Archive for December 10, 2010

Friday Funnies: construction definitions

Contractor - A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal.

Bid Opening – A poker game in which the losing hand wins.

Low Bidder – A contractor who is wondering what he/she left out.

Engineer’s Estimate – The cost of construction in Heaven.

Project Manager – The conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.

Critical Path Method – A management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control.

OSHA – A protective coating made by half-baking a mixture of fine print, split hairs, red tape and baloney – usually applied at random with a shot gun.

Strike – An effort to increase egg production by strangling the chicken.

Delayed Payment – A tourniquet applied at the pockets.

Completion Date – The point at which liquidated damages begin.

Liquidated Damages – A penalty for failing to achieve the impossible.

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Design-Build work goes to Indiana where the laws permit it

MADISON, Ind.– Gov. Steve Beshear today joined Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a long-awaited project to replace the aged Ohio River bridge that connects the neighbor states at Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.

The Milton-Madison Bridge, completed in December 1929, replaced ferries and today carries U.S. 421 over the Ohio River.  The bridge represented a leap forward in transportation but no longer meets modern standards.  The replacement bridge will be built with construction innovations that will allow completion in far less time, for far less money and with less public disruption than was first estimated.

“A bridge, by definition, transcends an obstacle that would otherwise divide people, communities – even entire states,” Gov. Beshear said. “It was a great day 81 years ago when the current Milton-Madison Bridge was opened, and the obstacle of a great river was overcome.  This is another great day as we break ground for a new bridge that will serve both our states for generations to come.”

“This is a project the community has been seeking for decades and I’m really proud of both states for providing not just a way to get it done, but in such an ingenious way,” Gov. Daniels said.  “It will be done years ahead of schedule and less expensively than previously thought. And the best thing for the towns on both sides of the river is that traffic will be disrupted for less than two weeks rather than a year.”

The project received a $20 million grant under TIGER – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“Recovery Act dollars are creating jobs and delivering projects to meet the needs of communities all around the country,” said Secretary LaHood. “The new Milton-Madison Bridge will restore full service on a critical link between Kentucky and Indiana, improving the quality of life for area residents.”

Extensive testing by Kentucky engineers determined that piers of the current steel-truss bridge are sound enough to support the new bridge – thereby reducing estimated completion time.  The decision was made to obtain contracting through Indiana, whose procurement laws permitted a “design-build” approach.

Walsh Construction Co., of LaPorte, Ind., won the contract with a low bid of $103 million – $28 million below the original estimate – thanks to a construction technique that will require closure of the bridge for only 10 days in all.

The company will build a new bridge on temporary piers alongside the old bridge.  After the deck of the old bridge has been removed and the existing piers widened, the new bridge deck will be slid into place.

Other construction proposals envisioned a bridge closure for up to a year, with ferries being used in the interim.

Ohio River Bridges Project recommends design-build

Ohio_ky_bridgeA report commissioned by The Bridges Coalition shows that the Ohio River Bridges Project can be  built with tolls for regular commuters as low as 75 cents per crossing, said David Nicklies, chairman of the nonprofit organization.

Each scenario in the report includes 75-cent tolls for regular commuters, who would have to equip their vehicles with special transponders to qualify. All other motorists would pay one-time tolls that range from $1.25 to $2, depending on how much state and federal funding the project would receive and whether it would be built using a design/build contract.

Building the project using the design/build approach rather than the conventional approach, in which one firm designs the project and another oversees construction, could save as much as 25 percent on the project’s projected $4 billion cost, Nicklies said.

Read more: Bridges can be built with 75 cent tolls, coalition says | Business First

To view an executive summary of the report, click here.

To view a fact sheet about the project, click here.

Cloud computing: a bigger deal than you think

C-level positions don’t get created overnight. So what is it about the cloud computing revolution that merits a seat in the executive suite?

The cloud: A once, well, hazy term that describes the increasingly vast array of software, applications, and data storage tools that live not on users’ home PCs but on the Internet, is taking form. Cloud computing, as tech companies would have us understand it, encompasses all kinds of formerly offline processes that can now happen on the web. For example, storing data (think Google docs, not jump drives) or providing services (think streaming Netflix (NFLX) movies vs. receiving a mailed DVD.) Microsoft’s (MSFT) latest ad campaign for Windows 7 boasts of taking users “to the cloud” to allow them to accomplish everything from retouching photos to watching their  DVR’d shows in the airport.

Companies everywhere are rolling cloud-based computing into the day-to-day. Different companies are attacking that migration in different ways. Several have built innovation groups to ease the transition, says Aaron Levie, CEO of, a start-up that provides cloud-based file sharing.

“Any company needs to have a cloud strategy,” says Kristof Kloeckner, CTO of Enterprise Initiatives and Vice President of Cloud Computing Platforms for IBM (IBM).  “And I believe that given the transformative nature of cloud computing, it needs C-level attention.”

Not that every business process or product will go to the cloud, says Kloeckner. Many of IBM’s clients, for example, want to wrap web-based computing into traditional technologies.


Dan Phillips: Creative houses from reclaimed stuff

Avoiding waste in the housing industry.  An interested TEDTalk.



Hiring freelance workers in your business

"Alternative employment arrangements" increase flexibility and reduce costs


In 2001, author Dan Pink chronicled the growing ranks of people who work for themselves, in the popular book Free Agent Nation. While you may have started your own business to become a part of the "nation," you can use freelance workers or others in "alternative employment arrangements" to help meet some of your staffing needs.

Who Are Freelance Workers?

Freelance workers may be in-between jobs, permanent full-time freelancers, stay-at-home parents looking for flexible work options or any combination of the three. They usually will work from their own home or office space, but in certain cases can also be onsite. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2005 there were 10.3 million independent contractors in the U.S., representing about 7.5 percent of the total labor force.


Our own Executive Director, Susan Coates, is an independent contractor and is available for freelance work.  View more about Susan at


Money is flowing towards America’s leaky water infrastructure

By: David Jay Water_issue
It’s no secret that America’s water infrastructure is in a state of crisis. Water infrastructure in the US is functioning far past its designed operating life, with a water main breaking somewhere in the US about once every two minutes. All those leaky pipes waste about 1.7 trillion gallons of water a year, or about 17% of the US public water supply.

According to ITT’s recent Value of Water survey, American voters are waking up to the issue. Ninety five percent of voters rate water as “extremely important,” more important than services like heat or energy. 80 percent stated that water infrastructure was in need of reform, and 63 percent stated that they would pay an average of 11 percent more for water to address the problem.

Charging more for water has been a hot button political issue for years, and there is a big gap between accepting a rate increase on a survey and accepting one in real life. Still, the survey indicates that consumers are willing to spend dollars and exert political muscle to keep water clean and reliable, as illustrated by this recent PSA:


The right way to delegate your next big project

by Mike Michalowicz


Delegating is a task that even well-seasoned managers sometimes struggle with. It can be a challenge all the way around, as letting go of the reins and finding the right person to hand them over to isn’t an easy thing to do. As an entrepreneur, you most likely have big projects from time to time. And there is also a good chance that you already have too much on your plate to manage it all. Trying to fit more in and manage it all is counterproductive, so just don’t do it.


Daring to Delegate

The sooner you trust the process of delegation, the faster you will lighten your load and still get everything accomplished. Sounds good, right? So here are the keys to your success when it comes to effectively delegating:


For starters, you need to find a champion in your organization. Choose someone you think can be trusted, someone who has the motivation and tenacity to make things happen and to follow through.