Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trashing Those Product Samples

In honor of Greenbuild, I got to thinking about waste in the construction submittals process. BuildSite is all about saving time and paper waste on submittals. So you can imagine how frustrated I was on a recent trip to a distributor of acoustical products when I found the following waste of money, time and resources on multiple levels.

According to our BuildSite Submittals user, architects are routinely requesting physical samples of common (and not so common) acoustical products with their project submittals. This includes samples they have seen multiple times, such as batts and gypsum board. Now, I can understand why a designer would want samples to confirm the colors and textures of interior elements they have not used recently, or at all. But common insulation and drywall products?

The other disturbing piece of this is the sheer number of samples that are being requested. How many do they request, you ask? Three: one for the GC, one for the subcontractor and one for the requesting architect? Sometimes, IF the distributor is "lucky." Try TWELVE--when he isn't. Twelve? Are you kidding me?! Who's getting these samples? And what are THEY doing with them... over and over again?

Get a calculator and start adding this up, considering the time involved, the cost of the sample, and the cost of shipping:
  1. Distributor requests samples from manufacturer.
  2. Manufacturer ships to distributor.
  3. Distributor bundles all samples with submittal.
  4. Distributor ships to architect or GC.
  5. Architect or GC ships to sub and other(s).
Now, those of you who are concerned about the environment, waste, or wanting to be cost-efficient or maybe even profitable: what happens to these duplicate samples at the end of a project? I hope some LEED AP's are reading this because the USGBC needs to put some pressure on architects who request multiple product samples of items they have requested before. If you are an architect who commonly requests these samples, please, help me understand why!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Visit BuildSite at Greenbuild Chicago!

BuildSite staff at Greenbuild in 2009

We are gearing up for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo here at BuildSite, getting all our promotional items together for the show. [If you are planning on attending, please stop in at our booth #578 to watch a demo and get a Builder’s Bar!] In honor of the big event, I decided to take a look back at the past year.

We have had a lot happen here since Greenbuild 2009, where we launched BuildSite Green Data, a database of green and LEED® data for construction products. With the help of our launch manufacturers, including Bostik, Grace Construction Products, Knauf Insulation, L.M. Scofield, and others, we seeded the BuildSite database with environmental attributes applicable to the LEED green building rating system.

In January, we announced the release of our software, BuildSite Submittals, which allows for the creation of fully electronic project submittals tied directly to construction specifications. With templates for both standard and LEED submittals, BuildSite Submittals provides a workspace in which users can create customize packages of product information tied line-by-line to the specs.

In July, we took a huge step and decided to open BuildSite Submittals to the construction industry with our Freemium Edition. As our President, Ned Trainor said, we wanted to prove how easy it is to build submittals online, so we removed any barriers to giving BuildSite a try.

At Greenbuild, we invite you to do just that. Try BuildSite Submittals for free. If you want more features, you can always upgrade to a Professional or Enterprise account for additional security and file sharing capabilities. Otherwise, continue to use the Free Edition to cut back on the time and expense of generating paper submittals the “old way.”

It has been a great year at BuildSite, and we are looking forward to our second annual exhibition at Greenbuild. We can’t wait to connect with new customers and soak up all the new and exciting ideas in green building. Remember to stop by Booth #578, watch a demo, and pick up a Clif Builder’s Bar from BuildSite!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Advice for Contractors: A Report from the ASCC Annual Conference

The American Society of Concrete Contractors Annual Conference, held in September, brought together a group of accomplished concrete contractors from all over the country. I attended the conference on behalf of BuildSite, with the hope of gaining insights about how the events of the past year have affected our customers. Not only did I hear about the issues top-of-mind to concrete contractors, but also I heard some great advice. So, I thought I’d pass along some of that advice in the hopes that some of our customers will take heart, knowing they are not alone during this tough time.

There were a few major themes stressed throughout the conference. The most prevalent and perhaps overarching theme was--you guessed it--coping with the current economy. At the early morning contractor round tables (starting at 6 am!), Rocky Geans mediated as contractors talked about staying busy and finding work in the down economy.

As a result of decreased project starts, contractors are facing more competition than ever. And more competition means that profit margins are getting cut down to practically—if not literally—zero. With so much pressure to keep bids extremely low, contractors wondered, when is it okay to walk away from a job? Low bids leave no room for error, and if anything unplanned happens, even a slight deviation in schedule, a company has a lot to lose. So, if you are struggling, is it ever wise to turn down work when you know it is being underbid?

The topic of walking away from a job was picked up by Clay Fischer of Woodland Construction Co. in his presentation "Putting Your Company in the Best Light." His advice to contractors was to avoid bidding every project that comes across their desks. No matter the economic climate, contractors are smart to pick and choose projects to bid where they can really make a difference. As Clay Fischer pointed out, sometimes saying "no" is good for future business. Owners will want you more once you show your willingness to walk away from a job.

Another obvious result of the economic downturn has been a drop in contractor morale. Joe Primavera of Sundek touched on the issue of morale in his portion of "Putting Your Company in the Best Light." He said he spends a lot of his time motivating struggling companies when times are very difficult. And these days, he is getting a lot of practice!

Joe’s advice? Go back to the basics. He advices contractors to focus on what got their company where it is today (well, before the crisis). Is your company known for quality workmanship? Put even more effort into your craft. Has your company thrived on referrals? Talk to your customers and find out how you can give them the very best customer service possible. Identify what it is you have done in the past to succeed, and focus on those core competencies. The companies who weather this economy with a solid reputation will be the ones in demand once the construction industry rebounds.

Are you a contractor who is struggling with these side effects of the economic downturn? You might find that ASCC has the support you need, especially during tough times like today. Give them a call, and better yet, tell them BuildSite sent you! Thanks to Bev Garnant, Molly Dallman, and all ASCC staff who gathered such a great group together for this year’s annual conference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Practices for Marketing to Contractors: A White Paper from Point to Point

Best Practices for Selling Building Products Through Contractors
Are you marketing to contractors? It is not an easy task these days, even among seasoned manufacturing companies. Contractors are a diverse bunch. Plus they are an often-overlooked purchasing segment of the construction industry, as manufacturers vie for the attention of architects and specifiers. Getting "in the spec" is the holy grail of construction marketing today. But as we at BuildSite know, contractors are critical influencers and decision-makers in the construction buying process.

That's why, when Brady Cohen from Point to Point passed along his colleagues' new white paper on marketing to contractors, I was eager to promote it. We talk to contractors every day. And what we know to be true anecdotally is backed up here in this great piece of market research.

Click on the link below to download the report. I compiled a list of my favorite takeaways on marketing to contractors:
  • The economy hit these guys hard: The unemployment rate in construction has climbed from up to 20.1% most recently. The economy was a major theme at the recent American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) Annual Conference I attended. Contractors are struggling.
  • Manufacturers are wise to meet the information needs of the Hispanic contractor. By 2025, Hispanics within the construction workforce are estimated to reach 63.2%.
  • When it comes to web design for contractors, it is all about function. The number one thing construction buyers want from manufacturer websites, after product pricing, is ease of navigation.
  • Contractors are an integral part of the purchasing process: 99% of general contractors say they are involved in some way in their organization’s building product purchases.

Download the white paper Best Practices for Selling Building Products Through Contractors, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tackling Technophobia in the Workplace

Are you a technophobe? Or do you know someone in your office who is? Now, I know that we all hate computers when they're down, when the internet is slow, when your computer picks up a virus, etc. My husband has been known to complain: "How was I supposed to know that?!" when filling out a basic online registration form. However, these days, we all have to get with it or get going (as in--out the door). Here at BuildSite we are in the business of training people to become more comfortable with software. Here are my suggestions for you non-techies:
  1. Read a tutorial. Software and website tutorials are there for people just like you. You may not like computers but do like reading. Often the tutorials will walk you through each step along the way.They are designed to keep things simple for the beginner user.
  2. Watch a (short) video. Almost all software comes with quick, 3-5 minute flash demos or associated videos. These demos help you find out what you really need to know and not all the details. Also, they're so short, you can do this in your spare time or from home.
  3. Make a call. Okay, these days web-based companies are not always especially fond of providing phone support. But that shouldn't stop you. Reach out to the Customer Service or Tech Support people--they're there to help!
  4. Ask a friend. Friends and coworkers are often willing to schedule a time to show you a few tricks on the computer. It's a great excuse to then buy him/her lunch or a beer after work.
  5. Ask your child. Have your son or daughter get off Facebook and teach you how to use the computer/internet/software! It can be a bonding experience. Besides, they love to show you how much smarter they are than you.
  6. Find a geek. We all know computer geeks who seem to find all this to be simple and effortless. Ask him or her to show you how to do your work more effectively. If she's at your headquarters, she'll be glad you asked!
  7. Google it. It's pretty easy these days to find new technology, services, programs, websites, and YouTubes that can help you be more productive at whatever you do. You can even enter a long-winded question into the search bar and see what comes up.
  8. Contact you industry's trade association. Often trade groups will have resources no one knows about to help you do your work better. They, too, are just waiting to be asked.
  9. Call or email BuildSite Support...there's always a cheerful voice and help when you need it.
Yes, learning something new takes time. But, believe it or not, software is designed to solve common problems and save you time in the long run. So why not take a chance and see if it does?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Find Sales Leads with BuildSite's Distributor Directory

Some of the most frequent calls and emails we receive come from customers who are looking for distributors of the products they find on our site. Customers come across our site while looking for products on search engines and assume that we’re a distributor ourselves. After explaining to them that we provide a database of product information, we introduce them to our Distributor Directory and help them find their nearest distributors.

These are actual customers, intent on purchasing products. They simply don’t know who to buy from and where to go for that information. We try to provide an easy way for anyone, from frequent users of our site to people who finds us through Google, to get in touch with the right people.

BuildSite's Distributor Directory allows buyers to connect with sellers. On each BuildSite product detail page we provide the option for users to enter a zip code. Once entered, we compile a list of the nearest distributors of that product within 150 miles of that zip code. The list provides the complete contact information for the location, including the address, phone number, company website, and the name of a contact person. Anyone who uses BuildSite has access to this feature, and we even provide a complete list of every distributor location in the directory.

The benefits from this service are threefold. Customers can use this service as a quick and easy way to find distributors to purchase from. The distributors in our directory are given sales leads as well as increased, localized exposure to customers. Once a customer knows there is a reliable distributor near them, they'll be more likely to purchase from that distributor in the future. Finally, BuildSite benefits by providing a channel for customers to find exactly what they need, when they need it.

Learn more about the BuildSite Distributor Directory and contact us if you want to be listed!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

8 Document Management Tips for Manufacturers

When it comes to document management, manufacturers have a huge responsibility towards their customers. They must provide accurate information that is up to date and easily available for their customers to find.

As Dan pointed out in his post on How Not to Design a Manufacturer Website, construction product manufacturers face a challenge when trying to make product lists and their corresponding documentation available on the web. The number of documents that need uploading is staggering, and managing them can be quite overwhelming. Mistakes in the updating process are not uncommon; I have encountered everything from broken links to product documents with mistaken identities to documents that belong in my grandfather’s chest of ancient curiosities. Buyers looking for product documents are therefore left with no choice but to find a different manufacturer that provides the correct documentation for the product they need. Efficient document management is thus a key factor in getting your products submitted.

In view of the huge amount of documents, how can product managers keep the changes in their product’s documentation in check?

Here are a few best practices for document management:

Tip #1: Choose a naming convention and stick to it!
Webmasters in charge of updating your document database will be more prone to make mistakes if there is no naming convention for each document type.

Tip #2: Include the document type in the name.

A good way to keep track of your documents is to include a tag in the file name. The tag states the type of document (such as “MSDS” for material safety data sheet or “TD” for technical data) in all the file names.

Tip #3: Get your team into the habit of replacing spaces with dashes.
Website scripts cannot read spaces in file names. Therefore, use a dash or underscore in place of a space to facilitate the process of uploading documents.

Tip #4: Avoid using dates in file names for product documents.
Dating the file name may cause confusion, especially when products are updated and uploaded at different times. If records of old files must be kept, it is better to develop a system where dated folders are used for keeping outdated documents.

Tip #5: Avoid naming your files by only using numbers.
Using numbers to name your files makes the process of finding the corresponding document for a product confusing and time consuming. So unless your product’s name either is a number or includes a number, don’t use numbers!

Tip #6: Match your file name to your product’s name.
Customers looking for your product’s paperwork will be happy to find that they don’t have to change the file name when downloading a document. Remember, people who have to build submittals download hundreds of documents for each package of products. Making their task an easy one-click save will put your products in their "favorites" list.

Tip #7: Build a logical folder system.
Compartmentalize your documents by type or category--this can go a long way for a customer who needs to keep your information organized. Also, giving a label like “specs” or “roof insulation” to your folders will accelerate the updating process for the website manager.

Tip #8: Use BuildSite’s database to keep your product documentation in check and in sight!
Many manufacturers use BuildSite’s database to keep track of changes in their own documents. Aside from the fact that you increase visibility for your product when using BuildSite, an added perk of using our database is that you have all your company and product documents compiled in one place. Listing your products on BuildSite helps you manage your documents and ensures that those considering your products for their project have all the documents they need ready for uploading onto their submittals. Everything is just one click of a button away!

Follow all these tips, or a combination of them, and both your employees and customers will be happy to find your documents within easy reach!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tekla UM 2010: Lessons from BIM Users

I knew Tekla's User Meeting was sure to be "hot" even before reaching Atlanta during its worst recorded heat wave. There's always a lot of action, and I'm not referring to the fact that the Braves took out the Dodgers while the User Meeting attendees looked on. Tekla's meetings are always intriguing because our partner, Tekla Structures, is a state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM) software provider.

The Teklans were fantastic hosts. They provided a great evening of baseball for their User Meeting attendees (see Braves reference, above), and also created a program filled with BIM success stories. I was able to break away for a session called Integrated Project Environments: Integrations With Other Solutions In The Project Landscape. Corinne Ambler and Jason McFadden discussed how Barton Malow is providing owners with a more complete package at handover.

Ambler and McFadden noted that common problems and risks have been minimized when there is mandated use of the BIM model and its updating. They shared their experience on a recent project demonstrating the power and functionality of Tekla Structures. Incorporating other Tekla partners, such as Vela Systems and Motion Computing's Tablet PC, makes construction management analysis straight forward and comprehensive.

Beyond clash detection, Ambler and McFadden noted that BIM could help with many other aspects of the construction process. We know that BIM can be extremely helpful during and after construction with testing, inspection tracking, change management, electronic closeout and facilities management. However, Ambler and McFadden also suggested Tekla can be used with estimating, coordination, commissioning, scheduling, material tracking, and electronic document control.

I would go further and suggest that BIM can be used beyond managing electronic documents. Given BuildSite's integration with Tekla Structures, users can download a plug-in from Tekla's extranet to search for product information and attach product documents directly to the design model. The plug-in allows Tekla users to attach all appropriate documents to each BIM object, completing the truly integrated package.

In this difficult economy, we are all looking to add value to our product or service, and Barton Malow and Tekla are no exceptions. Tekla works with its users to maximize its application to each part of the construction process. I'm sure Barton Malow and the other User Meeting attendees agree with me when I say, "Tekla, you hit a home run with Tekla Structures!" Congratulations to Barton Malow and its professionals for bringing more examples of BIM's potential to light.

Photo Credit: Tekla Structures North America's Facebook Photos - UM10.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jen’s Trade Show Tips: Exhibiting for the First Time

Part 2 of my trade show tips series covers what you should know when exhibiting for the first time. My first experience exhibiting was at Greenbuild 2009, held in Phoenix, Arizona. My primary purpose there was to man the BuildSite booth and showcase our software to lucky passers by.

Exhibiting is very different from walking around a trade show. People come to meet you and not the other way around. While exhibiting, here is what I learned:

Trade Show Tip #5 – When registering, make sure you know where to go and have all pertinent information with you.

What an ordeal this was! My co-workers and I waited in the wrong line to get our badges. We were pre-registered, but we didn’t know we had to wait in Line 1 to “register” there again. Make sure you have all of your registration and login/password information with you. One person did all of the registering for our company and none of us could figure out what to do since we didn’t have that info on hand. Being pre-registered is no excuse as we learned. We ended up calling registration support and they authorized our registration for what seemed like hours later.

Trade Show Tip #6 – Pick up your Badge

While someone “registers” you in Line 1, have another person in Line 2 pick up your badge. This is operating under the assumption that there are two or more of you trying to get your vendor badges. If you’re alone, it takes, well, twice as long.

Trade Show Tip #7 – Timely Set-up for Electronics

Make sure that whatever you bring works both before and after you arrive. Also make sure there are clear instructions from your IT person if you are the one setting up the equipment.

We had to bring laptops and monitors and I had to be walked through the process of setting up by cell phone. I felt a lot of anxiety at the time because I could not get the connections to the monitor or internet to work. I learned my lesson; we should have been better prepared. Keep in mind, every minute you don’t have your booth set up is a minute gone from talking to potential customers.

Trade Show Tip #8 – Make your booth attractive to passers-by

I will be writing another blog post on choosing trade show promo items that don't suck, but until then, my advice is to make sure your booth looks tidy. Reduce clutter! Presentation and a first impression is everything. Good promotional items, when given room to stand out, will always attract attention.

Trade Show Tip #9 – Follow tips #2 and #3 from my previous blog post

If you thought this didn’t apply to you if you’re exhibiting, you’re wrong. Water and comfortable shoes are VERY important. You may not be walking around as much, but you’re still on your feet and you still need water.

Trade Show Tip #10 – Make nice with your booth neighbors

They will help you pass the time and hey, who knows, they might cover for you while you go on a bathroom break.

Trade Show Tip #11 - Take notes and follow-up on inquiries

After speaking with someone, take down key notes on the business card or if they didn't leave one, in your notepad. If you don't know the answer to someone's question, don't worry. Let them know that you'll follow-up with them if they leave their contact info with you.

Have any other good trade show exhibiting tips? Please include them in the comments section!

Photo credit: Melanie, Mimi, Ned, Jen, and Fran man the BuildSite booth at Greenbuild 2009.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

LEED Best Practices for Subcontractors

As a followup on my blog post How to Bid a LEED Project (and Win), here is some advice on LEED best practices for contractors. Once you win your first LEED project, how do you take the next step? How should you manage the LEED submittal process? The following list was compiled from advice given by general contractors at the San Francisco Bay Area GreenerBuilder conference, including Swinerton Builders. Here is what we learned:
  1. Submit your LEED documentation early. Putting off LEED submittals until after you have completed construction can make them more difficult and time-consuming. Make sure you have all the information you need for your submittals before you start the project. This way you can avoid scrambling to gather data sheets and LEED letters after construction.
  2. Meticulously track and document compliance. With LEED, you can never be too careful. General contractors and subs are responsible for up to 21 LEED points, so it is important that contractors pay attention to the details to maximize those points. The products that go into a LEED project are crucial to earning many of the Materials & Resources points. Therefore, check and recheck the materials you choose. You will want to make sure that the key LEED attributes of each product meet USGBC requirements before construction.
  3. Separate LEED submittals from regular submittals. There are two submittal processes for materials in a LEED project: regular submittals and LEED submittals. The two are parallel, but they each travel through different channels of review. Track all your materials through standard submittals and all LEED materials with your LEED submittals.
  4. Develop in-house resources to manage LEED projects. To avoid duplicating your work on the next project, keep a record of LEED data on the materials you use. Each time you work on a LEED project, submittals will get easier if you keep records from the projects you completed in the past. These records will also help you when bidding your next LEED project. General contractors like to work with subs who have experience working with green materials.
Do you have other ideas for subs? Please contribute to this list with your LEED best practices in the comments section below.

Need help with LEED submittals? Check out BuildSite’s demo on submittals for LEED:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jen’s Trade Show Tips: Attending Your First Show

Are you heading out to your first trade show? Need some trade show tips? In my 2-part series, I will be outlining what I have learned from attending and exhibiting at my first trade shows. Some of this is common sense, but it is definitely worth knowing before you leave for your first show.

My first trade show was World of Concrete in February 2009. As you can guess from the name, it's the biggest event of it's kind. Spanning the entire Las Vegas Convention Center, it was overwhelming to say the least. There were so many different vendors to see and products to check out. My goal was to familiarize myself with the construction industry and network with industry people. It involved a LOT of walking. This is what I learned:

Trade Show Tip #1 – Before you arrive, do some research.

Get a list of vendors and decide who you will be visiting during the show. It is a good idea to then identify where each booth is located on a map of the show floor. I made sure I had the booth numbers circled on my map.

Grab the map and do all of your homework before the actual event. That way, you won’t waste as much time trying to find vendors when you arrive.

Trade Show Tip #2 – Stay hydrated.

It may seem obvious, but if you’re walking and talking to people for hours, make sure you bring water with you. Seriously, you don’t realize how tired you will be. Especially if you are a coffee drinker, you'll run out of gas very fast if you do not remember to drink water throughout the day.

Trade Show Tip #3 – Wear comfortable walking shoes.

What defines a comfortable shoe? Not necessarily what you think. This is something you have to learn through practice. After being on my feet for 8 hours, I realized that what I thought would be comfortable (a pair of lace-up casual shoes with very little support), was not. On day 2, it only got worse. When I got back to my hotel, I wanted to massage my feet and change into flip flops.

Different people like different brands of shoe, so again, you will have to find out what works. I have a coworker that swears by MBT's. I recommend an athletic shoe for your first show. You can experiment from there with different brands and different levels of support.

Trade Show Tip #4 – Take notes on the people you meet.

Each time you get a business card, write notes on the back of it to remind you about the conversation you had. This was an excellent tip from my co-worker, Melanie. You will remember things about the person and the context of your meeting that will help you initiate contact once the trade show is over. Notes can be business-related--"requested info about product x"--or they can be entirely personal--"has a child in x college." It is a good way to remember people in general, but it is especially important when you're meeting several dozen new people each day.

It's your first time at a trade show and maybe you're in Vegas, so have FUN!!!

Photo Credit: Melanie Loftus and Jenifer Chan pose with Elvis at the White Cap booth during World of Concrete in 2009.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Interview with GreenerBuilder Leilanie Bruce

Back in June, BuildSite offered a raffle for a $150 gift card at USGBC-NCC's first annual Greener Builder conference for subcontractors. At our drawing in late June, we pulled the name of  Leilanie Bruce from WRNS Studio in San Francisco. Having enjoyed meeting Leilanie so much at the event, we decided to interview her for our blog to find out more about all the exciting plans she has up her sleeves.

Below is an excerpt of the conversation. Thanks for the interview, Leilanie!

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in the Philippines but have also lived in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, and Germany. I'm a citizen of the world.

Q: Where did you go to school?

A: I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where I received my Bachelor's in Political Science and a Master's in Public Policy.

Q: How long have you worked at WRNS Studio, and what brought you there?

A: I was brought to WRNS on a magical fairy ship known as putting some adventure in my humdrum existence. I had always wanted to go back to San Francisco; so I packed my bags, couch surfed for a little bit, and eventually landed a position at an A&D firm, WRNS Studio. I have been there for the past 3+ years.

Q: What got you interested in green building?

A: I think it all started when I returned to the town where I was born in the Phillippines. I was struck by the dire state of the buildings--the lack of green principles in the architecture was apparent to me. Before working in the industry, I never would have given a second thought to the built environment. At the time I thought about how much better it could be.

I was motivated to focus on the green built sector, and I read all I could on the emerging green movement. Coupled with my past experience in community building and environmental law, this research provided me with a different type of insight. I found that I focused more on cohesiveness; that is to say, the interrelation of various sectors in creating a whole systems approach to green building.

Q: What is keeping you busy at work these days? Any exciting green projects?

A: I am keeping busy with the usual work load: LEED Materials documentation, Resource Librarian, Reception Backup, Project and Construction Coordination, and whatever else lands on my plate. Outside of work, I am excited for my latest venture--learning more about GSA & VA Schedule Contracting.

Q: Are you a LEED AP?

A: I am not a LEED AP but do plan on getting accredited in at least 1 or 2 of the tracks within the year.

Q: At GreenerBuilder, you mentioned that you are known for volunteering for lots of projects. Can you name a project or two you have coming up?

A: I am excited for next year's events for the Metro Programs Committee of which I am an active member. The mission of the committee is to organize educational networking events for all professions related to green building. By highlighting successful local projects and assembling panels on a broad range of sustainability topics, the Metro Programs Committee works hard to ensure that the public stays informed on successful innovations and progress within the green building sector.

I have a few other marketing and communication projects for my father's websites. The first website,, is in the business of providing insurance and related services to clients. The second project for the website showcases a transliteration of The Holy Quran to the Philippine national language (Tagalog). We hope to reach out to as many readers as possible, particularly to make the transliteration available to remote places.

Q: Well, you certainly keep yourself busy. Can you name one thing you think you'd like to be when you grow up?

A: Retired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dealing with Surplus Building Materials in Construction

The other day I visited the site of a couple of our customers, building materials distributors in Northern California. I started thinking about the sheer volume of  surplus building materials I saw around the warehouse. Here is a selection of some of the pictures I took, as well as a few questions that came to mind.

Does your company have surplus building materials that have been lying around far too long but which are actually still useful? Do you wish you knew where to donate the excess from your recently completed project? Has your local city, county or state recently outlawed the use of a product that is perfectly legal somewhere else in the country? Is the excess in the way of the new products or—worse yet—a hazard to your customers or employees?

What gripes do you have about surplus or reusable building materials? What would help you unload the excess? Please leave a comment and let me know. We’re thinking about it and would like to help.

We know there are some excesses out there… How about at your location?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cure for the Common Product Data Sheet

In the construction industry, buyers need product information that meets the needs of a particular project before deciding that the product is right for the job. But once a purchasing manager has found a number of products that fit the description, what makes them choose one product over the other?

Here is where marketing to your target audience comes in. There are many ways to successfully market to your particular segment. I will not go into these points, but merely address one specific, if rather peculiar, way to connect with your buyer. How do you make your construction product data sheet stand out from the pile? Even more, how do you create memorable product data sheets a busy contractor will remember?

National Gypsum has found a hilarious and witty way of grabbing their audience’s (and my) attention with their Spanish product data sheets. National Gypsum chose a well-known icon of Hispanic children’s literature and television called El Chapulin Colorado to decorate their product data sheets. For those of you who do not know El Chapulin Colorado, his character was known for showing up on the scene and for solving problems with his ingenuity.
  • Quien nos salvara ahora? (Who will save us now?)
  • El Chapulin Colorado! (The Red Cricket!)
  • No contaban con mi astucia! (You didn’t expect my wit!)

Why is this a smart move by National Gypsum?

According to the 2008 U.S. Census, 44% of the 1.6 million employed construction laborers and 9% of the 1.2 million construction managers in the United States are Hispanic. What symbols of Hispanic pop-culture would they recognize, identify with, and remember? The answer for National Gypsum was El Chapulin Colorado. The icon itself has become so powerful that it is now used by Hispanic immigrants in the United States to denote pride in their culture, and in the power of their wit to solve whatever trials they might face.

Well done National Gypsum! I certainly did not expect the bright yellow heart with the “CH” to appear in the middle of a product data sheet for drywall, but I recognized it, and after eight hours of looking at similar documents I still remember it.

Photo Credit: National Gypsum's Guía de Construcción con Productos para Acabados en Muros de Pánel de Yeso MARCA ProForm®.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finding ASTM Standards for Construction Products

Finding construction products that meet ASTM Standards is extremely valuable to contractors aiming to meet a spec. Because you can search the BuildSite database for products that match a specific ASTM standard, we field a lot of questions about ASTM search. There are a couple things you should consider before you begin an ASTM search. It might save you some confusion if you have trouble finding an ASTM:
  1. In total, there are over 12,000 ASTM standards available. Over 1,300 of those are specific to construction. ASTM International publishes the construction standards in its ASTM Standards in BUILDING CODES, 46TH Edition, available through their bookstore. These standards are the ones referenced by the International Codes published by ICC©, as well as MASTERSPEC©, BSD SpecLink©, and other sources for codes and specs. We use these construction standards as a guide to determine which ASTM standards are most likely to be covered in a specification and subsequently searched for on BuildSite.
  2. Not all construction products have ASTM standards provided. If you find that a number of products from a certain manufacturer are not coming up in your search, it is likely that the manufacturer does not provide ASTM information on their data sheets. This does not necessarily mean the standards do not apply, but you might have to contact the manufacturer directly to find out.
  3. If you are having trouble finding an ASTM standard, we provide a complete list of BuildSite’s ASTM standards. From this list you can find links to an abstract and a list of products for each ASTM standard. Soon we will be providing another easy access link to this information directly from BuildSite Submittals.
Good luck in your ASTM search!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Bid a LEED Project (and Win)

When preparing to bid a LEED project, there are a few things contractors can do to improve their proposals. Knowing how to bid LEED projects has become more important in the current economic climate, and contractors who differentiate themselves as LEED specialists are likely to come out of the recession ahead.

At the 2010 GreenerBuilder Conference put on by the USGBC Northern California Chapter on June 10th, Bay Area general contractors offered advice to subs on best practices in bidding LEED projects. The following is a summary of the advice given by Grant French of Swinerton Builders, as well as by representatives from GCI General Contractors and XL Construction. It was primarily from Grant French's presentation that I generated this list of best practices for bidding (and winning) LEED projects.
  1. Familiarize yourself with green products in the marketplace. Providing practical advice to general contractors is an important skill for subs on LEED projects. If you have worked with a green product and know how it performed--or did not perform--this information can give you a definite edge in the bidding process. Familiarity with new products and technologies that can contribute toward LEED certification gives you an advantage over bidders with less LEED experience.
  2. Price your bid accurately. Many of the GC's at GreenerBuilder insisted that most LEED projects do not cost more than non-LEED projects. So, if you are bidding a LEED project, do NOT add an additional line item for a "LEED premium." The extra cost is not necessary; and in the end, your bid will not be competitive.
  3. Take the LEED Green Associate exam. The Green Associate accreditation (administered through GBCI) provides just about everything a contractor needs to know to work on LEED projects. Contractors with a Green Associate accreditation will stand out over those without it.
  4. Review Division 1 requirements for LEED. Read through Division 1 in addition to your scope section when preparing your bid. Many LEED requirements are found in the General Requirements portion of the spec book and are not always broken out into individual spec sections. To make sure you have everything covered, check both areas.
  5. Break out material costs individually. Many of the Materials and Resources credits for LEED are calculated using material cost. Therefore, from the beginning of the process, separate out the cost of materials in the project. This practice allows general contractors to get an estimate of how many points they are likely to earn for these credits.
Please feel free to add to this list in the comments below, contributing your experience bidding LEED projects.