J.Schwartz,llc Construction Blog (PAHIC#861)

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What does “Green” even mean?

The term “green” is a bit amorphous and does not really have a set definition; and this causes a problem with the idea of being green (in my opinion, anyway). The Green concept is based on things like using fast-growth materials so that we are not laying the land bare, using materials that are bio and photo-degradable so that we are not filling landfills, using recycled materials (for obvious reasons), using highly efficient materials in order to save energy, use locally grown materials to reduce the carbon footprint, using adhesives and chemicals that are not bad for the environment (formaldehyde, etc), using things like solar, thermal and wind energy, using materials in new ways that would have otherwise been thrown away (engineered lumber uses scrap wood), and this list goes on and on.
The problem comes in when you take a myopic look at something and are tempted to call it “green” based on only one of the criteria listed above. For example, one of the commonly used green materials is bamboo – but as far as I have been able to tell, a huge majority of the bamboo used in the U.S. is imported and importing creates a huge carbon foot -print. Maybe this should negate this from being a green product? Well, the truth is, I do not know…because I guess it is all relative.
Together, let’s take a challenge, and do a comparison and contrast of materials / methods that are being called green… Over the next months, I will try to come up with a “green grading system” that can be used to compare and contrast materials and methods that will give an easy to read “green score” so that we can decipher what is and what is not actually green. If anyone can help with methodology for figuring out carbon footprints, that would be very helpful, and any suggestions of items to be included in the list would be great too. Keep in touch and explore this with me in the weeks and months to come…

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:01 am  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Opinion about the outcome of the recession as it relates to the construction industry and our potential clients.

I have a theory about what is about to happen to the residential construction industry in years to come… and I am not sure that it looks very good for awhile.
In an indistry that is highly unregulated, it is easy to throw some tools in a truck, come up with a company name, and call yourself a remodeler or home builder. Actually, it is just that easy! That being said, I think that most would agree that the large speculative home-builders will not be doing as much building for some time (if even within my lifetime); and all of those people that were working for them will have to find other things to do. I am not saying that they are not highly talented people that have very useful skills – but being a skilled tradesman is very different than being a skilled business owner, general contractor, remodeler, or construction manager. Also, all of those young people that are looking to start a career in the industry will be behind the eight ball, looking for work.
It is my fear that many of these people that do not have the skill to general-contract and do not know enough about the integration of trades and systems, client relations, scheduling, detailing, expediting, material selection, accounting, book-keeping, job site coordination, marketing, sales, etc, etc, etc, that all make for a good, quality construction business will soon flood the market with low-quality competition.
This only becomes a problem because all too often, our potential clients do not see the skill levels and training required to do the things that we do well, that they expect us to do well – and cost becomes king.
I think that because of this flood of unqualified new “businesses”, we are in for 5 or ten years of shoddy work, bad business practices, and unreasonable competition that will only sort itself out with regulation of the industry and the inevitable weed-out process that will come with businesses going under. Some of this shoddy work has benn occuring due to rushed schedules and over-eager builders, too. (See the link below this post).
So buyer beware, you get what you pay for and we have already seen a large number if businesses go under due to shoddy workmanship and bad business practices. J. Schwartz,llc has been hired on occasion to remedy some of these projects, and although the final outcome may still be beautiful, the process is tainted, usually exorbitantly more expensive and contains some litigation with the less than satisfactory contractor that had the “lower price”…

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 8:22 pm  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two More Awards in 2009!!!!

J. Schwartz,llc was again honored for excellence in the Home Building and Remodeling Industry by the Home Builders Association. On Friday March 6, 2009 the Association held its annual black-tie Pinnacle Awards to recognize outstanding achievement in the industry. Although the competition was some of the largest home-builders in the country, J. Schwartz,llc was awarded with TWO Pinnacle awards – One for the Best Bathroom Design by a Builder, the other for the Best Remodel. We are proud of those that helped us achieve these awards, proud of the projects and thankful to our clients.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:19 am  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Current Events and how they affect us at J. Schwartz,llc 3/13/09

There is no denying that the current economic “down-turn” has affected everyone – no matter what kind of “smoke blowing” and stories they are telling; especially those of us in the home-building and renovation business.
J. Schwartz,llc is currently putting out a record number of proposals – and it is easy to ask why so many are looking for numbers on projects that are obviously not happening… I would guess that there are a few reasons for this: One may be that people that would have been “moving up” to a larger or new home in years past are currently looking to settle-in and renovate. Another reason may be that home-owners are thinking that they will take advantage of a weak market and get better pricing because of an assumed drop in material and labor costs.
The truth is that with this record number of outgoing proposals, few are being signed – and there may be many reasons for this, as well. Although commodities like copper and other metals have dropped in price; it does not necessarily translate into savings on the items that the home-builders need – wire, gutters, studs, etc. While it does always seem that as soon as the market has a cost increase, we all feel it; it is also true that when prices drop on the raw materials, those decreases don’t flow-through as quickly. In hand with that is that although people are very hungry for work, and there certainly is some savings to be had with the current conditions, I feel it is very important for people to understand the psychology of the situation – (Yes, you are reading a blog from a home builder that is talking about psychology). No matter what the quality level of the project (all J. Schwartz,llc projects are of the highest quality,with budget in mind), there is the right level of tradesperson or craftsman for that project; and with the right person, there is an immense amount of pride in the work that they do. If you are a smart client, you want the best workmanship at a great price – and while there is no doubt that we can currently “beat people down” to low wage rates, it does not mean that they will give us the same quality and pride in their workmanship once we do; there is a delicate balance that must be held, and that is what J. Schwartz,llc does. So in summation, my first reason for unsigned proposals is price. The assumed material decreases are not there, and the huge labor rate decrease are not either – especially if you are looking for a project that will not have problems, will be of a high quality level and be as beautiful as you dream it will be.
The second reason for unsigned proposals may be that it seems that the downturn has not yet hit bottom – and any bit of reluctance only gets excacerbated with each passing day… so it may be that these projects are not gone, they are just “on hold” until we see the sun again.
J. Schwartz,llc will be here for that, and we will be ready with the right mix of quality, energy, readiness and accessibilty for our clients.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 8:57 am  

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