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Owner Build Network

Celebrating Over 20 Years. Design – Finance – Build.

From the Desk of the VP of Sales

After a 40-year career in Oil & Gas IT projects, I retired a year ago and proudly joined the family business full time here at Owner Builder Network®. Previously I worked with customers who wanted great quality projects at a cost point that was equal to or below the competition.

Those guide lines apply to today's home building. Why build a home through Owner Builder Network®? Those reasons should always include best quality for lowest cost point. Those reasons should also include hiring us to be an overall homebuilding consultant to help you avoid mis-steps and out right mistakes. All companies that are successful, hire consultants at every step of the way. Why should you not learn from what has made those companies billionaires many times over!

Trends are always changing! There is an ever-growing trend these days to do home schooling! That way you have control over what your children learn and in what order. Why not let us here at Owner Builder Network® help you build your home classrooms? Children are our most important asset, trust in Owner Builder Network® to help you make sure the new home is quiet, well lit, heated properly, properly spaced for joint work and individual effort and allow you the latest in technology, so your children get the very best education you can possibly give them.

Come see us! We look forward to being of help to you and your family in helping build your home!

All the best,

Six Myths of the Construction Labor Crisis

Large Construction Site with Crane Against Blue Sky

Of the roughly 3.5 million graduates of U.S. public and private high schools in 2018-part of Generation Z-3.1 million are expected to enroll in post-high school institutions come fall, says the Institute of Education Sciences' National Center for Education Statistic.

Of those 3.1 million, some 1.65 million women and about 1.05 million men may attain a higher degree. Which means a half-million high school graduates start but don't complete a college degree program, and another half-million never even enroll in a degree-granting institution. That's 1 million young adults per year who don't fall into the "Everyone's going to college" category you often hear as a refrain to explain why construction is short on skilled workers.

Sometimes it takes recognition that we've been operating under false assumptions before we can act with focus and energy to begin to resolve a crisis. Here we present six myths that we believe are holding back the residential building and business community from taking the necessary steps that will alleviate the current – and worsening – construction capacity crisis.

Myth No. 1: Construction's labor capacity challenge is a post-recession issue, reflecting a "new generation" of people who are college-bound and set on white-collar career paths. If that were true, the average of construction workers would not be folds in their mid-50s. The lack of skilled people in the building trades goes back at least 30 years, to when employers began to choose less expensive laborers for construction tasks and had a flow of undocumented immigrant workers to draw on.

Myth No. 2: Construction's labor shortages can be solved only by attracting young men. While 47% of the active U.S. labor force consists of women and 29% of manufacturing jobs are held by females, just 4% of construction and trade labor jobs are occupied by women. The U.S. is woefully behind more progressive, profitable enterprises in other nations that recognize women are essential to a healthy construction workforce.

Myth No. 3: Automation and technology will eliminate the need for skilled artisans. Greater capacity and productivity that results from robotics, automation, and other tech-enabled applications can boost production, reduce costs, and expand the addressable universe of participants in the housing market, which in turn will require more people who are skilled in how to build homes – not less.

Myth No. 4: Construction's labor shortage is the same as the constraints impacting U.S. needs 50,000 truck drivers ASAP, or else. At risk, is a bustling retail economy that may go off the rails if we don't have ways to ship merchandise efficiently. The difference is a driver can be trained in two weeks. It takes months – years – to educate, train, and give experience to a worker who needs to understand how to properly construct a building enclosure and install systems.

Myth No. 5: Construction needs as many laborers now to achieve a norm in housing starts and completions as it did during the peak years of the past decade. Fact is, the industry needs to invest in productivity and process – including talented people – in addition to factory capability, new products that integrate, integrate-operate, and assemble at higher quality and efficiency rate.

Myth No. 6: The industry's labor constraint is a training issue. This may be partly true. Still, we think the bigger issue is one of attraction, recruitment, and marketing.

What if construction industry stakeholders were to look at the current challenge as the U.S. Army did in the post-draft, all-volunteer military era after 1971? After falling short of its recruitment goals in 1979, the Army unveiled a new message that his home with the men and women it wanted to attract: "Be all you can Be." After a vaunted Super Bowl advertising debut, the Army hit its recruitment goal.

Today's challenge for builders and the businesses built on their backs is this simple but difficult non-negotiable: Marketing to Generation Z.

Source: Builders

Keep It Cool

Industrial Air Conditioning on Building Roof

New technologies and improved installation tactics help drive air conditioners' energy usage to new lows.

Once considered a luxury, central air conditioning is now a staple in new-home construction. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93.5% of new single-family homes started in 2016 had at least one system, with some larger homes employing two or more units. While there's no double AC's cooling and antihumidity properties are essential in many parts of the country, the cost of a system goes far beyond its initial price tag. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, spend more money cooling their homes than on any other line item on their electric bill.

As the demand for home cooling increases, air conditioner manufacturers have responded by developing high-efficiency cooling equipment that uses less energy and performs better, which in turn results in improved comfort and lower utility cost – a win for today's home buyers. When these advanced systems are paired with more efficient installation, better insulation, and enhanced building design strategies, the cost and environmental impact of cooling a home is less than ever.

The current measure of a central air conditioner and heat pump's efficiency is its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). As of 2015, central air conditioners are required to be at least 13 or 14 Seer, depending on regional location, and heat pumps 14 SEER. However, standards passed in December 2016 will require air conditioners to be 14 or 15 SEER, depending on region, while heat pumps will need to meet the national standard of 15 SEER for all regions. The new minimum efficiency standards, which take effect in 2023, are expected to reduce air conditioner and heat pump energy use by about 7%, which could translate into hundreds of dollars in electricity bill savings for consumers over the life of their equipment.

Thanks to technological advancements, equipment manufacturers have been able to develop cooling equipment that meets or exceeds increasingly stringent efficiency standards. Models that bear the Energy Star label, for example, use at least 8% less energy than conventional new models.

Building a Better System

Efficient air-conditioning equipment is only part of the cooling equation. In fact, it is critical that builders look at home cooling and comfort from a system perspective, not just as the function of one appliance. By taking a more holistic approach, builders can ensure that cooling equipment actually delivers on its promise to pass on savings to the homeowner.

"You need to first start off with the guts of the building and ensure the skeleton – the shell of the home – is done right from the beginning." "Otherwise, you will be working against the air conditioner, and you have no chance at delivering the comfort homeowners desire." Ductwork is also critical. "I would argue the thought and design that go into the home's ductwork is more important than the selection of equipment."

Putting ducts in a hot attic, for example, is a poor practice. "I would suggest that builders put as much of the ductwork in conditioned space as possible." Ductwork should also be sealed and insulated to reduce leaks.

The length of duct runs also helps save energy. "Every time you have an added turn or added branch, the harder the system has to work."

We have always taken a system approach when building homes, This includes creating a tight building envelope so that cooling and heating systems work as efficiently as possible to both save energy and benefit homeowners. "We feel we have a responsibility to our customers to give them a high-end home with reduced operating costs."

For the most savings, advanced framing and insulation techniques, as well as Energy Star-rated air sealing and conditioned crawl spaces with R-10 rigid insulation and a vapor barrier. We also specifies and install AC units with a 17 SEER rating. "When comparing a 13 SEER model, it could save 15 to 20 percent yearly of the electric costs associated to cooling."

When focusing on building an efficient foundation first and foremost. "It is important to provide a solid thermal envelope so that less energy will be necessary to cool and heat the home when temperatures rise or fall, ultimately saving the homeowner money and increasing comfort."

Utilizing 2X6 walls with continuous insulation board around the exterior, dual-pane argon gas-filled windows with triple-layer low-E film, sealed attics, a well-sealed envelope and duct, and roofing tiles that have been approved by the Cool Roof Rating Council. Once that groundwork is in place, then install Energy Star-rated air conditioning or heat pump models as a standard practice, "Relative the HVAC systems that are less efficient, high-efficiency systems can save a significant amount of money on energy bills and more than pay off upfront cost premiums over a period time."

There are two important extra steps to maximize the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment. "The first is that we have our HVAC trade partner and third-party inspectors perform a multitude of diagnostic tests on our systems during the commissioning process to verify proper operation." Also utilize electronically commutated motor technology to reduce the energy consumption of their heating and cooling operation even further. This controls the unit's speed depending on demand.

"It's kind of like highway driving versus city driving in a car." "The system can ramp down to a lower gear for efficiency when demand is lower."

Our practices are not only appreciated by customers, but also demanded. "Our home buyers are looking for cutting-edge building science and technology to save money while also helping the environment."

Best Practices

To get the most out high-efficiency cooling equipment, builders and HVAC professionals need to follow efficient building design and installation practices to pass the most energy savings on to homeowners. Here are some tips:

  • Start with a tight building envelope. To optimize a home's cooling system, insulate and air seal as much as possible. Advanced framing techniques, continuous air barriers, and high-efficiency windows are a few ways to reduce leakage and ensure that cool air stays inside where it belongs.
  • Properly size equipment and ductwork. Accurate calculation of the home's cooling load is critical to system efficiency and room comfort. A unit that is too large will not adequately remove humidity, and a unit that is too small will be unable to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days. Most professionals use the Manual J load calculation, which determines system size on factors such as the local climate, window orientation, and insulation levels.
  • Focus on ductwork. Some experts believe ductwork design is just as important as equipment choice when it comes to cooling system efficiency. Minimize the length of duct runs and place ductwork in conditioned space as much as possible (i.e. avoid attics).
  • Duct sealing is critical. Be sure that contractors properly seal ductwork, especially at connections to air inlets and registers where air can seep into walls and create moisture problems.
  • Design adequate returns. Work with contractors to ensure there are enough supply registers to deliver cool air and enough return air register to carry warm house air back to the air conditioner.
  • Properly locate equipment. Place the condensing unit outdoors where nearby objects will not block airflow, and install the indoor air handler in centralized location to minimize duct runs and to allow for easier access for maintenance.

Breaking Down the Power Tool Purchase

Close Up of Orange Power Drill Isolated on Gray Background

Why your choice in battery platform will drive the decision-making process.

When a general contractor head out to pick up a new 18-volt impact driver for the jobsite, what exactly is that construction pro purchasing? The answer might be a surprise, because it's not actually a power tool – it's a battery system. Unless a professional user is already dedicated to a battery platform, the purchase of those first couple tools may dictate the power choice down the line. So, it makes sense to choose the battery system first.

Backward and forward compatibility (fits 2007 drills/drivers and tools moving forward), increased power and runtime and diversity of tool applications from a single battery platform are the keys to a power tool purchase. This is a cast where application knowledge and simplicity should intersect to make the best choice for the long term.

Down To Business

For example, with the introduction of its CORE18V battery, Bosch employed to Panasonic 20700 cells that offer more power and runtime than traditional 18650 cells. The 20700 cell is 2mm wider and 5mm taller. That 33-percent increase in cell size allows for a larger chemical reaction and delivers the optimization required to accommodate higher current draw.

There's an advantage to having cells that are welded and rail-connected for maximum energy transfer, allowing advanced heavy-duty lithium-ion batteries to provide better performance than conventional batteries that can be up to 35-percent larger. Rails connect the positive and negative terminal of each cell best then highly conductive copper is used versus less conductive, deterioration-prone copper-plated steel. The issue here is that, after extended use, the galvanized coating will begin to wear off, subjecting the steel beneath to rust. Oxygen also can react with a galvanized coating and cause corrosion issues, but copper doesn't corrode or rust over time.

In addition, use of flexible printed circuit boards to replace multiple rigid boards and connectors can deliver a battery that is more compact and weighs less. Power output of up to 1,440 watts from a conventional-size battery compared to the 800-watt maximum seen in most standard 6 amp-hour pack doesn't hurt either.

Users should look for and optimized battery package that is built to drive the high-demand tools that are on the horizon but function on the same battery platform. An improved power connector within the high-density cells ensures lower internal resistance, which mean higher currents can be drawn from the cells over a longer time period. A battery that delivers more runtime versus previous-generation batteries offers more current to finish jobs.

The big focus for power tool manufacturers is building end-to-end product systems that offer superior performance regardless of the job. That not only means increased power and runtime, but also backward compatibility across the full power tool lineup – a step beyond battery power platforms that offer one system that can power a standard drill/driver one day and an optimized, heavy-duty tool like a rotary hammer the next.

Keep It Cool

An advanced housing design that keeps the battery cooler is better for runtime and overall battery life. Heat means a shorter product life span and also speaks to expense: Battery replacement is essentially a maintenance cost, so the longer the battery life, the lower expense. In most cases, the tool will outlive the batter.

The battery housing should manage heat efficiently, which could include separating each cell into its own compartment. This allows heat from the cell to dissipate. Thanks to maximum hear dissipation and onboard electronics that refuse inner cell resistance, the battery should remain below thermal shutdown thresholds even when under high power demand.

An advanced heavy-duty battery may have internal circuitry that monitors the cells in the battery, but circuits can do more than that. These internal circuits can essentially manage temperature, taking action to protect the battery and the tool is cells approach 158 degrees Fahrenheit, which is thermal shutdown. If any cell surpasses that mark, the circuits can disable the battery until all cells are below the threshold.

With all of this capability, what does that do the charge time, a key productivity factor on any jobsite? Actually, the charge time will decrease. With all lithium-ion batteries, the temperature of the battery must be below the thermal shutdown temperature in order to begin charging. Because heavy-duty batteries with inadequate heat management could reach thermal shutdown, the battery cannot be completely discharged due to thermal shutdown prior to complete discharge. Under normal conditions, charging can begin as soon as the battery is placed on the charger, so charge time is decreased because advanced lithium – ion batteries that manage heat well don't require cooling prior to charging. Other best-in-class battery attributes include protection to prevent overdischarging and overloading.

What About Runtime?

The Ah metric is about runtime, so a 9 Ah battery will have a longer runtime than a 6.3 Ah battery. The trade-off is that a higher Ah battery will be larger, heavier and more cumbersome to accommodate greater energy capacity. Standard 18-volt tools powered by advanced, heavy-duty batteries see an increase in runtime.

The future of battery power in the power tool industry is about shrinking the delivery mechanism, delivering power and runtime and ensuring existing tools don't get lost in the battery shuffle. It's important to consider the entire battery platform when choosing the power tools you will need in the future, whatever the job. It's the battery that makes the power tool, not the other way around.

Source: Construction Business Owner

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