Category Archives: General Tips

Connection side Mark on dimension line

How to add a connection side mark on Tekla drawings in structural steel drawings.

Switching on the Connection side mark on the part properties in tekla drawings sometimes can crowd the drawing.

You can select the Plate side marks “Type” to “Automatic” to set the connection side mark on the dimension line itself.

One additional advantage is that it also tell whether the dimension is actually put the the connection side. Cleats should normally be dimensioned to connection side in steel shop drawings.

 

How to Avoid Trouble in Building and Construction Projects (Part V)

We continue our series on how to avoid trouble in building and construction projects.

What is required in order to have a successful construction project?

Building and construction is necessarily a collaborative endeavour – there are many elements that need to come together in order for it to work successfully.

First and foremost you need a skilled and capable team:

  1. Good architects
  2. Good engineers
  3. Good project managers and builders.
  4. Good guys doing the shop drawing.
  5. Good cash flow and funding.

Where can you go wrong?

But I’ve found that in this industry there are several pitfalls:

  1. The competence of building and construction professionals.
  2. The liquidity and ability of folks to pay. It seems to be a common practice in this industry that folks will receive goods and/or services and simply not pay for it – either out of unwillingness or an inability (or both).

My invective is necessarily harsh on architects on this point: bad architects are the bane of the industry, and are part of the reason why building and construction is notoriously expensive. I’ve seen many and there are but few worth their salt.

Now you know of the places where you can fall – you can take measures to maximize your likelihood of success.

How to Avoid Trouble in Building and Construction Projects (PART IV)

 How to choose an architect?

We will now focus on architectural competence in those post – particularly on the tools they use. My invective is necessarily harsh on architects at certain times: bad architects are the bane of the industry, and are part of the reason why building and construction is notoriously expensive. Ask around and you’ll hear stories about guys getting screwed over by: builders and you guessed it….! Having said that, architects are very, very important and are an essential component of the building and construction industry.

Look at their Tools

                Does the tool make the workman?

The Mathematician Example

A good mathematician is a good mathematician whether she uses a slide rule, an abacus or a calculator. The tool doesn’t really matter so much.

 The Surgeon Example

Imagine if you were going to consult a surgeon and she tells you that she’s using tools and techniques from the 18th/19th century. Wouldn’t that strike you as a little odd if a modern day surgeon was given over to hacking off limbs with a common carpenter’s saw?

What if you asked the surgeon why she doesn’t use a scalpel – and if the response was that:

  1. Scalpel’s are expensive, and/or
  2. Learning how to use a scalpel takes a very long time to learn (‘ain’t nobody got time for dat’)

….What would your response be?

                As a general rule, A good workman will have good tools

That’s not to say that a surgeon who uses a saw to hack of a limb is necessarily a bad surgeon, nor can it be definitely said that a surgeon who uses a scalpel is a competent one. But we can definitely say, conclusively, that it’s easier to make a small incisions using a scalpel than if one was using a chain saw.

The same analogy applies to architects.

Architects are very, very important and are an essential component of the building and construction industry

 What tools do architects use?

Generally their tools fall into two classes:

  • Generic CAD tools (which are just glorified pen/paper systems on a computer).
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) software systems. Rather than using pen and paper, BIM based software allow you to basically use Lego to design and build things electronically, rather than using pen and paper.

The Danger of Change – And How Tools Manage Change

  • How CAD tools manage change?

Suppose, as an architect, you decide to shorten the design of a room. If you’re using a pen and paper – you’ll have to change the layout view of the structure, then you’ll also have to change two elevations, and then you’ll also have to change all section views. It’s gonna take you a while, and moreover, it’s really, really easy to miss things. I see mistakes. I see mistakes all the time. All the time. That’s the problem with pen/paper/general CAD systems.

  • How BIM tools manage change?

But if you are using BIM based software then it’s much more difficult to make that type of mistake. The software basically eliminates it. BIM tools manage change particularly well.

What is the better software solution?

For an architect, in my opinion, its better to use a BIM based software solution unless you have cogent reasons for using a generic CAD system. If you use a system like ArchiCAD or Revit, then life will be significantly easier.

Revit was born out of a need to avoid mistakes in the management of change, and in the management of different models and revisions used by various trades at the design stage. I cannot see a good reason why an architect should not use a tool like Revit when it is available.

Why would an architect use generic CAD tools and not use Revit instead?

There are reasons, but none of them good:

  1. Learning Revit takes a lot of time

AutoCAD in its various forms has been around for a long time – since the 1980s. But Revit is the new kid on the block. If it took 20 seconds to learn Revit/ArchiCAD etc then the entire industry would switch in a heart beat. So why don’t they? It’s a simple case of: “cannot be bothered,” most fundamentally. Learning Revit etc takes a lot of time and patience. The old skoolers are familiar with their slide rules and generic CAD solutions and cannot be persuaded to change – nor will they probably be inclined to do so. If that’s the case then they’ll probably be disinclined to spend too much time in other areas of expertise pertinent to their trade.

Each to their own, but the problem is that their disinclination to devote time and effort to master their trade will cost you money.

  1. Revit is expensive

It is expensive – to own and to learn. But that shouldn’t bar an architect from making that investment and recouping the benefits of improved efficiency and better designs with less errors. It’s a no-brainer to me.

So What if an Architect uses AutoCAD? What is the cost of architectural mistakes?

It’s easier to make mistakes if you’re using AutoCAD. And the problem with mistakes – incorrect/missing information – is that it is very costly and confuses everyone down stream of the architect. Architectural mistakes are like a tsunamis – they gather momentum very quietly at the design stage, only to destructively wipe out those involved later on in the project – and they’re the ones who pay the cost – not the architect!

Summary

  • Good architects will generally use tools like Revit or other BIM based tools.
  • The use of Revit / ArchiCAD etc does not guarantee the competence of the architect.
  • Be cautious if an architect insists on tools like AutoCAD for mid-sized projects (or larger), without cogent reasons for doing so.

The Curious Case of Overkill Not Working (AutoCAD)

A very perplexing question:

Why isn’t overkill working?

The result will stun you.

Overkill was not working
Overkill command was not working on these panel voids. Why do you think this is the case?

As you can see in the above picture, the top row of panel voids were doubled and in some cases tripled up. Obviously we don’t want this. Ordinarily, when such drawings are passed on to us we employ the overkill command. But for some reason it wasn’t working. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out.

That was until our lead Bubble Deck detailer suggested that the insertion points of the block references were not all on the same plane – some of them were in the Z plan – if that’s the case, then overkill would not recognise them as being the same block – and will allow them to continue to co-exist in the same drawing.

Solution:

Check that all similar items have similar insertion points. If they’re different – that’s why overkill might not be working for you.

How to avoid trouble in Building and Construction Projects (Part III)

HOW TO AVOID TROUBLE IN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS (PART III)

We continue our series on how to avoid trouble in building and construction projects.

  • The Importance of a Good Project Manager and a knowledgeable team

 This  example draws from a recent experience. And it also draws from famous instances of projects stuffing up. I can’t emphasize this enough: a good project manager – one who competent – is worth their weight in gold.

Good project managers:

  1. Constantly check work

People design and fabricate according to the plans and drawings set out in the engineering and architectural drawings. More often than not – these details are often missing. A good project manager would be aware or should be aware of:

  • Any missing information that is critical.
  • How things should be constructed and in what order.
  • The consequences and costs of mistakes.
  • And most importantly: he should handle/structure the flow of money to ensure that suppliers are paid promptly, and when (and only when) they deliver good work.

 Examples

For example, a good project manager would know that laying down the foundations of a building is critical to its success and structural integrity. So Joe Bloggs – the guy pouring the concrete comes along. He dumps some concrete here and there, and says, “Yup – I’ve done my job!” The project manager glances out of his window and sees some concrete and concurs:

“Here’s $15m dollars for your efforts my good man!”

The concreter snatches the cheque from Mr Project Manager with glee and prompts scampers out of the site office into the neighbouring pub.

Meanwhile, other trades come on site: one particular trade has to erect some steel columns. When they try to do so, they realise that the concrete has been badly poured – that it hasn’t been poured according to the agreed upon dimensions and tolerances – the steel beams and columns they purchased and cut and welded – it now doesn’t fit. None of it. It’s all useless.

Who carries the can?

Notice very carefully what happened, and how it happened:

  1. The project manager stuffs up.
  2. The concreter gets paid.
  3. The trades consequently building upon the work of previous trades are held up: the steel doesn’t fit because of the concreter. Consequently, the steel fabricator doesn’t get paid. They can’t erect. And moreover, they are forced to lug the steel back to the workshop – to make the appropriate cuts/welds and to then re-haul it back on site. When you have 5 contractors on the clock, working for that trade, things get expensive really quickly. Also, consequential trades that depend on the fabricator are also affected. If those trades don’t get paid, then they might be forced to take on other work – they might relegate the current project to the bottom of the pile. Moreover, if they are concerned about the fabricator’s liquidity, or solvency – then all bets are off. If the fabricator doesn’t get paid, then he won’t be able to pay his detailer. And if the detailer doesn’t get paid, then he’ll be forced to take on other work. Simply put, the entire project can slowly grind to a halt.

What should the project manager have done? He should: check!

  1. He should know what the correctly set out concrete should look like.
  2. He should check that the concrete will be poured correctly before it is poured. You do this by checking the concreter’s lines and guides.
  3. He should check that the concrete is currently poured after the work has been done.
  4. He should structure payments to the trades after verifying that everything is done properly.

 Maintains Good Lines of Communication between Relevant Parties 

  1. If something does go wrong then the project manager ought to communicate this information to the relevant parties only. You don’t want to see 20-50 emails each with zip files of some 5-10 drawings every single day – especially if the contents of those emails have nothing to do with your trade. Granted – it has been sent to you, so you are obliged to check whether it impacts your work or not. And if the changes in the drawings are not marked (as they are wont to do) then you need to dig up the previous revision of that drawing and check. Do that over a month for a couple of hundred drawings and it gets really old, really fast. Add up the time and it all becomes significant. Bad project managers email blast everyone and cost all parties a lot of time and money. Good managers communicate only the relevant information to the relevant parties.
  2. It’s no good sending people 50 emails a day and then burying one very important email in that haystack. A good manager will call up the relevant parties and tell them important and critical pieces of information/warnings to ensure that they are not overlooked, “friend, the walls are gonna come a-tumblin’ down if…”
  3. A good project manager communicates information in a timely manner. A recent project manager in our recent experience: (i) didn’t warn consequential trades that changes had been made. That’s a huge problem – especially if those trades begin fabricating structures that will do not fit – due to some changes which were not communicated. 
  1. A good project manager: Knows who’s skilled

They know who to call. They can get the job done quickly, and effectively. A bad project manner will hire any Dick off the street without verifying their credentials and expertise. Of course, who suffers if that particular trade fails to deliver?

  1. A good project manager: Isn’t cheap

They know how valuable they are. And they charge. But ‘cheap’ is a relative term. These managers might be expensive, but they’ll probably be a whole lot cheaper than a poorly designed/built building.

My friend, if you have a good architect, and a good engineer and also a project manager who is also an accountant, then you are in a much more favourable position to successfully prosecute your building and construction project.

Tek1 Courses – AS 1657 & AS 1428

Experts in AS in Stairs/Handrails/Ladders

We’ve done a lot of work on Australian Standards – both public and private access. We specialise in Steel Detailing – and have a special focus on stairs and ladders. Since we deal extensively in this area, we require all our staff to be thoroughly versed in the Standards. Consequently, we have developed testing frameworks to ensure that all staff are well trained and accountable.

Our Testing Infrastructure Now Freely Released to the General Public

We are now releasing our testing framework to the public at no charge. These tests should help you learn and reinforce your knowledge of Australian Standards – namely, AS 1657 and AS 1428.

We hope and trust you will find it of immense benefit.

Keep people safe – design and build according to the safety standards prescribed by law.

Where are the courses?

  1. Follow the link: http://tek1engineeringservices.com/onlinetests/course/index.php?categoryid=5
  2. Click on the relevant course
  3. It is best to create your own account – I know it’s a pain but it’s the best way. If you really don’t want to you can log in with a common account available to the public, but there are serious limitations with that approach – this is because everyone will be using this account and you’ll be picking up where someone else has left off – a half finished test for example. If you want to do the latter, here are the credentials – but I strongly urge you to create your own account: 
    • username: student 
    • password: password
  4. Enjoy the course!

 

How to avoid trouble in building and construction projects (Part II)

(a) Watch out for situations where people start building from unapproved drawings. You don’t want to get involved in such projects.

Friends, we’ve been in the game for almost a decade. We know the ropes when it comes to building and construction projects. Builders put pressure on fabricators to meet deadlines. Fabricators put pressure on the guys doing the shop drawings. And the guys doing the drawings are forced to come up with solutions……..but there’s a problem. The vast majority of the information required to make good and accurate shop drawings are missing. It’s just not there. You can ask for RFI answers but sometimes they’re just not forthcoming from the builders or the engineers or the architects. So what do you do?

The client is demanding drawings.

“Send me the unapproved drawings,” he says.

When people say things like that: watch out! If the project goes well, then they take all the profits. But if it goes wrong, then you not only do not receive your fees, but you are forced to also wear the fabricator’s loss. It’s a lose-lose situation for you and a win-win situation for the fabricator.

So you’ve got to make a decision: (I) either hold back the release of drawings till you have better information clarity, or (II) you release it making it explicitly clear that any risk is taken up by the fabricator if they build on drawings that weren’t issued for construction. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to be carrying the can for someone else’s cock up.

Ignore this advice at your peril.

(b) Watch out for clients who offer to pay in cash

In this day and age, especially with the sums involved, you gotta be extremely weary of clients who offer to pay in cash.

Why would someone do that? Isn’t it much easier to make a bank transfer? Yes, but the reason why people deal in cash is probably to avoid paying tax, or even worse, it’s because the money is black. You don’t want to be involved in any activity like that. So the next time someone offers to pay you $15k in cash, thank him/her for the offer and politely tell him that such an arrangement will not do.

If they insist on awarding you the work then quote a high price – really high. Change the economics of the situation such that it’s just easier to do everything legitimately.  And if a cash paying client insists on coming on board – without a good reason why they want to pay in cash – especially without bargaining – then you really have to really watch out: they probably have no intention of paying; so ask them to pay up front.

As a general rule, you don’t want to get involved with clients who offer large sums of cash. I can’t think of a good reason for somebody walking around with $15 k in their pockets.

(c) Quote High

As a general rule, quote high. If the quality of your work is good then you’ll stay in business.

We use genuine licenses. And they cost a fortune. So our rates reflect the need to recoup the license cost. But inevitably, someone will want us to lower our quote to the level of operators who don’t have licenses.

We can’t compete with them. We can’t match their quotes. And we don’t even bother trying. As a general rule, these clients bargain for super low rates, and then find every excuse not to pay. Think about it: is it worthy putting your house on the line to pay for licenses and to then work for someone who doesn’t pay – or pays “if and when he gets paid”?

No friends, charge high, and deliver good quality work. If your work is good, trust me, you’ll have more work then you can handle. When you’re in that situation, pick and choose the projects that will bolster your reputation, that will book your fast profits, and that will be of enormous benefit to your existing clients – and let other operators fall into projects which are poorly funded, planned and managed.

How to avoid Danger in Building and Construction Projects (Part I)

How to avoid Danger in Building and Construction Projects

 “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” — Proverbs 22:3

The aphorism holds with building and construction.

  • How it works in building and construction

What is the danger in building and construction?

The danger is if you commit yourself to projects which will cost you time and money.

Ideally your goal in building in construction should be this: to (i) produce accurate drawings quickly, or if you are a builder/trade to: (ii) build quality structures and get out as soon as you can.

Why are delayed projects costly?

You do not want a construction site that is delayed by 6 months. Think about it: crane hire: $15,000+ per week. What about site crew? That’s $25 / hour (very, very conservative. More like $100 / hour). How many staff will be working there? What about charge backs? What about the engineers and architects who will put RFI queries to the back of the line in order to focus on jobs that will bring them immediate revenue? Delayed projects straps all interested parties of liquidity, especially the builder, who will try to delay payments to suppliers. And if suppliers/contractors don’t have the liquidity to ride things out they could go belly up, further adding to the monumental costs involved. It’s a vicious cycle. The moment people get wind of a possible insolvency then they’ll pull out of it to focus on jobs that will bring them revenue. In short, delays are damn expensive. And you need to avoid badly managed and designed projects like the plague.

  • How do I know whether a project will be a cock-up?
  • First and foremost: Look at the capital position of a builder

If the builder cannot stand up when times get a little tough, then their strength is small. Builders need to have a strong capital base and liquidity in order to tide them through projects. As a rule of thumb: you can trust the big names: Lend Lease, Watpac, Leighton– because they have the ability to raise capital from markets if things go bad – but even then, you need to have a good look at their financial statements. You cannot trust the big four auditors. Read that again: only a fool would trust in the audited statements of the big four. You don’t need to be a financial analyst, but you do want to see a healthy cash balance, and the ability of these firms to service any impending debts.

  • Second: track record

Make sure the builder has been around for a while. If she’s been around for 10 years she must be doing something right.

  • Third: Price and availability

Good builders know their value and won’t work on the cheap. Consequently, they’re hard to hire because they’re always working. If you see a builder who is cheap and available, you need to very carefully investigate her or her quality.

  • Fourth: The Designers need to be good

Bad drawings are the bane of this industry, nay bad architects are the bane of building and construction. I see it all too often, and very rarely do I see an architect worth his salt.

If the designs are bad – I mean really bad, then you want to steer clear from that project. Why? Because builders with funds hire the best architects. Builders without funds hire architects who are inexperienced, which means architects which could drag everyone under. This means, as mentioned above: (i) endless changes, (ii) endless RFIs, and (iii) issues getting paid.

 Things to watch out for:

Now you can apply the following general aphorisms when accessing the quality of the drawings you see:

General Aphorism applied

Cockroach theory

  • If you see one, then there will be a hundred hidden behind the scenes somewhere.

Small mistakes, big mistakes

  • If they can’t walk, then they definitely can’t run. This means if you see some elementary mistakes, then you cannot trust them to get the more complicated things right.

What one should specifically watch out for in Construction Drawings:

 Bad design:

    1. I sometimes see the most absurd looking panels. What mind, smoking what substance, would concoct such a creature worthy of standing beside David in Florence? If you see one ridiculous looking panel, this is a sure-fire indicator that the architect knows absolutely nothing about what she’s doing. That means it’s gonna be a long and costly project. Stay clear of these things and let your competitors fall into them, while you focus your energies on projects that will generate a timely and handsome return.
    2. Missing panels.
    3. Misnumbered panels.
    4. Panel details that are not workable.
    5. Too many missing dimensions – another early warning indicator that the architect is careless, or rushed, or lacks resources.
    6. Missing gridlines. These architects ought to be round up and summarily executed.
    7. Dimensions made not to gridlines.
    8. Unnecessary complications in panel design. This is a sure red flag. It just increases the risk that something will cock up.
    9. Architects who make hundreds of revisions. Watch out: this means that people keep finding mistakes, or the architect is making changes continually. And that will bring more errors and more revisions. This means you gotta download 50 new drawings every day from Aconex. And you have to supersede all your old drawings? What if you miss one? This is a dangerous accident just waiting to happen.
    10. Too many misnumbered section views. This means that the architect has made a lot of changes. And when there are changes, it’s not a good sign: it means that there are problems hidden in the drawing, it means that they’re drawings are not easily readable, and will cost you money.

Architects who do not release their CAD files. These architects are costly. And as a rule of thumb you do not want to hire these architects. Because if there is a single missing dimension you have to call them to find out.

  1. Architects that take too long to respond: This means that they’ve taken other projects on, and are focusing on what will pay them money rather than attending to their work. They are too busy to actually be doing work.
  2. Architects that have their own agenda: they are not interested in delivering a quality structure, or a structure that is a commercial success to the client, as much as building a work of art which they can display to their friends/family and put into their portfolio. They are artists and have fabulous visions of grandiose structures without (much) regard for returns. At the end of the day, if you’re a builder, you goal should be to make money. Making cool buildings can be a part of that vision, but it certainly should not come at the expense of the bottom line.

 

My friends, if you take in just half of what I have written here, then you can surely avoid yourself from entering into strife. But you ignore my advice, then you will fall headlong straight into it!