Monthly Archives: March 2011

Are your windows poisoning your kids?

It might sound crazy, but if you live in a home built before 1978 you might be slowly poisoning your kids every time you open or close your windows.

According to a study by Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing, windows have the highest levels of lead in paint of any building component. He said lead paint chips are common in old window troughs and friction surfaces on them create dust hazards — even in homes without any deteriorated lead paint. He says there are 15 million pre-1980 homes with lead dust hazards, and about one-third of them have no deteriorated interior lead paint but do have intact lead paint on interior window friction surfaces.

Nevin recommends a four-step plan:

  1. Replace with new Energy Star windows.
  2. Stabilize significant deteriorated paint.
  3. Remove any lead-containing dust.
  4. Perform dust wipe tests after cleanup.

Nevin makes an interesting correlation between the age of housing that preschoolers live in and the amount of lead in their blood. Below is a graph Nevin used in his “Why Windows? Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning” article.

GLY, Tucci, Nutter, GHP receive Corporations in Communities awards

Above:  Secretary of State Sam Reed, center, presents the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award to GLY’s Steve Peterson, Steve Hoffmann, Jim Karambelas, Ted Herb and Grant Willman.

Thanks for your recent post, Ben, about Skanska’s great work with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  Kudos to Skanska! There’s something about contractors…it seems they are always the biggest givers to causes and the most involved in community projects.  And here’s some proof of that:

I had the happy occasion to attend Secretary of State Sam Reed’s Corporations in Communities event last week.  The awards honor “exceptional Washington businesses that make community a priority”.

And of the eight recipients of the state’s most prestigious civics award, four were contractors!

The top award was presented to GLY Construction. Secretary Reed said GLY was selected for contributing a minimum of two percent of profits to worthy organizations. In 2010 GLY gave approximately 18.5 percent of its pretax profits to youth, recovery, educational, arts, healthcare and other community organizations. Secretary Reed said GLY gives not just money, but the time and expertise of its people and noted projects like cleaning up and repairing the YMCA Camp Coleman, and providing Habitat for Humanity (Rainier Vista) with experienced crews to pour concrete sidewalks, parking pads and multiplex patios to achieve Certificates of Occupancy.

Honorable Mention Awards were given to:

Nutter Corporation, for providing grants and support to 45 organizations and for employees taking pride in being able to give back to the community and for hosting the popular “Dozer Day” event for all ages to come learn about heavy equipment.

Tucci & Sons, for being a major corporate sponsor of the annual Associated Ministries Pierce County Hunger walk for 14 years, and for contributing an estimated two million pounds of food to the Emergency Food Network through cash, sponsorships and in-kind contributions.

Grays Harbor Paper (which is owned by the Quigg family, of Quigg Bros. construction fame), for its efforts to donate paper to schools, churches and community events in Grays Harbor County, and for leading efforts by local businesses to transform Grays Harbor from a distressed area into a model North American eco-industrial hub.

I can’t help but to brag that GLY, Tucci & Sons, Nutter Corporation and Quigg Bros., Inc. are AGC members.  Congratulations to them all!

Skanska donates nearly 1,000 DVDs for cancer patients

Skanska says it and Target donated 946 DVDs earlier this month to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Skanska’s neighbor in the Alley24 project. DVDs play an important role during patients’ often lengthy cancer treatments.

Skanska placed bins at all of its Seattle jobsites to make it easy for employees to donate used and new DVDs. Target kicked in a $1,000 gift card.

Skanska says it will take on other community outreach projects this year and recently formed its Community Involvement Committee for that task.

Hats off to Skanska!

36 Ways to Spur Construction

We all know that while the recession officially ended in June 2009, the construction industry has continued to suffer from job losses and ever-tighter margins. At the start of 2011, the industry’s unemployment rate was 20.7 percent, roughly twice the overall unemployment rate.  Washington State’s construction industry shed seven percent of its workforce in the last year alone.

While it seems there’s not much to do but sit and wait for the overall economy to turn around, there actually are specific, proactive policy steps we could take to reenergize the construction industry.  AGC of America put all of these ideas into a single document and is working Congress to get as many of them enacted as possible.  Click Building a Stronger Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth for details of the 36 recommendations.  Here’s a few:

Convert Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Tax Deductions into Tax Credits. In addition to boosting the deduction amount for efficiency upgrades to commercial buildings, Congress should convert the tax benefit into a tax credit. In an environment where many commercial building owners are likely to experience losses in 2010 and 2011, tax deductions will have limited to no impact. Converting deductions into credits will provide a significant financial incentive for property owners to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings.

Incentivize New Equity for Existing Real Estate Projects. As property values fall and lenders adopt more restrictive standards, new sources of equity capital will be needed. Congress should provide temporary tax incentives to attract new equity for existing projects. The incentives would provide bonus depreciation on the new investment equity and deduction of losses that are not subject to passive loss limits. At least 80 percent of the invested capital must be directed to reducing the outstanding balance of the commercial mortgage debt with the remainder going to capital improvement to qualify for the incentive. This will ease debt market concerns and boost the broader economy.

Encourage States to Enact Permissive Public Private Partnership Laws. All earmarked transportation funds that have been unused for at least 10 years, worth over $620 million, should be consolidated into a single Public Private Partnership Innovation Fund. The Department of Transportation would use this fund to encourage states to enact new, or revise existing, public private partnership legislation to encourage greater private-sector funding for transportation infrastructure projects. States will be able to win competitive grants from this fund based on their success in enacting permissive legislation and entering into viable public private partnerships.

Streamline Environmental Reviews for Infrastructure Projects. The current federal environmental review process for federally-funded infrastructure projects is unnecessarily slow and expensive. For example, it takes an average of 13 years for highway and 12 years for transit projects to receive federal approval. As a result, every effort should be made to streamline the environmental review process while protecting the environment by designating lead federal agencies, establishing and meeting clear timelines, simplifying analysis requirements and placing a statute of limitations on claims.

No doubt some will argue that new measures and regulatory reforms aren’t needed and that the construction industry will recover on its own. But just looking at the construction industry’s performance in the year and a half since the official end of the recession, it should be pretty clear that the sector’s revival is anything but guaranteed. Allowing this industry to continue to stagnate will have significant long-term impacts both on the strength of the domestic labor market and on the quality of America’s public and private infrastructure and buildings.

On the other hand, a resurgence in private and public sector construction will boost our global economic competitiveness. It will allow our businesses to operate more efficiently and improve their productivity. It will lower shipping costs, helping farmers earn more for what they grow and shoppers to spend less of what they earn. It will improve quality of life for all Americans, better safeguard our environment and reduce the amount of water, energy and fuel we consume each year.

Check it out: Building a Stronger Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth.

Lakewood goes online for building permit inspection requests

The city of Lakewood today launched an online inspection scheduling option on its website. The tool allows citizens and contractors to request an inspection for building permits at any time of the day, according to a city press release.

While this could be more convenient for those seeking permits, it doesn’t speed up the turnaround time over the city’s existing phone message line.

Foundation Challenges 1) Surveying

Elevator jack shaft drill rig

Tree preservation and elevator shaft location


Building corner layout

Elevator casing properly placed.

       From residential construction to high rise the challenges are the same, you dig a hole, install your foundation, and build your structure, right? well kind of.  The difference is that on large commercial structures there are many more eyes on each phase than on smaller structures like single family homes & 5-20 unit apartment style buildings, remodels etc. Big or small some companies do a fantastic job of quality control and some not so great. Here are the key phases to a successful foundation; 1)Surveying 2)Layout and excavation 3) soil type & shoring 4)soil bearing strength at footings 5) Form place and finish of concrete footings and walls 6) proper drainage below grade 7) Below grade waterproofing 8) Backfill and exterior grading. Books have been written on each one of these phases and there are certainly more steps involved in the process but these will help answer a couple simple questions.  How did my foundation crack? Why is there water in my basement or parking garage? How did my house or structure end up in the wrong spot? I thought we we’re saving those trees? etc.

Let’s start with surveying:

     Surveying places the structure on the property in the legal position based on code clearances. The positioning is verified by the building department during the plan review phase. Do surveyors make mistakes? Sure they do, we all do, these range from flagging wrong trees for removal, setting building corners based on side walk dimensions (this happened to me) which move buildings into the city right of way, to elevator jack shafts drilled in the wrong spot. These mistakes are  extremely costly and can be time consuming schedule killers, they happen every day, with GPS locating systems which rely on coordinates entered in by the surveyor, there are no actual dimensions to use for reference and most surveyors no longer double check with a measuring tape and string. Surveyors welcome the double check!

              The solution is to double check, get the coordinates from the surveyor and make sure the points “hubs, pins & stakes” are a) labeled correctly and b) accurate based on lines and measurements. This is done by setting up string lines over the survey pins, pulling measurements horizontal and diagonal to make sure the structure is square and key elements like building corners, elevator jack shafts and structural columns are located in precisely the right spot based on the building layout, using instruments like the theodolite and laser level help this process as well. If a discrepancy is found re-check and if there is still an error have your surveyor shoot the coordinates again.

      Every phase of construction from pre-planning to finish is extremely important, errors are greatly reduced by double checking work before proceeding to the next “phase” good communication between architects, consultants, general contractors and subcontractors  is key for a successful project.

More phases for discussion comming up!

Thanks for the comments!

Matt Stodola—

Liebherr refrigerators recalled for detaching doors

Liebherr-Canada Ltd of Ontario is recalling 5,702 built-in refrigerators because their doors can detach. There have been 10 reports of detachment, but no injuries.

The recall affects some 30-inch-wide bottom freezer units with the following model numbers: C 1600, C 1601, C 1650, C 1651, CI 1600, CI 1601, CI 1650, CI 1651 and CI 1700. The Austrian-built appliances were sold individually or as side-by-side companion units at national and specialty retailers from February 2004 through January 2011. They cost $4,400 to $5,000.

The model number can be found on a label behind the left side bottom drawer. Consumers should check their refrigerator to see if there is a popped up hinge pin at the top or bottom.

Liebherr will make in-home repairs. For more information, contact Liebherr at (877) 337-2653 visit

State agencies join forces to fight contractor fraud

It’s National Consumer Protection Week and Gov. Gregoire has stepped in by naming March 6-12 as Washington Consumer Protection Week.
To protect consumers, three state agencies have banded to create a new website called Suspect Fraud.
The site gives visitors resources to check out contractors before hiring them. There’s a link for fraud prevention and compliance from Labor & Industries, a link on employment benefits from the Employment Security Department, and a link for looking up business registrations from the Department of Revenue.
Revenue Director Suzan DelBene said the site complements the agency’s ongoing efforts to reduce an underground economy of businesses that don’t pay taxes, play by the rules or deliver on their promises.
“People may think that getting the lowest price is paramount, but sometimes you get a lot less than what you pay for,” she said in a press release.

The future that wasn’t: Floating stadium!

Picture this:  A 70,000 seat stadium, with a retractable roof, sitting on top of the water in Puget Sound.  No, that’s not what Safeco Field will be after the next earthquake.  It’s an actual proposal made by Cheney Construction Company to the forebears of the Downtown Seattle Association in 1963!  I came across this nugget on the Vintage Seattle website.  The site includes a pencil sketch of the stadium (arrive by boat!) as well as a copy of the actual proposal letter from Cheney Construction (on behalf of partners including Howard S. Wright Construction) to the then-Central Association of Seattle.  The stadium was expected to house both baseball and football fields, and be connected to an extension of the monorail.  Oh…the estimated cost of building the floating retractable roof stadium?  $15 million.  Check out this really cool idea that did not come to be by visiting Vintage Seattle.

Preference Bill Becomes Reciprocity Bill

In a rare turn-about, legislation that was once opposed by most of the industry has now evolved into one that it supports after major amendments by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Senate Bill 5662 and House Bill 1809 would have originally established a seven percent preference for “resident contractors” on public works projects in Washington State. Among the concerns raised about the bill are that it is too costly; harmful to many contractors with long-time presences in the state who would fail to qualify as resident contractors due to the legislation’s high Washington workforce requirement; and likely to precipitate retaliation by neighboring states which would particularly impact contractors in Spokane, Vancouver and other border areas.

The House version died in committee , but the Senate version (SB 5662) was passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee but not before being altered considerably. The new bill (now known as Second Substitute Senate Bill 5662) eliminates the bidding advantage and replaces it with reciprocity provisions. Reciprocity provisions mean that any public works bidding process in Washington State that receives bids from a contractor from a state that provides bidding advantages to their own contractors must provide comparable advantages to Washington State contractors when comparing bids between in-state contractors and contractors from those other states.

Many other states have such “reciprocity” statutes on the books.