butts to Asphalt Reduces Heat Island Effect and Pollution {via Construction Junkie}

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Asphalt is a very popular pavement material.  So popular that researchers are constantly trying to improve it.  

Recently, they have tested salt-releasing pavement for de-icing, crack healing additives, and asphalt strengthening additives from recycled materials.  Most recently, they have tested adding cigarette butts.

Adding cigarette butts to asphalt is multi-beneficial.  One, it reduces landfill waste; and two, it reduces the heat island effect of pavement.  Researchers encased the cigarette butts in paraffin wax.

The urban heat island (UHI) effect is when it is hotter in an urban area, partially due to the dark asphalt adsorbing solar radiation.  UHIs reduce rainfall, decreases air quality, and decreases water quality. 

The need for reduced temperature of asphalt became news recently when L.A. decided to paint their asphalt a lighter color to reduce the heat.  By adding cigarette butts to the asphalt, it would reduce the bulk density and increase the porosity of the bitumen, reducing the asphalt temperature.  


Lansing Community College noted that 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered annually, of that number, 80% get to waterways.  This causes pollution in drinking water and hurts wildlife.

What construction material would you like improved?  Let us know in the comments.


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WWII Bomb Found During Construction, German Prison Evacuated

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Regensburg, Germany -- A World War II era bomb was recently unearthed during excavation work at a Germany construction site in Regensburg.  Regensburg is a city with a 140,000 population and home to a prison.

Construction in this area has unearthed undetonated munitions throughout the area.  The bomb was found during a construction project a few yards from Regensburg prison.  The prison is home to 109 inmates.

Authorities were forced to organize a large-scale evacuation of the area, including of the inmates and the prison.  Approximately 1,500 local residents were evacuated while the bomb was diffused.  Specialists defused one bomb and had two controlled explosions of bombs found with still-intact detonators.

Bombs and other munition is found throughout Germany during construction excavation.  Since the beginning of 2017, five bombs have already been found in the area.

About ten minutes from the site, another bomb was found near a kindergarten.  The bomb was a 250 lbs American pilot bomb.  It was safety defused.

"There are bombs everywhere.  This is nothing unusual in Germany," said Biopark Physicist Dr. Robert Mertzig.

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Construction Site Housekeeping: Spotlight on Safety

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Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

 “A clean jobsite is a safe jobsite!”

Construction site cleanup is an integral step to jobsite safety.  Clutter and debris can cause serious injuries and may even ignite a fire.   Construction site cleanup is not only in the best interest of the site crew, it is also a requirement of OSHA. 

An often tragic result of a housekeeping failure is the disposal of rags soaked in a flammable liquid.  This resulted in a major fire when a building was undergoing a renovation and a pile of varnish soaked rags were disposed of in a corner.  The rags ignited spontaneously and spread throughout the room.  This facility did have working fire sprinklers that activated, containing the fire to the room of ignition.  Although this facility had fire sprinklers, lessening the damage to the structure, the fire would have never ignited if not for the lack of housekeeping.  Fires can also happen during construction from welding or using tools that can cause a spark around flammable liquids or dust clouds.

Good housekeeping has many benefits beyond fire hazard safety.  According to OSHA, cluttered working conditions are distracting, unsafe, and unsanitary.  The continuous effort to keep a tidy jobsite improves morale, encourages good work habits, saves time, and promotes safety.


Here are some tips for keeping an organized work area:

Separate scrap from usable material, and store the scrap pieces in a tidy pile.

Clean up as you go, waiting until the end of the week allows the hazards to pile up.

Assign chores each day.  Give two people the job of disposing of litter, one person the job of organizing tools, one person the job of disposing of flammable rags, etc.

Send extraneous supplies back to the supply yard ASAP.

Keep all work areas and passageways clear of scraps, protruding nails, wires, buckets, extension cords, tools, and other hazards.

If you see a hazard, clean it or alert a supervisor of the hazard.  Don’t wait until someone gets hurt.

Follow these simple steps to provide safer working conditions for all construction site personnel.  

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10 Construction Apps That Will Make Life in the Field Easier

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The construction industry is fast-paced.  At any time, a contractor can get a call that something needs worked on immediately.  In fact, in May of 2015, we got a call that a transformer caught fire.  The fire sprinklers activated and extinguished the fire, but the transformer was unusable, causing a forced outage.  We needed to get to the site the next day and a new fire protection design needed to be drawn to meet the new transformer’s needs.  Apps like Notevault, FieldWire, and AutoCAD 360 helped the field team and design department work together seamlessly to install the new fire sprinkler and stay updated on design changes. 


1)     Viewpoint for Mobile


Cost:  Need to Purchase Software

Viewpoint is a great way to track time and productivity.  Construction professionals can organize the app by job site and code.  They can track their time for each job as well as take photos for job site progress and tag the photos with dates, location, and job code.

2)     Hours Tracker App


Cost:  Free

Hours Tracker is a nice, simple app for tracking time on the job.  It is the number one downloaded time keeping app with 500,000 downloads and a 4.1/5 rating.  Hours tracker allows you to track multiple jobs, manually clock in and out or set up geo-fencing that will automatically clock you in and out based on your location.  Added benefits are the ability to take notes and the app will calculate how much you will be getting paid for the job.

3)     Notevault


Cost:  $29-$99 a month

Notevault allows you to track labor and log hours, determine equipment used, and track materials.  Subcontractors can send information to the contractor straight from their phone.  It’s easy – at a job site, you speak your notes into the app and Notevault’s staff transcribes your notes and sends a morning report each day. 

4)     Handyman Calculator


Cost:  Free

This app was listed in This Old House Top 100 and the Top 100 Productivity apps.  It includes applications for time tracking, cut list calculator, and construction calculators for any calculation you might need.  Read the full list of calculators here.

5)     Fieldwire


Cost:  Free for up to 10 users, 5 projects; $29+/month for more.

Fieldwire is the top downloaded construction management app with 50,000+ downloads.  It connects the field team with project managers, subcontractors, and foreman.  Each person can view drawings, carry punch lists, and schedule tasks while sharing it with each member of the team.  Fieldwire has several apps to help the construction team:  drawing & blueprint; lean construction scheduling; and building inspection & punch list. 

6)     Evernote


Cost:  Free

Evernote allows you to make a note and add text, store documents, files, videos, and photos.  Notes can be seen on any device – phone,

 computer, or tablet – so you never are without the information that you need.

7)     Construction Manager

Cost:  Free, in-app purchases available.

Voted as one of the top construction apps in 2015, a half million people have downloaded this app to help them with transferring maintenance logs, daily reports, project estimates, and time sheets between company headquarters and construction sites.

8)     Build Calc

Cost:  $24.99

This app allows you to design layouts, estimate materials, and calculate conversions.  This calculator app has a 4.6/5 rating on the Google Play Store.  The app was developed over 9 months working with construction pros to find out their needs and having them test the functionality in the field.

9)     AutoCAD 360


Cost:  Free with an AutoCAD software code.

When you use AutoCAD, this app will allow you to draft, edit and add mark ups through your smart phone.  While at the job site, you can pull up the most recent plans and edit or re-draw.  Offline changes will sync once your phone goes back online.  In addition, it will connect to cloud storage for accessibility from any device.

10) USD ConstructionSuite


Cost:  Depends on Size

This app has over 100,000 active users.  Construction professionals can manage applications, estimating, job costs, project management, scheduling, and document management.  All of this information can then be shared to other members of the team for easy coordination.

No matter the trade, construction apps make life easier.  With the ability to track hours, take notes, calculate materials, and share information from the field to the office, construction apps are not only a benefit, but a necessity in the industry.

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