Monthly Archives: December 2010

Stihl recalls sticking chain saws

Stihl is recalling about 5,000 chain saws that may have sticky throttle triggers, which could cause the machine to cut the user or bystanders. The defective model is MS 361C (C-Q version).

Stihl has received three reports of sticking throttles, but no injuries associated with that.

The recalled saws have a rear-handle activated chain brake, an orange top casing, gray base, black handle and “STIHL MS 361C” printed in an orange circle on the side. They were sold at authorized Stihl dealers from February 2004 through August 2009 for about $640.

Owners should return the U.S.-made saws to an authorized dealer for a free repair. For more information, contact Stihl at (800) 610-6677 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit

Not Everything Old Should Be New Again

New Year’s is always a time of reflection and remembering days gone by. But, I thought only “experienced” (read that as “old”) people like me remembered the heyday of the “handshake agreement” in this industry. But, like bell bottoms did a few years ago, not writing out a contract seems to be making a comeback. And while I kind of liked bell bottoms in the 1970s, and thought my kids’ brief recent flirtation with them was kind of cool, I know for a fact that the re-emergence of the unwritten construction contract is anything but a good idea.

I guess the “experienced” people I learned from in my youth had good reason to trust the people for whom they worked without a written agreement. Issues of insurance, indemnity, workers compensation coverage and taxes apparently just somehow got worked out in those days. I guess so did times when plans and specifications were imperfect, the soils were different than expected, or the job wasn’t completed (either in time or money) the way one or both parties expected. Change orders somehow just got recognized and approved, and payment was made timely.

But, all that was before the legislature imposed more pre-lien requirements on contractors and suppliers, and our courts issued a few decisions that make it harder to get paid. Maybe every lender was strong in those days, and recognized handshakes between those to whom they lent and contractors as binding. And, that was before owners were single-purpose limited liability companies with no assets other than the project being built. Consequently, there was more reason between owner and contractor to trust that the other was “good for it.”

We are all fond of the “good old days.” But, the terms of a oral construction agreement are extraordinarily difficult to establish when things go wrong. Failure to provide the proper pre-claim notices are absolute bars to a lien, removing significant leverage, and leaving a breach of oral contract lawsuit—requiring proof of what the contract’s terms were–as the only avenue to obtain payment. Not a very attractive option.

Maybe the current bad times are what prompts a contractor to agree to work without a contract. I remember some lean times, and the pressure I felt to get some work–any work–in the door. But, regardless of the urgency involved, I am floored by the number of people and companies I see working on handshakes today. Given the realities of economic uncertainty, financial instability and highly increased statutory regulation, the risks of going without the protection of a written contract seem huge. Even if things are really tough, a “make or break” job taken on a handshake is often a straight, downhill track to “break.”

Construction Material Inflation Up 4.6%

Project owners and estimators should take note that the cost of materials used in construction is again outpacing general inflation. The producer price index (PPI) for inputs to construction climbed 0.5% in the last month and 4.6% in the last year. Major cost drivers included diesel fuel, 4.8% and 18.5%; copper and brass mill shapes, 5.6% and 16%; and aluminum mill shapes, 3.5% and 14%. The index for steel mill products fell 1.2% for the month but jumped 12% since Nov, 2009. See AGC of America Economist Ken Simonson’s recent PPI tables.

Programs Explore the Future of IPD and Lean Construction

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Lean Construction share the fundamental goals of improved team collaboration and production efficiency. To explore the inter-relationship between IPD and Lean, industry associations are working together to produce two consecutive programs for a richer perspective and broader educational opportunity regarding the two topics.

AIA of Washington, AGC of Washington and the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) present Integrated Project Delivery — Making It Work for You on December 13.

This full-day event will allow attendees to form their own opinion of IPD and provide the tools to incorporate IPD into their practices.  Topics include IPD terms and tools, contracts and risks, case studies and IPD for smaller budgets.

Just as interdisciplinary perspectives and collaboration are fundamental to IPD, this program is designed for—and will be presented by—experts across the A/E/C disciplines.  Presenters and attendees will include architects, owners and developers, engineers, contractors, lawyers and risk managers.  Closing the day, representatives of 3xPT Strategy Group will forecast the IPD future and the role of A/E/C professionals and organizations.

The next day, December 14, the organizations team up again to present Lean Construction Basics.

Lean Construction creates three opportunities for improving project delivery – “Impeccable Coordination,” “Project as Production System,” and “Project as Collective Enterprise.” This seminar will cover Lean Construction Basics by introducing key concepts, principles and techniques to make sharp the difference between Lean Construction and current project delivery practices. The agenda is built around these Three Opportunities in a way to surprise and provoke participants, to shift common sense. This seminar will include hands-on simulations, lectures and discussion.

The programs are open to all those in the A/E/C community, with a price break for members of the presenting associations.  Separate registrations are required for the two events.  Click Integrated Project Delivery and Lean Construction.

Seattle Chamber’s Survey Reveals Some Optimism for 2011

According to a survey by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, most local companies expect their prospects to be brighter next year compared to 2010.   The Real Estate/Construction sector was a notable exception to the overall optimisitc expectations for the new year. 

The Chamber recently unveiled the region’s first “State of the Union” report, or annual snapshot of job activity from a survey of more than 1,200 local businesses on what they see as the challenges in our economy, opportunities for growth and what steps they are taking to prosper.

The Real Estate/Construction sector was the second largest sub-sample and 62% of those represented construction-related companies. Within the Real Estate/Construction sector, 44% of the companies thought 2011 will be better than 2010, 30% thought it would be about the same and 14% thought it would be worse.  Next to the government subgroup, this was the least optimisitc sector of the survey — overall, 56% of companies thought next year would be better.

The biggest challenges to growth cited by those in the Real Estate/Construction sector were too few customers, availability of financing and too much competition.  On the flip side, this sector felt the primary benefits of doing business in King County is the region’s economy, environmental surroundings/quality of life and skilled labor force.

Copies of a detailed analysis of these results are now available for purchase from the Chamber for $20.