Selzer Werderitsch Associates

Selzer Werderitsch Associates

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“Safety First!” “You can’t put a cost on safety!” “If the costs of safety measures prevent even one injury, then the cost is justified!” We hear these statements from many people, and agree that safety is very important. We disagree about the cost, and don’t believe many of the people who make these statements really understand safety costs, or are misleading themselves.

Here's an example. A client wants their 1947 screened porch door replaced. Many years ago, a carpenter would simply walk up to the house, remove the old door, and install a new door. Carpenter: $50, Door: $150, Total cost: $200

Utilizing reasonable and additional safety measures could be inserted in the process. First, an environmental professional would test for lead paint and asbestos. If any was to be found, a small crew would walk up and remove the hazardous materials. Once they were done, the carpenter would then be able to install the new screen door. Environmental assessment: $90, Asbestos/lead removal: $300, Carpenter: $50, Door: $150, Total cost: $590

Further safety measures can still be put in place for this process. First, a hazard assessment would be made for the potential weather, and another assessment for potential hazardous plants or animals (poison plants, snakes, spiders), and yet another assessment of the property’s walkway and stairs to the porch. To deal with these items, the workers may be issued sunscreen, given cold water, or told to work certain hours when the temperature is cooler or severe weather is not anticipated. Barriers might be put up for animals, or special medicines supplied for potential animal bites. The walkway might have cracks or trip hazards which could require repairs or a temporary walkway to be installed. Maybe new stairs or a ramp might be needed for poor conditions on the existing stairs. New handrails might be needed for new stairs or a new ramp. Once these safety items are in place, asbestos and lead work can begin. To protect everyone, the entire work area would need to be enclosed in a temporary plastic enclosure with special fans and air filters. Now asbestos and lead can be removed and cleaned from the area. With those hazards removed, the new door can be installed by utilizing drills with vacuum attachments, work gloves, safety glasses, a dust mask, hard hat, knee pads, protective work boots and cut and fire resistant clothing. Hazard Assessment: $90, Property assessment: $90, Protective materials: $10, Special work hours: $80, Barriers/Special medicines: $120, Walkway/Stairs: $150, Handrails: $150, Work area enclosure: $250, Asbestos/lead removal: $300, Carpenter: $50, Carpenter safety equipment: $240, Door: $150. Total cost: $1,680.

By today’s standards, the $200 project is not a reasonable expectation of safety for the potential hazards of lead and asbestos, not to mention the typical hazards of replacing a door. The $590 project could be reasonable, assuming the worker is adequately trained and works safety. The $1,680 project is the “If any injury is prevented through safety measures or devices, the cost is justified.” Which do you choose? The cheap contractor who can get the project done quickly and cheaply, the contractor who asks and tests about hazards such as lead or asbestos, or the contractor who says they won’t be injured on this job? What is your priority: budget, or safety?

To know the real answer you can look in your driveway as a guide. If your car is older than 5 years, the answer is budget. If it is 2-4 years, the answer is a balance between budget and safety. If it is 1 year or less and has features like lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, traffic assist, self park, full curtain surround airbags, cross traffic alert, pedestrian braking, and surround cameras, then the answer is safety.
The “season of giving” provides us with an opportunity to review what we have helped accomplish with our charitable causes and contributions. Since the company’s founding, over $285,000 has been donated by the company in monetary contributions. Tens of thousands more has been donated in material contributions, tens of thousands in project discounts, and thousands more in equipment use. Our employees have donated tens of thousands of hours of service and thousands in monetary contributions. Overall, we as a company, and we as individuals, believe we can make an improvement for others when we are able to do so.
Clear communication leads to clear understanding. Miscommunication leads to problems for everyone involved. Often, we have dealt with problems which began with communication issues, and not issues involved in the construction work. Specialized terms and definitions, interchangeable words which can lead to incorrect definitions based on context, and misleading communications which can provide an advantage or disadvantage to those involved have all been sources of significant problems. Asking questions, verifying information, and confirming understanding are all critical steps in the process of making sure the project is completed correctly and successfully. Most instances and problems are resolved as clarifications better hone the understanding of the intended communication. Some instances, however, have communication produced in such a way as to mislead, attempt to take advantage of a situation, and seek to achieve something beyond the contracted agreement. Our work, contracts, subcontracts, ownership ethics, and business practices preclude us from attempting to create an unfair advantage. We work as fairly as we can, and provide as much information as needed up front, for everyone working with us to understand what is needed and required of them, ourselves, and every other role in the project.
Every business owner, and sometimes employees, eventually begins to “rank” their clients. Sometimes there are listings and qualifications to achieve a better or worse client status, most times it is informal. For SWA, the ranking is informal, and generally includes beneficial project involvement, invoicing and payment timing, ease to work with, length of working relationship, and other more insignificant factors. The best clients we greet with a friendly and can-do attitude. The “average” clients get the same friendly and can-do attitude greeting. The “worst” clients also get the same friendly and can-do greeting attitude. So, why then, do we “rank” our clients? Well, first, it is a subconscious action. It is not something we intend to do, but if asked, we could certainly list off our “favorite” clients to work with. Second, it prepares us for the task ahead. Consciously, we do anticipate the upcoming work, owner involvement, and associated problems we have frequently experienced in the past when working with the particular client. By anticipating the potential problems, we can actively work to apply solutions to avoid those problems which will make the project run more smoothly for everyone involved.
Over the years, we have encountered people to do not understand the construction industry and want work completed on their projects. This is understandable in most cases where the project owner is not knowledgeable about the type of work needed and terminology of the industry. In most of these cases, we are happy to help the potential client learn and understand the details of their project and apply the correct terminology to the situation. However, we frequently find “potential clients” who do not care to learn the details of work needed or the correct terminology for their project’s situation. The most frequent problem is a potential client contacting us for pricing on a project. Pricing could mean several things in this request: bid, budget, estimate, or a range of pricing for the project. Quite frequently, when asked for clarification the project owner responds that they want a budget. Often, after being provided with a budget, we get a reply that our bid was too high compared with other contractors. This communication problem is exacerbated by various websites which connect project owners with potential contractors without properly providing either party with complete information. The project owner contacting a potential contractor through a website or directly, without understanding what they are looking for, will not receive a response appropriate for their situation. Unfortunately, this results in everyone expending valuable time and effort for an inadequate result when a proper result could have been achieved with adequate communication and understanding.
What is the value of an employee? It depends on what you are measuring. Value is a subjective measurement. Are you evaluating dedication to the job, loyalty, safety, efficiency, knowledge, skill, communication, attitude, other items? Most likely, yes, each of these is evaluated. Can you train a low value employee to be a higher value employee? Yes. Classes in many of these general subjects are available in many trades. Can these items be measured? Most likely, yes. With the correct records, a company likely has most of the information they need to determine the overall value of any employee. The ultimate value is determined in a cost-benefit analysis. This, in turn, likely is utilized in determining the employee’s future at a company, pay raises, promotions, and additional responsibilities or training. Value is more than the salary paid, it is the overall benefit of the work the employee provides to the company. Without the skills, experience, knowledge, and abilities of the right employees in the right positions, the company has a much more difficult and expensive time attempting to complete its contracts and obligations.
Mistakes happen. Every time is an unfortunate event. The fact that it happened is not necessarily the issue to be concerned about. The events leading up to the event, decisions made which led up to the event, and any attempts to avoid the mistake are all items which should be reviewed and scrutinized. After a mistake is made, the entity responsible should recognize the mistake, and make an effort to correct it. A simple and honest mistake would require a simple correction and possibly an apology. A more significant mistake would obviously require a more substantial correction. In construction, there are many places to make a mistake, and many mistakes are, indeed, made. The vast majority of construction mistakes are minor and insignificant, easily corrected by the worker immediately after the mistake was made. Some mistakes are found a little later and corrected before the next trade begins work in the area. A few mistakes, unfortunately, are not found until the project is complete, and the owner discovers the issue. Though it doesn’t happen frequently, we try to fix these mistakes as quickly as possible to avoid inconveniencing the owner or their operations.

Industrial and Commercial Contractor General contractor for new construction and remodeling of industrial and commercial buildings.

Metal building dealer for Behlen.

01/31/2022

“Safety First!” “You can’t put a cost on safety!” “If the costs of safety measures prevent even one injury, then the cost is justified!” We hear these statements from many people, and agree that safety is very important. We disagree about the cost, and don’t believe many of the people who make these statements really understand safety costs, or are misleading themselves.

Here's an example. A client wants their 1947 screened porch door replaced. Many years ago, a carpenter would simply walk up to the house, remove the old door, and install a new door. Carpenter: $50, Door: $150, Total cost: $200

Utilizing reasonable and additional safety measures could be inserted in the process. First, an environmental professional would test for lead paint and asbestos. If any was to be found, a small crew would walk up and remove the hazardous materials. Once they were done, the carpenter would then be able to install the new screen door. Environmental assessment: $90, Asbestos/lead removal: $300, Carpenter: $50, Door: $150, Total cost: $590

Further safety measures can still be put in place for this process. First, a hazard assessment would be made for the potential weather, and another assessment for potential hazardous plants or animals (poison plants, snakes, spiders), and yet another assessment of the property’s walkway and stairs to the porch. To deal with these items, the workers may be issued sunscreen, given cold water, or told to work certain hours when the temperature is cooler or severe weather is not anticipated. Barriers might be put up for animals, or special medicines supplied for potential animal bites. The walkway might have cracks or trip hazards which could require repairs or a temporary walkway to be installed. Maybe new stairs or a ramp might be needed for poor conditions on the existing stairs. New handrails might be needed for new stairs or a new ramp. Once these safety items are in place, asbestos and lead work can begin. To protect everyone, the entire work area would need to be enclosed in a temporary plastic enclosure with special fans and air filters. Now asbestos and lead can be removed and cleaned from the area. With those hazards removed, the new door can be installed by utilizing drills with vacuum attachments, work gloves, safety glasses, a dust mask, hard hat, knee pads, protective work boots and cut and fire resistant clothing. Hazard Assessment: $90, Property assessment: $90, Protective materials: $10, Special work hours: $80, Barriers/Special medicines: $120, Walkway/Stairs: $150, Handrails: $150, Work area enclosure: $250, Asbestos/lead removal: $300, Carpenter: $50, Carpenter safety equipment: $240, Door: $150. Total cost: $1,680.

By today’s standards, the $200 project is not a reasonable expectation of safety for the potential hazards of lead and asbestos, not to mention the typical hazards of replacing a door. The $590 project could be reasonable, assuming the worker is adequately trained and works safety. The $1,680 project is the “If any injury is prevented through safety measures or devices, the cost is justified.” Which do you choose? The cheap contractor who can get the project done quickly and cheaply, the contractor who asks and tests about hazards such as lead or asbestos, or the contractor who says they won’t be injured on this job? What is your priority: budget, or safety?

To know the real answer you can look in your driveway as a guide. If your car is older than 5 years, the answer is budget. If it is 2-4 years, the answer is a balance between budget and safety. If it is 1 year or less and has features like lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, traffic assist, self park, full curtain surround airbags, cross traffic alert, pedestrian braking, and surround cameras, then the answer is safety.

12/27/2021

The “season of giving” provides us with an opportunity to review what we have helped accomplish with our charitable causes and contributions. Since the company’s founding, over $285,000 has been donated by the company in monetary contributions. Tens of thousands more has been donated in material contributions, tens of thousands in project discounts, and thousands more in equipment use. Our employees have donated tens of thousands of hours of service and thousands in monetary contributions. Overall, we as a company, and we as individuals, believe we can make an improvement for others when we are able to do so.

11/29/2021

Clear communication leads to clear understanding. Miscommunication leads to problems for everyone involved. Often, we have dealt with problems which began with communication issues, and not issues involved in the construction work. Specialized terms and definitions, interchangeable words which can lead to incorrect definitions based on context, and misleading communications which can provide an advantage or disadvantage to those involved have all been sources of significant problems. Asking questions, verifying information, and confirming understanding are all critical steps in the process of making sure the project is completed correctly and successfully. Most instances and problems are resolved as clarifications better hone the understanding of the intended communication. Some instances, however, have communication produced in such a way as to mislead, attempt to take advantage of a situation, and seek to achieve something beyond the contracted agreement. Our work, contracts, subcontracts, ownership ethics, and business practices preclude us from attempting to create an unfair advantage. We work as fairly as we can, and provide as much information as needed up front, for everyone working with us to understand what is needed and required of them, ourselves, and every other role in the project.

11/01/2021

Every business owner, and sometimes employees, eventually begins to “rank” their clients. Sometimes there are listings and qualifications to achieve a better or worse client status, most times it is informal. For SWA, the ranking is informal, and generally includes beneficial project involvement, invoicing and payment timing, ease to work with, length of working relationship, and other more insignificant factors. The best clients we greet with a friendly and can-do attitude. The “average” clients get the same friendly and can-do attitude greeting. The “worst” clients also get the same friendly and can-do greeting attitude. So, why then, do we “rank” our clients? Well, first, it is a subconscious action. It is not something we intend to do, but if asked, we could certainly list off our “favorite” clients to work with. Second, it prepares us for the task ahead. Consciously, we do anticipate the upcoming work, owner involvement, and associated problems we have frequently experienced in the past when working with the particular client. By anticipating the potential problems, we can actively work to apply solutions to avoid those problems which will make the project run more smoothly for everyone involved.

10/18/2021

Over the years, we have encountered people to do not understand the construction industry and want work completed on their projects. This is understandable in most cases where the project owner is not knowledgeable about the type of work needed and terminology of the industry. In most of these cases, we are happy to help the potential client learn and understand the details of their project and apply the correct terminology to the situation. However, we frequently find “potential clients” who do not care to learn the details of work needed or the correct terminology for their project’s situation. The most frequent problem is a potential client contacting us for pricing on a project. Pricing could mean several things in this request: bid, budget, estimate, or a range of pricing for the project. Quite frequently, when asked for clarification the project owner responds that they want a budget. Often, after being provided with a budget, we get a reply that our bid was too high compared with other contractors. This communication problem is exacerbated by various websites which connect project owners with potential contractors without properly providing either party with complete information. The project owner contacting a potential contractor through a website or directly, without understanding what they are looking for, will not receive a response appropriate for their situation. Unfortunately, this results in everyone expending valuable time and effort for an inadequate result when a proper result could have been achieved with adequate communication and understanding.

09/07/2021

What is the value of an employee? It depends on what you are measuring. Value is a subjective measurement. Are you evaluating dedication to the job, loyalty, safety, efficiency, knowledge, skill, communication, attitude, other items? Most likely, yes, each of these is evaluated. Can you train a low value employee to be a higher value employee? Yes. Classes in many of these general subjects are available in many trades. Can these items be measured? Most likely, yes. With the correct records, a company likely has most of the information they need to determine the overall value of any employee. The ultimate value is determined in a cost-benefit analysis. This, in turn, likely is utilized in determining the employee’s future at a company, pay raises, promotions, and additional responsibilities or training. Value is more than the salary paid, it is the overall benefit of the work the employee provides to the company. Without the skills, experience, knowledge, and abilities of the right employees in the right positions, the company has a much more difficult and expensive time attempting to complete its contracts and obligations.

08/09/2021

Mistakes happen. Every time is an unfortunate event. The fact that it happened is not necessarily the issue to be concerned about. The events leading up to the event, decisions made which led up to the event, and any attempts to avoid the mistake are all items which should be reviewed and scrutinized. After a mistake is made, the entity responsible should recognize the mistake, and make an effort to correct it. A simple and honest mistake would require a simple correction and possibly an apology. A more significant mistake would obviously require a more substantial correction. In construction, there are many places to make a mistake, and many mistakes are, indeed, made. The vast majority of construction mistakes are minor and insignificant, easily corrected by the worker immediately after the mistake was made. Some mistakes are found a little later and corrected before the next trade begins work in the area. A few mistakes, unfortunately, are not found until the project is complete, and the owner discovers the issue. Though it doesn’t happen frequently, we try to fix these mistakes as quickly as possible to avoid inconveniencing the owner or their operations.

07/06/2021

There are many people who like to quote simple safety slogans such as “Every accident is preventable,” “If any injury is prevented through safety measures or devices, the cost is justified,” or “You can’t put a price on safety.” The truth is that the costs for a “perfect” safety record are high. Every task involves risk. For each task, there is an “acceptable” level of risk. For instance, driving a vehicle is inherently dangerous. Older vehicles don’t have airbags, lane departure warnings, adaptive braking, radar, or other safety devices. If someone wanted to make sure they, or their kids were perfectly safe, they would go purchase the latest model with the most safety features. Do they actually purchase the latest model with the best safety record and most safety features for their kids to drive? No. Why? Because those models are very expensive compared to older or cheaper models. Those safety features have also been shown to not prevent all accidents. How much is an older model car? Depending on its age, much less. Is an older car less safe? Yes. How much less safe is it? Well, that depends on the features it has. The cost of the additional safety features of the new car are a factor, so the person purchasing the vehicle must compromise based on their budget or their desire for safety. Somewhere in their compromise, there is an “acceptable level of risk” for justifying the amount of safety features they will get with the purchase of a vehicle within their budget. The same is true for construction activities. Training employees, similar to teaching someone to drive, is one of the steps in the process. Adequate training, hopefully significant training with significant practice, helps to prepare the employee for most of the situations they will encounter with the activity they are training for. Adequate safety devices, hopefully the best safety devices and tools, are provided to complete the task while providing the greatest level of safety to the employee. As we have mentioned before, clients and contractors need to have a reasonable expectation of safety. Goals of 100% safe jobsites are good, expectations of 100% safety are expensive. Anyone who guarantees 100% safety is either a liar about their capabilities or a fraud, and anyone who wants a guarantee of 100% safety is unrealistic and unreasonable.

06/01/2021

Construction used to be a glamorous, exciting, heroic, and adventurous career. Photos and stories from the 1930’s and earlier seem to indicate amazing achievements, proud workers, and good pay. Photos and videos from the 1950’s and into the 1960’s also show proud, hard working, and well paid construction workers. In the 1980’s, the image of the construction worker began to tarnish, being equated with low intelligence, simple, menial labor tasks. Emphasis on higher education and a college degree further diminished the image of the construction worker. Now, with rising wages, worker shortages in construction, and rising college debt, people are beginning to realize that not every student wants or needs a college degree. A well paying career can be made, skills can be gained and learned, and proud achievements can be accomplished by being a construction worker. A good education in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) areas is needed to correctly estimate, order, and install construction materials. In fact, that almost every high school student has this education upon graduation and can immediately apply that knowledge to a paying job. Not only does construction work earn a good paycheck, it can help lower expenses as well. Home repairs and improvements can be done with the skills and knowledge learned from the job. Costs to hire others to do the work are eliminated. The personal reward of being self sufficient is more than just saving money, it is a moment to be proud of your accomplishment.

05/03/2021

Watching an “old school” craftsman work brings an amount of awe, inspiration, satisfaction, and appreciation for the person doing the work and the skill of their trade. On a project some time ago, we had several special-order stone counter tops to install. These were expensive and unable to be modified without special tools which we did not have available. The deadline to install and complete our work was within hours. Each counter had been installed except the last unit. This particular unit had to be installed between two walls which were ½” too close together for the counter to fit in. The usual solution of reworking the walls was not an option due to a short deadline. The project manager, superintendent, and carpenter were discussing the problem and possible solutions for a while without progress. Our master carpenter at the time came in near the end of the discussion. After a couple of minutes of hearing about the problem, he said “No problem, I’ll have it fixed in 15 minutes.” He went to get a circular saw, a couple of 2x4s and a hammer. Nervously, the crew watched as he cut the 2x4 and leaned them against the finished walls. With his hammer, he gently tapped another 2x4 between the ones leaned against the walls and slowly wedged them away from each other. After a few minutes, he placed the counter, and removed the 2x4 wedges. The counter top was in place and secure, the walls were in place and within tolerances for plumb, and there was no damage to paint or other finishes. There were no special tools involved, just the knowledge and skill of the craftsman. The crew was amazed because they didn’t have the experience to think of that particular solution. Other solutions and ideas discussed and considered would have cost hundreds of dollars and taken an additional 2 or 3 days which would have been detrimental to the client and even more costly if they had not been able to open their business on time. What was the cost of the master carpenter’s solution? $25. What was his value to the project and schedule for an on time opening? $3,400. What was his value in experience and education to the rest of the crew? Priceless.

04/05/2021

Employee training has been an important aspect of our company for many years. Upon hiring, safety is discussed and reviewed. The employee is provided with our safety manual, and is expected to review every subject it contains. The first day of each week begins with a safety meeting. During this time, every field employee is to attend for the purpose of learning, or re-learning various safety items. Much of this training is scheduled per OSHA rules for timing on training which requires annual, monthly, or sometimes weekly safety training. At least once per year, employees are provided with an opportunity to attend a full day of safety, skills, or knowledge training. All of this is provided for the purpose of improving the employee. All training should add safety, value to the work completed, and value to the individual. We hope each employee is able to see the value of their training as an investment in them. We want them to work safely, efficiently, and learn new skills. By doing so, each employee has an opportunity to advance their qualifications for certain projects or tasks. Our hope is that each employee will want to take on more skills and tasks. With each new capability, their value as an employee and skilled tradesperson increases. Over several years, the individual has skills and capabilities which could greatly enhance their career.

03/08/2021

We are frequently solicited by companies which claim to be able to help and develop our online presence. After listening to some of the sales pitches, the primary questions we ask is “Why do we need this service? Most of our business is done face-to-face with our clients. Most of our business is done locally with clients who live in our community. Would an online presence help our sales? Probably not. What about online reviews? Would your opinion change if we had to share your customer information with websites to get those reviews? We could get many more, but would those reviews be by local customers and people known in the community? Would an online presence help our response to customers’ concerns for current projects? No. How about star ratings? Would a 4.5 or 5 star rating from an online platform convince you to utilize our company? Would your opinion change if those stars were paid for? What would an online presence help SWA do? It would only give potential customers a base idea of the work we are able to accomplish and do for them. It would be an advertising tool. Could it do much more than just advertise? Definitely, but as we have stated before, we would be much more effective in having a meaningful conversation with our clients instead of relying on an artificial electronic medium which would dilute the messages we receive and send to our current, and prospective clients. Customer service is not achieved with a computer monitor, tablet screen or phone; it is achieved with personal relationships, proper communication, and completed with a handshake.

02/01/2021

Over the past number of years, and likely decades, the quality of workers has varied greatly. Similar to the difference between one generation and the next, the workers in the field of construction can be entirely different in the way they think. The nature of the work, though, directs the actions of each worker to a particular task and end result. With the emphasis on higher education, many people have turned away from trade schools and looked away from manual labor jobs. As several T.V. shows have pointed out, and many wise elders have said, there is always a need for a plumber, carpenter, or any other trade, where manual labor is required. Construction trades used to be glamorous in risk, adventure, rough work. Now, the glamour is in making money and doing so as easily as possible. If people live in the present, the money they earn allows the purchase of a great deal of pleasurable items. There are few trades where someone can truly take pride in saying “I created that!” and having an interesting conversation about a building and the challenges of constructing it. There is little pride in many jobs and quality of work produced anymore. There is also little interest in how things were done, so few opportunities to discuss, learn, and be proud of older workers present themselves. There are many opportunities to learn about how things were done to create the products and buildings everyone uses. Take a moment to learn what is involved by speaking with a trade worker.

01/18/2021

There are a number of ways for SWA to receive invitations to bid on projects. We prefer to receive invitations from systems which do not require specific software or any sort of fees, as these items only increase the cost of our operations and ultimately, the cost of projects to our clients. In many cases, having a fee structure for bid invitations eliminates the free estimates which we believe should be the beginning basis of our relationship with potential clients. We feel that there is a certain level of trust, professionalism, and interest in the owner/builder relationship which is undermined by fees for bids. By charging a fee for an estimate, is the owner really receiving the best value and genuine interest in the project by the contractor? Not necessarily. Likewise, if the owner charges a fee for prints or bid invitations are they showing a genuine interest in the builder? Again, not necessarily. By providing free project documents to builders, the owner is stating that they trust builders will have an interest in the project, and that the potential future relationship will be built on trust and a mutual desire to complete the project successfully. By providing a free estimate on the project, builders are stating that they trust the owner will seriously consider the potential future relationship and pricing for the project. Fees for project documents, memberships in builder or consumer website sources, and for estimates not only increases the project’s costs, but also reduces the project’s relationship between the owner and builder to a monetary value. The only value becomes the end cost of the project. This, unfortunately, negates any value from service, responsiveness, and potential future work on the current project or future projects.

12/09/2020

A properly completed project requires a number of items. The first is a concept of the project’s end result and goals. The second, and potentially most important part, is accurate research and design. Consistently, projects without proper research (typically on existing buildings) or without an accurate design (new or existing buildings), will have a high number of questions. Each question takes time to research, apply a design, and then construct. The time involved to complete this process during the project detracts from the other progress on the project, and eventually ends up costing more in both time and money. Owners don’t like to spend more to resolve problems. Architects don’t like to take more time to research problems and produce additional designs. And contractors don’t like to distract their workers from planned tasks on the jobsite. Unless the project is a design-build arrangement, having an accurate set of construction drawings is the only way to ensure a properly constructed project without delays or extra costs.

11/09/2020

Numerous mistakes have been made when someone speaks or writes something without thinking through the subject matter. The process of thinking can lead to missed information or incorrect assumptions about a situation. Careful and complete observation, review of the situation, research of facts, and proper application of logic and morals should be applied before irrationally or irresponsibly blurting out the first reaction which comes to mind. A person’s first reaction is typically emotional. Business decisions cannot be made on an emotional basis. A decision that “feels good” in the moment can end up as a disaster for the business later. A professional will look objectively at the issues and base a decision on facts. A fact-based decision may not feel good, but will have sufficient data behind it to provide legitimacy to the decision made. This is not to say emotion has no place in professionalism, it certainly does and must have a place, but it must be properly guided and nurtured. Emotions, a passion to do something, provide the desire to do something better than what has been done previously. In order to do something better, you must confirm the improvement is actually better and not just a “feel good” decision to make an “improvement” that serves as a short-term “solution”

10/12/2020

What is the value of an education? Depending on the institution, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a major in history, politics, law, electronics, etc. What can be done with and education in these areas? A lot, such as teaching others, developing software, advancing law and justice, and many other benefits to society. In the construction industry, we value skills of trades, where people learn coordination and how to work with their hands-on equipment. Knowledge about how materials work together to become strong buildings. As we work in a university area and have many well-educated people in the community, we see many examples where highly educated people with their expensive degrees don’t know how to change the oil in their car, change a tire, fix a door at home, change an air filter in their furnace, or other such examples. They lack the skills that a less expensive education can provide for a craft type trade. Similarly, a craftsman may not understand why a well-polished floor may be a problem for a client, because they don’t have the higher education relating to liability law, insurance, and medical claims. Ideally, a person would have a broad education, being interested in both skilled trade items and higher education subjects. An open mind with a desire for learning more about a skilled trade career would be excellent. As a company, we provide continuing education when we can for individual skill and knowledge advancement. We want our employees to be more involved and knowledgeable about the construction industry as a whole, not just the skilled task portions. The better we can prepare our employees for overall project knowledge, the better we can respond to clients’ needs.

09/23/2020

There are a large number of articles in construction trade publications regarding the low bid process and qualification considerations of contractors. When and owner wants to have work done, the time to research, interview, and decide on a contractor is important. Not all contractors are qualified to complete a particular project. An owner who wants a cheap price for their work doesn't realize that the contractor they choose may utilize the cheapest materials, unskilled installers, and take shortcuts on the installation. If there are any changes, that contractor may also attempt to add change order costs for items that should have been included in their initial price. The higher priced contractor may have included the "change order" items in their bid price, have skilled installers, and may have quoted better quality materials. Relying on price alone is not a smart decision process. The owner should compare the qualifications of each contractor, experience of their workers, the proposed materials to be used on the project ant the time to complete the project. There are a number of other factors to also consider, but the bottom line is the overall decision should be made based on a comparable set of factors which will provide the owner with a price based on an
"apples to apples" comparison of the bids submitted.

08/31/2020

General contracting is what we do best: managing the overall project and following through to get the entire project complete. We have capabilities for many other and more specific areas of work: concrete, drywall, casework (manufacture and installation), trim, doors, flooring, ceiling tile, painting, furnishings, demolition, landscaping, and others. Efficiency and cost effectiveness for our client usually has us subcontract those work items to others. A specialist for these work items is almost always a better choice than a "jack of all trades" person. On occasion, we receive calls from other contractors needing additional, skilled workers. When their own crews are not skilled enough for a task, or are not available at a particular time, we sometimes fill in to help where expertise is needed or where our crew is available to keep that contractor's work on schedule. Whatever it is you may need, we can get the work done with our own employees or with subcontractors.

07/07/2020

We are often asked “Why don’t you do more residential work.” The answer is not simple. SWA does residential work, but it is not often. The information and construction methods used in commercial work differ from residential work. The materials may be the same, but commercial work has more exact and stringent requirements as specifically noted in contracts. This sometimes translates to a more expensive project for a homeowner. Because a home is more personally and individually connected to the owner, the owner will quite often make changes emotionally, how they “feel” the home should be built and how its features should be installed. This leads to a less strict contract and requirements. Commercial construction, not being so connected to an individual, will be more logically planned and built. The homeowner’s emotional feelings change and are sometimes not well thought out and logically planned. Although this makes for an excellent home customized to what the owner wants, it allows for incomplete or inexact instructions to be given to the contractor. As an example: for a paint color: a commercial project will state “Use Sherwin-Williams paint SW-105.64 Antique White, Eggshell, latex.” A homeowner might say “I want a name-brand, warm white, easy to clean paint.” If the commercial building owner changes their mind and the paint used is as instructed, there is a simple change order to repaint the walls. If a homeowner changes their mind, there is a potential argument about what the paint color should have been, what was painted, and who should pay for repainting. This argument never ends well, even if the owner and the contractor work through everything cordially. This is just an example on paint, working through this same scenario on carpet colors, wood trim, cabinets, counter tops, door styles, siding, landscaping, and all other areas gets to be time consuming. The ultimate questions come about for the project relating to schedule and cost. Commercial work has a more stringent contract style, residential is less structured. Without the strict contract, the arguments rise again about how much work the owner expects and how much that work, or changes in the work, will cost. There is often a wide gap between what the homeowner expects they can get completed by a contractor and what their budget can afford. SWA doesn’t avoid residential work, but we don’t actively pursue it. SWA does residential work. We, and the homeowner, must remember that SWA operates with more specific information. Ultimately, the way SWA operates should be a benefit and an advantage to homeowners.

Telephone

Address


2222 Heinz Rd
Iowa City, IA
52240-2600

Opening Hours

Monday 8am - 5pm
Tuesday 8am - 5pm
Wednesday 8am - 5pm
Thursday 8am - 5pm
Friday 8am - 5pm

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