The Importance of Construction Management Due to Labor Shortages


If you are in the process of looking for a construction company to facilitate the entire process of your project, you have a big decision ahead of you. Your first reaction may be to hire the largest construction company you can find. It is a fair reaction but often misguided. The size of a construction company doesn’t always translate to the size of your project. Many mid-sized construction companies can handle sizeable jobs more efficiently.

This has been especially true due to the recession. While we are sure you’ve been wanting to forget the market collapse in 2008/2009, the fact remains that it created lasting impacts on a number of industries, one being construction.

When the market collapsed, numerous construction workers lost their jobs. This was across the industry from electrical workers, to sheet metal workers, to masons. Many others in the construction industry chose to leave because all signs pointed to a very slow recovery. Overall, approximately 50 percent of the construction industry labor force left after the recession. In the Chicago metro area, construction workforce dropped dramatically from 29,600 in 2008 to 18,100 in 2011. Currently, we are sitting at about three-quarters of what the workforce was pre-recession.

For some companies, the shortages are manageable but only due to non-traditional methods such as employing the workforce before projects are started, pulling in “traveler” workers from other cities and states, guaranteeing overtime, and directly employing craft workers. Unfortunately demand for construction is only expected to increase making labor shortages more problematic in the near future.

Additionally, the workforce is aging with the median age of the construction worker up to 40 in 2010, as opposed to 37.8 in 2000. A huge reason for this was due to the stoppage of 90 percent of apprenticeship programs. While many programs are back in full swing, the output isn’t immediate.

As you have probably surmised from the labor shortage facts, choosing a construction company can have a significant impact on your actual project even from a labor output standpoint. If a construction company has low labor numbers and higher project counts, you can see where this would become a problem in terms of delays. This has created a tendency for a much slower turnaround time on projects. The labor shortages make hiring the right construction company even more important.

It is crucial for companies looking for a construction partner to choose someone that is well versed at planning and managing construction projects. Proper planning and management is truly the only way to meet construction turnaround times while remaining in budget and keeping quality at the forefront.

Our advice to you while looking for a construction company for your next project is to obviously contact us, but also check the number of superintendents versus the number of job sites a construction company is handling. By doing this, you can get a good picture of the company’s workload and if they would be able to manage your project.

5 Advanced Project Management Takeaways

At Lamp, we believe in the importance of continuing education so that we can stay in front of best practices, industry priorities, and new technology and ideas. We recently sent Project Manager Josh Campanelli to the Advanced Management Program, which is hosted once a year by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The premier 6-day program helps industry decision makers amplify their business acumen, and we are so glad to have him return to Lamp with new insights and ideas from the course.

Here are few of his key takeaways from the event:

1. Ongoing employee training is important. No matter the role, be it carpenter, estimator, superintendent; everyone should have further training to learn about cutting edge ideas, processes, technologies, and techniques. Overall it is important for everyone to always train.

2. Prepare successors. Succession planning is a very important part of a construction company. If anyone in your company leaves, somebody has to pick up where they left off. This applies to everyone, from the main leaders to carpenters to superintendents and more. There should always be a plan in place in case someone leaves, so that someone is fully prepared to go in and pick up any job without downtime. As part of this planning, companies should focus on bringing in and retaining young employees, apprentices, and younger superintendents.

3. Consider ways to increase field productivity. Everyone should take on the role of finding ways to increase field productivity. Each person in the field should evaluate what they are doing and how it can be improved. Can masons improve efficiency by changing areas of their work that slow them down? Everyone should stay aware by asking themselves, “What am I doing that doesn’t make sense?” Always be improving efficiency.

4. Networking improves your processes. Hearing how people do things differently has helped drum up ideas of how we can do things differently or better. For example, strategic planning has always been a top priority for me. At the conference, it helped to hear the ways other places have done this—some businesses have had success using a mediator to steer the direction of strategies. Having these conversations helped me to see how someone in a similar position from across the country handles a specific challenge or situation, which in turn will improve my processes and ideas.

5. Prioritize recruitment and retention of employees. This goes along with the idea of succession planning. There is no reason not to be looking for new talent and employees. There is no reason not to have an intern or two each year. It’s far better to always be recruiting and looking for someone who knows someone than to just interview and hire someone because their answers were good.

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Should You Start Your Construction in the Winter, or Wait?

With the midwest winter rearing its ugly head, companies all around are considering the same question that comes up year after year—start your construction project now in the cold, or wait for the big thaw? In the midwest, we are usually able to work through 2.5 out of the three harshest months of winter. We spoke with Greg Bohlin, Vice President of Construction at Lamp, to better understand how companies can make the best decision about whether to begin construction in the winter.

Here are a few items to think about when deciding on winter construction:

• Consider the timeline with revenue potential. If you are a manufacturer or are building a commercial business, it is important to consider the benefits of completing the project sooner. If you have income potential and could begin earning money in a space sooner, it usually makes more sense to construct through the winter. Also, if you are a commercial business working on an upgrade or expansion, you will not miss revenue during the winter months, since you can continue to operate out of your existing building.

• Time sensitive projects. Even in a situation where revenue is not a driving factor, for example a school, deadlines are extremely important. 95% of schools have to be completed by the first part of August or else there is no place to put the students. Whether this is a classroom or a dorm, this can pose a costly situation. Though the space itself does not create money, it will cost you extra money to place them elsewhere while the project is being completed.

• Labor costs increase June 1. Currently, the prime building months are April through October. On June 1st, wages increase. Union rates are increased during these summer, meaning higher labor rates right in the middle of the prime construction season. This makes it important to hit deadlines that come just before June 1. While the winter months can’t operate at full-efficiency, it does take chunks out of the construction process which help to move the project along in its timeline.

• Tools make winter weather construction viable. At Lamp, we are very familiar with working construction during a midwest winter. Tools make it possible to move forward with construction whenever possible. We own a ground thawing machine (and are one of the few places to own one—many other places have to rent one when it is needed). This allows us to excavate in the winter. We also use blankets and the ground thawing machine to keep poured concrete from freezing before it cures. (If concrete freezes during the curing process, it often has to be removed and re-poured.) We also use temporary heaters for internal construction work when the HVAC isn’t installed yet. In addition we use tents on scaffolds, install visqueen over window openings, install temporary roofs, and install temporary doors to enclose the building to keep work progressing.

* Talk to a construction expert. While you may not have the tools and knowledge available to assess whether you should start your project, we certainly do. You know your business and earning potential, and we can look at your project to help you consider the timeline and weigh the costs and benefits of starting now.

Would you like to talk to someone about whether you should begin your construction project? Contact Lamp today.

Is Geothermal Energy Actually Effective, and Is It Here to Stay?


Here at Lamp, we believe in the power of building green. Healthier buildings can lead to happier people and a healthier environment. On top of that, green building practices provide our clients with surprising (and lasting) financial savings.

We’ve noticed that geothermal energy has been heating up lately. Is it for real? And is it a flash in the pan, or is it a cornerstone energy source for the future? Let’s take a look.

How effective is geothermal energy?

Well, we’ll answer that question with another question: How much do you know about the earth’s core? Probably enough to know that it’s really powerful and really hot.

Geothermal energy taps into the essentially limitless power of our planet’s core. So whether we’re talking geothermal or solar power, harnessing the renewable potential of heat is a great way to effectively produce energy.

We’re certainly not the first to examine and implement geothermal power. 19 out of every 20 buildings in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, use geothermal fuel. It’s no coincidence that it’s one of the greenest cities on earth.

The benefits are green in multiple ways. According to research, a correctly-installed geothermal energy system reduces a building’s utility costs by up to 60%. That’s an eye-opening number.

Is geothermal power here to stay?

It sure looks like it. Geothermal energy doesn’t require much additional real estate, meaning its small footprint is well equipped to power crowded urban areas. It has exciting job creation potential for engineers, electricians, geologists, and more. It’s highly scalable, low on carbon, and getting easier to harness every day.

Perhaps most exciting of all, its constant core temperature allows for a more efficient heating and cooling system than conventional HVAC systems. Add that to the fact that the cleanliness of geothermal power makes the system easy to maintain, and it’s easy to see that switching to renewable is more cost-effective over the long term than traditional energy methods.

A better future is being built, and it’s truly exciting.

Want to learn more about Lamp, Inc.’s green efforts?

5 Ways to Get Away from Scope Creep

At Lamp, we pride ourselves on our ability to manage multi-million dollar building projects, keeping them on time, within budget, and with designated quality standards. This is especially important considering the potential on large construction projects for scope creep—where the original scope of the project increases, but budget, resources, and the schedule cannot keep up. We have put together tips to keep scope creep from happening, which we apply to facilitate all aspects of a large building project.

1. Communicate. One of the biggest contributors to scope creep is a poorly settled upon scope at the beginning of a project. Before a project begins, the project vision should be clear and equal for all parties involved, and priorities and expectations should be outlined. If everyone agrees on the end result, it’s much less likely to creep into something bigger. At Lamp, we offer a Design/Build system, which is regarded as the first choice in construction, primarily because of a “Single Source of Responsibility and Control.” This process offers our clients cost savings with no surprises, right from the initial planning phase. With our involvement in coordinating the architectural and engineering design of the project and overseeing all construction activities, your project will reach successful and efficient completion.

2. Expect and Plan for Changes. With budgets, timelines, and the inevitable unexpected, every project needs the proper accounting for special factors. As everyone in construction knows, Murphy’s Law will strike. When outlining the scope of a project, plan for surprises, prepare for changes, and most importantly, be flexible.

3. Use a Properly Trained Team. The team you use must be capable, knowledgable of the project, and able to coordinate effectively. At Lamp, we provide a properly trained and licensed work force who are committed to doing the work right the first time, efficiently, and safely. We also provide full time, on-site leadership while we are performing and coordinating all portions of the work who knows the project, scope, and will efficiently coordinate, as well as resolve conflicts or disputes.

4. Stay Organized through Excellent Documentation. Large construction projects have a lot of intricate moving parts, and changes throughout the project will be required. One of the biggest contributors to scope creep is ineffective management of changes. Project managers at Lamp Incorporated use a software program called ProCore. This program keeps track of all project documents involved, including change orders, submittals, requests for information, contracts, insurance, daily reports, meeting minutes and more. This system keeps the information organized and ensures all requests for information are answered, all change orders are processed and nothing slips through the cracks. This web-based system can be accessed from anywhere in the world and gives full access to all project information in an easy to understand format. ProCore is used to help many public entities in presentations to keep their constituents informed of progress.

5. Problem Solve with Accountability. Every construction project runs up against problems. The key to staying on top of a project is to meet them head on, make someone accountable to solve it, and follow through. At every project meeting at Lamp, minutes of the meeting are taken and distributed electronically within 48 hours. Each item from a meeting is assigned a number, a person who is responsible for providing a solution, and a deadline for that solution. We also monitor written communication and submittals through our shop drawing tracking software. Every submittal is logged into our project management software and tracked through every stage, until material has arrived on the project site. Monitoring both written and verbal communication will highlight any potential informational slowdowns, which might affect a project’s performance.

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6 Construction Trends: The Tech (and Green) Boom is Here


At Lamp Inc, we’re proud to complete building projects with four simple words: “On time, on budget.” This is largely thanks to our team, but we also have to give credit to technology and the way it’s made our jobs easier.

If you’re hoping to catch the start of the tech boom in construction, you’ll need a time machine. We’re in it. The boom is here. Combine that with the increased focus on the environment, and it’s apparent that we’re in the midst of a building phase that’s unlike anything that’s come before it.

Here are a few trends we’ve spotted recently. And to add a little fun, we also threw in a few predictions too.

Going Green

1. It starts with the equipment.
Cars aren’t the only things minding fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The push for environmentally-conscious construction equipment is significant.

And as with many green trends, there’s a twofold benefit if utilized correctly. Obviously, machinery with reduced footprints helps Mother Earth. But spending less on gas can help the wallet get a little greener, too.

2. Residential and commercial buildings will get passive.

We’re busting out our crystal ball for this section. Passive spaces are growing steadily in Europe, and they’re just now starting to gain traction here in the States.

The design process is completely integrated with the architectural design of the structure. The result is an extremely low energy building that requires a fraction of the heating and cooling that a standard structure would need.

3. Kids dig micro.

Does living in a broom closet sound appealing to you? If so, you might be a Millenial. The cost and carbon footprint of living in a micro-apartment are fittingly microscopic.

This is a trend that’s going mainstream, so you’d be wise to adjust now. From coast to coast, cities like Boston, Nashville and San Francisco have begun to approve these diminutive nests.

Embracing Tech

1. 3D printing is real, and it’s spectacular.

It’s not hyperbole to claim that it might be the future of construction. We’re a notoriously conservative industry, of course, so it will take time to really see 3D take off here.

But when it does, look out. We’re talking faster project planning, happier clients, and massive financial and environmental savings.

5. Geo-fencing can change the payroll game.

Know what’s not easy? Figuring out who gets paid what. Know what’s way easier? Letting an app do it for you.

A geo-fence (you can tell it’s a new word because it’s still hyphenated) is a digital barrier. It uses GPS to track objects (like cell phones). That means we can instantly know when employees are on- and off-site. Magic.

What other trends have you seen? What’s your big prediction for something we’ll see next?

Let us know in the comments.