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Curtice R. Midkiff

Home exterior finish trends of 2017

After a series of tech-centered articles, let's take a dive into different waters. Today I want to play urban fashion police, and talk about what's in to put on your house this year. Even such a heavy-duty industry as construction has its subtle and delicate sides, and exterior finishes are one of those. It's an important topic as well, because it directly influences the environment around us. What we're working with, what we're looking at, what we're living in, and how ecologically, economically and aesthetically beneficial it is.

Exterior Finish Trends 2017

Aesthetics

The trends in construction design aren't moving as fast as in other areas of fashion, that's why the current trend of mixing the traditional with the new will be continuing this year as well. Highly modern shapes and materials in what seems to be a contrast, but is really more of a completion, is what's cool to do on a building these days. Thankfully, architecture is flexible and it evolves hand in hand with the tastes and needs of modern urban and suburban folk.

Combining multiple textures, aligning the accent colors on the final touches with the trim colors and the applied siding materials should all strive for diversity, while maintaining a connecting line in order to create an exciting yet clean exterior of a home.

Colors

The color palette of this year's buildings is expected to mostly remain reserved and traditional. Unfortunately, purple and bright green are still not the colors of the year.

“Trending siding colors for 2017 include neutral beiges and tans, gray/blue tones, and red and brown brick. Traditional wood shakes and shingles are also predicted to be quite popular.
Accent colors for 2017 include black lacquer, deep blues, red and brown.” — Allura

White is also making its way back onto the list, with a very pleasant and mild white-on-white palette, combining beige tinged white, soft clean white, cream off-white or yellow white. The white combination offers excellent opportunity for contrasting accent colors, that give a traditionally-colored house a pleasant and modern touch.

Materials

My favorite part every year are the materials. It's exciting to watch what new designs and combinations pop up.

This year, thehousedesigners.com report the following trends:

  • Stone (natural as well as artificial)
  • Vinyl (clapboard panels, half-round shingles, and rectangular cedar shingles)
  • Fiber cement (stucco, wood clapboards, and cedar shingles)
  • Western red cedar (bevel siding, tongue & groove, lap siding, and board & batten)

Sustainability

The one thing that — hopefully! — never goes out of fashion in the whole construction and architectural industry is eco-friendliness and sustainability. The use of natural materials, ecologically approved paints, waste reduction and processing, using biomass for heating and installing solar panels on the roof will always be the most fashionable way to build or re-build your home.


Curtice R. Midkiff

Construction Events You Shouldn't Miss During The Whole Of 2017

Just like every year, even in 2017 there will be a great amount of various fairs, expos and trade shows spilled all over the U.S.  And it would be a shame to miss them all. That's why I'm bringing you a condensed construction event guide for the upcoming year. Made a pick? I'll be happy to hear all about your experience.

Construction Events 2017

April

Coverings

04 – 07 April 2017
Orlando

Coverings - The Ultimate Tile + Stone Experience. It's the largest tile and stone show in North America with 9 miles of the latest trends and exhibitors from over 40 countries.
http://www.coverings.com

No-Dig

09 – 13 April 2017
Washington

North American No-Dig Show - Trenchless Technology Exhibition and Congress, hosted by NASTT – North American Society for Trenchless Technology.
http://nodigshow.com





May

NHS – The National Hardware Show

09 – 11 May 2017
Las Vegas

At the 2017 National Hardware Show you will see thousands of exhibitors representing 15 major product categories. You can explore new products and vendors, find new ideas and discover new deals.
http://www.nationalhardwareshow.com

ECBC – East Coast Builder Conference

04 – 05 May 2017
Atlanta

ECBC... Where business is BUILT! The ECBC is a two-day conference and expo for residential builders. The East Coast region is one of the fastest growing residential construction markets in the U.S, so this is a place to be for every builder in the area.
http://ecbcshow.com

June

PCBC - Home Building's Premier Trade Show and Conference

28 – 29 June 2017
San Diego

Let's keep the sides balanced. Dedicated to advancing the art, science and business of housing, PCBC is the largest homebuilding tradeshow representing the West Coast region.
http://www.pcbc.com

Neo-Con

12 – 14 June 2017
Chicago

Since 1969 NeoCon continues to serve as the world's premier platform and most important event of the year for the commercial design industry. If you're around Chicago in that time, I highly recommend not to miss this opportunity.
http://www.neocon.com

July

Atlanta Int'l Home Market

12 – 15 July 2017
Atlanta

If we're talking about interior design, we're talking about Atlanta International Rug Market. Come to Atlanta to learn about the latest trends and newest designs, and indulge in the aura of art and design.
https://www.americasmart.com/markets/home

August

SUNBELT Builders Show

02 – 03 August 2017
Dallas

The Sunbelt Builders Show™ is one of the largest building industry events in North America and is owned and operated by the Texas Association of Builders. You'll get a chance to network with thousands of residential construction industry professionals from the United States, Canada and Mexico.
http://www.sunbeltbuildersshow.com

Houston Build Expo

16 – 17 August 2017
Houston

The Build Expo in Houston is one of the major events in the U.S. construction industry. Alongside the sister events in Dallas, Austin and Atlanta, the Houston build expo brings unique networking, educational and selling opportunities to construction companies nationwide.
http://buildexpousa.com

September

GlassBuild America

12 – 14 September 2017
Atlanta

Now in its 15th year, GlassBuild America is the gathering place for the entire glass, window and door industries in North America. Presented by the National Glass Association and the Window & Door Dealers Alliance along with many renowed show partners, it's the gathering place for everything glass.
http://www.glassbuildamerica.com

Construct

13 – 16 September 2017
Providence

This event is dedicated to the institutional, industrial and commercial building industry. If you design, build, specify, engineer, renovate or operate in the built environment, this is your event.
https://constructshow.com

October

ICUEE - The Demo Expo - International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition

03 – 05 October 2017
Louisville

ICUEE is the premier event for utility professionals and construction contractors to gain comprehensive insight into the latest technologies, innovations, insights, and trends affecting their industry.
http://www.icuee.com

JLC Live+ Deck Expo + Remodeling show

25 – 27 October 2017
Nashville

Remodeling Show | DeckExpo | JLC LIVE (R|D|J) is an annual trade-only residential construction mega-event that provides remodelers, deck builders, and other industry professionals with a vibrant exhibit hall filled with nearly 300 products and services from leading industry manufacturers, a strong educational conference program with business and job site training, and networking events every day of the event.
https://remodelingdeck.com/

November

Greenbuild

08 – 10 November 2017
Boston

Greenbuild is the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. The green building community gathers to share ideals and mutual passion at Greenbuild, sparking a contagious buzz throughout the week.
https://greenbuildexpo.com


Curtice R. Midkiff

Trump's Policies & Construction

Ever since January 20, not a single day passes without a giant headline announcing yet another move by POTUS 45. Many of these headlines have direct connection to the construction industry, whether we're talking affordable housing funds, oil pipelines, or The Wall. All these topics provoke a heavy, emotional reaction from all corners of the political and societal spectra, but let's try to take a step back for a second, and see the big picture.

Trump's Administration&Its Effects On The Construction Industry

Our fresh new President built his name on the grounds of real estate development. So what are the directions in which Donald Trump's policies are taking the American construction industry?

Labor shortage

One of the issues we're hearing about most loudly is immigration. The immigration bills coming from the Oval Office directly affect millions of lives of the U.S. citizens and residents, but they also have significant side effects on our country's economy. If President Trump continues pushing restrictions on immigration policies, it will put increasingly greater strain on what is already a labor shortage, resulting in increasing costs.

“A recent survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 69 percent of contractors have difficulty finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots.
A dwindling skilled labor pool has driven down unemployment among U.S. construction workers to a 10-year low in July 2016.”

It is true that millions of construction workers in the U.S. are undocumented. However, without a compromise, the ones who will pay the price are homebuyers. Not only will their homes end up being more expensive, but big delays are a risk as well.

Tax reform

It's a long time coming, but the talk is there. The “phenomenal” tax reform that is still more of a mystery than a fact, should, in theory, bring more free capital in the economy, resulting in more money for the construction industry as well. Better opportunities, greater contracts, tremendous profits.

Except there's no outline that would at least indicate some progress yet. The last tax reform of a size comparable to what the President promises us now dates all the way back to 1986, and the current system is based on legislation originating in even earlier years. Many experts believe that the American economy is in need of a reform. The question is, whether the White House really is up to the task to deliver on its promises.

Trade policies

This has become a very sensitive topic ever since President Trump's start in office. He is taking a very protectionist and autonomic approach, trying to “set America free” from the unfair rules of the World Trade Association. The self-centeredness that Trump communicates in his international trade policies is a real threat to the U.S. economy, construction sector included.

Lower tariffs for import and export of goods, openness towards foreign markets, respecting the multilateral worldwide trade agreements — all this is crucial for every businessman's success. Yes, America may be the richest economy in the world, but we would be fools to believe that we and we alone are the sources of our own wealth.

If Trump goes through with his ideas about the international market, we will all feel it in our wallets. The prices of material import and production will go up, and in combination with the aforementioned skilled labor shortage, this smells of something pretty unpleasant for everyone.

Infrastructure

In his February speech to Congress, the President of the United States promised that a $1 trillion infrastructure rebuilding plan would create “millions of new jobs.” That sounds like great news for the construction industry. Unfortunately, there are no deadlines or concrete dates supporting these claims. Regardless of the rhetoric, it seems as though much of the planning and work will spill over into the following years. Also, there's no information yet on who will get those jobs, as no companies have been listed yet; or even more importantly, where will the $1 trillion come from?

  

Donald Trump's start in the White House shows big promises, accompanied by unexpected twists and very interesting personnel choices. I can't help the feeling that we all, in the construction industry and otherwise, have a big, four-year-long rollercoaster ride ahead of ourselves — there will certainly be highs, but let's hope the lows won't be too brutal. I am watching the development with bated breath.


Curtice R. Midkiff

Millennial Construction: Virtual Building

Millennials are obsessed with technology!

Actually, we all are, at least a little bit. Most of the people I know have enjoyed a good game on their old console or PC still running Windows 95, are extra excited about any new gadget in the family, or really have a passion for something technological, from cars to smart kitchen appliances. Let’s face it and not blame it on the young ones.

Virtual Buildings

However, compared to their ancestors, the Millennials are definitely lucky in the sense that they have been born into an era of unprecedented technological development, which has a significant effect on their expectations from the world around them. The good old ways are not good enough, and all the industries need to adapt to the new trends in order to keep up with demands. 

It’s not a bad thing. I always say that the constant strive for improvement is the primary fuel of every successful company, and only through innovation can any industry can stay flexible, current, and ultimately, competitive. Which is something that the construction industry has been dealing with for quite a while. 

With imagination against establishment 

The architects and designers nowadays are speaking a completely different language than they used to twenty, thirty years ago, says Darrick Wade, an instructor and director of external programs at the Texas Tech University College of Architecture in an article for propertymanagementinsider.com. He describes how high-tech tools, and software that enable students to use their imagination, are creating an enormous difference in approach that goes far beyond the drafting table. 
“Sometimes the means for delivering the message is pretty far out there, which is testament to a generation that also is characterized as confident and open to change. Last semester, one student used gaming software to present an intricate office project to the class.”
We’re already starting to see the shift in modern architecture from functionality as a primary goal towards human-centered building and interior design, whether we’re talking about residential buildings, office spaces or public institutions. The connected generation is bringing a whole new perspective to the way our offices are designed; to the way we live, move and interact on the streets; even to the design process itself. 




A walk through a house in the cloud(s)




One of the greatest things that I have come across as I was researching this extensive topic is the use of virtual reality by builders and potential home buyers. 

When you’re buying a house, you want to make sure everything is according to your expectations. Until now, all we had were 2D blueprints or the more sophisticated 3D software-generated models. But imagine that you just put a special VR helmet on and it gives you a virtual tour through your future home, before even the first brick wall been laid down. No need for the client to stretch their imagination when deciding whether one type of flooring will be better than the other. Just pour the information into a software and it will create the house exactly as it will be. Not only does this save a great deal of money in case something doesn’t feel right up front, but honestly, I’d be super excited to see the final look up front. As anyone would, I’m sure. 




Let’s wait and see for the fresh winds that millennials designing and building for millennials will bring into architecture and construction. I’m definitely putting this on the top of my “to watch” list.

Curtice R. Midkiff

The Psychology of Building

Every now and then I allow myself to wander off into the unknown and fascinating world of theory of architecture, and it never disappoints. For me, architecture will always be one of the greatest forms of art, because it’s the one that we’re exposed to the most. But when I say architecture, I don’t mean just the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower or the Maya temples — I actually mean the very room and house you’re in right now. I mean the staircases and the master bedroom in your very own home. The long walkways in hospitals and the big halls in university buildings. That’s what I’m talking about here.

The Psychology of Construction

Architecture embraces literally everything we do. That’s quite logical, because we need a roof above our head and four walls to keep us safe from various external influences such as weather, noise, or even other people. Those are the very basics of what architecture provides. However, there’s much more to it than just that. 

Have you ever thought of the fact that buildings and interiors are often designed in a certain way for more than just the practical reasons? Sometimes public as well as residential spaces are being shaped specifically to make us feel in a certain way. This means that some constructions purposefully evoke a cognitive response in us while we’re in them. This extraordinary approach is getting lots of attention in academic research as well. 

For instance, BDC Network recently highlighted Vedran Dzebic,
"[a] PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo, [who] researches the complex relationships between how we think, feel, and behave in the built environment. Dzebic believes his research could become an important tool in the architect's toolbox. … Dzebic’s experiments involve everything from asking subjects questions about a space to physiological measurements, including eye-tracking and even brain-wave monitoring. His research looks at the way space affects our brains and bodies. This measurable data can and will change how we design.”
I'm sure you’ve noticed yourself how the countryside makes you act, react and feel about your surroundings differently than when you’re in the middle of a city. Or when you enter someone else’s living room or office and you feel at ease, while other living rooms and offices make you feel quite the opposite. That’s the cognitive response in practice. But can you explain why it happens the way it does? Is it the air? Is it the people? Is it the space? 
“Physical settings, just like cultures, have traditionally had the role of helping people to behave in a manner appropriate to the norms of their own group. A better understanding of this process should enable us to make greater use of this role that the environment possesses. Most often we are not even aware of this process of reading the cues provided by the environment, of understanding and decoding them.” — Dana Pop, “Space Perception and Its Implication in Architectural Design”, Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning
It is widely believed that geometry is the number one tool our brains use for perception, evaluation and validation of the world around us. But we people are also known for associating all our perceptions with certain emotions, conscious or not. If we could get closer to the understanding of the links between our perception of space and our cognitive and emotional responses to it, it could make an exceptional contribution to the way we design and build — our homes, our workplaces, our schools and hospitals, public spaces, leisure and catering facilities and so much more.

Curtice R. Midkiff

Are you a forum lurker?

I’ll admit it — forums are one of my favorite pastimes. Ever since the early stages of Internet people have been coming together on various websites, talking about things they love to strangers from all over the world, sharing knowledge and learning a great deal of new stuff.  Being a frequent and passionate forum lurker myself, I came up with the idea of giving you an overview of the best and biggest forums for builders and contractors out there, so that you can check them out and maybe put them to good use as new sources of information, inspiration or even jobs.

Online Forums for Builders & Contractors

A few words before you start 

The internet is a wonderful place that gives you almost any information you need in a split second. You can talk to anyone about anything, but it comes with a price. It can also become a hostile and dangerous place, so always make sure to adhere to basic internet security rules. Especially on forum,s some people tend to bash others, write provocative comments, or just be straight out rude and obnoxious. The majority of people will be friendly to you, but it’s good to be ready for those rotten apples in the lot. 

That being said, I’m sure that you’ll find forums a great thing, so sit back and have a look. 

Contractor Talk

You may have heard of this one before. It’s the biggest contractor forum out there, being part of a larger domain that offers many blogs, projects, product reviews and more. It’s also known for sticking hard to only providing solid information, which is greatly valued — and rewarded. For interactions on the forum, product reviews, and new member referrals you get points that can be redeemed for forum features or physical prizes. A neat way to get reward for your know-how. 

Be The Pro

Be The Pro is another big platform for contractors of all specializations that gives away prizes for engagement. It’s run by Bosch tools and you can win gear and power tools from Bosch and other sponsors such as Blaklader, QUIKRETE, RAM, and Vermont American. So not only will you find an answer to pretty much any question you may have, you’ll also get the chance to be smart publicly and get some cool stuff for it. 

The Journal of Light Construction

As the name suggests, this forum is backed up by The Journal of Light Construction, whose broader website is itself a trusted and extensive source of information for contractors. That’s why I’d say that the forum is definitely worth checking out. It stands out with its clean design and covers many topics, from how-to’s, to project and tool discussion, to various business-related issues. 

r/Construction

Of course I can’t leave out good old reddit. It’s mostly full of newbies looking for advice (“Is my hammer a bad fit?” or “Looking for an industry pro to review my resume”), so if you’re feeling generous, you should check it out. Reddit doesn’t hand out any rewards aside from “good karma” for getting your threads and comments upvoted, but I’m sure that for many people that’s enough of a reward. 


The memberships on all of these forums are completely free, and some of them even reward you for being helpful and experienced. So if you haven’t done it already, go ahead and take part in engaging with the construction and contractor community throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Curtice R. Midkiff

Modular Building: The Future of Eco-Friendly Construction?

The way we build houses hasn’t really changed much since the medieval times. Sure, we’ve been talking about drones, smart apps and advanced machinery, but it all comes down to putting one brick on top of the other. It’s about time that we came up with something new. If you ask me, I think that modular building may be just that very push we’ve been waiting for. 

BUILDING MODULAR

Modular building, at its core, is basically a giant game of puzzle, but instead of a picture you get a house at the end — a family house, a block of flats, a shopping center, anything you can think of. The single “puzzle pieces” get prefabricated in a factory, and then get assembled on site. It’s a very effective way of building, so let’s have a look at the main advantages. 

1) Design flexibility

One of the great things about modular construction that surely anyone will appreciate is the freedom in design. The prefabricated modules can be set onto the building's foundation and joined together to make a single building in various ways — they can be placed side-by-side, end-to-end, or stacked, allowing a wide variety of configurations and styles in the building layout. The construction and design standards are the same as with traditionally built homes, so there’s no risk of poor quality. And if you don't think "modular" and "flexible" go hand-in-hand, you may want to go take a look at your kid's lego sets.

2) Lower costs

If you decide to go modular, you will always know exactly how much and what kind of material will be used. The factory construction of single modules also ensures much faster delivery times and lower manual labor requirements, which has a significant effect on the cost savings (and might be critical, given the labor shortage we keep talking about). Another thing that makes modular a much cheaper option is the reduction of waste produced during the production and assembly.

3) Shorter timeline

Having a bunch of modules put together on an assembly line, under the supervision of a company-assigned inspector is much faster than actual on-site construction. Building  modular can often happen in 1/3rd the time of traditional contruction. And that's not even taking into account various weather conditions such as rain or snowstorms, that have little to no effect on the modular construction timeline due to the indoor assembly.  

4) Eco-friendliness

The construction industry is known for its enormous energy consumption. The Building Energy Data Book reports the following numbers: “The 97.8 quads of energy the U.S. consumed in 2010 represented 19% of global consumption—the second largest share of world energy consumption by any country; only China consumed more. The U.S. buildings sector alone accounted for 7% of global primary energy consumption in 2010.”

Modular building could possibly be the answer. By producing less waste, having lower construction requirements and being less site-disturbing, modular construction means a shift to a much more eco-friendly way of building homes.

Are there any drawbacks at all?

Unfortunately, it’s an unpleasant habit of every great development to also have downsides. The main disadvantages of modular houses are the following: 

a) Limited financing options. Some lenders may be hesitant to finance a modular building, due to its fairly new position in the market. Modular builders are aware of that and offer their own financing options, but at higher interest rates.
b) Limited size. Although modular homes offer quite a lot of flexibility as such, it’s the size that holds it back. The units need to be small enough for regular transport, which puts quite a strain on the previously mentioned flexibility. 
c) Hard to re-sell. Stick-frame homes are still superior in the U.S. and throughout the world, which puts a stigma on modular buildings on the market — and let’s be honest, the history of modular homes hasn’t always been great, either. They are perceived as lower quality, and although contemporary modular builders are doing their best to change that perception, it will probably still take some time to shift the opinions of the general public.

Curtice R. Midkiff

Marketing Tips for Construction Businesses

You’re a small- to medium-sized construction company, and although you’re doing quite well getting contracts in your area, you keep having the feeling that the business could be doing much better, because people pay well and you know from your partners and competitors that the demand is high. You’re doing your job well, your clients are always satisfied, you’re not overpriced and your team consists of trustworthy and handy professionals. So where’s the problem? 

A Marketing Lesson For Builders


The problem lies in the nature of the construction industry itself. Many old-school builders I know would rather swallow a handful of nails than learn about setting up a Google ad. They often don’t even have a company website, and they rightfully feel that doing a good job is The Way to promote their work and make a good name for their business. Unfortunately, “just” high quality craftsmanship is not enough these days, because if you’re a builder, people will always google you first rather than take a tour around the houses you’ve built. And if they don’t find anything, they’ll move on. 

After doing some serious thinking and research, I decided to put together a very gentle beginner’s guide for setting up a marketing strategy for a construction business. If you want your business to thrive (or maybe even survive), I highly recommend you considering at least some of the following points. 

Create a website & fill it up with content

If you haven’t gotten a website yet, you’re invisible to the all-seeing eye of search engines, and therefore to hundreds of customers in your surroundings and beyond. If you want to increase the number of customers who’ll find you by themselves and approach you with an order, you really must be online. It could be a website or a Facebook Business page, but it has to be something. 

But having a website is not enough. You should think of the most common needs that your clients have when they need your services, and create regular and relatable content according to those needs. Start writing a blog, make presentations of your past projects, write a DYI guide for small home adjustments, anything you can think of that could be of use to the people who’ll come to your site looking for help. 

Build yourself a brand 

People love brands. Look at Starbucks, Apple, or even CAT. Of course, a local building company doesn’t need to invest millions of dollars into building a pompous brand, but getting yourself a decent logo, a solid claim and maybe a little bit of backstory will definitely help you stand out of the crowd. Branding is a great way of getting people to have some sort of emotional response to your company, and they will remember you. 

Make a list of top three to five values that your business represents, and start from there. There’s a whole science behind good logo composition and writing a resonating claim, so definitely consider hiring a graphic designer and a copywriter (or an advertising agency) to help you out.  

Come up with a strategy 

As a professional in your industry, you need to have a thorough knowledge of your local market. You can start by having a look at your previous customers and finding the patterns that will build the basics for who your target group should be. 

Branding and content marketing on your website have helped you establish who you are. Market research will help you establish who your target group is. You should also have a look at the way your competitors in the area advertise, not to copy them but to know what you’re up against. 

Printed ads in the local newspaper, radio or TV spots, local promotion on social media, or even sports tournament sponsorship or school lectures (energy saving at home, safety around construction areas etc.) are all great ways to get into the minds of people of all generations. 

Not ready? Outsource! 

I know, I promised to be gentle and I was anything but that. But don’t worry. Nobody is expecting you to do all these things by yourself. You’re a builder. Building is what you do, and marketing is as far from your expertise as it can be. Still, as a business owner, you should be at least informed about the options you have, and most importantly, you should know when to call for professional aid. There are dozens of skilled marketing professionals who will gladly help you with all the points that I’ve just listed, and then some. Outsourcing the marketing activities will ensure you professional approach to promoting your business without wasting time that you could spend doing what you do best — construction.

Curtice R. Midkiff

New Apps for Builders

Smartphone apps are everywhere. At least that’s how I feel most of the time when I look at my day. We communicate through Google Hangouts, I’m in touch with my friends through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, what used to be an SMS is now iMessage, and I can’t even count the times that Google Maps have saved my day. This only proves that apps can make your life easier wherever you are and whatever you do. 

Apps For On Site

The construction industry is a chapter for itself. The labor shortage that we’ve been feeling ever since the recession often makes us look for smarter and easier solutions for our everyday tasks. And luckily, app developers heard our desperate cry and got to work. So take out your smartphones and tablets and let’s have a look at some of the best apps for construction workers, home builders and developers. 

Construction Master Pro
iOS
Android

Many of us are not exactly fans of math. And even if you are, when on the go it’s not always convenient to carry a construction calculator in your pocket. You do however always have your smartphone with you, and Construction Master Pro takes care of the rest. It’ll help you cut down errors and increase efficiency by giving you the ability to solve even the most complicated construction problems on the go. 

Estimate ALL PRO
Android

Composing estimates is a lengthy exercise full of Excel formulas and tears. With the Estimate All app you’ll be done in minutes — just input the the quantities, item description and the unit price (the app even offers the option of scanning the barcode of the product for easy identification) and the app does all the work for you, storing all your estimates in one neat place. You’ll be able to mail an estimate to anyone directly via the app interface. Really handy for when you don’t have the time to sit around your computer.  

BIMx
iOS
Android

Both contractors and architects (and for that matter, anyone else involved) can now access, edit and review a 3D building model. This app allows project stakeholders to access the complete construction documentation of buildings with the tap of a finger, from the office or while on the job site. No more printing with this spectacular, efficient and highly awarded construction app. When you get a grip on the basics, there’s no real need for in-depth BIM system knowledge. 

FingerCAD
iOS

This one may be my favorite app of all. Need to make a technical plan of the site? All you need is your iPhone/iPad and a finger. It’s easy and intuitive, and it will take care of any kind of technical drawing such as houses, bridges, floor plans, mechanical components, geometrical figures etc., just like any CAD program you’ve seen on a computer. You can save the result to the cloud, share it with your team or print it. 

Fall Safety App
Android
iOS

As the developers themselves claim, in emergency situations, response time matters. Anyone whose job imposes the risk of a fall (carpenter, builder, electrician, framer, and many other professionals in the industry) should get this free app and have it running on the background whenever the risk of a fall is present. 

It makes use of the technology in your phone to detect sudden movements. If it does and you don’t confirm within 45 seconds that you’re okay, the app will notify your emergency contacts of your GPS location and directions. 



As you can see, the spectrum of the technology’s contribution is extremely wide. But since we all have these devices in our pockets already anyway, why not make use of all these great, useful, and sometimes even lifesaving tools they offer us? 



Curtice R. Midkiff

Virginia: The Land of a Thousand Teardowns

The Wall Street Journal recently caught my attention with an article about Virginia, branding it as “the land of a thousand teardown” (subscription required). Upon conducting a further research, I’ve discovered an interesting counterflow of (re)construction efforts that are taking place in Virginia, both with the same goal (satisfying modern demands) but different approaches and results. I’ve decided to take a closer look at what’s happening in Virginia’s home construction industry. It’s not a subject to be taken lightly, especially due to its impact on the look of the cities we live in.

As the WSJ states, Virginia’s
single-story brick homes with 2,000 square feet or less that were more than 50 years old were relatively plentiful. The two-story modern residences with more than 3,500 square feet that young families desired were in short supply. 'A lot of the homes have outlived their usefulness,' said Mr. Fisher, founder of Fisher Custom Homes, which specializes in razing older houses and replacing them with new dwellings. 'My current buyer wants to live in a convenient area but they have greater affluence and want bigger, more state-of-the-art homes.’
Rebuild or Tear Down?

In 2015, teardowns represented 8% of family housing construction starts, which equals approximately 55,000 homes in the U.S. With all the political and geographic restrictions that Virginia faces, it really seems like the one logical option for builders and developers.

However, tearing a house down to build a new one is not the only available option. It’s certainly not the most sensitive one, and there are several efforts who decided to go against the prevailing trend of teardowns. The builders Mike Brown and Adam Strochak featured in The Washington Post point out the negative effects of tearing a house down instead of re-building it.
According to Realtor Betsy Twigg, who works with the firm, tear downs are common and are driving up the cost of local homes. 'Builders aggressively solicit older sellers, estates and others who do not understand the value of their houses and will sell to builders as tear downs,” Twigg said. “Once a $650,000 house is torn down, it has to be replaced by at least a $1,400,000 house to make the economics work for a builder.’ 
People use the space in their home differently than in the past, and the renovation process takes all that into account. You may start with a worn-out, old-fashioned single-story brick home of 2,000 square feet or less that is twice as old as you are, and end up with a home that feels nothing like that.

According to the renovators, refacing a house rather than re-building it (gut jobs included) does not only come out almost two times cheaper than building a new home, but it also significantly adds to preserving local housing at a lower-price point. 

The teardown ambassadors on the other hand claim that due to land becoming more valuable than the house standing on it, the best solution is to build a new house rather than retouch an old one. And the growth of the number of teardown companies active in Virginia is the best proof of a steady demand. 

On which side of the barricade are you on? The people I talked about this with were ambivalent as well.

It’s one thing to admire the little one-family houses, cramped one next to the other in an intimate, post-war manner, but it’s a whole other thing to start a family and watch it outgrow the microscopic living room in a few years time. Development in construction is not a bad thing per se, and as naturally as our phones became smaller only to start beating each other with a 5 – 6 inch screen a few years later, the houses are following the popular demand, too. I am almost certain that in a few decades we’ll see people draw back to the tiny kitchens and living rooms whose walls they tore down today.

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