Construction Changes, Building Codes and Mitigating Costs in Development

(Released on March 1)
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

*** Subscribe to the show and leave us a Review on ITunes!

The Everything Building Envelope Episode Transcript:

Paul: Hello, everybody. This is Paul Beers. Welcome back to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. We’ve got a really interesting guest today, an old friend of mine, Rick Chitwood. Rick and I have known each other probably for longer than we care to admit. Welcome, Rick.

Rick: Good morning, Paul. How are you?

Paul: Really good. Thanks so much for coming on this morning. I know we’ve got a lot that we can talk about that would be of great interest to our audience. So Rick and I, just to give a little background, we’ve worked on a lot of high-rise condominium projects in South Florida over the years. The one that we just finished was called Mansions at Acqualina. It’s a 47-story building right on the ocean, one of the finest residential buildings in the world. How tall is that building, Rick?

Rick: Five hundred and 49 feet…I mean 649 feet, sorry.

Paul: Yeah, which is as tall as they let you build there. And then what’s the new project that’s coming up?

Rick: It is called the Estates at Acqualina. It is two 649-foot luxury condominium towers and what we call the villa, which is a \$50 million five-story clubhouse, which has our amenity packages. We are offering as amenity packages, we call Circus Maximus, which has a skating rink, bowling alley, you know, flight simulators, car simulators, golf simulators. We actually are gonna have a surf wave pool, a slide. It’s going to be more of a resort condo destination. It’s a new twist on high-end condo living on the ocean of South Florida to where you don’t need to leave the compounds of your condominium.

Paul: Wow, that sounds really cool. It sounds like fun actually.

Rick: It is.

Paul: So there’s a lot involved obviously with putting up a 50-story luxury building in South Florida. And I know that, you know, you’ve been at ground zero the whole time. In fact, I remember back…when did we start Mansions at Acqualina? Do you remember when the construction began?

Rick: It was 2013 at least, yeah. It’s ’17 now. It’s been open about a year. About 2013, we actually had the mat foundation, I believe.

Paul: Yeah. And I remember I was in your office a couple of years before that. This was when things were still really, really slow from the great construction slowdown or what I call the construction depression. You were showing me the plans for the building. I remember asking you, “Are you really gonna build this?” And sure enough, you did. In fact, it was probably one of the first buildings at the ground after the big slowdown.

Rick: Yeah, exactly right, Paul. We were probably the first to get the job on the new upswing. It ended up being very, very profitable for us. We sold the building out quite quickly. So sometimes you make the right choices.

Paul: Yeah. And the units went for some real serious money, probably set some records, didn’t it?

Rick: Yes, it did. You have to realize we do turnkey construction now. That means you get all your floorings. Everything is done down to… We give you a Fendi furniture package. So all you got to do is bring your suitcases and come in. You know, we used to build what we call condo-ready. Usually, all you got was a finished unit but no flooring or stuff. So once you closed, it took you some six months to finish your unit. But now, it’s just like going to a showroom. If you walk in and buy a unit, you can customize it. We have packages. It’s a new concept. But it does add a lot of time and effort because you’re moving probably twice as much material into the building.

Paul: How many units are in Mansions?

Rick: Total of 81.

Paul: So you basically had 81 different things you had to do too. Doesn’t it make things a lot more complicated, have 81 different finishes?

Rick: It can be. What we really learned was how important vertical transportation is in these high-rise buildings. We actually did a forensic study with another consultant. And we interviewed all the subs, all the change orders, all the consultants, trying to find out what we did wrong, because we don’t wanna do it again.

And so the two number one things from most subcontractors and general contractor was vertical transportation, because my guys have to wait forever to get up and down the building, and parking. As you know, in South Florida, especially in Sunny Isles, parking is a premium. Bussing workers was not always attractive to some of your high-end workers. The two number one concerns that we got from all our exhausted interviews, every person had that same two items as number one item.

Paul: So have you figured out a fix for that?

Rick: Yes. First off, we use more buck hoists, and we use high-speed double-rail hoists. You know, the industry has been looking at the elevator people. I’ve been trying to sell this idea that you can move the inside cars with the building, and you can use them, but I haven’t heard anybody successful with it. It needs a few more years to be perfected. But that would help, because then you could use your interior cars, you know, four or five elevators, plus your outside cars.

To me, right now, we looked at it, and we’ve talked to a couple of people that tried it. It’s a little too risky. You’re not getting returns you need yet. But it will come in the future I think, so almost like building the elevator in stages as you go up to the building. So let’s say you get to the 20th floor, you’re using the elevators already to the 15th floor, a pretty interesting concept.

Paul: It is. I know in construction, you’ve got all these things to deal with, like stuff coming down from above and what not that you have to worry about. If you think about it, I guess it does make sense. You’ve got, you know, the infrastructure there. Why not use it?

Rick: Yeah, absolutely. It makes some sense

Paul: I got a little bit ahead of ourselves here. And I wanted to tell everybody, you know, a little bit more about you. So you work for the Trump group. And just to let everybody know, I know you’re sick of hearing this probably, but it’s not the Donald. It’s a different Trump. So maybe you could just kinda tell the listeners a little bit about your background and, you know, what brought you to where you are today.

Rick: Okay. I was born and raised here in Miami, South Florida, North Dade, a little section of town called Ojus. My dad was a general contractor, him and his brother, in Miami called Chitwood Construction. They did some high rises here in Miami. They also did some high rises in the Bahamas. And we did some high rises in New Orleans. So I was raised in construction. I started when I was 12 on the sites on the weekends. My dad had me straighten nails and put it back in the box. It was a little brutal.

But then by the time I was 18, I was a full-fledged journeyman union carpenter. They had all the problem of putting me in at a young age of 15. But my dad, being a contractor, was able to pull some strings, and I was able to get a good training through the apprenticeship program. And then working up through the industries, I’ve worked for a lot of very large developers in South Florida. I have done some building in upper state New York, in Long Island, for the Holiday group, some large housing projects and some other projects. Most of my construction has been here in Miami and South Florida. Like I say, like you and me, we worked together, I was at the Ocean Club with the 11 builders. I was there nine years with Mr. Hanson, the developer.

And I am presently now with the Trump Group, vice president of construction, director of development. And I’ve been here about 12 years. As you know, the original Acqualina project, which is a five-star Forbes hotel and condo, and that’s our first project. It’s a 52-story building, but it’s a 100-foot shorter than the new building. The new building is the Mansions, which is 649. And now we have our new project coming up in the end of this year, which is the Estates. We also do building in California and New York. But I have been with Jules and Eddie Trump for the last 12 years, and they’re a pleasure to work for.

Paul: Great. So, you know, it’s interesting to hear that your father was in construction. Now, your son, Rick Junior, has a prominent role also. So it’s kind of a generation to generation thing, isn’t it?

Rick: Yes, it is. So my son actually works for me right now. He’s basically our field project manager. He kinda runs the site stuff, and I keep the legal, the paperwork, permits, and the rest of the stuff going. Then I have Eric Bartos, one of the top estimators, I think, in town. As you know, Paul, he does my numbers work.

Paul: Yeah, Eric is great. We all work together down at the Ocean Club job way back when. So you’ve got a very impressive team.

Rick: You’re right, Paul. I believe in teamwork, being an airborne ranger serving in Vietnam. I built strong teams. And then nothing gets done without a team, as you know. So, my team, we stuck together. Most of my guys had been with me at least 15 to 20 years.

Paul: Yeah. And something as complicated as these really tall buildings and these really tight sites and these very demanding specs and owners and everything else, I mean, you’ve got to have the A-team or you’re never gonna pull it off.

Rick: Yeah, correct.

Paul: So let’s talk a little bit about building these really tall buildings on really tight sites in South Florida. Let’s talk a little bit about the code, the South Florida building code. It’s unique. And how does that play into all this, with having to, you know, build these really ultra luxury buildings? What’s the developer’s role in how the building code works with it?

Rick: Well, over the last couple of years, we have informal meetings with most of the top developers in South Florida. We have a round table session. Usually, every two months or so, I started these to try to…I hate to let people make the same mistakes I made, just because I made it… You know, I keep telling these guys…yeah, we’re almost like professional coaches. We, you know, have different teams, and we do different projects. But we all have the same problems. So we should share those problems. Why should we all make the same mistakes over and over again? So I’ve been really successful with that.

And maybe who I am, because I do all of my own permitting and government approvals through all the federal state and local governments for all my projects. I am also a very strong in the developing of the Florida building code, which you know is forever changing. So we review all the changes. And, if necessary, I contact the other developers and the homebuilding associations. And we negotiate with the state to change language or tweak the code to where we think it needs to be.

What we are noticing is we think it’s an important step for us to get everything in writing, because, as you know, the industry, a lot of people we deal with everyday and have been for years are getting…like me, will get over and not gonna do this forever. So it’s a whole new generation. There’s different ideas and different ways of doing things. So some things, you know, we take for granted, we can’t do that anymore. We need to get them in writing, so we’re covered, protect ourselves against, you know, high expense and construction costs.

Just lately, we fought two different fights here. They were trying to get seismatic into South Florida building code. We’re in a zero zone. There’s really no history of ever having a quake. They’ve had one reading, but they think it was actually dynamiting of mines out in the west. So, you know, we fought that, and we won. It kinda stopped up north of Ocala. That was started by a building official in Jacksonville. I guess they might get a tremor there once in a while. But we fought that.

Again, lately, they wanted to put snow loads in South Florida building codes. I mean, that to me is ludicrous. I don’t even know how it even got on the agenda, but it did. And if it got passed, it’s just adding costs that’s not necessary to the cost of building, which then in turn I pass on to my consumers. So I’m not only protecting myself. I’m trying to protect the consumer.

And so I find these group that we’ve been doing help a lot. I’ve learned a lot of things to apply to my new building from guys experienced and the problems they’re having on their projects. And they gained the same from me. We here in South Florida, I don’t know how many people know about it, we use a lot of CPVC for fire sprinkler. There’s been a lot of claims, and there’s a lot of problems with the product. We had a major issue on one of our projects, and we have learned. We do not use CPVC for fire sprinkler anymore. We only use steel. The only person that really saved was me because it’s cost-efficient and plastic. But once you’ve been through one of these failures, it’s not cheaper. So now we’d rather pay up front and know that we do not have these problems. And we pass all that information along to the other developers and share these same ideas.

You know, once I started with Jules, I learned that through John Hanson that the Ocean Club, I believe in the good neighbor policy. You know, I try to stay in contact with my neighbors, because construction is nasty, is dirty, and is an inconvenience. So the more you can soften this up with your neighbors and your city, the better off you are. We have a real good working relationship with local governments. It’s important. You need to know who and what you’re dealing with.

Paul: What are some of the big challenges that you see with the building envelope?

Rick: As always, window openings. You know, you’re my window consultant. Actually, you do my window, roofing, and waterproofing and have for years. And all three of those are, as you know, major issues. And for people that don’t know South Florida and the condominium, we have what we call a 558, which every condominium files, which means you turn your plans and specs over to the association. They hire an independent engineering firm and come and inspect your documents and all your building and list any and all discrepancies they find. So it’s a big process. Usually, one of them is about the size of a phonebook the time you get a high-rise of this size.

So the envelope of the building is one of their primary points, you know, from stucco to windows, especially any type of water infiltration. And here in South Florida, as you know, the big item to us is waterproofing. We’ve learned through the years not to value engineer or be prudent, but don’t overvalue engineers, especially your building envelope items, especially waterproofing.

Paul: You’re talking about the part of statutes, chapter 558 claims, and you’d say that, you know…well, I know it’s not funny at all. But I had to chuckle about the phonebook of alleged defects. How many of those are real at the end of the day?

Rick: I would bet you it’s at least 65% are real, you know, because construction is not exact science, as you know. Measure every tread riser in a 52-story building of the stairs going up, and you got an eight-inch plate. It’s pretty hard to build sometimes with that, but it’s a requirement. So they’ll catch anything and everything. A lot of them, you know, you just negotiate out, because they’re not worth handling.

And the forensic engineers are very good. And we try to keep up on what they do. One of their big issues is post-tension cables and how they are terminated and patched and all of that. They actually chip pockets out, measure, and all that. And if they find something wrong, they would make you chip every post-tension pocket on the building. Well, as you know, that could be 50,000, 60,000 you’d have to chip on the exterior of the building and fix. So, being prudent as we are, we hired, again, another consultant to come out and privately inspect the cable systems, so I can protect myself a little bit.

We’ve learned now that one of their new tricks is they’ll go into a unit, finished unit. When they’re walking it, they’ll turn the air conditioning up, real down, real low, getting the whole unit real cold, turn the air off. Then they use infrared cameras to camera the walls, and they measure the screw spacings. And if the screw spacings don’t match the LOA or the specs for that installation, guess what, you’ll be going and adding screws to finished walls of units where people are living in.

So, you know, every two years or so, they’ll get a hot item, something new they can do. You know, they just follow it through. So, you know, during our developer meetings, one of the things I talk to guys about, they’re gonna come after you post-tension, you’re better off spending money upfront, get it right. Paul, as you know, anytime you got to return and swing a building and start chipping on the outside, it’s expense.

Paul: You don’t have happy people inside the building either.

Rick: Oh, no, you sure don’t. You sure don’t.

Paul: So when you got all these defects you have to deal with, how do you make them go away?

Rick: Well, subcontractors. First, I go to…as you know, we use general contractors. We don’t self-perform. We go to our general contractor, and he goes to the subs. And luckily, the fact is, you know, you did some work for us, our project little north of here, Luxuria in Boca, I just finished that 558 report, and it’s completely signed off. Like I said, they’ll bring the subs back. If it’s wrong, they got to fix it. I mean, usually, they don’t squabble. The bad part is, you know, during the turndown, a lot of subs went away. Even with Acqualina, I have some issues. And subs aren’t there anymore. So that presents a problem. But if you use a reputable general contractor, in his contract, he knows, because he knows, if he’s been to South Florida very long, he’s been through what we call the condo wars. So he’s quite used to what’s going on.

And then, of course, Paul, there’s always a little negotiation of, you know, maybe I’ll paint the building again. That’s what I did at Luxuria, because, as you know, that building got caught in the turndown. So sales dropped off. So I have so many units. It took me, you know, like, eight years to close out before I could even dip the turnover. So the building needs to be painted anyway just by longevity. So, you know, we painted the building, and I put some new cooling towers on it. And now I am released. And so it’s at least signed off, and it’s completed. It’s a long process, though, and expensive.

Paul: And the alternative is to have a big fight and get the lawyers involved, and then nobody wins.

Rick: And you go to court. You’ll probably spend more in legal fees than the whole thing would cost you anyway. I put in my budget for just, like, a building we just finished here for turnover of \$750,000 that, I, the owner, will spend to get out of it, you know, to mitigate my problems. So, now, you know, with these reports, if it’s not a construction defect, it can be a design defect, you know? So that’s another issue we deal with. A lot of times, we can deal with that in different ways.

Paul: Yeah, it’s pretty complicated.

Rick: You probably spend a lot of time in litigation like that, because I know you’re a consultant. So I’m sure you go through a lot of this with these guys, with a lot of different developers.

Paul: Well, you know, that’s right. So we do expert witness work. And I have to say you handle it as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. And one of the things that you do is you just fix. If it’s something wrong, you fix it. You don’t fight about it. You fix it. And I see, you know, the good examples, and that’s not easy. And then we get involved…on the other end, we have a developer that’s maybe new to the process or maybe just, you know, doesn’t get it, and they fight. And I tell you it ends up nobody wins in that, nobody at all, except maybe lawyers and experts.

You know, it’s unpleasant. I know you don’t wanna spend \$750,000, you know, to get through it. But you would spend ten times that much or more with the big fight and then, you know, sully your reputation you know, not have repeat buyers. I mean, there’s a million reasons why it’s worth quite a good money.

Rick: It used to be kind of practiced years ago here for these settlements like this, you just write a check. You know, “I’ll give you the \$750,000. Just go away,” you know? That’s not the answer. I didn’t buy it, you know, to where it doesn’t meet code or doesn’t work like it was designed. So why should I pay for it? I think my general contractor, subcontractors owe me what I bought. That’s the way we went about it.

Paul: Yeah. And kudos to you because, like I say, it’s a really difficult process, and I’ve seen a lot of people do it. And, as I say, you do it as well as anybody.

Rick: A secret I did learn about it with these engineers is, you know, they always say, “This doesn’t meet the code,” or “This doesn’t do the intent of the code.” Here’s what I tell them, “Well, then I have to build what I have permitted. And it was approved by the building official. And he has the right, for being the person of jurisdiction, to interpret the code. And if that’s the way he interprets it and that’s the way they permit, that’s the way I’m gonna build it.” So what I tell them is “I’m not gonna even answer these. If you want answers to why you don’t think it meets the code, you go talk to the building official and you find out, because I have no choice but to build what’s permitted. If you don’t like his interpretation of the code, I don’t know what you do about that.”

A long time ago, I’d spend a lot of money with architects and paying consultants and architects to tell them why it isn’t or is in the code. I’ve stopped doing that. I’m not gonna explain myself. The explanation is “I built what is approved. I can’t do anything different.” So it’s been a big help to me of… It probably takes, I don’t know, a third…no, I wouldn’t say a third, maybe an eighth of the items out of the report right off the bat. “I’m just not gonna address them. You go address them.”

Paul: Because they’re trying to interpret the code differently than the building official, basically.

Rick: Well, Paul, you know as well as I do, if I ask five people to interpret the code, I’m gonna get five different answers. People just read things different, and it’s the way they see it. So, you’re right. Yes, that’s exactly my point. In fact, I guarantee you, he doesn’t see it the same as the building official.

Paul: Yeah, that’s so funny. You can’t win because…

Rick: I’m not gonna fight it. You go fight it. I don’t need to fight it.

Paul: Yeah, makes sense. Let’s talk about natural disasters a little bit. You know, I used to go to the National Hurricane Conference. I haven’t been in a while. But I know you go every year. I know you’ve gotten some other major awards for the work you’ve done with them. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about that? And then we can talk about how it relates to the buildings?

Rick: Yeah. Well, first of, I got started with… And you’re right. I go every year. I’ll go again this year, because I learn a lot. I take classes, and I talk to people. And it’s a great place to network, as you know. I got started with it because of Key Biscayne. You know, it’s an island. They have their own police force, own fire department. They had a public works department of about three people. So I started an incentive with them to where I would supply all the manpower, tools, everything they needed from… Again, small building department, they had one plumbing, one electrical, one of every inspector. I started a plan with them that in a case of a disaster, we would be their relief. We would help. I would bring in my architects. They could put one of their inspectors with four of, let’s say, my architect or my structural, whoever they needed. Let’s say it was the electrical inspector that was with the team. Now, I give an architectural guy, a structural guy, a mechanical guy to walk the teams to do the assessments of the homes, because you got to assess anything before we let anybody back. So that basically gave them…went from one team to five teams. And I could supplement them on equipment and manpower and all of that. And for that, it was, you know, at no cost. We did it at no cost to the city, you know, as a part of our good neighbor policy with Mr. Hanson.

But what also that allowed me to do is they gave me and my people and my workers the same pass that any other city employee had. They’ll let you back on the island. As you know, it’s an island, so they just stop you at the bridge. Nobody comes or goes unless you have one of these. So what that enabled me to do was to get people into my project ahead of everybody else and take care of my problems. So it was a two-way street. I actually got the governor’s corporate award that year for sending us on new projects. That was in ’99, So that’s what really got me started in enjoying what we could do to help each other during natural disasters, which in South Florida, as you know, is usually storms or flooding.

I love to build to mitigate, as you know. All my buildings now, and I built in South Florida, all ground level penetrations, doorways, vents, everything gets flood barriers, flood-proof barriers, that we can install to seal the building completely, even the garage entrance as a hydraulic steel lift door that seals off that garage, where I can handle a flood surge up to about four feet and get no water in my building.

We learned, as you know, Paul, here, I can get a flash thunderstorm that can drop…you know, one that really got us…dropped 10 inches in like 10 hours. Well, Collins Avenue, FDOT, all the drainage systems, they were overtaxed. The water was everywhere. Well, it ran into my Acqualina building and, you know, caused damage to some very expensive cars in the garage. So that’s when we learned, okay, you don’t need protection just for the big storm that you could plan on, but some for the…when it comes…they tell you you got an hour till it’s coming.

Like with our garage barricades, they actually operate two ways. You can manually do them with the hydraulic or they float, because the water gets too high, it starts rushing too quick. It just floats up and closes itself. So if that flashflood gets in there and you’re not ready, it will kinda work by itself to help protect you.

You know, the other one, like you know, is wind. Like we did at Luxuria, like, try to do sometimes mostly is the code only requires, you know, large missile impact up to, what is it, 30 feet, I believe, Paul? I don’t know the exact measurement.

Paul: Thirty feet.

Rick: Yeah, somewhere along there. But, you know, to me, okay, If I was a penthouse buyer and the guy downstairs had what I can see a better product, I’d be a little upset. So, to me, I just put large impact everywhere, and everybody gets the same protection. It doesn’t cost more. But I think it’s prudent again. You know, I mean, with these storms, I’m not worried about something blowing from the ground up to the 15th floor. But I’m worried about that furniture and table on that 15th floor patio going through that glass door. So, you know, even though they’re supposed to take it all off and all that, it just sometimes don’t happen, Paul.

So we try to mitigate everything that… I can, there are natural disasters for South Florida. Why I go to these conventions, I’m looking for better ways and better ideas to mitigate water intrusion, wind damage, and those type of normal event.

Paul: Yeah. As you know, we’ve been through some storms on some of our projects before. I remember at Ocean Club at Key Biscayne, they call it the storm of the century. It was a February storm, and hurricane-like effects. I remember getting a call from Tom Moses, who was your boss at the time, and I think he said to me something to the effect of “I had six reports of leaks.” This is, you know, we had 10 buildings.

Rick: Yeah, yup. That’s why it’s important to have consultants, because, listen, these guys in the field get paid to do a job. I’m sure most of them try to do the best they can. But I think the industry has lost a lot. You know, there’s not really an apprenticeship program for very many people today. It’s just poor training. It’s not the A-team installing your windows. Let’s put it that way. That’s why guys like you… And even the waterproofer, how much do you think he pays that guy putting down that hot mix out there. If somebody’s not watching, who knows if he’s got the right mills or whatever. I mean it’s important to inspect and control the workers on site.

Paul: And like the waterproofing, to me, I mean, it’s a crappy job. It’s messy. It’s hot. It’s dirty. And you know, it’s not a career path people are choosing these days.

Rick: It goes along with your other ones, if you look at a lot of roofs. I wouldn’t wanna be a roofer myself, Paul, either.

Paul: Even a roof consultant, you know, our guys that go up on the roofs, they get to a certain point, and they don’t ever wanna go on the roof ever again. That’s why our new drones are gonna really help out because we can…

Rick: Yeah. That’s why I think, like you say, you know, there’s gonna be a lot of changes coming in the construction industry. Drones are, I think, a good one. Especially for you, I would think not having to put a guy on the roof to where he could get hurt, it’s got to be a big asset to me.

Paul: It’s a game changer, not just the roof but also the facade. You know, you think about all the effort in getting swing stages out there and, you know, and you talk about vertical access. So they’re trying to do the work, and then we need to inspect and things like that. If we can fly drones, we can cover a lot more ground a lot less expensively with, you know, zero impact, basically. I don’t know if I’ve told you this or not, but, you know, we’re FAA-certified, and we’ve already branded ourselves Air GCI, and we’re flying the drones already. And it’s a huge, huge benefit for being able to cover a lot more area a lot more cost-effectively. It benefits everybody, especially our customers.

Rick: What I build, I survey buildings of both sizes photographically. Then I set up settlement points. I mean, I try to monitor it. To me, it’s to mitigate claims later. And I think, again, the drones will help that. I mean, I had to do it with high-resolution cameras, you know? And it works good. I mean, I can see a crack on a wall. I can zoom in on anything. Again, for anything like that, for pre-construction survey of your neighbor’s building, because you know it’s gonna be a claim when you’re done. Always is, always will be.

One thing we do a little differently is we try to be proactive and get an agreement between us and our neighbors. You know, we know we’re gonna do certain things. We’re gonna get windows dirty. We’re going to get some concrete on your pavers. And I’m gonna wash about a thousand cars and things like that, things you can’t help building high-rise buildings at close proximity. So I think drones are gonna help a lot with that in the future too.

Paul: It’s exciting. So what are the changes you see forthcoming in the construction industry going forward?

Rick: As you know, it’s all electronic now. Guys can actually be in the field and have the plans on their iPad. We can actually send them RFIs so that they can read it on sight. And electronics, everything, the BIM modeling, the 3D modeling on the designs and stuff, technology is, as you know, changing leaps and bounds, which is good and bad. The bad thing is cell phone service. You know, I put a brand new building up and put the cell phone system in the building. When I bought it, the time I get it in, it’s obsolete. You know, I mean, we went from 3D to 4G. So next time, we’re gonna try a little something different. We’ll put in the infrastructure, the wiring, the cabling, and the piping and all. But don’t buy any equipment or anything until you’re ready to open. And then it’s probably only gonna be good for a couple of years anyway.

The big change in the construction industry that really hurts us is cell phones. You see, more guys standing around on cell phones instead of working. I wish there was a way to limit that. Of course, you can’t. I mean we built years and years. We didn’t have cell phones. You know, you had either radios. Or if somebody really needs it, we had megaphones, so and so, whatever. To me, if there’s a way to control that, you’d probably get a lot more productivity. But I don’t see how you do it. That’s one of the fallbacks we see. I see it all the time, everyday, somebody sitting around on their phone, instead of working. They might be calling their office. I don’t know. I don’t know. When I see guys texting and playing games and stuff when they should be working, I think it’s costing companies and people a lot of money, a wasted time.

Paul: Yeah, they’re a big distraction, no question about it. I never really thought about it. Yeah, I mean if they were doing Facebook or whatever when they should be installing things and…

Rick: And, you know, they got that phone on and their, you know, headphones on, you’re really not hearing. You know, you’re not looking, you’re not aware of where you’re at. If you’re on a construction site, as you know, it don’t take a one small thing and it could kill you. Construction sites are dangerous places. You need to be aware and on top of your game when you’re onsite. It’s my opinion.

Paul: Could you ban headphones?

Rick: Well, you know, we tried to do a lot of things. We don’t allow people to eat in the building because of rodent control in South Florida. We do a lot of rodent control. I mean, I don’t know. It’s a lot of policing, you know? One of the good things I see changing now is electronic, you know? For years, and we still do it today, everyday, the sub tells me how many people he’s got onsite, because we have to do our man count. I like to track manpower to see how many… Do I need more electricians? He’s behind or whatever. Well, that guy could tell you anything he wants. I guarantee you you don’t go around count how many plumbers there are and all. You kind of depend on them.

But now, if they all get badges and stuff and if they come through the gate, it electronically reads them, tells you who it is. And the other thing is, which is kind of neat, it tells you when they leave. If I paid him for 10 hours for the plaster work two hours overtime, but his tag went out at 3:30, why am I getting charged for 10 hours? So that’s one of the good things, because there’s a lot of information with that badge too, the name, who he works for, a lot more information, you know, just readily available to you.

And sometimes I wouldn’t doubt, Paul. The system would be able to tell you where he’s at on the job. If the plumber is supposed to be on the ninth floor, what’s he doing on the 18th floor? You know what I mean? At some point, I might think it’s gonna get that good, which I find is a helpful tool.

Paul: The cost to manage resources and make things more efficient. We don’t even know what’s coming, you know?

Rick: I know. That’s the sad part. You’re right. We can’t even think about what’s coming, I don’t think. It’s coming.

Paul: I love technology. It’s intimidating. But there’s some amazing things that you can do within this geolocating and things like that. It’s gonna be mindboggling. Artificial intelligence and all these things that sound like outer space and sci-fi are becoming real. And I think you always need people in the buildings to build them, but we can help them, you know, build better, basically.

Rick: The iPads and the information you can get to the guy in the field, he ain’t carrying around a roll of plans, not roll them out, you know? It’s a pretty cool stuff.

Paul: Yeah, because when you ask to bring the plans, you know, he’s not gonna do it. I mean, plans on these big buildings, you need a wheelbarrow, basically, to cart them around.

Rick: And they’re changing daily. It’s pretty hard to give a guy a new sheet every couple of days. It just much better just update your internet and, boom, there it is. What you got is latest and greatest. Again, probably puts into the general contractor or even like you, maybe they got to have IT people that can maintain all the stuff for you.

Paul: That’s a huge challenge. I can tell you, for us, you know, we’re using technology a lot. We have to collect all, you know, our data now on iPad, which I can tell you, Mansions, up until near the end, we weren’t doing that, because the technology wasn’t really…

Rick: Right.

Paul: Yeah. We can deliver reports, you know, same day, next day, where it used to take us a week or two. We take pictures. We take photos. We go back to the office, write the report, match the photos. Now, we can give a better report, and we can give it real-time, and it’s really spectacular.

Rick: It’s important. Like you say, it used to take us a week. So that week, there’s nothing even get done if you think about repairs. So I see that as a very positive move too.

Paul: Yeah, they cover up all the work, you know?

Rick: Because they didn’t get the department. That’s what he saw a week ago, you know? It’s crazy.

Paul: Exactly. Well, listen, Rick, this has been really, really interesting. I thank you so much for taking in the time. I know the listeners are gonna get a lot of good intel and really interesting stuff that we talked about. So thank you very much again for coming on.

Rick: You’re more than welcome, Paul. Thank you for all your support throughout the years.

Paul: Yeah, no. It’s been great. So I just wanna remind the listeners that we have a newsletter, the Everything Building Envelope newsletter. And if you’d like to subscribe to that, all you need to do is text the word “building envelope” at 22828. So for the newsletter, text the word “building envelope” to 22828. And with that, I’ll say goodbye. Thank you everybody for listening to “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. Until next time, this is Paul Beers saying so long.

About GCI Consultants: GCI’s building envelope professionals provide consulting services to ensure clients receive maximum value and return on their investment in the firm’s services, which include:

  • Engineering Services
  • Design Assistance
  • Field Testing
  • Quality Assurance
  • Forensic Evaluations
  • Roofing and Waterproofing Consulting
  • Litigation and Claims Consulting
  • Façade Assessments
  • Catastrophic Damage Evaluations
  • Due Diligence Surveys
Be Social With Us-