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Jim Kollaer's blog

Ownership Succession in Construction Companies

Recently at the annual Kiley Advisors Update Conference for construction industry owners in Houston, keynote speaker Christopher Daum, the President and CEO of FMI Corporation, discussed the ownership succession issues facing those current owners of construction companies, especially private family-owned sub contractors, as they come to the end of their careers and begin to wonder what will happen to their companies after they are gone. Though no one in the room would admit to it, many are at the end of the road looking for succession options at a time when we are all living in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world made even more so by the cyclical nature of the construction industry and the demographics of the workforce that contains their future partners or owners.

Daum explored and examined a number of possibilities for ownership succession in detail, but he made one point that hit several of the owners in the audience right between the eyes.    Read more » about Ownership Succession in Construction Companies


City Attorney Files Suit over the Leaning Tower of San Francisco

There is a new development on a story we have been following about the Leaning Tower of San Francisco, the Millennium Tower. According to a November 3 ABC News report showing a homeowner in one of the luxury condominiums rolling a marble across the floor of their luxury condo unit to show the amount that the tower is leaning, the homeowner says that they were unaware that the tower was leaning when they moved in. Now they are afraid to stay in their condo, one of 366 condominium units that cost an average of $1.3 million each.

According to the SF Chronicle, who broke the story in August:

Several Millennium condo owners have sued the developer, fearing that the bad publicity and safety questions are tanking the value of their units.

Millennium Partners brought in a structural engineer who said the building’s problems had not compromised its ability to survive a major earthquake. And several experts told The Chronicle last month that high-rises constructed on bay fill don’t have to go to bedrock — and that, in fact, several others around the Millennium also have piles that don’t reach bedrock.

Based on those reports, the City Attorney of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit that claims that the developers and their sales affiliates did not fully disclose the structural flaw in their sales documents even though attorneys for the developer, Millennium Partners of New York City, assert that they met every rule for disclosure in their sales presentations.    Read more » about City Attorney Files Suit over the Leaning Tower of San Francisco


Hanging Drywall Can Be a Work of Art

Hanging and finishing drywall is not easy. It is a skill that takes 10,000 hours or more to master. Skilled drywall craftsmen and women are usually known only by the quality of the finished product they produce. Their names are seldom known or carved into stone at a finished building, but they are true artists. They create walls that can be straight or curved and can extend 20 or more feet high and be, as one drywaller claims, as smooth as a “baby’s bottom.”

Most of us have never thought about or tried to hang a 4x8 foot or 4x10 foot sheet of drywall on a straight wall, much less on a curved wall 1,000 feet long. Nor have we been asked to create a finish on it so that the installation of over 2800 aluminum triangles will meet tolerances are acceptable to the designers, owners and ultimate users of the finished space.    Read more » about Hanging Drywall Can Be a Work of Art


Games Contractors and Subs Play

This is the first in a series of posts that will focus (sometimes with a bit or bite of humor) on the games that some GCs and subs play on your jobsite while they are working on your projects.

We are interested in exposing some of the dangerous, costly, and frankly, stupid practices in an attempt to make you aware and to encourage the industry to improve its practices in the future.

Let me start by relating a simple story that I saw happen on one of my first multifamily projects. Let me call it “now you see it, now you don’t.”

As a rookie architect, I was sent to a site in Dallas where a client was building a garden apartment project for our biggest private client. Not only was this particular developer the firm’s largest client, he was also the “most profit-minded client” (read cheapest).   Read more » about Games Contractors and Subs Play


Twisted Towers Two: Diamond Tower

We have posted articles on the “twisted towers” that demonstrate the outstanding engineering and construction capabilities of today. Now the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat or CBTUH has compiled a database of some really twisted tall buildings with detailed statistics for each of them that include the normal height, floors and the degree of twist for all of the “twisted buildings” around the globe.

We found it most interesting that over the next 5 years a total of 179 “twisted” buildings will be completed. The data shows that most of those buildings will take between 4 and 6.5 years to build. If you assume that it took 2-3 years to design, then a number of them were planned in the economic slowdown and are just now becoming a reality.

The “most twisted tower” underway today is the Diamond Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It is a 432-meter tall, 93-floor residential tower that is planned for completion in 2019. It is planned to contain 300 residential units. This tower twists a total of 360 degrees from the ground to the top floor, a record to date.

Of the list of 30 twisted towers on the current list, only two of them are being built in the US. Both are 24 floor residential towers located in Miami at the Grove at Grand Bay. According to the sales site, the units range in size from 1,194 sf to 5692 sf and are priced at $3 – 5 million or and average of $1,152 per square foot. -Take a look at the list and the views.    Read more » about Twisted Towers Two: Diamond Tower


“Right to Work is Wrong for Workers and for America” - Really?

This is the political season and without a doubt, there are two very controversial candidates for president of the United States. The union constituency that has been her bedrock throughout the primaries supports Hillary Clinton, but now she has stepped into my space and yours as well.

Last week Hillary Clinton was speaking in Ohio when she said something that made me sit up and take note. Not that I had not heard or seen the words before, but this time it had an edge to it that I had not seen or heard before.

She said, “Right to work is wrong for workers and wrong for America.” She went on to repeat her oft spoken pledge that “If I am elected president the unions will have a champion in the White House and a seat at the table.”   Read more » about “Right to Work is Wrong for Workers and for America” - Really?


3D Construction Printing Update

We take note of developments in the 3D printing world, and a recent article in Forbes titled “Can 3D Printing Transform Construction?” by Freddie Lawson caught our eye.

Why? Mainly because it refers to the Daedalus Pavilion designed and built by a joint venture of Arup and AiBuild for the nvidia GPU Technology Conference.

The pavilion was built using a large scale 3D printer, new GPU processors and learning software. Additionally, it looks fantastic and opens another door into the possibilities for early adopters of 3D printing in the construction industry.

   Read more » about 3D Construction Printing Update


What’s In It For Us – Today?

two seattle sound transit trains at stopContractors are not the only builders. Chambers of Commerce around the US and the globe are historically true builders as well. These business organizations help build community, recruit new company relocations, advocate for new infrastructure, educational facilities, and sports facilities. All of those facilities and projects create construction jobs in their local regions.

We were surprised recently to see that the Bellevue Washington Chamber of Commerce had issued a statement that they would not support the Sound Transit 3, or ST3, infrastructure proposal on the ballot in the Seattle region in November.

The ST3 package is a $54 billion transit package of short and long-range projects to be built over the next 20 years. Truly these are long-range infrastructure projects. Read more » about What’s In It For Us – Today?


Safety Applies to Everyone on the Jobsite, Even the Architects

Professors try their best to convince their architectural students that they “rule the world and the jobsite.” Many of them grow to believe that myth and some of them live that way. Few are well-versed on jobsite safety. Even if they are among the few who receive training, occasionally the most safety-conscious architect makes a simple mistake and pays for it with his or her life.

According to reports, Bruno Travalja, architect and owner of Crowne Architectural Systems in New Jersey, was doing an inspection and some last minute measurements on the 42nd floor of a mid-rise tower in New York City when he fell to his death in a tragic accident.    Read more » about Safety Applies to Everyone on the Jobsite, Even the Architects


Construction Industry House on Fire

Brendan Bechtel, new Chief Executive of Bechtel, one of the largest global construction companies in the world, recently made a speech to the Construction Industry Institute conference in National Harbor, Maryland in which he said, “Our house is on fire.” This was according to an editorial in Engineering News Record.  Bechtel continued, “If we don’t address (the various problems), we may cease to exist as an industry…”

Sounds dire to me, how about you? What he was talking about was the current state of megaprojects (budgets of US $1billion and above) and the claims that “98% of all of those projects experience cost overruns or delays..the average cost increase is 80% and the average schedule slippage is 20 months.”    Read more » about Construction Industry House on Fire