The building industry is presently challenged by labor constraints across multiple trades in multiple regions. The last time builders reported labor shortages that were as widespread as now was just before 2001 during a prolonged period of strong GDP growth with overall unemployment as low as four percent, explains economist Paul Emrath of the National Association of Home Builders.
Current labor shortages impact all residential product types such as for-sale detached housing, condominiums, townhomes, and multifamily housing as well as commercial office, hotel, industrial and other similar projects. The National Association of Home Builders points out that eight years after the Great Recession drove an estimated 30% of construction workers into new fields, home builders across the country still struggle to find qualified labor. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics survey and data analysis by NAHB show there were 214,000 open construction sector jobs in July, which marks the second highest monthly total of open, unfilled positions.
With persistent demand for new housing nationwide, we expect to see ongoing labor shortage issues which we know from on-the-ground experience are especially challenging in areas such as Southern California--our home base--where demand for housing continues to outpace supply.
Lacking top grade craftsmen, builders resort to B and C quality trades, requiring more tedious oversight and “babysitting” by field superintendents and construction managers. Absent an available, qualified and well-trained labor force, builders and contractors deal with increasing quality assurance burdens in the field, leaving themselves and their insurance carriers potentially exposed to a higher risk of construction defect litigation.
Common causes include deficiencies in field workmanship, misinterpretation of plan details, and deviations from manufacturer’s recommendations. Furthermore, these deficiencies can become manifest in concrete foundations, framing assemblies, weatherproofing elements, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as well as fire-rated and acoustical assemblies.
Digital Technology is a Solution
Advances in mobile app technology are changing the way builders and construction managers survey, assess and respond to potential problem areas and have proven effective in minimizing problems associated with labor shortages. For example, the features and benefits of high-tech quality assurance methodologies can help locate, communicate and resolve construction issues in real time before they become bigger problems. This can save a builder or general contractor potentially millions of dollars in post-closing legal and remediation costs.
Smart phone QA apps available today connect the field to the office in same day reporting, thus helping to provide statistical feedback on trade performance, educating trades on quality issues, and protecting project pro formas. The app is an important addition to the builders’ toolbox, helping forge stronger GC-trade contractor relationships, worry-free project deliveries, and protecting the bottom-line.
Additionally, the new, cloud-based digital technology can reduce build-cycle time, lower indirect project costs and more accurately store and analyze information from current job site tasks and activities. This can be helpful for the next project bid by identifying where cycle time bottle necks and deficiencies occurred on the last project of similar design and building configuration.
Real Time Reporting
Armed with digital methodology, a QA construction expert can identify and report in real time detail project deficiencies, scheduling hiccups, as well as good and bad workmanship illustrated in project photos and narrative that can be sent and received the same day of the site visit. Armed with this time critical data, the construction manager, together with the trade contractor, can track time-sensitive, outstanding items until close-out and prioritize critical path deficiencies which might otherwise slow a project down.
Today’s quality assurance methodologies can also help determine whether a builder’s site management is a contributor to project issues or delays; obviously valuable information to have. Like conductors of an orchestra, a site manager must effectively schedule, direct and manage the trade contractors in a collaboration of construction and workmanship. Digital QA gives the site manager and/or management team the tools to be successful.
Finally, advanced QA technology can clearly identify construction and vendor problems that could exist across several different projects in different locales, allowing the builder to act quickly to rectify problems before they become a trend that could turn into costly construction defect litigation. Catching these types of problems by an ongoing, methodical quality assurance process before they become hidden defects can save builders and contractors millions of dollars in repairs or in lawsuits, not to mention damage to their all-important product and company reputations.
LJP Construction Services
Headquartered in Irvine, CA, LJP Construction Services has been at the forefront of the quality assurance movement on behalf of builder and insurance clients for nearly 25 years. Since being founded, LJP Construction Services has assisted 2,000 commercial and residential builder and insurance clients worldwide covering more than 100,000 homes throughout the US. More recently, LJP has tracked construction inspection data coast-to-coast over the past two years with its new CaptureQA® digital app, monitoring construction of all building types. LJP’s services also include owner representation, risk management consulting through the entire construction process, and asset management. For more information, visit http://www.ljpltd.com