Thursday, December 27, 2012

Discoveries and Innovations contributing to Building Construction and Real Estate

70,000 years ago (Seven hundred past generations) approximately 10 to 15 thousand breeding humans walked the earth.    

Ten thousand people occupy approximately one tenth of the average football stadium of today and I have difficulty creating a family tree with more than three generations.

Today’s world population is said to be over seven billion with over 314 million in the United States.

The thought of these first humans building shelters or habitats inspired me to research the Internet (Google searches by “History of” and topic) for discoveries and innovations contributing to Building Construction and ultimately Real Estate.

Here are my findings:

The earth’s surface has approximately 196,939,900 square miles.  Oceans comprise approximately 70 per cent of the earth’s surface or approximately 137,857,930 square miles and the remaining land is 59,081,970 sq miles.

These first humans owned a lot of land.

Earth has been divided into five continents (Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe); but some say seven continents (Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America).   

Africa, Asia and Europe BC discoveries included the Hammer (Stones for striking wood and bone), Drill (pointed rock spun between hands) and Tongs (sticks for handling fires) were the first tools followed by the Shovel (Ox shoulder blades used to move soil and rock), Saw, Rope (from water reed fibers) and bronze nails.  The most significant America discoveries are AD via Europe. 

Here are a few of the most significant (in my opinion) contributions in chronological order by continent:

Africa 2.4 Mil to 400 BC
Asia 10000 to 1000 BC
Europe 6400 to 300 BC

Concrete (Natural)

Calculator (of Transactions)

Tongs (pliers)
Clay Roof Tiles
Pliers (Tongs)

Water Wells

Windows (Glass)




Concrete mix


Pliers (Tongs)

Iron Production

Air Conditioning
Pulley (Rope and Wheel)
Marble and Granite




Marble and Granite

CAD (Mathematical Theory)

Europe 600 to 1949 AD
America 1585 to 1975 AD

Crane (wheel, pulley and rope)
Clay Roof Tiles


Real Estate Law
Flushing toilet

Classifying nail sizes
Indoor plumbing

Electricity (Discovery of)
Concrete Blocks


Slide Rule
Asphalt Pavement

Wood Shingles
Electric Power Plant


Circular Saw
Concrete Block Machine

Air Conditioning

Welding Tool
Asphalt Shingles

Portland Cement


Fax Machine
CAD Software

Telephone  (Like device)
Calculator (Commercial)

Personal Computer

Tower Crane

Apparently no significant contributions associated with the advancement of building construction since 1975.

Comments welcome with any overlooked and/or additional contributions to the Building Construction and/or Real Estate Industries.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Owner's Representative not to be confused with Construction Manager or Project Manager

I believe many owners simply are not aware of how beneficial Owner Representation is and what it does.  And in some instances confuse Owner Representation with Construction and/or Project Management:
Project Management is the coordination of Time, Equipment, Money, Tasks and People;

Construction Management is the process of organizing and directing men, materials and equipment to accomplish the purpose of the designer; and

Owner Representation is the effective third party hired by the owner in the absence of any or little experience and/or knowledge of the building construction process by the owner. 

Usually Owner Representatives have experience and/or knowledge in planning, design, construction, construction management, project management, real estate and the overall development process with the ability to anticipate and solve problems in a timely manner.

The following is a partial list of common tasks and activities appointed to Owner Representative by the Owner:


Liaison between the project participants and the owner (sometimes the owner’s management staff or team); 

Advises and assists the owner in the need for a project team, who should be on the team, team selection, qualifying the team, and hiring the team;

Advises and assists the owner in the need for a project schedule and budget including the respective tasks and activities;  

Attends and participates in municipal  planning, design and review meetings on behalf of the owner;  

Monitors the design and development process pursuant to the owner’s best interests, desires, and expectations; 

Oversees the overall design process to insure that the contract documents are prepared and completed on a timely basis and the final design complies with the owner’s expectations; and 

 When given the authority executes documents and contracts on behalf of the owner

 During Construction
Insures compliance with the contract/construction documents by recognizing, resolving and responding to issues and problems for the purpose of avoiding conflicts and delays; 

Manages and responds to costs and payment requests from project resources such as the Construction Manager, Architect, Engineer, Contractor(s), and owner’s vendors; and

Insures that the contract documents are being executed correctly.

Post Construction

Assists the owner in occupying the property/project;  

Monitors the project for defects and/or deficiencies as reported by the occupants of the project and prepares and transmits such information to the contractor and/or responsible parties; 

and Organizes and attends the one year inspection if mandated by the contract documents and/or statutory requirements. 

Perhaps others can comment on and/or offer addition benefits of Owner Representation or even services needed by owners when undertaking building construction projects.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holding Contractor Money (Retainage)

The purpose of Retainage is to hold back money from a contractor for incomplete or deficient work.  Ten percent (10%) appears to be the norm across the United States including Hawaii.

Retainage is held by prime contractors against subcontractors and/or by owners against prime contractors.

There is little or no reason to hold the Retainage once the work has been completed and accepted in accordance with the contract documents.

One technique I have successfully used is to include wording in the contract documents that “The contractor shall notify the owner in writing that all punch list inspection items are complete”.

Here is a definition of a Punch List found in my Glossary  "A list prepared by the owner or his/her authorized representative of items of work requiring immediate corrective or completion action by the contractor."

As the prime contractor or owner’s representative I would not hold or attend a punch list re-inspection for the project until the aforementioned notification has been received.

This practice tends to minimize, if not eliminates, incomplete punch list re-inspections and expedites the Retainage payment to the contractor because when all punch list items have been completed and accepted in accordance with the contract documents the contractor is entitled to submit a payment request for the Retainage amount.  And said payment should not be unreasonably withheld.   Usually contract documents include payment processing requirements such as “payments are due within 30 days of receipt, etc.”

This practice also tends to be fair to both owner and contractor.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Contractor Hiring Guidelines

Here are a few guidelines to follow when you're seeking a construction project manager or contractor to develop a substantial project, be it a residential building or a commercial building.

An essential ingredient is finding a project manager or contractor who can be flexible and innovative. In many cases it's important to do a construction project around an existing building or within an active office or business without disrupting the day-to-day operations. A good project manager can schedule the work at off-hours or devise another way to circumvent the owner's ongoing work schedule.

Review the project manager or contractor’s experience to ensure the firm has done your kind of project before.  Sometimes a high-rise builder may not be a good choice for an upscale retail shopping center.  Likewise, a residential home builder may not have the skills to tackle a commercial building.

Take a hard look at whether it might be more economical to negotiate with a contractor/manager for the whole job versus putting various segments out to bid.  By negotiating you have the contractor involved from pre-construction through project completion.  The contractor gets involved in managing all aspects of the work, including communicating with all subcontractors, overseeing budget and cost control activities, being flexible in work performance and seeing that the owner's objectives are carried out precisely.

The following are some Construction Management techniques used to save Time and Costs when entering into your next construction project contract:

1.         If you are requiring a payment and performance bond ask the contractor to have the payment and performance bond invoiced to you at CostYou'll save a hefty mark-up.

2.         Verify General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance certificates from the contractor prior to starting construction. Examine the policies exploration dates and be satisfied with the amount of coverage the policies offer; also insist on getting a copy of the certificate for your fileOtherwise, you may have considerable liability.

3.         Request a construction schedule prepared by the contractor incorporating your completion date and your move-in date.  Gives real meaning to the completion of your project.

4.         Have the contractor provide a sub-contractors list of emergency telephone numbers.  Saves time and frustration when instant communication is necessary.

5.         Demand a predefined extra or deductive work costing breakdown including but not limited to:  predetermined unit prices, written approved cost estimate, and a 3-tier basis of actual construction cost plus percentage of overhead and profit.  Minimizes disputes and dramatically controls costs.

6.         Require a schedule of values itemized to include:  General conditions, trade activities, bonds at cost, overhead and profit.  An invaluable aid in reviewing payment requests.

7.         Persist in a certificate of occupancy by the governing authority prior to contractor receiving final payment.  You'll be assured that work has been completed to code.

8.         Ask for written confirmation from contractor stating all inspection list (punch list) items are completed.  Otherwise, items may be missed and re-inspection may be necessary.

9.         Request a Conditional Waiver and Release Upon Partial Payment Requests from the prime contractor and sub-contractors filing preliminary lien notices.  Your lien exposure will be reduced substantially.