The Mother of Invention




The following post is by Sean Lewis, Marketing Director for AGC of Washington

One of the pieces of wisdom my mom always told me was, “find a need and fill it.”  She, of course, didn’t come up with that concept on her own, but I’ve always found it to be good advice, right along the lines of “nature abhors a vacuum” and “necessity is the mother of invention”.  As I look around our city, region, and planet – and even just in the A/E/C world – there are plenty of examples of this concept in action (I’m all for this kind of change, when it’s a product of natural forces.  When government dictates it or fights it – not so much).

Using new technologies, Uber and Lyft have transformed how many of us get from place to place, sending 9.0 Richter-scale tremors through that industry, comparable to what the Model T did to the horse and buggy.  Interestingly, there wasn’t a vacuum there at all until new technology suddenly opened the door to it.

Photo via Volvo

Electric vehicles have made their mark too, with technology that continues to advance rapidly, and although I still have my doubts about how a driverless car is going to take me to the exact spot where I want to be dropped off like a human driver can, it’s amazing to see how that technology (and its affordability) is advancing as well.  Even automated construction vehicles like graders and pavers (and many other commercial vehicles to be sure) are coming soon, with amazingly accurate GPS-guided systems.

We’re re-using architectural wood products like never before.  We’re creating buildings that generate their own energy.  We’re “printing” concrete walls now to build structures with efficiencies never seen before.  Apartments and homes are seemingly getting smaller and smaller, at least in Seattle, as every square foot of space becomes more and more valuable.  And the vast majority of them, for right or wrong, do not automatically come with a parking space.

Although I’ve always been a staunch resister to those automated check-out lanes at the grocery store (I guess I uncharacteristically feel sorry for the checkers whose jobs are becoming obsolete), my wife and I recently made our first restaurant order and purchase at an in-store kiosk, without ever interacting with a single human being.  An actual person did bring our order to us, and I can only assume that a human was somehow involved in preparing our food – but the writing is definitely on the wall for both of those positions too.   And heck, even pizzas are now being delivered in urban areas by little R2D2-esque robots (are we supposed to tip them?).

And I won’t even discuss drone delivery-service technology.  Well, yeah, I guess I did, so I’ll add that when this becomes commonplace, it’ll be the dream of every 10-year-old with a BB gun (oh, to be young again).

All these advancements are naturally driven by need, technology, and consumer demand, and virtually no industry is immune.  We’re automating so much, so quickly, things like human beings engaged in vehicle-driving and burger-flipping and delivery services might soon be no more than sepia-tinted images in a history book.  Whoops – I mean, on a history website.

Clearly, mom was right: nature does indeed abhor a vacuum, and necessity is indeed the mother of invention. What happens after that, though?  Could it be that Blog Author is the only occupation not endangered by technology?

Posted in DJC, Historic, Nuts and Bolts | Leave a comment

The Smith Tower Reinvented

The newly rebranded Smith Tower, complete with ‘speakeasy,’ opens today,
August 25!

Inspired by the roaring 20s, the 35th floor Smith Tower Observatory includes the Temperance Cafe and Bar.  Now you can have a cocktail and a banh mi sandwich while appreciating that stunning view.  The finger-food menu includes local oysters, salmon poke, and pork potstickers.  And here’s a critical bit of advice to those simply looking for post-work drinks and views: Get there early, since the Observatory and Temperance close at six.

To visit the observation deck and bar, buy a “Straight Up” ticket – “For those who know exactly where they’re going and why.”  A Straight Up ticket is $10, though no snacks or drinks are included in the price.

Check out “The Legends of the Smith Tower” interactive tour for 40 minutes of self-guided immersion in history. The tour runs $19.14 for adults (a nod to the year the tower was completed), $14 for children ages 5 to 12, and $17 for seniors over 65 and military with ID.

Another tour option, called “The Bootleg King,” will launch this winter.  For more information on tours, go to Smith Tower tickets and tours.

Don’t want to see the view? Smith Tower Provisions General Store is open to the public and stocked with local gifts, grocery staples, and soda fountain featuring Full Tilt Ice Cream.

Provisions General Store via The Smith Tower Instagram

Recently in the DJC:

Unico shows off Smith Tower redo

  • Unico is unveiling the Smith Tower’s refreshed lobby and observatory today.

Smith Tower will have general store in lobby

  • Smith Tower is preparing to reopen on Aug. 25 and Unico Properties is selling tickets now for a new tour and “visitor experience” at the 1914 landmark.

Smith Tower’s 35th floor will be speakeasy, cafe

  • How do you put the crowning touch on one of Seattle’s iconic buildings? If it’s the Smith Tower, you start with a new general store on the ground floor and then renovate the 35th floor observatory into a Prohibition era-inspired cafe and bar.
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Progress on 4th and Columbia

The glass is in progress at The Mark. Looks great so far!  Here’s the view from 4th and Columbia.

The building is on schedule to finish construction in late spring of 2017.

Check out more views at The Mark in Progress.

Photo: Sera Mattson / DJC

Photo: Sera Mattson / DJC

Recently in the DJC:  
Glass goes up on The Mark tower

  • – Some big projects in downtown Seattle appear to have dodged a strike by about 700 members of the Glaziers, Architectural Metal and Glassworkers Local 188.  One of them is Kevin Daniels’ office and hotel tower at Fifth and Columbia called The Mark.
Posted in Construction, DJC, Projects in progress | Comments Off on Progress on 4th and Columbia

Ice cream pop-up anyone?

Little pop-up shops are the hot new thing this summer… So how about some ice cream?

Trinity Nightclub at 111 Yesler Way is making use of its prime Pioneer Square location by opening a pop-up ice cream stand at the building’s north entrance. The little stand looks directly into Pioneer Square Park, and sees a lot of daytime foot traffic from tourist.

Ashley Burton works the pop-up ice cream stand on the north side of Trinity Nightclub.
Photo by Sera Mattson / DJC

The shop sells a handful of flavors of Full Tilt ice cream – like strawberry guava sorbet and Mexican chocolate – and has special offers for people with Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour wristbands.

Recently in the DJC:
Pop-ups popping up all over these days

  • In Boston alone this summer, there’s been a pop-up beach, bike lane, track, and field competition, beer garden and yoga classes.

For more Seattle pop-up events, check out
Including, the upcoming Urban Air Market: Seattle on Saturday, September 10.

Urban Air Market A Curated Marketplace for Sustainable Design


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Why you need construction apprentices

The following post is by Wendy Novak, President, Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington

As the construction industry employment rate continues to increase and approximately 17 percent of the current construction workforce will retire over the next four years, employers are increasingly worried about finding and holding skilled workers.

Apprenticeship is a time-tested approach to training and developing skilled labor. For years it was difficult to attract young people to the construction industry. Today, however, we find that young people are more interested in starting a career in construction as they see the advantages as well as the possibility of higher earnings and more opportunity for growth than college degree careers offer.

Now on the local level, we are lacking the companies that are committed to training through apprenticeship programs.

Some companies shy away from training because of the perceived cost or fear that if they train workers they will lose them to competitors. Some get by with in-house training believing it is less expensive because they don’t understand the process.

The realities don’t support any of these reasons. Apprenticeship provides skill training and job-related theory tailored to strict national guidelines and each company’s needs. Through combined hands-on training and classroom instruction, apprentices gain knowledge and skills that enable companies to more efficiently and cost-effectively provide high-quality craftsmanship to their clients, building client loyalty and their professional reputations.

Many studies by industry associations and research companies have shown that apprenticeship training has proven advantages for employers, including:

  1. Building a pipeline of skilled workers
    As the workforce ages, apprenticeships are an effective tool to build a talent pool. In fact, more than 80 percent of U.S. companies interviewed for the Georgetown study say that sponsoring apprenticeships is an effective strategy for helping meet their on-going demand for skilled labor.
  1. Developing workers with customized skills
    Apprenticeships give businesses the opportunity to train workers to meet their standards as well as take advantage of workers bringing new ideas and methods back to the company.
  1. Boosting retention
    Studies show that apprentices are loyal to the companies that invest in them. Companies that train apprentices get motivated employees who have chosen their career path and are dedicated to both the work and the employer.
  2. Saving money on wages
    Apprentices begin work at a lower wage than highly trained workers and their wages grow along with their skills. Apprenticeships also help fill quotas for government-mandated hiring practices.
  3. Providing a positive return on investment
    A study prepared in 2007 by the Construction Industry Institute found that investing just 1 percent of a project’s labor budget in training could have double-digit returns.
    The study showed that 1 percent yielded:
    – 11 percent improved productivity
    – 14 percent less turnover
    – 15 percent less absenteeism
    – 26 fewer injuries.

ABC members who have been training apprentices verify these and many other advantages of training.

“We have been training at ABC’s training affiliate, CITC, and year after year we create a pipeline of long-term employees,” said John Noble, Washington Commercial Painters, Inc. “Our workers that have completed the program have become or best employees and future foremen.”

“New ideas that come from our apprentices/trainees through education are of great value,” said Jeff Ihler, with Tri-Nar, Inc. electrical contractor.  “More important and usually unrecognized by anyone outside the trade is that educated apprentices/trainees provide a safer and more professional installation. In the electrical industry, knowledge of codes, calculations, and proper installations save untold cost related to operations, maintenance, and in lives.”

We urge all of our ABC members to become training agents to both further their own company goals as well as provide for the industry workforce of the future.

For more information about becoming a training agent with CITC contact Adriana Gamboa at CITC: or phone (425) 285-2325

Posted in Construction, DJC, Nuts and Bolts | Comments Off on Why you need construction apprentices