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Is 2014 a different animal than other years?

I have been in the concrete construction industry 2014 Different Animal for 12 years. So far, 2014 has been a year unlike others. Here is what I mean:

  • Late start – finding frost in the middle of May; We are not in Siberia.
  • Scheduling difficulties – projects not starting as anticipated
  • RFPs are hitting my desk with start dates within two weeks
  • Contractors calling me due to their subcontractor backing out of their project
  • Companies that normally self-perform their work are calling due to large workloads

Are you experiencing this as well? There’s no doubt that there’s an abundance of work out there in the construction industry. The industry is experiencing the effects of the skilled labor shortage. I talk to people every week and they are experiencing it first hand:

  • Projects waiting to start but can’t due to no one to excavate or pour concrete
  • Smaller crews arriving to job sites than expected
  • Crews leaving the project for short durations to finish other committed work
  • Companies committing to a schedule but showing up three weeks later than the commitment
  • I hear superintendents say that today they feel like babysitters

I don’t claim to have all of the answers but concrete subcontractors have to operate differently today than the past:

  • Standard operating procedures, systems, and processes are needed;  Our mantra is SOLID PROCESS SOLID RESULTS. http://northernconcreteinc.com/solid-process/
  • A commitment to hiring, training, and developing employees
  • Invest in the equipment that helps improve quality and efficiencies http://northernconcreteinc.com/equipment/
  • Communication, communication, and more – internally & externally
  • Understanding the needs of your customer – today’s and tomorrow’s needs

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Your feedback is appreciated!

Weather versus the economy

Hopefully this will be our last blog about the weather. It would appear, with temperatures in the 50’s the last few days, that spring has finally arrived. The geese are headed north, birds and squirrels seem to have returned, and (almost all) the snow has disappeared. We may yet get another little snow shower or two, but things are on the upswing.
For the last couple years the weather has been largely cooperative, with early spring temps in the 80’s while the economy remained sluggish at best.
The economy going forward, at least in terms of construction looks very promising. Home building is showing signs of life across the board, commercial projects that had been tabled due to economic uncertainty are starting to move forward, and things in general are looking up. Mother Nature has done just about everything in her power to dampen things, but life inevitably goes on.
As the old saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I’ve often thought of the stupidity of that phrase. What good is having a cake if you can’t eat it? And how, for that matter, would one eat cake if you don’t have one? Sure the segmented slabs of concrete in your driveway are referred to as ‘cakes’, and who would want to eat them, but I don’t think that’s the meaning of the phrase.
Anyway, the weather will come around eventually. The economy has taken several years to do so, versus the months we have endured here recently.
I guess you could say the cup, while certainly well-chilled, is definitely half (or more) full.

The Earliest Concrete

Everyone knows that all roads lead to Rome, but lesser known is that 5300 miles of those roads were built from concrete. From 300 B.C. to 476 A.D., the Romans used pozzolana cement from Pozzuoli, Italy, to build the Appian Way, as well as the Roman baths, the Coliseum and Pantheon, and the Pont du Gard aqueduct in southern France. The mix consisted of small gravel and coarse sand mixed with hot lime and water and horsehair to reduce shrinkage. That also is when the world saw admixtures in their most primitive forms of animal fat, milk, and blood.

At the peak of Rome’s development, no fewer than 29 great military highways radiated from the capital, and the Late Empire’s 113 provinces were interconnected by 372 great road links. The whole comprised more than 400,000 km of roads, of which over 50,000 miles were stone-paved.  In Gaul alone, no less than 13,000 miles of road are said to have been improved, and in Britain at least 2,500 miles.  The courses, and sometimes the surfaces of many Roman roads survived for millennia. Some are overlaid by modern roads.

Ancient Chinese used cementitious materials to hold bamboo together in boats and in the Great Wall of China, and Egyptians used lime mortars and gypsums while building the pyramids. History also suggests that Assyrians and Babylonians used clay as a bonding material.

 

The (WPS Farm) show must go on

Spring may still be just peeking at us over the horizon (Mother Nature assures us it will eventually arrive), which means challenges in construction and agriculture both.  Whether it means planting a little later in the year, or delaying a construction start, the extreme cold weather polar vortex has us all anxiously awaiting warmer temps.

That said, the WPS Farm Show runs three days this week.  We’ll be there talking to producers, learning and laughing, and hopefully making some new friends.

We want to hear about your outlook for this year and the coming years.  Do you plan on building or expanding?  Are you adding barns, feed pads or bunkers, or even a waste storage facility?

We here at Northern Concrete are proud to play a small role in the great dairy industry of Wisconsin, and look forward to expanding that role in the years to come.  We are good old fashioned hardworking concrete people, many of us come from or are still on the farm.

Stop by and visit us in Oshkosh this week, or if you can’t make it drop us a line.

Think Spring!

5 Benefits of Poured Concrete Walls – A Solid Foundation

Yes, the term foundation is definitely a cliché.  Many people have used it to the point where the word has lost its connection to the actual definition.  While foundation also refers to the support piece under your mattress (I’m used to calling it a box spring myself), the most common definition is the base structure on which a building is constructed.

That said, why a concrete foundation?  Several key reasons.

Strength—Poured concrete walls have a compressive and flexural strength (web search these if you’re not an engineer) several times that of block and far beyond the required safety factor.

Water resistance—The increased strength, density, and joint-free construction of poured walls dramatically reduce basement water problems.  A water tight basement means fewer service issues for builders, and happier homeowners to boot.

Fire resistance—solid wall construction affords at least twice as much protection against fire as hollow core concrete block.

Design flexibility—Poured wall techniques are adaptable to most home designs and can even be poured in brick or smooth finish.

Maintenance—Poured wall construction is virtually maintenance free.

Thanks to the Concrete Foundations Association for much of this content!