Construction Terms 201

StephaneroundStephane Denerolle
Product Evangelist

There’s a lot of common terminology that gets thrown around in the construction industry. We went over a number of them in our previous article. If you’re still a bit in the dark when it comes to understanding all of the industry language and are ready to learn more, we at Fieldwire want to shed light on some more key terms that you’re likely to encounter while on the job. Let’s dive right in!

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15 More Construction Management Terms:

  • Addendum: Any documentation (drawings, specifications, etc.) issued during the bidding process to modify, clarify, or complement the information outlined in the bidding documents. Addenda become part of the contract documents upon awarding of the contract to a firm.
  • Back Charge: A charge against a contractor’s contract for costs incurred by another party that should have been incurred by the contractor. A back charge typically takes form in a deductive change order. For example, if the contractor in charge of fire sprinklers damaged a wall using a boom lift, that contractor may incur a back charge from the drywall contractor for the repair work.
  • Bid: A binding offer made by a contractor to do the scope of work specified in the bidding documents at a certain price. This offer must be in accordance with the plans and specifications of the project and the terms and conditions stated in the offer.
  • Bulletins: The new drawings or specifications that are issued (usually by the architect or lead designer) to the contractor after its contract award. These may be a result of RFIs, an Owner’s request, errors/omissions, or a reviewing agency request.
  • Commissioning: The process of testing and verifying the intended behavior of the building systems, such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical, life safety, lighting, etc. This is generally conducted by the contractor in tandem with the facility management team in order to ensure that the building staff are prepared to operate and maintain its systems and equipment.
  • Contingencies: The cost provisions in the project budget that make allowance for oversights and unforeseen circumstances associated with the project. Depending on the nature of the contract, the contractor may require Owner’s approval to draw funds from contingencies.
  • Core & Shell: A term that refers to the base construction of a building. This includes its structure, cladding, and vertical systems, such as MEP utility risers, stairs, and elevators, as well as its finished common areas, such as lobby and restrooms.
  • Field Order: A work order issued to a contractor by the Owner or General Contractor to perform work not included in the contract. The contractor will then be entitled to a Change Order for the extra work. Field Orders are used to expedite work in an emergency or crucial situation, when there is no time to compile and approve a Change Order request.
  • Fit Out: A term that refers to the interior construction of a building to make it suitable for occupation. This could include distribution of MEP services, ceiling systems, finishes, furniture, lighting, etc.
  • Liquidated Damages: An amount of money that the contractor would owe the owner in the event of a breach of contract. These would typically get calculated by a formula such as $10,000 per day that substantial completion is delayed.
  • OAC Meeting: A meeting held at a scheduled time (generally weekly or biweekly) between the Owner, the Architect, and the General Contractor. This meeting covers general project management topics, such as safety, scheduling, procurement, RFIs, Submittals, Change Orders, Design Changes, etc. The General Contractor is usually responsible for leading the meeting and distributing the meeting minutes.
  • Rough-In: The initial stage of the wall framing, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing installation. This includes all of the components that won’t be seen after the completion of the project. All trade rough-ins must generally be inspected prior to insulation and application of finishes.
  • Schedule of Values: The breakdown of a contract amount into sub-items and sub-costs for identifiable construction elements. This is usually used as the basis for submitting and reviewing progress payment.
  • Substantial Completion: A milestone in construction projects defined as the stage when work is sufficiently completed in accordance with the contract documents. This indicates that the Owner can now utilize the building or facility for its intended purpose. Only minor works, such as punch list items, will ordinarily remain after reaching substantial completion.
  • Take Off: An estimation of the quantity of material required to complete a certain scope of work.

That does it for our second list of valuable construction terms that you should know! These definitions should come in handy while you’re out in the field and contributing to your projects. If there are any other terms that you regularly come across and would like us to focus on, don’t hesitate to let us know by writing to support@fieldwire.com. Keep an eye out for our next list!


Mobile Technology at the Jobsite

MarielleroundMarielle Price
Director of Customer Success

We’re excited to share an interview our CEO and co-founder, Yves Frinault, had with the JBKnowledge team this past summer. A lot of interesting insights came from that conversation around efficiency in the field, adopting technology on-site, and the benefits of leveraging mobile tools to manage tasks.

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“We tend to say a good project is a good design, then a good plan, and then a good execution.”

Yves makes the case that even with great design and a perfect plan, you can still fail all major goals on a project if you have poor execution, and that’s the aspect that Fieldwire focuses on.

During the interview, Yves points to two main problems facing the industry today. The first is the efficiency and knowledge gaps between the average contractor and the best-in-class contractors. The former usually struggles to even profit from a project, while the latter enjoys healthy margins. How can we bring more consistency to the industry and help contractors get closer to best-in-class?

The second problem is efficiency on-site. Yves mentions that, of the time spent on-site, “70% is coordination and 30% is pure construction.” How can we reduce that coordination time and start to use field workers’ time more efficiently on-site? That’s where technology comes in - most of the tasks involved in that 70% are repetitive and fairly easy to automate or streamline with mobile.

Another interesting observation pertains to software adoption. Traditionally, software decisions came from the top and most of the tools implemented were meant to give leadership visibility into the field, but little thought was given to the actual value that this would provide the guys actually inputting the information. Because of that, we’ve seen resiliency from field crews towards new software.

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There are two main aspects to think about in regards of adoption, Yves says. The first one is adding value to the user. The level of sophistication between individuals using a given tool can significantly vary - You have engineers in the back-office with college degrees that are very tech savvy, and you have several foremen on-site that have much different backgrounds. The interesting part for software providers like Fieldwire is making sure that everyone can derive value. Even if the foreman only uses 10% of the software’s functionality, it should still add considerable value to his or her work, or adoption will fail.

The second aspect stems from the complexity of commercial construction. You typically have 30-50 companies coming together for one project, and the challenge is to become the common technological denominator between all of them. How do you solve the problem of multi-company adoption at the timeline of a project? The key to making that happen is reducing your adoption cycle. You want the team to be able to demo the software, then test and deploy it all within a week.

The most important metric mentioned during the interview is the increased margin to the bottom line. Yves says, “There’s a 5-10% [margin increase] to get in the next 10 years just because mobile increases the quality of the collaboration and fundamentally reduces the cost of those interactions on-site.”

You can listen to the full interview and check out our use cases to see how others have started increasing their bottom line using Fieldwire.


Top 5 Reasons You Haven't Adopted Lean Construction - And How to Fix That

StephaneroundStephane Denerolle
Product Evangelist

In an industry as old as construction, adaptability is vital to success. It separates those firms that thrive in a volatile market from those that simply cannot compete. So what can you do to make your company as efficient and competitive as it can be? The answer lies in lean construction, a concept that focuses on reducing wasteful processes and increasing the predictability of project delivery. The byproduct of this system is always increased productivity and saved time and money, making its value in your project management self-evident.

With such clear advantages and a growing base of practitioners, it’s not only foolish to ignore lean values, it may be harmful to your business. Lean construction is an evolution, not a trend, and failing to adopt it as a divining rod can be a major limiting factor to your company’s growth potential. So what might be some of the perceived roadblocks that are holding you back?

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1) “I’m no expert”

If you’re no lean expert and don’t have a designated tech guru at your company to research and map out your company’s conversion to lean, such dramatic change can certainly seem daunting. It’s no surprise that many of those firms still stuck in the old, inefficient ways of running their jobs remain there because they simply don’t know where to begin. If you lack basic knowledge about what lean construction is, the odds that you’ll take the plunge aren’t great.

“The top five percent of construction industry companies are employing lean best practices, and the rest don’t even know about them,” says Emmanuel Garcia, Adjunct Professor of CAD for Architecture at LA Trade Tech College. “It’s become essential, because nothing good ever happens without good management tools. These tools should make tracking projects easy and automatic.”

Awareness might certainly be a factor that prevents companies from discovering lean management programs, particularly smaller companies that might not be the most up-to-date about tech developments. But with an expanding pool of resources, blogs, and industry-centered news websites, word about lean benefits is spreading - and awareness with it.

2) “I don’t have the framework”

There is also the misconception that small firms can’t afford to go lean, with the financial and mental strain of switching to modern tactics being too great. But despite such fear, this is actually a dwindling concern as mobile technologies, which help lighten the load of management, continue to be developed both cheaper and faster every year.

Most hesitant companies are likely concerned about not only the monetary price of upgrading to modern methods, but also the price of all that effort. Will this be a waste of time and resources? Will we be left dumbfounded by all of these new processes? Usability and performance are the chief hallmarks of mobile devices, allowing even the least savvy user to get the hang of them with relative ease. And the obvious aptitude that these devices have for communication plays a big part in their value.

“90% of the problems on a construction site are based on miscommunication,” says Carol Hagen, a Phoenix-based construction IT consultant who’s been in the sector for over three decades. “The great promise of AEC tech is eliminating waste, error, and confusion.”

You would be hard-pressed to find a person without a smartphone or tablet for personal use these days, so why not invest in the same type of mobile devices for professional use? Perhaps the better question may be, which ultimately costs you less time and money: upgrading to smart mobile tech, or habitual miscommunication and rework on your jobs? Because make no mistake, deploying your team with construction management apps on their phones and tablets is reducing on-site complications and making the switch to lean swifter.

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3) “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

When you’re an expert at your trade and have been in the industry for years, if not decades, it’s easy to believe you know what best practices are. After all, you know your way around the field, so you must know the smartest way to get things done, right? The flaw in this logic is that when you hone in on your craft year after year, and don’t take notice of the shifting tide around you, any advancements in technique or management can easily pass you by.

If you’ve had blinders on, and you’ve only been focusing on the work in front of you, you might not be able to see that your workflow has, in fact, become broken. Staying set in your ways prevents you from growing, and while some may not care to admit it, just because a system is classic doesn’t make it efficient. This is why embracing lean construction becomes so crucial, because this system is all about updating your approach to project management and separating what works best from the rest of the chaff that you’ve simply grown accustomed to accepting as part of your workday. Your skills won’t be changing, just your framework supporting it.

4) “I just work here”

If you shirk the responsibility of taking point on converting to lean because you’re not in charge of the whole operation, that’s more of an excuse than a roadblock. One of the greatest aspects of lean construction is that it can be applied to processes at just about every level of the project or company hierarchy, meaning you can begin making a difference no matter what position you may hold.

Convincing your company to adopt a new creed when you’re just one among many can certainly be challenging, but perhaps the best approach to this problem is narrowing it down. You may not have a say in how others get things done, but you don’t have to be the boss to start changing how you function day-to-day. If you’re on the receiving end of orders, you can still assert new processes that reduce waste and boost the reliability of your own performance. Something as simple as adding tape to the floor to mark material laydown areas is a lean practice. And when your boss notices your improvements stemming from these changes, you’ll be the motivated employee who took initiative and might change how he or she thinks about lean concepts. So don’t be afraid or indifferent about leading the charge toward lean if you’re not running the show. You can still positively affect how you run your own show, if not others as well.

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5) “I don’t have the time”

Perhaps the main roadblock for many companies is simply believing they don’t have the time to take that first step toward lean. Researching best practices and determining which management solution suits your team’s specific workflows takes time. It takes exertion, and it’s not a decision that you should make lightly. There’s a good chance you may be swamped with jobs as it is, so adding one more - figuring out what lean construction is all about - on top of the pile might not seem feasible or even welcome.

This is an understandable blockage point, but it’s also quite clearable with the right attitude toward change. If you’re wondering how you can get your time back, the answer lies in the flood of mobile technologies and construction apps available today. Your first reaction to this might be, “Great, more things I don’t have time to research,” but consider the potential reward: a tool that ensures you never lose all of that time ever again.

“Our field staff used to spend 10 hours a week behind a computer monitor. Now they spend it at the job site,” says Manuel Rosas, an IT Manager and BIM Coordinator at Shimizu North America. Thanks to the inclusion of mobile construction management software in Shimizu’s projects, everyone on Rosas’ team saves up to 44 hours a month. That’s an entire week’s worth of time saved doing the same work, just more efficiently.

The proliferation of lean construction has indeed given rise to a host of management tools to choose from, but this is a boon, not a burden. Choice is the consumer’s best friend, and with a wide array of options in front of you, the burden falls upon construction app developers to cater to you and your needs. And once you find the right software that helps you tighten up your workflow, you’ll have plenty of time to give lean construction a chance.

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So what’s the takeaway?

The takeaway here is that whatever hangups you might have preventing you from going lean are minor when weighed against the benefits that such change will bring you. Lean construction works, without exception. All of the leading industry giants agree, and it continues to be proven time and again in the manufacturing and construction fields. The puzzling part is that while everyone agrees that lean works, not everyone is actively moving toward it, and failing to recognize lean’s true potential means you will likely be left behind while those of your peers who do adopt lean construction leap forward.

So be open to lean construction. There are no conceivable drawbacks to switching gears toward lean, only advantages. Growth requires change, and while these changes might take some effort, that effort will be well worth the mountain of saved time and streamlined processes you cultivate through lean construction.


Best Fieldwire Feature Updates of 2016

MarielleroundMarielle Price
Director of Customer Success

2016 was a busy year for us at Fieldwire. We developed quite a few new features, and most of them were based on your direct feedback, so thanks for your support in our continuous improvement!

Here are some of the top features that we released in the past year:

Calendar View, Related Tasks, & Task Duration

We know that keeping on top of your schedule is a high priority in the field. That’s why we’ve added more options to help you keep track of what’s happening next. You can now relate tasks to one another, add start and end dates to your tasks, and view your entire project schedule in a monthly, weekly, or daily calendar display.

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Improved Photo & Video

This year, we focused on improving the overall photo experience in Fieldwire. You can now view all of your project photos in one place - the Photos tab. You can also now add videos and boost photo quality with focus and zooming features.

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Measurement & Scaling Tools

We received a lot of feedback for better take off features on your plans. So we added length and area measurement markup tools, and went a step further by making it possible to scan your plans for a scale, automatically calibrating your vector/text-based plans. If you don’t have vector PDFs, you can use the new batch scale tool under the Actions menu.

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Report Updates

We revamped our PDF and CSV reports with better formatting, sorting options, and filtering capabilities. There are also more customization options with the ability to add your company logo and color to the report cover pages.

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Improved Mobile Selective Syncing for Projects & Plans

To save precious space on your phones and tablets, we added selective project syncing so you only need to download the projects you want to access in the field on your mobile device. We also added the option to limit the number of plan versions downloaded to your devices, which helps save space for those projects with lots of plan revisions!

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New Filtering Options - Plan Tags, Photo Tags & Recently Viewed

We know that the key to being a useful tool is providing the information you need as soon as possible. That’s why we’ve added more filtering options for plans, tasks, and photos. Adding tags to plans and photos to group related items together will help you pull up important data quicker. You can also now easily re-open recently viewed plans!

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Improved Task Notifications

Since Fieldwire is all about collaboration, notifications are the key to keeping the team on the same page. We’ve expanded our notifications to include real-time indicators on web. On the mobile app, the notifications now bring you to the task itself, so there’s no need to hunt around for the information. You’ll always know what the newest information is, whether you’re on web or mobile.

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International Coverage - All Currencies & Additional Languages

As Fieldwire usage is expanding, so is our global reach! We now support all international currencies for cost tracking in tasks. We also localized several more languages (Brazilian Portuguese & Russian) to raise our total number of supported languages up to 9!

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On behalf of everyone at Fieldwire, thank you everyone for making this our best year yet! Keep letting us know the type of features you want to see, and we'll keep building them. Let's make 2017 even better than last year!


Start the Year with Some New Features

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

Now that the holidays have passed and a new year has dawned, it’s time to start off 2017 the right way. No doubt you were on your best behavior all of 2016 (if not, just play along), so we have a sack full of belated goodies to hand out to you. Some of you may have peeked at these presents a little early, as a few of these new features were already released weeks back in beta mode. But now we’re ready to unveil the finished products, so grab a seat and start unwrapping some of Fieldwire’s new gifts to you!

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Improved Calendar and Task View

Let’s begin with a feature that many of you have had on your wishlist for a while now: the new-and-improved Calendar View. Now, we’ve always had a version of Calendar View available for your tasks, but it used to be limited to the 3-week lookahead. This has been replaced with an infinite, visually-streamlined calendar to display all of your upcoming tasks. Whether you want to schedule tasks 3 weeks or 3 years into the future, every date is now an option, and you can organize the Calendar View by day, week, or month increments. We’ve also addressed all your scheduling needs by replacing the old Due Date system with Start and End Dates for tasks. This will further clarify to your crew the duration each task has to reach completion. Any Due Dates you already had set for your tasks have automatically become End Dates, which you can adjust if necessary. The beefy new Calendar View is now available on the web version of Fieldwire.

We've also updated how tasks now look when you open them on web. The new task view places all the core task attributes along the right side of the task window, leaving the main body of the task for your notes, photos, checklists, and all other content. Just making it easier for you to see all the details at a glance! This new task view should go live within the next day or two, but here's a sneak peak:

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Redesigned Project Dashboard

Next up, we have something surely all of you have noticed by now when logging in on the web: the new Project Dashboard. We’ve given your account’s homepage a sleek new design, to make it easier to locate and distinguish between all of the projects you’re a part of, as well as locate your Account and People settings much easier. We’ve also made our tutorial videos easier to find as well, just in case you need any pointers while using Fieldwire.

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Batch Scaling for Plans

The next web-only feature we’ve added is another innovative tool: the batch scale feature for your plans. As you may know, if your drawings have scales already printed on them, Fieldwire will automatically read and scale each sheet accordingly. For those plans without a scale, or if you simply want to change things up, you can now select all the plans you wish and set their scale as you see fit. This should make managing drawing scale a much simpler process.

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Mobile Sheet Storage Options

Now let’s open up some of our exciting mobile app developments, starting with the new mobile storage options for your plans. We know that sometimes, depending on your mobile device’s capacity, it can be difficult to preserve memory space on some of those larger projects. We released the selective syncing project feature in the past to help mitigate this, and in order to further address your device space issues, we’ve now made it possible to adjust how many sheet revisions your projects will sync. You can select up to 10 new versions (or fewer if you prefer) and that will help save data space in the Fieldwire app. On Android, you will be able to change the number of sheet versions synced via each project’s Settings page; this is not yet possible on the iOS app, however as a workaround, you can still set the version number preference on web and it will go into effect on iOS.

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Recently Viewed Plans

Another great addition is the Recently Viewed Plans tool, which can be found on the Plans page in both the iOS and Android apps. Clicking on this makes it easy to pull back up the most recent sheets you’ve opened, rather than having to search for or remember which ones you were just looking at. This will make plan viewing even easier than it already was in Fieldwire, so starting pulling up those sheets.

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Additional Task Sorting

We offer a lot of different attributes to choose from when creating your tasks, and now you can sort through and organize those tasks in new ways on both iOS and Android. The new Task Sorting tool allows you to pull up your list of tasks based on Priority, Start/End Date, Last Modified, Completion Date, and Verification Date, so every task is displayed in a useful way while you’re working. Whether you have a preferred sorting order or it changes from day to day, our mobile apps have you covered.

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Mobile Photos Tab Updates

For those interested in managing their project photos, we have some updates to the Photos section as well. First off, the Photos section is now available on the iOS app, so you can see your task and plan photos all collected in one convenient album. And on both the iOS and Android app, you can now add photos directly to the Photos section, just like on web. So keep snapping new field photos while you’re out on the job!

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Improved Android Camera

Those users who favor the Android app have another photo-related update to take for a spin: improved in-app camera functionality! You will now be able to zoom in and select specific focal points when taking photos in Fieldwire on Android devices. These new camera features will add more clarity to your photos, and should hopefully prove useful to those of you angling for that perfect on-site shot.

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Scribble on Android

And last but not least, we have one more tiny gift for our Android users - the Scribble task tool! iOS users will already be familiar with the Scribble tool, which allows you to either leave a signature or draw an image within a task, and now this handy feature has been included in the Android app. It should be a helpful little addition to your task management arsenal.

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There it is, your complete holiday haul of new Fieldwire features! This should be plenty of gifts to keep you busy as we take our first steps into 2017, and if you’re still feeling a little greedy, don’t worry. We’re already working on more new developments to include in Fieldwire, so it won’t be long until we have even more feature announcements to make. Like a dear old grandma, we like to spoil you here at Fieldwire.

Fieldwire is free for small teams on Apple iOS, Android, and on the web. We support 1,000+ companies across 100,000+ projects, and our community continues to grow even larger as we roll into 2017.

By the way, are you interested in becoming certified in your Fieldwire knowledge on LinkedIn? Take our Intermediate and Expert Certification quizzes, and if you pass, you’ll earn a badge to display on your LinkedIn profile! Let your peers and employers know that you’re a Fieldwire pro!