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Understanding Green Building, LEED Certification… And Their Risks

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Outline

  1. Introduction to Green Building Projects
  2. LEED Certification
  3. Building Systems, Techniques & Strategies
  4. Costs
  5. Risks
  6. Claims & Litigation Case Studies
  7. Deep Thoughts
  8. Codes & Standards
  9. Research & Links

1. Introduction to Green Building Projects

This is a brief introduction to the design, construction, maintenance, and management of Green Building projects, which are sometimes also referred to as “sustainable”, “high-performance”, or “passive.”

“Green Building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.” (Wikipedia)

The intention of Green Building is to reduce the environmental impact of building projects by:

  • Lowering energy and water use;
  • Using environmentally preferable materials;
  • Increasing durability, which allows buildings to last longer before requiring rehabilitation or replacement, which saves resources over the building lifecycle;
  • Reducing waste during construction and operation & maintenance;
  • Reducing toxins;
  • Improving the indoor environment for occupants, including air quality (IAQ); and
  • Creating neighborhoods designed to lower environmental impact and improve human health.

The point is that buildings consume something like 40% of the energy we use, and making buildings more resource-consumption-efficient in every way, including during constructing, using, repurposing, and even decommissioning, is a good thing.

Green Building is about more than design and construction. Maintenance and management of Green Building projects is, arguably, more important than the design and construction process since the total cost of ownership (TCO) of building projects and facilities over time is always many times the cost of design and construction. The Green Building movement recognizes that facility and property managers require extensive training in making the investments in Green Building design and construction worth any additional expense on the front end.

There are many available Green, Sustainable, High-Performance, or passive building certifications. The most popular in the U.S. is from U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly referred to as LEED.

2. LEED Certification

“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Green Buildings which was Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council." (Wikipedia)

The LEED rating system is owned by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which began in 1993 and is now an organization with more than $60 million in annual revenue, 200,000 LEED certified individuals, 92,000 total projects, 39,000 certified projects, 1.6 million registered or certified homes, 6,000 certified schools, 2,900 certified local government buildings, and 1,000 certified state government buildings. A division of USGBC is Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which administers LEED, performing third-party technical reviews and verification of LEED-registered projects including technical reviews to ensure the building certification process meets the highest levels of quality and integrity.

LEED Professional Accreditations

  • LEED Green Associate requires the candidate to study and take a test.
  • LEED AP (Accredited Professional) requires the candidate to study and take a harder test. 
  • LEED Fellow requires the candidate to show at least 10 years of exemplary impact with LEED, be nominated by a LEED professional, and have a team of endorsers who will write about the candidate’s contributions.

LEED Certification Levels for Building Projects

  1. Certified: 40-49 points.
  2. Silver: 50-59 points.
  3. Gold: 60-79 points.
  4. Platinum: 80-110

3. Building Systems, Techniques & Strategies

LEED Certification Prerequisites

  1. Sustainable Sites: Construction Activity Pollution Prevention
  2. Water Efficiency
    1. Outdoor Water Use Reduction
    2. Indoor Water Use Reduction
    3. Building-Level Water Metering
  3.  Energy and Atmosphere
    1. Fundamental Commissioning and Verification: USGBC and the LEED certification materials use the term “Commissioning” (Cx) to describe a quality assurance (QA) process, to ensure the plan for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies that is submitted to USGBC for certification is executed in the field.
    2. Minimum Energy Performance: There are multiple paths to ensuring the energy performance designs will meet current standards from ASHRAE and other specified standards.
    3. Building-Level Energy Metering
    4. Fundamental Refrigerant Management: Don’t use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based refrigerants… Phase-out existing use.
  4.  Materials and Resources
    1. Storage and Collection of Recyclables
    2. Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning
  5. Indoor Environmental Quality
    1. Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance: Meet minimum requirements for ventilation and monitoring.
    2. Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control: Prohibit smoking in or within 25 feet of the building.

LEED Certification Points for Building Projects (110 points total)

The outline here is from the LEED v4 Checklist

  1. Integrative Process (1 point) Think hard and analyze the energy and water-related systems from the earliest phase of design, including to inform the owner’s project requirements (OPR) and basis of design (BOD).
  2. Location and Transportation / Neighborhood Development (16 points) “To avoid development on inappropriate sites. To reduce vehicle distance traveled. To enhance livability and improve human health by encouraging daily physical activity.” Points are given for promoting aspects of the objective.
  3. Sustainable Sites (10 points) Assess the site before the design using a structured process and consider strategies including: Protect or Restore Habitat, Open Space, Rainwater Management, Heat Island Reduction (i.e. avoid giant, uncovered asphalt parking lots), and Light Pollution Reduction.
  4. Water Efficiency (11 points) While indoor and outdoor water use reduction and metering are prerequisites, points can be earned for low or zero irrigation designs, calculated savings of indoor water use from 25-50%, and management of cooling tower (HVAC system) water use.
  5. Energy and Atmosphere (33 points)
    1. In addition to having the longest list of prerequisites (see above), this category has the most point-value. The section mixes both energy savings with quality control (“Commissioning”); surely due to haw closely connected the two are.
    2. “Enhanced Commissioning”, a more complete and intensive QA / QC process, must be performed by a third party Commissioning Authority (CxA), and to receive maximum points the building envelope must be part of the commissioning plan and process, in addition to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies required in the prerequisites.
    3. Energy related points can be earned for Optimizing Energy Performance even further than the minimum standards, Advanced Energy Metering, Demand Response through load shedding or shifting, Renewable Energy Production (like solar), Enhanced Refrigerant Management and Green Power and Carbon Offsets where 50-100% of energy use comes from a green source.
  6. Materials and Resources (13 points) In addition to the prerequisites, consideration should be given to Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction (reuse of existing buildings or materials), Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Environmental Product Declarations including the Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredients, and Construction and Demolition Waste Management.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (16 points) In addition to the prerequisites, design consideration should be given to Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies (like enhanced ventilation and contamination prevention), Low-Emitting Materials, composition and execution of a Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan, Indoor Air Quality Assessment, Thermal Comfort considerations, Interior Lighting strategies to promote comfort and well being by offering controls throughout, Daylight, Quality Views, and Acoustic Performance to limit noise.
  8. Innovation (6 points) Points can be earned for Innovation using a strategy not addressed in the LEED system or exemplary measurable performance in a addressed area. There is also one credit available for having at least one LEED Accredited Professional on the team.
  9. Regional Priority (4 points) Specific credit can be earned for issues important to the project’s region as identified by the USGBC regional councils and chapters and articulated in database of Regional Priority credits and their geographic applicability.

4. Costs

So the “accounting” on the costs of LEED Certification are either very high level or fuzzy. And as I mention in the Deep Thoughts section below, the costs are commonly downplayed and the calculable benefits are sometimes exaggerated. The science here appears to remain very soft. And few of the studies I have found appear to be by disinterested professionals with expertise in building economics.

Sources claim a range of additional costs for LEED Certification between 0-30%. The claim of zero additional cost seems, at first blush entirely absurd; the cost of registration and compliance alone is well above zero. The more common figures suggest a range between 2.5-8.5%, depending on the level of certification. I remain skeptical. In one of my case studies, the “additional cost” of the project over a reasonable square foot cost made the project 80% more expensive than a more common facility of identical size. And if you include the cost to make the repairs, then the project cost was 155% above the cost of a common facility (not +55%, +155%!). Granted, this was also a more beautiful building project than a more common facility; and much of the cost for a building that looked the same, would have been incurred even if the Green Building design & construction techniques and requirements were removed.

I acknowledge that the rigorous process that LEED Certification imposes, to think the project through at a painstaking level of detail, can lead to innovative design that could contribute to a net savings. I look forward to additional research into the economics of Green Building. Check back for more in the months and years to come.

5. Risks

A TIGHT, "GREEN" BUILDING ENVELOPE

Energy efficiency is great! But it has its risks. The tighter building envelopes required by Green Building standards remind me of the "Sauna Exercise Suit" I remember my grandmother wearing around the house when I was a small child. She would vacuum and dust and sweat like crazy, thinking it was helping her to get more fit. She lived a long happy life, so it appears to have done her no harm, but buildings constructed of moisture sensitive materials, like engineered wood (including oriented strand board or OSB) often don't fare as well. 

The risks of building problems increases for Green Construction projects due to:

  • More complex building envelope
  • Use of new material technologies
  • High performance and more complex mechanical systems
  • Additional warranty requirements
  • Increased performance targets

Problems That Could Be Caused by LEED Certification

  • LEED standards can end up forcing a dramatic increase in building system complexity.
  • These standards are being built as we go along and they are changing the built environment faster than our understanding.
  • In some cases these requirements are adding costs, which causes stress to the economic viability of projects.
  • These LEED Certification requirements do not address the costs compared to the potential benefits.

From a Zurich document outlining the risks of Green Building, 5 categories of risk include…

  1. Financial risks: The additional costs of Green Buildings may affect completing projects on time and on budget, but must be weighed against the cost of not going green.
  2. Standard of Care/Legal: Mandates regarding LEED certification bring an increased risk of legal liability for Green Building design and construction professionals.
  3. Performance: Project owners/developers are starting to require additional contract provisions and warranties regarding the energy efficiency of Green Buildings, causing increased exposure to potential liability for breach of contract or warranty.
  4. Consultants/Subconsultants and Subcontractors: Lack of experience by these parties in green construction can lead to problems obtaining LEED certification, delays and improper material specifications.
  5. Regulatory: New building codes and mandates associated with green construction can mean an increased liability to everyone involved in the green construction process.

The Construction Defect Litigation Business Model

It seems to me that “the construction defect litigation business model” came about because (1.) construction is complex, (2.) no construction project is perfect, (3.) most construction contracts have indemnity agreements, (4.) common commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies have a duty to defend the insured when sued, and (5.) plaintiff attorneys are very clever and assertive. So considering this, I have said things similar to the following, many times, related to new advances in technology: If I were unscrupulous and did not love the construction industry, I would put together a team of plaintiff-oriented attorneys and experts, I would comb through the LEED Certification Database, I would plan and execute a marketing campaign to find every project that had even the most mildly disgruntled LEED project Owners, and I would encourage them to get involved in construction defect litigation using our team. It seems to me that the LEED certification database is the best marketing list possible for sophisticated plaintiff construction defect lawyers. 

Also see The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the Deep Thoughts section below.

6. Claims & Litigation Case Studies

PFCS Projects

  1. A “Net Zero” Educational Facility Gets A Big Repair: Defects introduced during construction, plus operational problems lead to repairs totaling more than 40% of construction cost.
  2. Leak Investigation Involving Solar Panel Installation: A national solar system manufacturer / installer litigated with a homeowner who had multiple leak sources.
  3. A Hygrothermal Study Leads to Pre-Litigation Resolution: An elegant solution to a divisive and expensive issue, allegedly related to condensation, is resolved using building science, which then leads to resolution of all remaining construction defect allegations, prior to filing of a lawsuit.

Litigation From Around the Country

  1. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc. et al. v. Weyerhaeuser Company:
  2. Southern Builders v. Shaw Development:
  3. Gidumal v. Site 16/17 Development LLC:
  4. Flincto Pacific Inc. v. City of Palo Alto (2014)
  5. Burchick Construction Company, Inc. v. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
  6. Hampton Technologies, Inc. v. Department of General Services (2011)

7. Deep Thoughts

My experience and research lead me to the following conclusions.

The Good

  • 1. The hard-thinking that is forced by Green Building principles generally, and LEED certification specifically, during the design phase, is wonderful in many ways: Environmental protection, lower energy use, human health and well-being, and on and on.
  • 2. The potential for the process to transform the built environment through the integrative approach, rather than the more traditional focus primarily on esthetics and economics or return-on-investment (ROI), is exciting.
  • 3. The requirement for “Fundamental Commissioning” is something that every building owner should require as a minimum quality control function.
  • 4. Enhanced Commissioning should be a model for a superior level of quality control throughout the building industry.

The Bad

  • 5. LEED certification can cause an explosion of building system complexity during design & construction as well as operation & maintenance.
  • 6. Increased complexity in building systems increases costs.
  • 7. Increased complexity in building systems increases risk of building system failure.
  • 8. There is no built-in cost-benefit analysis mechanism, and surely no requirement therefore, built into most of the Green Building standards, including LEED.

The Ugly

  • 9. The costs of Green Building and LEED are commonly down-played.
  • 10. The quantifiable benefits of Green Building and LEED are commonly exaggerated.
  • 11. Case studies of Green Building project failures are limited.
  • 12. Costs for operation & maintenance (O&M) for the more complex mechanical systems appear to not have been closely studied.
  • 13. Ultimately, additional costs of Green Building and LEED Certification are being passed to the people who can least afford it (low-income individuals and families).

8. Codes & Standards

  1. IBC International Building Code
  2. IgBC International Green Building Code
  3. CBC California Building Code
  4. LEED / USGBC
  5. ASHRAE Guideline 0–2005
  6. ASHRAE Guideline 1.1–2007
  7. CA 2008 Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan
  8. CA 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards
  9. CA Green Building Code: 2013 edition went into effect 1/1/2014. 2016 edition went into effect 1/1/2017. PDF Copy of CA Green Building Code 2013 edition.
  10. U.S. Department of Energy

9. Research & Links

We have a not-so-scientific research method that generally yields some amazing results. It's called PFCS Proving The Obvious Using Google Method. I began by searching "Green Building Summary" and received these results

Search Results "Green Building Summary"

  1. Green Building From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Summary of Green Building Programs by National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, Inc
  3. EPA's Web Archive on Green Building
  4. Energy-Efficiency Standards and Green Building Certification Systems Used by the Department of Defense for Military Construction and Major Renovations (2013)
  5. A Green Building Overview by HGTV
  6. ASSESSING GREEN BUILDINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES from The 2005 World Sustainable Building Conference, Tokyo, 2005  
  7. What is a Green Building? by Sunpower
  8. GREEN BUILDING STANDARDS AND CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS from Whole Building Design Guide
  9. LEED Cost Analysis Summary by Green Building Solutions
  10. WHAT IS A “GREEN” BUILDING ACCORDING TO DIFFERENT ASSESSMENT TOOLS? from Department of Technology and Built Environment, University of Gävle, Sweden

Search Results "Costs of LEED Certification"

Coming Soon

OTHER INTERESTING RESOURCES

  • PFCS Case Study: Plumbing Leaks in High-Rise Condo. Complex investigations require development and testing of hypotheses. This is an example.  
  • Green Building: What are the Risks? 2011 document by Zurich Insurance 
  • California Becomes First State to Order Solar on New Homes (Bloomberg): In May 2018 the California Energy Commission decided that most new homes and and multifamily units under 4-stories built after 2019 will be required to include solar systems. They estimated the systems and complying with energy-efficiency measures will add $9,500 to the cost of a new home, which would be offset by $19,000 in energy and maintenance savings over 30 years. California is already the nation’s largest solar market and Governor Jerry Brown’s has an effort underway to slash carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. This will exacerbate the issue of high housing costs, seen as a drag on the economy and contributes to rising social tensions. The state only adds about 80,000 new homes a year, and the state issued permits for fewer than 480,000 new residential units in the last 5 years, yet California’s economy added 2.3 million jobs over the same period, which is about one home for every five additional workers.
  • Hidden Risks of Green Buildings from RCI's Interface Magazine 

A “Net Zero” Educational Facility Gets a Big Repair

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The Project

The project was a 13,500 square foot educational facility in the Pacific Northwest designed as a "Net Zero" building, meaning it generates as much energy as it consumes. It was certified LEED Platinum (the highest level) and won numerous design awards. The walls and roof were built using structural insulated panels (SIPs), which consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically (and in this case) oriented strand board (OSB). The exterior envelope was dominated by storefront windows and doors, metal panels, aluminum curtain wall, brick, built-up roofing, and standing seam metal roof. The original project cost $7.2 million ($533/SF which is about double the national average) and was completed in 2011.

The Problem

Due to excessive moisture in, and damage to, the SIP system at the roof, the Owner, replaced the entire assembly in 2015 at a cost of $3 million (another $222/SF). Unfortunately for all involved, the operation and maintenance personnel warned everyone involved that they believed use of the SIPs was going to end in a tragedy similar to what ultimately came to be.

The Solution

PFCS represented the trade contractor who installed the membrane roofing system in the area that was damaged and being replaced. PFCS prepared a preliminary report in January 2017 and a final report in May 2017. We concluded that the damage was caused by a handful of primary failures including:

(1.) The SIPs were mishandled during construction, allowing them to get wet during storage on-site and during the wet winter installation. In addition to other materials in the assembly, the SIPs then had peel & stick membrane applied over the top surface, which inhibited drying potential of the engineered and sawn wood material, that was wet from construction. This combination alone may have been enough to cause the damage that ultimately manifest.

(2.) The installation of the SIPs was defective and did not allow the joints to be properly sealed, as required by the manufacturer. These joints became a location of damage on the top side of the SIPs, where warm moist air from the conditioned space below was able to migrate from the interior through the system and condense on the underside of the cold membrane roof system, installed by our client.

(3.) The relative humidity inside the facility was too high, contributing to the volume of moisture in the warm, wet air that migrated through the roof system and condensed on the underside of the cold, membrane roof system. PFCS argued successfully that none of the causes and none of the damage was, in any way related to the membrane roofing installer, and they were dismissed from the litigation. 

End of (Service) Life Care: Evaluating Aging Building Infrastructure

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Introduction

Evaluating the performance of aging building elements is not one of the hard sciences; and in the case of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, foundations, below grade waterproofing, and more, it is complicated by the fact they are partially or entirely hidden. This program is for those tasked with helping people make long-term decisions about their building systems and Pete Fowler Construction Services’ approach to applying the scientific method to building rehabilitation decisions.

End of (Service) Life Care: Evaluating Aging Building Infrastructure" begins with a discussion of the importance of this subject, because most people spend 20-50% of their income on housing. Then we get into the details of who should be on the team and exactly what should be done to professionally evaluate the discrete building elements and apply professional judgement about what work should be done and when. We will have a high-level discussion about professional construction contracting discipline and how a broad lack of this in the building rehabilitation industry is causing harm to the most fragile property owners. Finally, we will wrap with a discussion of how to plan for the inevitable future.

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. End of Life Care
  3. "Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut."
  4. Playing Doctor
  5. Operation
  6. Retirement Planning
  7. Conclusion

Learning Objectives

  1. There is an alternative to the terrible way that aging properties are typically assessed and rehabilitated.
  2. Who is on the team in evaluating aging infrastructure is VERY important.
  3. Building performance analysis is about 80% science that should be performed according to industry standards, and 20% art or professional judgement.
  4. Professional construction contracting discipline is 95% science.

Backup Materials

  1. Managing Property Maintenance & Repair by Peter D. Fowler
  2. The DBSKCV Construction Management Method by Peter D. Fowler
  3. Overview of ASTM E2128 by Haughton & Murphy – Interface Magazine
  4. Managing Construction Quality by Peter D. Fowler
  5. AIA A201 2017 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction

Contents

1. Introduction

  • We Know Buildings
  • Team
  • Projects
  • Clients
  • Program Outline
  • Program Introduction
  • Learning Objectives
  • This Might Sound Salesey

2. End of Life Care

3. "Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut."

  • Case Study: Soil Subsidence Repair
  • Who? The Most Important Q
  • The Building Doctor
  • Who Is In Charge of What?
  • Who is on the Team?
  • Fee for Service
  • Hiring Discipline
  • RFP Sample for Hiring Professionals
  • Firing an Engineer
  • An Army of Sheep

4. Playing Doctor

  • Case Study: Plumbing in a High-Rise
  • Building Performance Analysis
  • Document & File Management
  • Meetings/Interviews with Key People
  • Building Information Management
  • Inspection
  • Analysis
  • Testing
  • Estimate
  • Property Condition Assessment
  • Element Analysis

5. Operation

  • Case Study: CM with Major Savings by Minimizing COs Using Estimating Skill
  • The Traditional Approach
  • Common Pitfalls
  • Professional Construction Contracting Discipline
  • The DBSKCV Construction Management Method
  • Prescribe: RFP Contents
  • The Golden Rule
  • Don't Sign That contract!
  • Start with One Building or a Small Sample

6. Retirement Planning

  • Case Study: Elevator Closet
  • Comparison of Plan to Actual: Construction Costs & Schedule
  • BLM Matrix
  • As-Builts or PCA Update
  • Standardized Maintenance & Repair Scopes of Work, and RFPs
  • Reserve Study
  • The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
  • Comparison of Plan to Actual: Reserve Study

7. Conclusion

  • Program Outline
  • Learning Objectives
  • Program Introduction Revisited

Presentations

This program was originally presented at the Reserve Analysts (APRA) Symposium 2018 in Nashville, TN.

Here is a link to the complete presentation and backup materials

PFCS Building Rehabilitation Process

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Investigative Expertise + Contracting Discipline = Savings

Pete Fowler Construction Services, Inc. (PFCS) is unique. It's rare that a single firm has both deep technical expertise in building performance analysis AND professional construction estimating, contracting and management discipline. This combination of expertise in both inspection & testing and construction management was created by our being named as expert witnesses thousands of times over the last 20 years. And this building claims & litigation work profoundly informed our understanding of building performance and building economics.

So after spending a lifetime developing professional contracting, construction management, and estimating discipline, we then were blessed with 20 years as expert witnesses paid to investigate construction defects and create the most cost effective solutions. We got paid to refine a science-based investigation framework, and we proved time and again that it worked to figure out what needed to be fixed, what did not, and how to do it. Now we combine (1.) the investigation framework and (2.) the professional contracting discipline for building owners, managers, and receiverships to save money and get the closest thing to a guarantee of quality possible. Our Building Rehabilitation Process help clients make intelligent, fact-based decisions about building design, construction, maintenance, repair, and improvement, while considering the entire service-life and lifetime-costs of the property.

These services generally cost 5-15% of construction cost and they ALWAYS save more than they cost. Sometimes as much as 90% (Really… We have case studies to prove it.). 

How this saves

  • Only do necessary work
  • Competition
  • Accountability (The Golden Rule)
  • Change Management
  • Good construction specifications, executed competently, last longer
  • High quality construction lasts longer
  • Dramatic reduction of risks
  • Leverages the time value of money
  • Less drama

Phase 1. Evaluate Property

1A. Before Inspection

  • First 10 Things
  • Plans
    • Site Plan (From public records if possible, transferred to 11x17)
    • Roof Plan (Buy it online and transfer to 11x17)
    • Floor Plans (Footprint from having purchased the roof plan, transferred to 11x17)  
  • Room Schedule (Printed 11x17)
  • Window & Door Schedule (Printed 11x17)
  • Budget Form (v. 1) (Printed 11x17)

1B. During Inspection

  • Photos & Notes
  • Interviews
  • Update Plans, Schedules & Budget

1C. After Inspection

  • Property Condition Assessment (PCA) / Property Condition Report (PCR)
  • Update all above from inspection documentation
  • Site Plan
  • Roof Plan
  • Floor Plans
  • Room Schedule
  • Window & Door Schedule
  • Budget Form (v. 2)

Phase 2. Define, Budget & Specify

2A. Scope - Budget - Schedule

  • Scope of Work
  • Budget (v. 3)
  • Progress Schedule (v. 1) Form

2B. Making Smart Decisions

  • Project Status Memo
  • Project Status Meeting

2C. Specifications Update, including

  • Plans
  • Schedules

Phase 3. Pre-Construction

3A. Package RFP

  • Invitation to Bid (memo)
  • Plans
  • Schedules
  • Scope & Specifications
  • Schedule of Values / Bid Form
  • Progress Schedule
  • Payment Application Form
  • Contract (form) 
  • Quality Control Hold-Points
  • Subcontract Agreement Form and Requirements

3B. Tendering

  • Identify All Possible Qualified Bidders
  • Receive and Analyze Bids
  • Recommendations Memo
  • Budget (v. 4) Update

3C. Preparing for Takeoff

  • Project Status Memo
  • Project Status Meeting

3D. Contracting, including

  • Plans
  • Schedules
  • Scope & Specifications
  • Schedule of Values
  • Progress Schedule
  • Payment Application Forms
  • Compose and execute prime contract between Owner (or Receiver) and Contractor
  • Quality Control Hold-Points
  • Subcontract Agreement Form and Requirements

Phase 4. Construction & Project Close

4A. Project Kickoff

  • Coordinate Work
  • Project Meetings
  • Project Correspondence

4B. Verify Quality. Compare work to: 

  • Plans
  • Schedules
  • Scope of Work & Specifications
  • Industry & Trade Standards

4C. Construction Management

  • Change Management: 
    • RFI and RFI Log
    • COs and CO Log
  • Payment Processing
    • Schedule of Values
    • Progress Schedule
    • Payment Application
  • Project Status Memos

4D. Project Close

  • Budget (v. 5) vs. Actual
  • Project Close Memo

PFCS is Helping a Neighbor Keep His Home

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A Sad Story

Unfortunately not everyone who needs the unique experience and expertise that Pete Fowler Construction Services, Inc. (PFCS) has can afford it. Wayne Faulk is a 74 year old developmentally disabled man and the lifetime beneficiary of a trust, set up by his father after his mother died, that was intended to allow Wayne to live in his childhood home for the remainder of his life. Sadly, the trust assets were a tempting target and they were depleted over the years through waste and mismanagement. The Oregonian published the sad story in January 2017, on December 7, 2017 and on December 22, 2017. The property is in Oregon City, OR and has 41 acres of farmland, a 3,000 square foot 1901 farmhouse, a two car garage, a shed and a dilapidated barn.

There Is Hope

Mr. Faulk could stay in the home if the trust could obtain a reverse mortgage against the value of the property. Unfortunately the home and property are not in good enough condition to qualify for a mortgage. Without the reverse mortgage, Wayne Faulk will be moved out of his home. Thankfully for Mr. Faulk, lots of neighbors and caring local professionals have stepped in to help. Mike Maples of PFCS was approached in February 2018 by one of our clients, attorney Steven Cade of Williams Kastner, who asked if we could lend a hand on a case he had taken. Both Mike and Paul Viau jumped in to help, applying our Building Rehabilitation Process, free of charge. 

On Saturday, March 17, 2018 Paul Viau and Mike Maples lead the first community volunteer work day, and made great progress! 

Awesome Neighbors

Please contact Anete Kalnina (T: (503) 660-8670 E: anete.kalnina@petefowler.com) if you are interested in volunteering or donating services or materials. No construction experience necessary! But if you DO have construction experience, we really NEED your help!! 

 We need a licensed contractor to demolish the barn, remove the debris, and repair the grade so it's safe. And we need it cheap (not free, but cheap). If you know someone, please refer us right away. It's a great opportunity to a good deed.

We need a licensed contractor to demolish the barn, remove the debris, and repair the grade so it's safe. And we need it cheap (not free, but cheap). If you know someone, please refer us right away. It's a great opportunity to a good deed.

 Success is a team sport. And no one helped more than PDX Paint Solutions on this project.

Success is a team sport. And no one helped more than PDX Paint Solutions on this project.

The Property

 The barn needs to be demolished and removed from the property. 

The barn needs to be demolished and removed from the property. 

 As you can see, the exterior of the residence needs repairs and new paint. 

As you can see, the exterior of the residence needs repairs and new paint. 

 As you can see, the exterior of the residence needs repairs and new paint. 

As you can see, the exterior of the residence needs repairs and new paint. 

 The interior is generally in fair condition, but requires minor maintenance and repairs to allow the trust, that Mr. Faulk is the beneficiary of, to procure a reverse mortgage, so that he can remain in the home, as his parents had intended. 

The interior is generally in fair condition, but requires minor maintenance and repairs to allow the trust, that Mr. Faulk is the beneficiary of, to procure a reverse mortgage, so that he can remain in the home, as his parents had intended. 

 The interior is generally in fair condition, but requires minor maintenance and repairs to allow the trust, that Mr. Faulk is the beneficiary of, to procure a reverse mortgage, so that he can remain in the home, as his parents had intended. 

The interior is generally in fair condition, but requires minor maintenance and repairs to allow the trust, that Mr. Faulk is the beneficiary of, to procure a reverse mortgage, so that he can remain in the home, as his parents had intended. 

PFCS Holiday Party 2017

Introduction

Over the weekend, Pete Fowler Construction held its 2017 Holiday Party! After a lovely reception held at the new office in San Clemente, the team moseyed their way down to the harbor to participate in the 43rd Annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights.

We had a wonderful night filled with food, fun, and more glow sticks than you can imagine. Happy Holidays from the PFCS team!

Photos

 The PFCS gang!

The PFCS gang!

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2018 Webinar Topics

"You guys without a doubt are the best in the biz with these webinars. Truly professional presentations that I can apply what I learn." - Senior Claims Technical Specialist for a Major Insurance Company

Introduction

Once a month, PFCS experts present a FREE webinar on a topic in the construction defect field. We have finalized the topics for 2018 and we are excited to share them with you!

2018 Webinar Calendar

Key Learning

  1. Building Performance Evaluation & Budgeting 101 - Analyzing and Monetizing Defects 
  2. Building Inspection & Evaluation (Property Condition Assessment w- E2018) 
  3. Project Planning & Management
  4. Building Leakage Evaluation (Evaluating Water Leakage of Buildings ASTM E2128) 
  5. Analyzing Construction Defects 
  6. Budgeting & Estimating Building Maintenance, Repairs & Improvements
  7. Managing Construction, Building and Property Maintenance, Repair & Improvements 
  8. Contracting 101
  9. Critical Path Method (CPM) Scheduling
  10. Allocation of Responsibility of Construction Defects 
  11. Building Lifecycle Management
  12. Construction Document Literacy
  13. SB800 - CA Builders Right to Repair
  14. Random Selection & Extrapolation 
  15. Expert Witness Success

The PFCS Weekly Planning Method

Who, What, and Why

Getting the right things done is hard. I have never met a professional who does not struggle with it. The pace of modern life and business has quickened, the margin for error is smaller, and the pressure to produce results has increased.

I have studied the subject of personal productivity extensively. Mostly because being focused and productive do not come naturally for me. I've joked since the 90s that "If it weren't for spell-check and my day-planner, I would have to push the hamburger buttons at McDonald's." FranklinCovey company has a great system for Daily Time & Task Management, and we have been sending our employees through their programs for almost two decades. But I have yet to find a fully "engineered" system for translating "big-picture" goals, project management milestones, and individual action steps, into a reliable system for getting the right things done in our business; so I created my own.

Living in a way that integrates our values, big picture goals, plans and projects with your daily time and task management system is hard. I hope this helps. It's the best I have come up with so far. 

Everyone should agree that it is better to do the right thing slowly rather than doing the wrong thing fast, but how do we know if we are “digging in the right place” or not? The answer is Weekly Planning and daily focus on that plan. I have found that the best time for me to do this is the weekend before the upcoming week (except for Sunday night right before bed, which is a terrible idea if you're really busy), but any regularly scheduled time is probably OK.

All PFCS staff are obliged to come to our Weekly Staff Meeting with the following information:

  1. What you are doing during business hours for the following week
  2. What you have due (Deliverables) during the next week or in the near future
  3. How much time do you have available during the next week

How: Summary

Let's be clear: This is "a" system, not "THE" system. It is one way that works for some people. If it does not work for you, then this system should at least be some help in developing your own system that allows you to exercise dominion over your schedule, rather than being a victim to the million little pieces of our work lives that can enslave us. For PFCS, the measure of success is simple: Can you consistently show up to our Weekly Staff Meeting with a plan for the next week that includes a schedule of where you are going to be, a list of what you have due, and an estimate of your available time.

Definitions for Key Terms

  • Milestone: An event that marks the completion of a Deliverable, a Hold-Point on a schedule, or a flag in the Project Plan to highlight completed work; often used to ensure project progress. 10.
  • Deliverable: A measurable, tangible item produced during project execution. Some are external and subject to approval, but some are internal only.
  • Big Rocks: The most important things you have to accomplish. If you have not watched the Big Rocks Video by Franklin Covey, do so. It's awesome and 10-minutes very well spent. See the link in Awesome Resources at the bottom of this article. 

To use this weekly planning system, first set aside time to plan the week ahead, print the Weekly Planning form, and either print a Weekly Calendar or use your normal calendar. Quickly review and summarize your (1.) Values, (2.) Mission and big-picture (3.) Goals. (4.) Compile and review your previous Weekly Plan, calculate the percentage of success for the last period, Project Plans and (5.) Master Task List (MTL), adding critical activities, Deliverables and Milestones to your Weekly Planning form as you go. Make sure all your (6.) "Hard Calendar" appointments are blocked-out on your Weekly Calendar and calculate the amount of (7.) "Discretionary Time" available for completing your critical Deliverable and Milestone activities. (8.) Estimate the duration of time required to complete each of the Deliverables and Milestones identified on the Weekly Planning form, and prioritize each, first by categorizing with an A, B or C, and then sequentially numbering within each category. (9.) "Soft Calendar" (apply) each of the activities required to accomplish the Deliverables and Milestones identified on the Weekly Planning form, to the Weekly Calendar. Finally, exercise discipline on a daily basis to in taking (10.) action in working toward accomplishing what is most important.

How: More Details

  1. Values: Same every week. Write Values as a weekly reminder.
  2. Mission: Same every week. Write Mission as a weekly reminder.
  3. Goals: Annual and Quarterly goals.
  4. Plans: Project Plans and Goals / Plans with many Actions. Review the previous week's Weekly Plan. Calculate your percentage of successes based on completion of Milestones / Deliverables. Forward incomplete items to the Master Task List (MTL) for re-prioritization. As an example, you should have a Project Plan for every PFCS project under management. In addition, you might have a plan to get a certification or degree that has many incremental steps. You might have a Fitness Plan that has many steps. Any multi-step project that is worth doing is worth having a written plan. In order to make sure you decide well which tasks you will get accomplished, you need to collect all of your plans and review them from "above the game". Get perspective on where you can and should spend your valuable time.
  5. Master Task List (MTL): Keep a separate list of all the tasks you need to complete. This is not the same as your Daily Tasks or the Weekly Plan.
  6. Hard Calendar: Hard Calendar items are those which are set and would be considered unacceptable to miss. For us, hard calendar items are the Weekly Staff Meeting, a Quarterly Review, Inspections, Meetings, Testimony, etc...
  7. Discretionary Time: Calculate the number of work hours you have available, subtracting Hard Calendar items. For example, if Monday of next week is a holiday (40-8=32), you have an inspection all day Tuesday (32-8=24), a half-day meeting on Wednesday (24-4=20) and the Weekly Staff Meeting (20-1=19), you only have 19 hours of discretionary time.
  8. Milestones: Milestones, Deliverables or "Big Rocks" as Stephen Covey says: Add them to the Weekly Planning sheet. Include an estimate of how much time this task will take. Once you have all of the items you think you might be able to accomplish in the week, during your discretionary time, prioritize them; first with letters A, B or C. A is critical and you should not do any thing else until this is complete. B is a really important milestone or deliverable and should be completed but the world would not stop spinning if you did not. C would be really great to do, but not until all of the A and B items are complete.
  9. Soft Calendar: Put blocks of time (in pencil) on the Weekly Calendar to complete the activities from your Weekly Plan list of Milestones / Deliverables / Big Rocks.
  10. Action: Exercise the discipline to return often, at least once daily, to the Weekly Plan. Stay focused on the tasks as you prioritized them.

Weekly Planning Forms

Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks & Planning Steps

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Weekly Calendar View & Daily Tasks

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Sample Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks

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Weekly Calendar View

These tools operate as both sides of a valuable coin. The Weekly Planning Form is a simple task list with columns for prioritizing Milestones or Deliverables and a place to estimate the time needed to accomplish the desired end. The Weekly Calendar View is for blocking out time so that we avoid the dreaded “over promise and under deliver” syndrome that so many of us suffer from today. The Weekly Calendar View is best for Weekly Planning but if you have a planner with a calendar, then respect the fundamental planning rule of “use only one calendar.”

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Practice

The 10 Weekly Planning Steps

These steps are repeated weekly and daily.

  1. Values
  2. Mission
  3. Goals
  4. Plans
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
  6. Hard Calendar
  7. Discretionary Time
  8. Milestones
  9. Soft Calendar
  10. Action

How: Deeper Thoughts on the Planning Steps

Remember: The Weekly Planning process is iterative.

1. Values

  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus course, then this will be easy; just review your list of personal values.
  • Everyone will come face-to-face with difficult situations. Sometimes we have to tell people no. Values help us to make hard decisions. Making explicit our values makes the decision making a little easier. We all have values that we will not violate for money or career advancement. What are yours? The funny thing is, we earn more respect in the end for making hard decisions that are consistent with our values.
  • Consider reviewing PFCS Core Values.

2. Mission

  • Why are you here (both in general and here at PFCS)? This is the question that is answered with your mission and purpose.
  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus (or similar) course, then this will be easy; just review your Personal Mission.
  • Naturally, almost every person and business will have to spend some significant amount of time doing the work that “pays the bills.” For some, this is directly “on-mission” but for most, we have to squeeze in the work of moving closer to the fulfillment of our mission. When we have a written mission, we can look at our Weekly Plan and decide if we are dedicating enough time to the fulfilling our mission. We are more apt to take the many steps in our 1,000 mile journey toward fulfillment of our mission if we revisit that mission every week.

3. Goals

  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus (or similar) course, then this will be easy; just review your Personal Goals.
  • Some of your Professional Goals with PFCS have been identified already in your Job Description and KPIs: Project Planning and Management, shipment of Deliverables, Billable Hours, Training Milestones, etc… Keep this list handy and review it every week during your planning time.

4. Plans

  • For each Goal or PFCS Project you should have a Project Plan that identifies the Objective, Method, Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks, and Actions required to achieve it (see PFCS Project Planning for a step-by-step method).
  • Review and prioritize your Plans.
  • Add Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks to the PFCS Weekly Planning Form

5. Master Task List (MTL)

  • You will or should have a Master Task List (MTL) in your planner for things that you need to do which are not on a Project Plan.
  • Review and prioritize your MTL.
  • Add items from your MTL to the PFCS Weekly Planning Form.

6. Hard Calendar

  • Hard Calendar items are items blocked out on your calendar for things like meetings with clients or other activities with firm dates and times (also see Soft Calendar items below).
  • Review your Hard Calendar items and confirm them.
  • This includes standing meetings.
  • These items are time specific and relatively inflexible.
  • Include travel time in your calendar. 

7. Discretionary Time

  • Discretionary Time is working hours that are not consumed with Hard Calendar items.
  • Calculate Discretionary Time by adding up your working hours that are not consumed with Hard Calendar items.
  • This is time you have available to work on Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks.

8. Milestones

  • The milestones should come from the Deliverables section of your Project Plans, Life Plan, Annual Plan, Quarterly Plan, and from your Master Task List (MTL).
  • Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks are what you need to accomplish this week.
  • When you see house movers load a truck, they always put the big stuff in first (i.e Big Rocks) and then fill in the truck with the smaller items. If done in reverse, the big stuff simply won't fit very well, if at all. Don’t put the small stuff in first. That is how life and success works too.
    • A = Critical and Must Be Completed
    • B = Really Important
    • C = It Would Be Great
  • Within each category (ABC), assign a number corresponding to the chronological order things need to happen in.

9. Soft Calendar

  • Soft Calendar items are time you block out of Discretionary Time to work on Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks that you need to accomplish this week. This is in contrast to Hard Calendar items, discussed above.
  • If something critical comes up, it is easy to re-shuffle Soft Calendar items, as long as the deadline is not too close for that that Deliverable / Milestone / Big Rock.
  • These are items that are time-flexible; that is, they don't need to be done at the time set on the calendar.

10. Action

  • Exercise discipline in keeping to the plan.
  • Refer to and revisit the Weekly Plan and Daily Task List many times per day and throughout the week to help you stay focused.
  • If something comes up that makes you vary from plan, then change the plan.
  • Document what you spend your time on.
  • This is really hard.

Schedule Crashing

"Crashing is the technique to use when fast tracking has not saved enough time on the schedule. It is a technique in which resources are added to the project for the least cost possible. Cost and schedule tradeoffs are analyzed to determine how to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost."

So what if we plan our week, but we realize that we don't have enough Discretionary Time to accomplish what needs to get done? Do we just use "The Prayer Method"? I had a great mentor who used to say to me "Pete: Hope is not a strategy." My smart aleck retort was always that "hope" IS a strategy; it's just a terrible one! So our choices are limited if we realize we don't have enough Discretionary Time to accomplish what we need to get done:

  • We can decide to just lower our expectations;
  • we can work overtime;
  • we can renegotiate our way out of other "Hard Calendar" obligations to free up Discretionary Time; or
  • we might "add resources" (a project management term and strategy) by delegating some of the work to others. 

What ever you decide, neither The Hope Method or The Prayer Method are acceptable. 

Planning and Managing a Life 

Components of A Life Planning & Management System

  1. Life Plan: A document that memorializes your Values, Mission & Life's Goals
  2. Annual Plan
  3. Quarterly Plan (Optional for personal, MUST have for business) 
  4. Individual Project Plans with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assertive, Realistic, and Timed) Milestones
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
  6. Calendar
  7. Weekly Plan: Without this, you can get lost in the forest of daily planning. 
  8. Daily Task List: This is on our Weekly Planning Form, but if you don't use it, you'll need a permanent place that you look to often throughout your day to keep focused (or in my case, to constantly re-direct myself back to the plan). 
  9. Journal (Permanent record that's carried with you virtually everywhere you go)

How I Do This Now

This material was originally written and published as an internal company training back in 2007, or maybe even before. So of course there are changes in technology. Also, my role has been evolving from individual contributor, with a BUNCH of little tasks that needed to be accomplished, to the leader of a larger group. As the leader of a larger group, it's become more important that I accomplish a small number of critical things, compared to my role as an individual worker. 

Components of MY Life Planning & Management System

  1. Life Plan
    • I have a written Life Plan in Google Docs that gets updated every few years (It's 3 years old right now. 
    • I have done this many times throughout my life.
    • The more I plan and the more I revisit my plans the more successful I am. During the times in my life that I have not looked at or updated my Life Plan, I have been less successful. 
    • I highly recommend using Keith Ferrazzi's 6 Steps to Set Your Goals for Success.  
  2. Annual Plan
    • I have a Daily Meditation that I review often, although not daily. When I find myself off-track, reviewing this every day is a great way to get me focused.
    • I used to spend some time between Christmas and New Year's to review the previous year's plan and update the plan for the year to come. I am going to get back to doing this. 
  3. Quarterly Plan
    • I have sometimes done this for my personal planning, but I get too busy to update them every quarter. 
    • For business, we create Quarterly Plans for the Business, Marketing & Sales, and Information Technology, each with a list of the 3-9 Big Rocks from the previous quarter on a single PowerPoint slide and how we performed compared to those goals, then we list 3-9 SMART Big Rocks for the current quarter on a single PowerPoint slide, then each of the Big Rocks gets it's own individual presentation slide with sub-items, actions or milestones that will lead or contribute to accomplishing that objective. 
    • In 2018 we will have quarterly plans for each of the following: Business (over-all), Marketing, Finance, Operations Management, Technical Management, Information Technology. 
  4. Individual Project Plans with SMART Milestones
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan below. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal 
  6. Calendar
    • I now use a shared Google Calendar. 
    • For many years I used a paper calendar, and if I were working alone and the calendar did not need to be shared, I would return to it.
    • I have gone back and forth from electronic to paper planning and back many times. I don't know that I will ever stop going back and forth. I think I might just be a person who needs something new from time to time.  
    • When I  am using a paper journal, I screen shot and print the weekly view of my Google Calendar and tape it into the paper journal on the page opposite my Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks page.
  7. Weekly Plan
    • Right this minute I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). It synchronizes with cloud so I can open it as a tab on my desktop or laptop, as well use it from any hand-held device (I use an iPhone). It's like a really slimmed-down version of Evernote. It's text only, and I like it that way. I have had a couple instances where I lost some data due to synchronization problems, but I think those qualified as "Operator Errors." The point is that it, like any other system, is not foolproof. 
    • My Weekly Plans and Daily Task Lists are in the same page or file in SimpleNote. 
    • This is not ideal for me, and I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal, because paper is more visual and my learning style is to write things out and look at them. 
    • When I was last using a paper journal, I would purchase various hard-bound journals with lined pages. I draw the Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks & Planning Steps on a full page and I screen shot and print the weekly view of my Google Calendar and tape it into the paper journal on the page opposite my Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks page. 
  8. Daily Task List
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan above. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal.
  9. Journal
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan above.
    • Each month gets it's own Journal page/file/document in SimpleNote. 
    • I number each note I take throughout each day. The second note I take on the 15th day of each month would be numbered "15 b." So if I write down thoughts about a new blog post, and I want to make a note in my MTL for easy reference I would write "Blog Notes: See 2017-10-15 b." And I would know to go to the second journal note from 10/15/2017. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal.

Awesome Resources

This is in no particular order (which is SO unlike me!). 

  1. Weekly Planning and Weekly Calendar Forms (Blank)
  2. How to Plan Your Week video from Art of Manliness (This is REALLY good)
  3. Getting Things Done from Ivy Lee via Mary Kay
  4. Dr. Stephen Covey's Big Rocks Video. (FranklinCovey keeps having this video removed so if the link does not work just search YouTube)
  5. Big Rocks Video from Art of Manliness
  6. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. Drucker is the Godfather of management theory, and this book is his seminal work. If you're a manager or trying to be more effective as an individual, and you have not ready it, then you're not trying hard enough. Here is an interesting 7-minute summary video.
  7. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey
  8. The Ten Natural Laws of Time and Life Management by Smith
  9. First Things First by Covey
  10. What Matters Most by Smith
  11. Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule -- and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern
  12. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  13. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller 
  14. Keith Ferrazzi's 6 Steps to Set Your Goals for Success
  15. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses: If you're a business owner, I HIGHLY recommend this program. I have done lots of executive education and it's the best so far; and it's FREE! The conclusion of the 4-month program is that you compose a business plan focused on growth that they call your "Growth Plan."
  16. One-Page Personal Plan (OPPP) from Scaling Up and Verne Harnish. 
  17. To Do Doing Done by G. Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff. I love this book and think it's awesome. 

How To Write by Meyer & Meyer

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I have been inspired significantly by this book called How To Write by Meyer & Meyer. It’s excellent and the paperback can be purchased for as little as $1.99 or downloaded to your Kindle for $5.49 on Amazon. I assure you: This is the very best ROI on an investment in yourself in human history. Buy the book. Read the book. Do what the book says to do.

The Meyer & Meyer Writing Process

1.0 Preparation & Organization

1.1 Choose your format

1.2 Identify your points

1.3 Collect data regarding the points

2.0 First Draft

2.1 Compose your theme (Introduction)

2.2 Draft your outline (from the points identified in 1.2)

2.3 Write first draft

3.0 Polishing (make multiple passes to improve the previous draft)

3.1 Be accurate

3.2 Be precise

3.3 Be consistent

3.4 Be brief

3.5 Be Fair

3.6 Keep a steady depth

3.7 Keep a steady tone

3.8 Use an established layout (corporate look & feel)

3.9 Use good grammar

Here is My Book Summary

Writing is critical. Writing is a process. The writing process is always the same 3 steps (organize, draft, polish). Don’t try to do step 2 until you have completed step 1. Some of the steps in writing involve not writing. Figuring out the theme (in a few short sentences) is a critical step and might require some time. Writing takes tenacity. We are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Be clear and concise and cut unnecessary stuff. Use an established layout. Read the work out loud to check for grammar. If there is time, always review the work one more time. Communicating your intended meaning to the reader is the most important thing.

Recommendation

Buy this book. Read it. Use this process as a checklist when you write. Literally: Print out the list and tape it to the wall at your desk. 

Contracting 101

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Explain It Simply

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein

The building industry is terrible at explaining how it does what it does. And this is coming from a guy who has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management! It’s so bad that I was once working on a construction litigation matter and needed the most basic of organizational charts to explain to a jury the most common roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the various parties involved in a typical construction project; but there was none to be found. I would have loved to have had a reliable source like American Institute of Constructors, The Construction Specifications Institute, the American Institute of Architects, or some similar organization to rely on, to tell my story to the jury. I searched and searched and there was just nothing simple enough to use for a group of people with no construction experience. Everything was overly complex, attempting to account for every possibility. So I locked myself in my office alone one weekend with a pile of flip-chart paper and made iteration after iteration, and finally I nailed it. That was more than a decade ago. Since that time almost every trial or arbitration I have testified in has included some version of this org chart to explain the roles of the parties to one another and to the physical work.

The Contracting 101 Framework

  1. An Owner wants a project, similar to anyone who wants to buy something, such as a car, but with a construction project the product being purchased is not something that is already built.
  2. The Owner goes to an Architect (or in some cases a non-architect designer) to translate his/her desires into a set of documents. This process is intended to “define” what the Owner wants to buy (often from a General Contractor).
  3. The Architect works with Specialty (Sub) Designers such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers and interior designers to further detail the Plans and Specifications (also referred to as Construction Documents) because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  4. The Plans and Specifications are sent to qualified and interested General Contractors, who submit proposals to the Owner. Ultimately the Owner and a General Contractor compose an Agreement (or Contract).
  5. An Agreement for construction is simply a promise by the Contractor to deliver what is described in the Plans, Specifications, and other contract documents, and a promise by the Owner to pay for it.
  6. The Agreement refers to the Plans & Specifications and should include clear definition of the Scope, Budget, and Schedule, including at Scope of Work document that includes: Inclusions and Exclusions, Allowances, a provision for handling Change Orders. The Agreement should include a Schedule of Values and Payment Milestones (for management of the Budget). And finally, the Agreement should include a Progress Schedule. 
  7. GCs usually hire specialty trade contractors, commonly referred to as Subcontractors when they are working for a prime (or general) contractor, who are specialists in their respective trades, to help deliver what has been promised in the Agreement. This is, again, because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  8. There is nothing in this scheme that prohibits the Owner from directly hiring Specialty/Trade Contractors (that are called Subcontractors if they are working for a General Contractor) for work that is not in the Scope of Work in the Agreement with the GC. In this situation they are Prime Trade Contractors.
  9. Most of the Subcontractors, and Prime Trade Contractors, have their own suppliers and subcontractors: these are called Sub-Subcontractors. (See diagram below)
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Using the Contracting 101 Framework

So the point of the Contracting 101 Framework is to foster understanding of the project at hand. Begin by printing the diagrams above and writing the names of the project players over the generic descriptions. Virtually every project will be different than the Contracting 101 Framework, so you might have to compose multiple iterations, moving the boxes around to fit the peculiarities of your project. I often do this in my office where we have multiple whiteboards and I move back and forth from one to the next until I get my organizational chart to accurately reflect the complexity of the roles and relationships of the current situation. The "compare and contrast," from the simple "Contracting 101 Framework," to the complexity of the real world, is often incredibly instructive. 

Sample Project: Custom Single Family Residence

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This project was a train wreck. 

The Architecture firm and the General Contracting firm were both owned by the same person, but the Owner did not know that (which is unethical and illegal without following strict consent laws). By the time the Owner tried to get control of the project, the two firms had taken $3.5 million dollars to turn a $2.9 million home (initial purchase cost) into a lumber pile. The contract called for distinct design phases but the design was never finished, and it called for the Architect to serve as the Construction Administrator (Owner Representative), but that was a sham since the entities are so closely related and have employees who work for both businesses. The construction work, based on an incomplete design, was executed negligently at inflated prices. The construction work onsite should have been halted long before it was. When the Owners finally asked for a legitimate halt to the construction work, to sort our a plan to go forward, both entities terminated the agreements (using the same lawyer) and engaged in a scorched-earth litigation policy that ensured the maximum economic damage possible from this terrible situation.

Sample Project: Construction Site Accident

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Above is a slide from a 2010 trial presentation. This case came precariously close to trial. 

The project was a four story 445-unit apartment community. The property Owner was also the developer. The General Contractor entered into a cost-plus prime contract with Owner. The General Contractor entered into an agreement with the Plastering Contractor for $6.5 million. When asked by the General Contractor to perform scaffolding work outside their scope, the Plastering Contractor contracted with a specialty Scaffolding Contractor to furnish a system to access the interior walls of the air shafts at the project. So the key parties included the Owner, General Contractor, Subcontractor (plaster), Sub-Subcontractor (scaffolding), and all of their respective staff. 

The injured individual was the crew lead for the Sub-Subcontractor. That day he was part of a three-man crew setting up scaffolding in an air shaft of one of the buildings. The crew was removing the temporary wood flooring previously installed by another subcontractor and the injured employee fell approximately 35 feet to the concrete floor below. 

Sample Project: Claim for Nonpayment / Counter Claims for Defects & Delays

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This project was the complete renovation of a commercial retail center. The Owner entered into a direct contract with our client, a Paving Company, as well as many other contracts with prime and trade contractors. The Owner had an independent contractor, who was a formerly licensed general contractor, on-site as a supervisor. Our client's initial complaint and mechanics lien were filed to collect $282,400 in work performed. The Owner cross-complained that the work was not completed in the 30-day agreed time limit, that some items were not completed ever, that some work was performed that was outside the contract scope of work (all of which had very sensible explanations).

The primary argument the Owner / Developer was trying to make was that they were NOT playing the role traditionally played by a general contractor or construction manager (which was RIDICULOUS). The Contracting 101 / Roles & Responsibilities Analysis PFCS performed in this matter, particularly the organizational chart above, made their argument seem silly (because it was). 

Sample Project: Condominium Conversion

This project arose from construction defect allegations related to the conversion of a 32 unit apartment complex originally built in 1975 into condominiums. The Developer/Converter purchased the 32 unit apartment complex and almost immediately began the conversion to a condominium complex utilizing a Specialty General Contractor (our client) and many other other contractors. Plaintiff alleged that the Specialty General Contractor's scope included defective work. Our client was a general contractor who, according to invoices, performed property maintenance, repair and improvement work related to the conversion including demolition, work in garages, on balconies, stucco, fences/gates, finish carpentry, doors, and electrical totalling $186,165.00.

One of the key allegations was that our client was THE General Contractor, which was not the case. You will see from reading two and a half pages from the 56 page report that our Roles & Responsibilities analysis made clear that the Owner/Developer was in the drivers seat for all important decisions on this project. 

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A Sensible List

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The rumors are true. I am a crazy person. Anyone who knows our company knows that we are REALLY into training. And this training module, called "A Sensible List," has been included in more of our training programs than any other. BY FAR! And the reason is (as Charles Kettering said): "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." And our job, above all else, is to solve problems. 

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So yes; I am a crazy person. Any time someone brings me a collection of data that is not first organized into A Sensible List (or some sensible order), it makes me feel sad. So sad that people who won't stop bringing me "project piles" rather than sensible project files, are invited to work somewhere else, where they might better thrive. 

But people protest: "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" 

No it's not.

Organizing our world "sensibly" has been obvious since the dawn of civilization, and ultimately research psychologists figured out why. When you get bored or need a sleep aid, read "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two." This is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 and argues that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is why SO many things are arranged in groups of 5-9. It's not a miracle. It's just how humans think. 

So over time the folks who manage big, complex projects made some rules about making lists that conform with the way the human mind works, and they called their Sensible List a "Work Breakdown Structure." I highly recommend you study the subject, even further than I will go in this post. 

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As it says on the slide above, I highly recommend you Google (search) each of these Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) terms. Until then, take my word for the following: 

  1. A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a decomposition of a project into smaller components.

  2. 100% Rule: This means your list needs to add up to 100% of whatever it's summarizing. Not 99%. Not 101%.

  3. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: In general, each level of the WBS should be no more than 9 items long. In construction cost estimating, this rule gets broken. It's OK in this circumstance because most of the audience for construction cost estimates are people who deal with them often and can conceptualize these longer lists due to this familiarity. But any time we can't get the list on a single sheet of paper, we should usually "chunk" it down to size. At PFCS we usually arrange our WBSs using numbers at Level 1 (L1) and capital letters (A, B, C...) at Level 2 (L2). That way, if you get past Z at L2, you know you're in trouble and should consider re-thinking your list. 

  4. Mutually Exclusive Elements: In addition to the 100% rule, it's important that there is no overlap in scope definition between different elements of a work breakdown structure because this ambiguity could result in duplicated work. But sometimes an element of your list could fall naturally in two locations on the WBS, so from time to time we have a "zero value" item that refers to another element, just so everyone is clear. An example of this might be if we decided to sort documents first by "Who," then chronologically, where the name of the person or organization (Who) = L1 and the individual documents, that are listed in order by date, are each a L2 item (a common organizational scheme). If a document in this collection was authored by two parties we might list that document in both places (under both names), but refer from one of those items to the other so that we don't need to duplicate the document. 

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So the only thing I don't like about the diagram above is that they call the entire bike "WBS Level 1". Bit it's NOT broken down yet! So I call their "WBS Level 2," a Level-1 WBS because it's the first level of breakdown. It's a sensible 100% list. That is: A Sensible List. 

The PFCS Standard WBS numbering-lettering scheme for this example would be: 

1. Frame Set

A. Frame

B. Handlebar

C. Fork

D. Seat

2. Crank Set

A... 

The numbering scheme used in the slide above is appropriate for highly technical documents, like codes and standards. But our work at PFCS needs to be consumed and understood by smart but NOT technical people. Literally, our job is to help our clients make smart, informed decisions about buildings and property, and we know that if they don't understand our work, then we have not served them well. My experience is that some people get confused when you refer to section 1403.2.2.4. So we prefer an approach that is as simple as possible (but no simpler), conforming with the way humans best understand things. 

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If you've studied project management then you know "The Golden Triangle" includes the project "Scope, Budget, and Schedule." These are the big three aspects of getting a complex project planned and done.

In addition, if we layout our WBS just right, then we can manage all three aspects in lock-step, as depicted (in a simplified way) below. 

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“No plan can be considered complete - or satisfactory - until it produces measurable outcomes and incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results.” - Judith Rodin

That is my favorite management quote (well... I have lots of favorite quotes :). It's so true! Most people's plans are more "hopes" than plans. I have worked on many projects in litigation, where the owners had no idea how far over budget they were until they had already paid MORE than 100% of the original contract price, because the plan did not "incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." I had a mentor who used to say to me "Pete: Hope is not a strategy." I would always retort: Yes it is! It's just a terrible one!! I recommend you NOT use hope as a strategy in your planning. 

As you can see from the slide above, with the right WBS (Sensible List) we can summarize the scope, budget and schedule, then we can compare actual performance compared to the plan throughout the life of the project, so that we can "incorporate mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." This is the promise of professional project management. And the foundation of project management is a well designed WBS. And a well designed WBS is the most Sensible List. 

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In a construction project it's not only the scope, budget, and schedule that should be connected using A Sensible List (WBS). Most construction documents will either be organized or filed using the Sensible List (WBS). Often this is simply by Who, then When; that is, by party (name) and then chronologically (by date). That would be a 2-Level WBS (who-when). Other schemes go another level deep. 

An example 3-Level WBS for Construction Document Organization: 

1. Name 1

A. Contract Documents

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

3. YEAR-MO-DY Document 3 

B. RFIs and Change Orders

C. All Other

D. Correspondence

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

2. Name 2

By the way: If we adhere to this scheme electronically, with individual electronic files organized with the date first and the format of the date YEAR-MO-DY, or 2017-10-20 for today's date, then we always know the most current version of any electronic file is the one at the bottom. Any other scheme adds complexity, which adds the likelihood of error. Even if the file has lots of different files, you can easily scan from the bottom to find the most recent version of a file (Ex. 2017-10-20 Change Order 17). So I highly recommend this scheme. 

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And the same goes for construction claim and litigation matters: A Sensible List often makes the difference between order and chaos. 

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I said above that people protest that "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" And that I totally disagree. This is not to say there is only one way to be "sensible." There are lots of ways to be sensible... And even more ways to be NOT sensible. So suffice it to say: Use one of the sensible ways. Think about how your Sensible List might get used before you begin, and work backward. Planning backward from a successful end is the essence of excellent planning. 

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When PFCS is making lists of building elements, we use Uniformat, unless there is a compelling reason to use some other scheme *. "UniFormat is a standard for classifying building specifications, cost estimating, and cost analysis in the U.S. and Canada. The elements are major components common to most buildings. The system can be used to provide consistency in the economic evaluation of building projects. It was developed through an industry and government consensus and has been widely accepted as an ASTM standard."

Lots of construction professionals use CSI Masterformat because most specifications manuals from architects are often written using this scheme, but since PFCS does so much building performance analysis, and we store building data (forever, for free) Uniformat is a better standard for us. 

* In claims and litigation, we need to be very careful about making our Sensible List(s) because so much of the work is about comparing and contrasting. If we are on the plaintiff side, then all the other parties will likely use our list to respond to our claims. When we are on the defense side, and someone else has created a reasonably sensible list, then it's usually better to adopt their's, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Unfortunately, the work of others is sometimes so poor that we have to create our own organizational scheme. But we only do this as a last resort. 

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Unifromat's Level-1 structure is a simple, Sensible List that categorizes all aspects of any building project, using capitol letters at Level 1 (because there are WAY more than 26 Level 2 options, and they wisely switch from letters to numbers when going from L1 to L2): 

A. Substructure

B. Superstructure

C. Interiors

D. Services

E. Equipment & Furnishings

F. Special Construction & Demolition

G. Building Site work

H. Other (This is added by PFCS because lots of our projects are in litigation and the issues don't always fit into Uniformat's building element codes. 

The actual building elements nest comfortably at Level 2 under the respective L1 categories. 

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In lots of what we do, we explain things by "working from large to small." I have explained this hundreds of times by asking people if they ever used Google Earth, where you start with an image of the entire Earth. You type in your address and the globe turns to orient toward your hemisphere, then it starts moving in toward your continent, then the your country, then your state, county, city, neighborhood, and ultimately your rooftop. And in going from large to small way we have been oriented perfectly to where in the world we are. First explain the forest we are in, then talk about trees. 

So buildings are, for the sake of consistency in naming, composed of "Elements" like foundations, walls and roofs. A "masonry wall" is a particular type of building element (at Level 2 in Uniformat). The bricks and mortar are "Components" of that building element, that would be at Level 3 or deeper. 

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This project was a Property Condition Assessment for twin high-rise condominiums, so virtually all of the building elements were addressed in our report. 

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This project was a construction defect litigation matter with discrete problems and repairs for all of those issues. 

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Even our Core Values are laid out in a 2-Level Work Breakdown structure! 

And from there, so, so many of the things we do have to be arranged in a sensible list: 

Contractor Pre-qualification Checklist

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Introduction

Background checks are necessary. There is a reason you are screened before buying a car, a gun, or getting hired for a prestigious new job. Pre-qualifying contractors and subcontractors is one of the most important steps in reducing risk associated with construction projects. A system needs to be put in place along the lines of what is expected of a contractor in order to make sure they can handle the work you want them to do.

At PFCS we have found that pre-qualifying contractors is an important step in our own unique system for hiring. In a blog post called "Avoid Bad Contractors: Basic Due Diligence in Hiring," Pete Fowler outlined 17 crucial steps in order to hire a good contractor. Pre-qualification falls on number 8. It is such an important step that it has seven sub-steps for ensuring the pre-qualification process is done thoroughly.

The following is a checklist compiled by FIRST, VERIFY that details the important steps in pre-qualifying a contractor.

The Checklist

Business

  • Business Attributes
  • Corporate Officers and/or Shareholders/Partners/Proprietor
  • Parent, Affiliate, and/or Subsidiary Companies
  • Employees
  • Operations
  • Equipment
  • Litigation/Bankruptcy/Judgments

Insurance

  • Contact for Insurance Information
  • Insurance Information
  • Surety Relations

Financial

  • Job History
  • Largest Contracts
  • Capacity
  • Anticipated Annual Volume

References

  • Banking Relations
  • List three (3) major suppliers
  • List three (3) General Contractors for whom you have worked in the last three (3) years

Bidding Interests

  • Add Bidding Interests

Safety Statistics

  • Experience Modification Rating
  • Workers Compensation
  • OSHA Recordkeeping
  • Safety Performance History
  • Regulatory

Safety Programs & Procedures

  • Written Safety and Health Program
  • Written Safety Program Administrative Procedures
  • Site-Specific Safety Plan
  • Policies
  • Substance Abuse Policy
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Management
  • Utilize Services
  • Medical
  • Benefits
  • Accident Investigation Procedure
  • Safety Inspections
  • PPE, Equipment Inspections, Audits
  • Meetings
  • Subcontractors
  • Safety Training/Orientation
  • Training Records
  • Safety Orientation Program for Newly Hired or Promoted Foremen/Supervisors
  • OSHA Construction Safety Courses
  • Craft Training
  • Comprehension

Supporting Documents

  • Certificate of Insurance
  • OSHA 300 log
  • NCCI Letter (EMR)
  • Contractor General Conditions Agreement
  • Other Desired Documents  

We've Moved!

Introduction

For the past 15 years, Pete Fowler Construction Services' San Clemente office has been located in a small business park on Calle Negocio. We've been thinking about moving spaces for years, and the time has finally come.

With the recent expansion of the marketing team and purchase of Marc C. Viau & Associates, our little office was getting a bit crammed. Last time Pete was in, we had to set up a make-shift desk in the corner (see photo). So began our hunt for the perfect office space.

After searching high and low, we are eager to announce that on Monday (8/28), we will be moving to an office space a whopping 0.2 miles down the road from the current location to 905 Calle Amanecer, San Clemente, CA.

  The outside of our new San Clemente office building!

The outside of our new San Clemente office building!

While we're sad to leave the space PFCS has called "home" for more than a decade... We aren't really all that torn up about it. How could we be?! Our new office is beautiful and has room for us all.

In the past week, we've had movers and painters come through to help make the space feel like a true PFCS workplace. On Friday, our San Clemente employees will pack up their desks and return to the new office on Monday morning. How exciting!

 

  The foyer in our new building

The foyer in our new building

Photo Update - 9/6/2017

We've been in our new office for a little over a week now and we are in love. Here are some photos of the PFCS team enjoying the work space:

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  Now that's what we call a conference room!

Now that's what we call a conference room!

  Clean, new workspaces are exciting

Clean, new workspaces are exciting

  Mike V. and Orchid getting a feel for Mike's new office

Mike V. and Orchid getting a feel for Mike's new office

  Pete in his new space

Pete in his new space

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  Farewell old office, you will not be missed!

Farewell old office, you will not be missed!

Additional Information

New Address: 905 Calle Amanecer San Clemente, California 92673

Article of the Week: "Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones"

Introduction

In a recent article from The New York Times, Personal Health columnist, Jane Brody, explores the advantages of positive thinking – even if only for a few moments a day.

Summary

Barbara Fredrickson is a psychologist at the University of North Carolina. She has done extensive research on fostering positive emotions and came up with a theory called "micro-moments of positivity." These micro-moments refer to events from everyday life. Fredrickson's research shows that people who are able to generate positive thoughts and feelings towards everyday tasks are more likely to succeed than those who do not.

Negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions are normal phenomenon of life. However, Fredrickson's research proves that "chronically viewing the glass as half-empty is detrimental both mentally and physically and inhibits one’s ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable stresses." The amygdala is the part of the brain which processes negative emotions. Another researcher and neuroscientist, Dr. Richard J. Davidson found that people who recover slowly from negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, or threat are more likely to develop health problems.

Both Dr. Fredrickson and Dr. Davidson found that practicing mindful meditation with a focus on kindness and compassion generate changes in the brain that increase positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Aside from mindful meditation, Dr. Fredrickson and other professionals recommend trying a few of the following things to promote a more positive mind:

  • Do good things for people around you - even if it's as small as opening the door for someone!
  • Appreciate the world around you. It's the little things that make life great. Take a detour to watch the sunset or admire the trees swaying in the wind.
  • Develop and bolster relationships. Surrounding yourself with friends and family increases self-esteem.
  • Establish goals that can be accomplished. Being un-realistic about goals can be a downer when they don't come to fruition. Aim high, but keep yourself grounded.
  • Learn something new. Again, be realistic! Don't frustrate yourself by trying something you're going to fail at - ease into it. The more you learn, the more you want to learn.
  • Choose to accept yourself, flaws and all. Narrow in on your positive attributes. The rest are pesky details.
  • Practice resilience. Use your negative encounters as learning experience for how to better handle your emotions in the future: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
  • Practice mindfulness. "Let go of things you can’t control and focus on the here-and-now. Consider taking a course in insight meditation.

Why We Care

Here at PFCS, we strive to keep a positive environment. To maintain an upbeat atmosphere, it is important that each of us exercise a positive attitude. The more positive feelings and emotions harvested in the workplace, the more productive we can be! The list above is a nice, concise summary of best practices we can use both in our work and in our personal lives. 

Article of the Week: "For Want of a Comma, We Have This Case"

Introduction

Earlier this month, the FindLaw blog posted an article highlighting the importance of grammar and editing, especially in the legal field.

Summary

This article discusses the state of Maine's case of O'Connor v. Oakhurt Dairy. In this case, dairy delivery drivers were fighting their employers for overtime pay. However, Maine's law requiring employers to pay workers time and a half after 40 hours a week exempts a variety of jobs in the food production industry.

The law excludes "canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution." This case was brought to court to settle the dispute over a misinterpretation due to the lack of an oxford comma. The dairy drivers argued that the grammatical format of the law required they be paid overtime, while the Oakhurt Dairy strongly disagreed.

Both parties referred to the Cannons of Construction in their defense, but there was not enough evidence to fully support either side. In the end, the courts settled in favor of the drivers because of the unclear interpretation of the law.

Why We Care

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein

Clarity of written communication is critical. Construction is not theoretically difficult to understand; it's not much more than sticks and stones stacked neatly. If we, as contractors, can't communicate our message clearly to someone who does not have much background in construction, it is a problem with the communicator (us), not the communicatee.

Hollywood U2 at The Canyon - 3/18/2017

Introduction

On Friday, March 18th, PFCS and friends gathered at The Canyon in Agoura Hills for the World's Greatest U2 Cover Band, Hollywood U2.

Here are some highlights from the night:

 The Canyon is a spacious, yet intimate venue. We heard one of the original players from U2 was in the audience with us!

The Canyon is a spacious, yet intimate venue. We heard one of the original players from U2 was in the audience with us!

 Hollywood Bono totally tore up the stage! Did you know he's preformed alongside the real Bono?

Hollywood Bono totally tore up the stage! Did you know he's preformed alongside the real Bono?

 So much fun with  Pete Fowler  and friends!

So much fun with Pete Fowler and friends!

Making Drive Time Productive: Getting Your iPhone to Speak to You

Introduction

Are you getting tired of listening to the same silly pop songs on the radio while you're stuck in traffic on your way to and from work? So were we! Ever since one of our employees discovered the "Speak Screen" feature on the iPhone, sitting in traffic has never been the same.

To make the best of time spent commuting (and to keep yourself from having to look down at your phone while driving!), have your iPhone read out loud to you. By enabling the setting called "Speak Screen," your phone will read the words on your device out loud.

Speak Screen

Follow these step-by-step instructions to enable your iPhone to read aloud to you:


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Step one:

Open the Settings application on your iPhone. It looks like the image on the right.


 

 

 

Step Two:

Under Settings, click General, located at the bottom of the page.

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Step Three:

Under General, click Accessibility, located towards the bottom of the page.

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Step Four:

In the Accessibility folder, click on Speech. It is located in the middle of the page.

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Step Five:

Finally, to get your iPhone to read to you, turn on Speak Screen. All of the settings within the Speech folder will help to adjust the speed and tone of voice your phone will use to speak aloud.

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Final Step

Last, but not least, close out of Settings and navigate to a page with text (ex: a web article, your text messages, etc.). Drag three fingers from the top of your screen and your iPhone will begin to read to you.


Other Applications for the Car

Audible

Audible is an Amazon application that allows you to download and listen to audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio editions of newspapers and magazines. To use Audible, make sure you have an active Amazon account. Then, simply download the Audible application to your phone or computer and browse the shop – the first 30 days are FREE!

Pocket (the iPhone App, not your pants)

Pocket is an application that our president, Pete Fowler, swears by. This app was originally intended for desktop computers and went by the name "Read It Later." Once you have downloaded Pocket, it allows you to search for articles across the internet that interest you. The best part is that you can save the articles to read at a later time (hence, Read It Later...) or as we prefer – to listen to later!

Pocket has features to adjust the size of the text for easy reading, but more importantly, it can play the articles aloud for you.

Why We Care

Using your phone and driving is dangerous. Using Speak Screen or applications like Audible or Pocket keep you entertained while your eyes remain on the road. Next time you're in the car and need something to listen to, sign in to PFCS Client Access and tune in to one of our past webinars!

Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2016

Article of the Week

He's done it again! In a December 2016 posting of Gatesnotes: The Blog of Bill Gates, he personally summarized the six books that he considered the best he read during the year.

One Minute Summary

In the article "My Favorite Books of 2016," Gates claims that although there are more ways to learn today than ever before (ie. online), books are still his favorite way to obtain information about a new topic.

String Theory by David Foster Wallace is a collection of five essays on tennis - however, it is not important to play or watch the sport to find the book interesting. Gates claims, "The late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket."

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is a memoir that reflects the trials and tribulations of building a successful business.

The Gene by Siddartha Mukherjee delves into the past, present and future of genome science.

Why We Care

Bill Gates is (A.) one of the richest and most successful men in the world and (B.) known to be a voracious reader. So, when he takes his valuable time to summarize the books he says are the best he read all year, everyone eager to expand their knowledge should sit up and listen. These books touch on "how things work," the physical world, and offer insight into the human condition. These are all things we are interested in.

Resources

Click here to see our post about Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2015

Video

"National Safety Council 2016: OSHA's Top 10 Violations for 2016"

Article of the Week

As the year comes to an end, we tend to see a lot of "Top ___ of 2016" articles floating around. This week, we are taking a look at the preliminary list of OSHA's Top 10 Violations for 2016. The list consists of violations through September 30, 2016.

One Minute Summary

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1. Fall Protection - While the data shows that 39.9% of deaths in the construction industry are fall-related, this citation remains one of the most common violations year after year. In 2016, there were just under 7,000 violations.

2. Hazard Communications - This year, there were a total of 5,677 hazard communications violations. When two parties work together on a project, it is both parties' responsibilities to ensure worker safety. Violations included inadequate training, outdated data sheets and lack of programming to address hazard chemical exposure.

 Scaffolding

Scaffolding

3. Scaffolding - With about 3,900 violations, fall protection plays a large role in scaffolding. The most common violations were improper assembly and insufficient access.

4. Respiratory Protection - OSHA found various instances where companies failed to provide medical evaluations of employees who wore respirators in situations with overexposure to contaminants and  instances where respirators were not property fit-tested. There were a total of 3,585 violations in 2016.

5. Lockout/Tagout - 3,400 citations were given for improper, inconsistent and nonexistent lockout/tagout training procedures.

 Powered Industrial Trucks

Powered Industrial Trucks

6. Powered Industrial Trucks - There were about 2,900 instances where trucks were being operated in an unsafe manner, including being driven by uncertified workers.

7. Ladders - Citations were given when ladders were not being used according to design specifications. There were about 2,600 violations in 2016.

8. Machine Guarding - Machine guarding is hazardous and if machinery are not anchored/fixed, it can lead to amputation. There were almost 2,500 violations.

 Electrical

Electrical

9. Electrical Wiring - Violations included unsafe substitutes for permanent wiring and dangerous use of extension cords.

10. Electrical, General Requirements - Improper installation of electric equipment was the most common electrical violation of 2016 with 1,700 citations.

Why We Care

PFCS is dedicated to provide an environment that is free of accidents and to ensure that every employee is provided safe and healthful working conditions free from recognized hazards.