How to Deal With Winter Downtime

You worked hard all summer and made a lot of money. But now summer is over and winter is quickly approaching. With winter comes downtime.

When you’re young, temporary lay-offs can be fun: Parties, travel, music and sporting events make layoffs easier to handle. When you’re older, with bills to pay and mouths to feed, layoffs can be very worrisome. There are a few basic steps you can take to help deal with temporary layoffs.

If you’ve been laid off, you should file for unemployment insurance as soon as possible. The sooner you file, the sooner you can be deemed eligible and the sooner you can start receiving funds. The unemployment agency will verify with your employer the reason for you losing your job.

If you are not happy in the roofing industry you might be interested in retraining, not only to learn new job skills but also to keep your mind sharp. Consider the following:

  • Take some community college courses. Community colleges are relatively inexpensive and offer a wide variety of courses to improve work skills while earning valuable college credits that may lead to a possible degree.
  • Visit your local unemployment office. It will have lists of apprenticeship and training opportunities that can lead to a more secure position.
  • Select courses at a location vocational/technical school. These schools offer a wide variety of hands-on training at reasonable costs.
  • Purchase books or software to use on your own. There are many free and reasonably priced online training and education classes available.

See “Training Resources” below for some additional ideas.

If you love roofing and want to remain in the trade, there are steps you can take to keep your head above water—financially speaking.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D., writes in “7 Ways to Cope with a Layoff” that you need to take a realistic look at your finances and budget. Do not put this off longer than a week after you are laid off. Although we may not enjoy dealing with our finances, failure to do so could result in a far worse situation down the road (which always arrives sooner than you think). Dr. Grohol suggests: “Be creative in analyzing your budget for places to cut.” Most of us assume we need things like digital television and unlimited mobile calling plans. But most of us don’t. He adds, “Now’s the time to put aside your wants temporarily and focus exclusively on your and your family’s needs.”

Your savings, rainy-day fund and even your 401(k) may offer you some temporary financial relief. Borrowing from your 401(k), for instance, is usually less expensive than adding to your credit-card debt because you are paying back the loan with interest to yourself (not a credit card company). However, borrowing from your 401(k) and other retirement accounts is usually recommended only as a last resort.

Take care of your insurance. We often don’t think about insurance until we’re faced with a layoff and find out just how expensive insurance really is. Your employer will likely offer you COBRA, which allows you to continue your employer’s health benefits with one catch: You now have to pay what your employer was paying for your benefits. Be prepared for sticker shock. Most people are amazed that a family of four’s health insurance on COBRA might be as high as $1,000 or even $1,500 a month; for a single person or couple, it can be anywhere from $500 to $800 per month. When paying bills is already going to be a challenge, COBRA might be out of reach.

Shop around. With the Affordable Care Act, there are a lot more health-insurance plans available at a wide range of costs. You may find other health insurance coverage for your family that is less expensive and won’t cut your benefits in any significant way. Weigh the costs with what you can afford. For example, you may have to pay a higher deductible for inpatient hospital stays to achieve a lower monthly premium.

If you want or need to keep working, hit the classifieds. Nearly all classified sections now are online, so searching through them is far easier than it was 10 years ago. Although it might seem like nobody is hiring (and in the construction profession, that may very well be true), you should keep an eye out anyway. Jobs sometimes become available as people retire or a company’s focus changes. Extend your search somewhat outside your trade, as well, just to see what else might be available. Check out your “dream job”, too. Some people use a layoff as an opening for a new opportunity.

Use the unemployment resources available to you, whether through your ex-employer or through your local government. Libraries, too, often offer a great set of employment and career resources (such as résumé writing services). Don’t be afraid to network. Make your situation known, build connections and, soon, unemployment will be a thing of the past!

Training Resources

The following are examples of free or low-cost training opportunities you may want to consider when you are laid off:
Free
College courses from American Standard University
Solar training in New Jersey from Information & Technology Management
Your state may offer free training, like New York

Low Cost
Penn Foster Career School

More Ideas
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration provides information and services to assist workers who have been or will be laid off.

Search for apprenticeships and youth education/training programs, like one in New York.

Interested in the safety profession? Check out Free-Training.com/osha/soshamenu.htm and Free-Training.com.

NRCA’s ProForeman Certificate Program Helps Field Leaders Become Excellent Foremen

Brian Draper completes the ProForeman Certificate Program.

Brian Draper completes the ProForeman Certificate Program.

When the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) debuted its ProForeman Certificate Program in 2014, Brian Draper, Superintendent at Queen City Roofing, Springfield, Mo., was the first to apply for the program.

Because he was the only participant from Queen City Roofing, Draper navigated the elements of the program completely on his own. He enjoyed the support of his boss, the company owner, Larry Stock, who is a big believer in training and education. It was no small undertaking for either of them.

The ProForeman Certificate Program is a robust, multi-faceted program aimed at helping field leaders become excellent foremen. It also enables them to become company ambassadors, as well as well-rounded and knowledgeable employees within the roofing industry as a whole. The six areas of emphasis are general education, roofing technology, construction/business practices, leadership, safety and training others.

Roofing Technology

The roofing technology portion of the certificate program required Draper to complete two programs about codes, write a recent job report and watch a technical issues webinar conducted by Mark Graham, NRCA’s vice president of technical services. The purpose of the codes programs is to expose field managers to their complexity and purpose rather than for participants to learn all the codes that affect roofing. Similarly the technical webinar is a snapshot of issues roofing contractors have to deal with every day. Each of these three programs help turn field managers, like Draper, into better-educated employees who can appreciate the complexities of their industry and, therefore, be better representatives of their companies and more understanding team members.

Draper’s recent job report discussed aspects of a TPO installation. He was required to anticipate methods, safety concerns and common problems, as well as share specific concerns for one job. Because he is a more experienced field manager, he was able to accurately demonstrate his knowledge and experience.

Construction/Business Practices

This segment of the certificate program is designed specifically to help field managers appreciate the roles and concerns of management. Draper reported aspects of these segments to be helpful to him and some others in the office. Three elements comprise this section—a webinar about customer service, a webinar about foreman daily planning and a company-based activity during which participants shadow several key management employees—from which participants learn the responsibilities and concerns of many office employees. For instance, a “daily huddles” webinar helps field managers appreciate the financial picture of the company, seen through the lenses of a job. It explains the impact a field manager’s leadership can have on a job and the company’s bottom line.

Leadership

ProForeman leadership components are the heart of the program. They are comprised of two day-long, in-person programs and two follow-up webinars. Each of these elements is aimed at teaching leadership awareness and skills.

NRCA’s premise is that most field managers already are excellent managers. They know what it takes to successfully install a roof system and are drive to achieve goals. Where roofing industry field managers often lack awareness is how to effectively influence the people who work for them.

Queen City Roofing is lightyears ahead of many companies. According to Draper, Stock is committed to creating an atmosphere in which people enjoy their jobs and want to come to work, and he wants people to be committed to customer service. To that end, being part of the ProForeman Certificate Program was not Draper’s first exposure to leadership concepts. He has been talking to the foremen at Queen City Roofing about concepts like this for some time. NRCA’s For Foremen Only programs, which are part of the certificate program under the leadership section, helped provide Draper with additional material to discuss with the company’s field leaders. Draper notes that over time he has seen foremen come to treat their crews differently, and he reports that hardly anyone manages by yelling anymore.

Safety

It was the position of NRCA legal counsel that no one should be able to earn the ProForeman certificate without having expertise in safety. To that end, there are more requirements in this section than any other. When the program first debuted, NRCA required a roofing-specific OSHA 10-hour card, which could be substituted by a non-specific 30-hour card. There was lots of confusion over the way this was worded, so the requirement was changed to simply require an OSHA 30-hour card. Although a roofing-specific 10-hour can still satisfy, the idea is that ProForeman certificate holders be “above and beyond” when it comes to safety.

Other elements in this section include a webinar about what it means to be a competent person, a fall-protection video and assessment, job-site inspections of current jobs and a full-day NRCA program about fall protection: Roofing Industry Fall Protection A to Z.

Draper successfully completed all the requirements. In a conversation with him, he stated that Queen City Roofing experienced a transformation in its safety culture four to five years ago. Since that time, leadership and safety have taken a front seat. Draper has embraced learning and training as a way to keep these things in front of the employees at Queen City Roofing.

Training Others

The final section of the certificate program focuses on helping field managers to become excellent trainers for their employees. Not many companies have someone skilled in being a trainer, though all foremen fill this role to some extent. The intent behind these elements is to help foremen be more comfortable in their role as teachers, which is a huge advantage to the individual and the company.

The three items Draper was required to complete in this section were the following:

  • Watch an online module about what it means to be an excellent trainer.
  • Record a video of himself doing a teaching demonstration, such as part of a safety talk (a participant who is a current authorized CERTA trainer does not need to do this exercise).
  • Teach an actual classroom training session.

The classroom training exercise is an opportunity to train new (or newer) field employees on the basics of roofing. The session includes classroom time, demonstration and hands-on activities. NRCA recognizes roofing involves a lot of on-the-job training but does not believe sending new employees up on to the roof right away to learn everything is the best approach. It often frustrates busy foremen, slows down crews that need to work around what they perceive to be dead weight, and tends to weed out workers who might be highly successful if they were provided with a more structured or methodical way of learning a new skill.

Draper reported this classroom training experience to be positive for him and those who participated in the class. Queen City Roofing celebrated participants’ completion by awarding certificates and making a splash of their successes. The company is committed to using this program with future new employees.

First of Many

Draper was the first person to complete the NRCA ProForeman Certificate Program and it helped solidify and improve his skills in many existing Queen City Roofing initiatives. In many ways, Draper was ahead of the curve, coming from a company with an existing commitment to leadership development and a thriving safety culture. It was NRCA’s pleasure to award the jointly held certificate to Draper and Queen City Roofing. NRCA mailed the certificate and, with it, some award items to Draper, such as a Carhartt vest and Thermos mug with the ProForeman logo. NRCA does not expect certificate holders to attend the International Roofing Expo, but finishers are recognized at the award ceremony by name and company.

Learn More
To learn more about the ProForeman certificate program, email Janice Davis at jdavis@nrca.netor Amy Staska at astaska@nrca.net.

ALL Family of Companies Acquires Crawler Cranes, Aerial Lift Equipment

The ALL Family of Companies began the final quarter of 2016 announcing the acquisition of an equipment package consisting of large-capacity crawler cranes and aerial lift equipment, including boom lifts and telescopic forklifts. The two separate deals with leading-brand manufacturers Manitowoc and JLG will include 30 machines.
 
The Manitowoc purchase includes two 275-USt Manitowoc 999 crawler cranes. These crawlers are a combination of capacity, reliability, and versatility. Also joining the crawler fleet is a 220-USt Manitowoc 14000. With its long reach (up to 462 feet with the luffing jib attached), this is a versatile crane. “We are using them in steel mills, power plants, water treatment plants, wind farms, and many types of new construction. They can set steel and precast concrete, among a variety of other applications,” says Michael L. Liptak, president of ALL.
 
ALL Aerials, the company’s aerial equipment division, continues to experience demand for their inventory of equipment. The company’s new JLG package includes 17 telescopic boom lifts, with horizontal outreach ranging from 33 to 80 feet, as well as 10 JLG telescopic forklifts (telehandlers). These range from the JLG 642, with a capacity of 6,600 pounds, to the JLG G15-44A, the largest of JLG’s telehandlers, with a maximum capacity of 15,000 pounds. Telehandlers and boom lifts are maneuverable machines that offer advantages on crowded job sites. Their ability to work at awkward angles can directly affect productivity.
 
“Our crawlers and aerials are in demand,” explains Liptak. “We are responding to existing demand with these additional 30 units. We think the appetite for new-model equipment is strong, so we define ourselves by our commitment to a modern, technologically-advanced fleet.”

Photogrammetry Software Is Suited for Use With Drones

Eos Systems Inc. introduces photogrammetry software optimized for photographs taken with drones.

Eos Systems Inc. introduces photogrammetry software optimized for photographs taken with drones.

Eos Systems Inc. has introduced photogrammetry software optimized specifically for photographs taken with drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The PhotoModeler UAS 2016 software creates 3D models, measurements, and maps from photographs taken with ordinary cameras built-in or mounted on drones. It includes features for optimized operation with drone photos including post processing kinematics (PPK), volume objects, geographic coordinate systems support, multispectral image support and control point assist. Eos Systems is offering the new software at $2275, 35 percent off the normal price, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, 2016.

The new version of PhotoModeler is suited for drone photogrammetry applications including surveying, ground contouring, surface model creation, stock pile volume measurement, mining and mine reclamation, environmental analysis, slope analysis, forensic analysis, construction, and agricultural crop analysis. New applications for drone photogrammetry are developed monthly.  Eos PhotoModeler was introduced 23 years ago and is a photogrammetric software platform with a range of users in fields such as architecture, engineering, surveying, research, manufacturing and forensics.
 
PhotoModeler UAS 2016 software includes features that provide performance in drone photogrammetry.  Camera calibration is optimized for accuracy with UASs and the global positioning system (GPS). Post processed kinematics (PPK) makes it possible to correct a survey with GPS data after the fact for survey grade accuracy. Volume objects provide easy and accurate volume data for stock piles and mining operations. Full geographic coordinate system support enables users to work in their local geographic coordinate system for better compatibility. Support is provided for multispectral images including Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) surface models and ortho-mosaics for agriculture. An interface is provided for marking ground control points.

Chute Systems Send Debris Directly to Dumpster, Truck

The Smart Chute is meant to assist the demolition process by sending the debris directly into the dumpster or truck.

The Smart Chute is meant to assist the demolition process by sending the debris directly into the dumpster or truck.

Quantum Smart Solutions introduces the Smart Chute Economy Series, SC-200-E, to the line of Smart Chute systems specifically designed by a roofer for roofers. The Smart Chute is meant to assist the demolition process by sending the debris directly into the dumpster or truck, therefore only handling the materials one-time.

Through continued focus on creating a debris removal solution which provides less physical wear and tear on a crew, safer work environments and limiting customer property damage; Quantum has developed the SC-200-E Smart Chute, which allows commercial and residential contractors to remove construction debris.

The features and functionality for the SC-200-E Smart Chute include:

  • Service up to a 2-story building & up to 20-foot chute length.
  • Chute length can adjust from 8-foot to 20-foot in 1 foot increments.
  • Easy to Use – Sets up on any jobsite commercial or residential
  • Lightweight – Under 125 lbs. at maximum chute length
  • Saves you time and labor with every use
  • Transports and stores as simple as an extension ladder

For more information on the SC-200-E Smart Chute, visit the website, telephone (631)285-3520, or e-mail sales@quantum-smart.com

AIA Issues 2016 Election Results Statement

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued the following statement on the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, as well as the incoming 115th Congress.

“The AIA and its 89,000 members are committed to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure. During the campaign, President-elect Trump called for committing at least $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years. We stand ready to work with him and with the incoming 115th Congress to ensure that investments in schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure continue to be a priority,” states AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA.

“We also congratulate members of the new 115th Congress on their election. We urge both the incoming Trump administration and the new congress to work toward enhancing the design and construction sector’s role as a catalyst for job creation throughout the American economy.”

Robert Ivy concludes, “This has been a contentious election process. It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward.”

Patented Material Protects Buildings, Roofs Against Rain, Wind

Patented material, Stormseal, protects buildings and roofs from wind and rain.

Patented material, Stormseal, protects buildings and roofs from wind and rain.

After devastating storms hit the Dandenongs, Victoria, in October more severe weather followed, but 90 homes initially affected were protected from further damage by Stormseal, a patented material, designed to heat-seal buildings and roofs against wind and rain when damaged by storms or left open during construction.  But more accredited fitters need training.

Nick Hatch, Director of Insurance Roofing Services – which looks after securing damaged homes following storms, says after more bad weather hit they received no calls to resecure covers from homes fitted with Stormseal.

Stormseal inventor and managing director, Matthew Lennox, says the company is working with Pinnacle Safety and Training and offering Stormseal national accredited training programs to tradespeople while Australian insurance companies are hopeful more tradesman will be trained sooner rather than later.

The idea for Stormseal came to managing director Matthew Lennox when he was overseeing repairs and reconstruction on behalf of several insurance companies following storm episodes and during continual wet and windy conditions, where he saw damages claims multiply due to failing tarpaulins. He also presented his invention on the “ABC’s New Inventors” show and it took off from there.

Firm Leaders Reinvest and Expand Businesses as Profitability Increases

U.S. architecture firms have experienced a near complete recovery from the Great Recession, which has allowed firm leaders to reinvest profits back into their businesses. These findings, along with an in depth look at topics such as firm billings, staffing, and international work, are covered in the “The Business of Architecture: 2016 Firm Survey Report”.  The report offers metrics that provide insights into how architecture firms are operating and is available for purchase here.

“More than at any point in recent memory, there has been rise in the amount of renovation projects that architects have led compared to new construction activity over the past decade plus,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “A lot this has to do with green building incentives towards renovations, improved construction methods and products that increase the longevity of buildings, and a slower growing population that reduces the need for new construction.”

Key highlights:

  • Net billings at architecture firms were $28.5 billion at the peak of the market in 2008 and had nearly recovered to $28.4 billion by 2015.
  • Percentage of firms reporting a financial loss declined sharply in recent years from more than 20 percent in 2011 to fewer than 10 percent by 2015.
  • Growing profitability has allowed firms to increase their marketing activities and expand into new geographical areas and building types to diversify their design portfolios.
  • Renovations made up a large portion of design work with 45 percent of building design billings coming from work on existing facilities, including 30 percent from additions to buildings, and the remaining from historic preservation projects.
  • Billings in the residential sector topped $7 billion, more than 30 percent over 2013 levels.
  • Modest gains in diversity of profession with women now comprising 31 percent of architecture staff (up from 28 percent in 2013) and minorities making up 21 percent of staff (up from 20 percent in 2013).
  • Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software has become standard at larger firms with 96 percent of firms with 50 or more employees report using it for billable work (compared to 72 percent of mid-sized firms and 28 percent of small firms).
  • Newer technologies including 3D printing and 4D/5D modeling are reported being used at only 11 percent and 8 percent of firms respectively.
  • Energy modeling currently has a low adoption rate with 13 percent of firms using it for billable work, although this share jumps to 59 percent for large firms.

“From a practice standpoint, digital modeling is firmly entrenched in the early phase of design work and expanding into subsequent phases, with the potential for more involvement for architects through the construction and facility management processes,” said AIA senior director of research, Michele Russo. “In the coming years we expect firms will be adding technological dimensions to their design work through more utilization of cloud computing, 3D printing and the use of virtual reality software. This should help further efficiencies, minimize waste and project delivery delays, and lead to increased bottom line outcomes for their clients.”

ATAS International Presents at Metal Design Solutions Conference

Jim Bush, vice president of sales and marketing for ATAS International, will be presenting the AIA/CES course on “Two Stage Method of Weatherproofing Utilizing Single Skin Metal Panels” at the inaugural Metal Design Solutions Conference. This Chicago market event is being offered by the Metal Construction Association on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the Hyatt Rosemont in Rosemont, Ill.

The conference was developed to continue career development for architects, engineers, specifiers, and design professionals eager to learn the latest about advanced design with metal. It will feature a total of ten educational sessions on a variety of topics regarding the use of metal in the design and construction of buildings. There are five educational tracks offered throughout the day, with a choice of two different courses in each of the five time slots. Courses are approved by the American Institute of Architects’ Continuing Education System, and attendees will earn learning units. Lunch will be provided at the event and representatives from metal building product companies will be displaying their products and answering questions.

Three additional Metal Design Solutions Conferences will be held later this year, including one in Baltimore on Friday, Oct. 28, (in conjunction with METALCON), one in the Atlanta market on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and one in the Dallas market in early December.

Jim Bush, who is also on the executive board of the Metal Construction Association, stated “We are enthusiastic about introducing the Metal Design Solutions Conference. This series further defines the Metal Construction Association as a leader in education, technical support and information for metal cladding and component systems.”

Architecture Billings Index Remains Positive as Demand for All Project Types Continues to Increase

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was positive in July for the sixth consecutive month, and tenth out of the last twelve months as demand across all project types continued to increase.  As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the July ABI score was 51.5, down from the mark of 52.6 in the previous month. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).  The new projects inquiry index was 57.5, down from a reading of 58.6 the previous month.

“The uncertainty surrounding the presidential election is causing some funding decisions regarding larger construction projects to be delayed or put on hold for the time being,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “It’s likely that these concerns will persist up until the election, and therefore we would expect higher levels of volatility in the design and construction sector in the months ahead.”

Key July Architecture Billings Index highlights:
Regional averages: South (56.9), Midwest (50.1), Northeast (49.3), West (49.2)
Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (55.2), institutional (50.7), mixed practice (50.5), commercial/industrial (50.3)
Project inquiries index: 57.5
Design contracts index: 51.8

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.