Building Codes in History

Building Codes from history form a basis for today's codes

Building Codes in Stone

So, you think it is hard to deal with city hall? Then, you gotta check this out.

The beginning of documented building codes came from Babylonian king Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C. The black stone stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was carved from a single, four-ton slab of black diorite.

Most of us know that dealing with a slab of stone weighing in at four tons, measuring 7 feet 3 inches high, with a circumference at the base of 6 feet 2 inches and at the top of 5 feet 4 inches is no easy feat.

And those of you who deal directly with stone know diorite is difficult to sculpt because it is hard, its composition is variable, and it has a coarse grain size. Leaves you wondering why this type of stone was chosen.

So, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, this stele is a phallic symbol which Hammurabi used to declare more than the simple fact-of-the-matter laws.

Building Code preamble

I mean, check this out. This is what Hammurabi had the stone masons carve as the preamble to the laws:

“When the lofty Anu, King of the Annunaki and Bel, Lord of Heaven and Earth, he who determines the destiny of the land, committed the rule of all mankind to Marduk, when they pronounced the lofty name of Babylon, when they made it famous among the quarters of the world and in its midst established an everlasting kingdom whose foundations were firm as heaven and earth – at that time Anu and Bel called me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, the worshipper of the gods, to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, to enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people. Hammurabi, the governor named by Bel, am I, who brought about plenty and abundance.”

Hell—low! Ego much?

And, remember I noted above that this stone is hard to carve. It isn’t likely Hammurabi was trying to make life difficult for those carving the laws into stone. It is more likely Hammurabi was doing his best to make it difficult for anyone to pick up a “stone eraser” and change the law. So yeah, there is the difference between “let’s do it this way for now,” and “sorry buddy, this stuff is carved in stone.”

The down and dirty of the Building Code

While there are a lot of other laws on the stele, this is a short list of the laws we would construe as building code. (With my thoughts and notes following in parentheses.)

  1. If a builder builds a house for someone and completes it, he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface. (Area measures are based on the sar, which is one square nindan or about 36 square meters. That’s about 387.50078 square feet if you’re wondering.)

229 If a builder build a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then the builder shall be put to death. (Doesn’t seem to be any wiggle room here. Like, never mind trying to blame the subs!)

230 If it kill the son of the owner, the son of that builder shall be put to death. (So, I guess we’re just assuming the builder has a son. And, if he didn’t, I’m not sure where daughters might fit into the picture. Kind of makes me glad – again – I’m a girl.)

231 If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house. (Rather than eye-for-eye it looks as if, when it came to slaves, it was good enough to provide value-for-value. Although you do have to wonder if it was the less-than-attentive slave who caused the “falling in” in the first place.)

And there is more

232 If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that is ruined, and in as much as he did not construct properly this house which he build and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means. (And, he darn well better hope he gets it right this time! Although, it could have been worse – see laws 229, 230, and 231)

233 If a builder build a house for someone, even though he has not yet completed it, if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means. (Kind of puts the kibosh on today’s nonsensical business “wisdom” of fail fast, fail often.)

Of course, Hammurabi’s isn’t the only ancient documented set of laws we know of. Yet, it is often touted as the first to have guidelines for contractors.

Building Codes in a newly formed country

In 1788, the Constitution of the United States of America was working its way through the ratification process one state at a time. Georgia became the fourth state to ratify on the second of January. By June 21st New Hampshire provided the needed ninth ratification and the Constitution went into effect. (It wasn’t until May 29, 1790, that Rhode Island voted to ratify the document. It was the last of the original 13 colonies to join the United States.)

In June of 1788, Old Salem (now Winston-Salem) North Carolina adopted the first known building code in the United States. Yet, confusing matters just a bit, North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution until November 21, 1789.

If you check the Constitution, you’ll find there is no official language mandated in the United States. Yet, it is intriguing that in a (mostly) English speaking nation, that the first building code was written in German.

The Building Code of New Salem

You can find an introduction to and a translated copy of the Code of New Salem here.

Go check it out. It is rather short – I mean, there are only 11 Building Regulations in the document. I know! Right?

And, I love the preamble:

“We are not going to discuss here the rules of the art of building as a whole, but only those rules which relate to the order and way of building in our community. It often happens, due to ill- considered planning, that neighbors are molested and sometimes even the whole community suffers. For such reasons, in well-ordered communities, rules have been set up. Therefore our brotherly equality and the faithfulness which we have expressed for each other necessitates that we agree to some rules and regulations which shall be basic for all construction in our community so that no one suffers damage or loss because of careless construction by his neighbor, and it is a special duty of the Town Council to enforce such rules and regulations.”

Beware of peeping neighbors

The tenth regulation in which there is mention of “peeping neighbors” as well as instruction concerning fences and window placement is perhaps my favorite. Here it is in its entirety.

“10. Since experience has taught us that so many complaints and quarrels and damage can arise from access between lots, so that often one cannot enjoy his own piece of land and work on it, it is mandatory that henceforth every lot must be completely fenced in. No gates or openings shall be left for communication except with the knowledge and permission of the community government. A house that is placed near the side line of a lot shall not have any windows that look into the neighbor’s yard and in general all gable windows shall be well considered as to whether they are necessary, so that the aforementioned molesting can be avoided.

For the lower floor there is not too much objection because of the fences, and in kitchens and service porches only high windows can be used anyway. However, a common rule cannot be fixed and decisions must be made from one case to the next. There are no objections at all to windows facing the street. The people will have to take care of peeping neighbors in the usual way.”

So yeah, today’s codes are much more complex. Yet, it is in these early codes where we find the concepts of standards, zoning, and enforcement that have reached down to our present-day building codes. Think about this the next time you’re dealing with permits, inspections, and all things code.

 

Schulte and Schulte provides Accounting and advisory board level Strategic Counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors. You can learn more about us here. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 866-629-7735

Important Construction Terms We Just Made Up

Construction Terms we just made up.

Important Construction Terms We Just Made Up

Important Construction Terms – the story

There was this email I received which mentioned The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and provided a few of the entries. They were:

Adronitis: Frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone.

Rubatosis: The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

Jouska: A hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head.

I was intrigued . . . especially with that last one, because I practice “Jouska.” All. The. Time.

So, I went looking. And, I found the author, speaking on a Ted Talk.

Hum. What else could I find?

With thanks to John Koenig, author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows for giving me the idea of choosing (OK, like him, making up) words. Words which express succinctly today’s commercial construction subcontractor reality.

Really.

Yeah, they’re fake – but they should be real.

Have fun reading these “important construction terms.”

Important Construction Terms – adjectives

 

distalktuousadjective  causing untold long and short-term damage to company operations and employee morale because there is a Lack of Communication

 

cutturlyfuladjective  causing or apt to cause budgetary cuts and bid constraints when met with the Cost of Labor, Materials, and Supplies

 

blameuthargicadjective  of, relating to, or affected with blamergy; unreasonably rash or (conversely) apathetic to the reality of the part integrity plays in completing projects. Sometimes known as the Not-My-Fault Game

 

treventickyadjective  shocked and dismayed by the seemingly endless line of Unreliable Employees and Subcontractors

 

Important Construction Terms – Verbs

 

intenturafulverb  feeling which comes from having all plans and timelines disrupted by weather, or other sources causing multiple Scheduling Problems

 

exasperlatedverb  feeling you have when you turn down yet another opportunity to bid because you are experiencing a Lack of Skilled Workers

 

disbuckulatedverb  to cause feelings of dread and apprehension due to the inability to take advantage of deals or overcome setbacks because of the Lack of Available Cash

 

filetimizedverb  to make as demanding, laborious, and problematic as possible through the insistence of maintaining disorganized (usually hard-copy) paperwork creating Difficulty with Document Management

 

codeshiftrifiedverb  to overwhelm with a set of constantly emerging rules, laws, and restrictions within the construction industry. Also known as Dealing with Ever-Changing Regulations

 

Important Construction Terms – Nouns

 

irriloosesomenoun  the frustration of knowing the impact of frequent changes to the original contract when others seem oblivious to Change Order Overwhelm

 

Have you thought of some words which should be added to this small compilation? Tell us! We want to know.

 

When you stopped in here, you found an Accounting, and Contract Management Firm which provides Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors. Doing what it takes to help them Run With the Big Dogs.

You can find out more by getting in touch here or calling 866-629-7735.

Image by kaboompics on Pixabay

Grow an Established Construction Business – Part 2

Construction management of project risk and adopting new technology

Construction business growth

Construction, at its very heart, is exhilarating. Being part of an industry that manufactures the clients’ desired product on site is challenging, stimulating, and fulfilling.

Growing a construction business is hard work and requires more than wishful thinking or hoping things will fall in place. In part one of this three-part series we looked at one area, “dealing with changing regulations” which contractors must heed in order to succeed. If you haven’t read it yet, take a moment and jump over to see where this post originates.

In this second part we’ll be look at “managing project risk” and “dealing with new technology.”

Manage construction project risk

Many subcontractors find themselves dealing with insufficient management of project risk. This article from ConstructConnect, titled Identifying and Managing Construction Project Risks deals with identifying, managing, avoiding, mitigating, and accepting risks. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

There is more to scrutinize. Sometimes, the things which we don’t think of as a risk (such as paying your employees for each full day of work) can be rather a risky business after all. One of our fellow accountants shared a story about how one of her clients was very hesitant to purchase a recommended piece of software. He eventually did follow her recommendation.

The software she suggested is used for employee time tracking and scheduling. Within the first month of use, her client discovered (among other things) that he had one long-term, trusted employee who was checking into the jobsite in the morning, getting the crew set up, then leaving the site and spending most, if not all of the day on side jobs. Yeah, sometimes what you find out, stinks!

Other risks to consider

  • Seasonal slowness
  • Injuries to third parties
  • Faulty work by the crew
  • Missed deadlines
  • Employees providing less than stellar customer service
  • Not adopting tech soon enough to keep up with the competition

Using your own (hard won) experience and information from the above linked article, you can begin putting together your own list of possible risks then begin defining ways you can manage, avoid, mitigate, or accept them.

Plan for and adopt new technology

The list is long concerning the technology available to today’s construction subcontractor. So long, it can be dizzying. In one of our recent articles, Technology Isn’t the Focus, Business Is, we dealt with the “why” of choosing the right tech for your subcontracting business.  In the end, just as with all your other business choices, the reason for choosing certain technological solutions is to better serve your clients.

Yet, there is more

Having the best tech in the world won’t mean anything if you’re unable to get buy-in from your employees and subs. This article from Forbes offers excellent information concerning how to get employees to really use new technology.

For your employees, understanding why the new technology is an improvement from what they had before is paramount. And, part of that understanding must rest in the portion of the brain that always asks, “what’s in it for me?” Plus, your workers and subs are likely to have a few follow-up questions, like “How does this affect me?” and “How will it change the way I work?”

An example

Say you want to introduce GPS tracking to your crew. Some of the perks you can mention to your employees are:

  • No “he said – she said” with clients. GPS provides employee proof of service.
  • There will be a cut back on paper work giving your team more time to focus on serving the client.
  • They will be paid for all hours actually worked.

Your job is laying out “a vision for the future” and providing an explanation for how the new technology will improve the business, thereby improving the lives of your people.

Improve the lives of your employees and subs

Technologies that require multi-day training programs and hefty user manuals are more likely to cause employee rebellion and perhaps even stalled adoption. You do well to remember that while functionality is critical user-friendliness is hyper-critical.

Customize training for individual users. For example, some may want a day long, in-house demonstration, while others would prefer online training to be done at their own pace. It is best to get influencers from your company onboard as quickly as possible. They will help others understand the how of using the new tech as well as the why for the sake of the company as well as the individuals involved.

There’s no time to waste

It is no longer a matter of waiting around to see if the new tech is “worth it.” The tech available today allows you to provide better organized projects, reduce onsite accidents, and stay competitive.

While you may think there is some risk involved in adding technology to your company, it is time to realize, there is even greater risk if you don’t.

Look for this next

Next week, we’ll take a look at preparing for financial needs in advance and creating documented, sustaining processes.

We’ve created a waiting list for those who are prepared to work with us in growing their construction contracting business. To get in on “the good stuff” call 480-442-4032 or get in touch here.

Grow an Established Construction Business – Part 1

Grow a construction business

You’ve gone beyond finding your first client. You’ve gotten past all the start-up issues. You are ready to take the next steps to grow and prosper your construction business. Grow and prosper in ways which are likely to surpass your original dream.

It is fun to look back on and remember those heady days when you first became a business owner. It is even more fun to look ahead at what you’ll accomplish next.

Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work – on the next steps.

Grow – it isn’t an easy task, yet it is enjoyable

There is so much involved; from mindset to cold sweat, from legislation to duration, from tool advance to tech enhance – there’s just a lot going on.

Think about it. Consumer behaviors are changing, the culture is shifting, and it is happening rapidly. It’s rather exciting!

You’ve brought your business this far. And now, the real work fun begins.

Grow – the next steps

The first thing to consider is your own attitude and a willingness to position yourself as the owner of a growth-oriented company. From there you can look at specific areas which need your attention to facilitate growth.

The areas we’ll be discussing in this three-part series are:

  1. Dealing with changing regulations
  2. Managing project risk
  3. Planning for new technology
  4. Preparing for financial needs
  5. Creating documented, sustaining processes

Deal with changing regulations

Staying on top of all the changing regulations isn’t a job for the faint-of-heart. It takes time as well as a team of trusted advisors. Following are five suggestions which will help you in your efforts.

Join a trade association. For big picture insights into which regulations to be aware of in your segment of the construction industry, joining a trade specific association is a no-brainer. A good association will keep you informed of upcoming changes.

Subscribe to magazines and online industry related blogs or websites. One type of website that is helpful concerning construction regulations is that of attorneys who specialize in construction law. Put your search engine to use. The search can be as simple as “construction attorney [your state] dot com” Search through and find the ones which keep up-to-date relevant posts then subscribe or bookmark.

Track down a tax advisor. Because you’re not only dealing with federal taxes you will do well to locate an advisor who is abreast of the regulations in your state. One recommendation we make for our Arizona clients is Conover Asay. If you’re unsure who to contact in your state, you may wish to ask your fellow contractors who they use and why they recommend them.

Find a human resource expert. Freelance human resource firms are an excellent way to stay on top of regulations concerning employee and subcontractor issues. We recommend Lynda McKay of HRextension to our clients.

Locate an accounting advisory firm. (And yes, that’s us. 😉) Beside the fact we know how to deal with your sales tax issues, we’re excellent at helping you use the information obtained from your tax and human resource advisors. They can tell you what the rules are, we can help you make sure your firm remains compliant.

Grow through the use of proper resources

Finding the right resources as well as discovering ways to stay on track will be your biggest challenges through the process of growing your construction contracting business. Our clients tell us we’re good at assisting in both areas. In next week’s post, we’ll tackle “managing project risk” and “planning for new technology.”

We’ve created a waiting list for those who are prepared to work with us in growing their construction contracting business. To get in on “the good stuff” call 480-442-4032 or get in touch here.

Continuing Education in the Schulte and Schulte Camp

QuickBooks Online Advanced ProAdvisor BadgeYou may have noticed that we proudly display the badges we receive for our efforts in continuing education concerning our QuickBooks knowledge and expertise. They’re not easy to obtain, and quite honestly we’re glad that is the case. We don’t (and no one can) purchase those badges. They must be earned through study and testing.

But, those badges are only a small piece of the continuing education we’re committed to here at Schulte and Schulte.  

Continuing education is a vital component to providing our clients the best possible care

  • Continuing education allows us to clarify and better understand the processes and procedures of bookkeeping as advanced by and through technological updates and renovations.
  • Continuing education gives us the opportunity to acquire both theoretical as well as practical knowledge and to improve our problem-solving skills.
  • Continuing education allows us to establish and uphold our commitment to the occupational standards for professional bookkeepers.

Yet, there is more to it than that.

Keeping up to date on regulations and trends in the construction industry is an important way we work to properly assist you

Although we are experts in our area of specialization (bookkeeping for small to midsize Construction Contractors and Subcontractors,) we still have to stay on top of what’s new. We spend several hours each month reading, attending webinars and teleseminars, as well as participating in a weekly QuickBooks ProAdvisers group.

Thus, our continuing education benefits both our business as well as the businesses of our clients. One example of how we work to support your business is the article we wrote Playing Like One of the Big Boys Just Got Easier (3 Apps to Choose From) concerning the pros and cons of three different apps after a great deal of self-education on the subject.

We also “break it down” for you when considering what is happening concerning regulations and rules, for example this article – MRRA doesn’t stand for My Real Rare Adventure – Really! – concerning MRRA and TPT.

Our continuing education focus

Our continuing education is focused on three areas:

  1. Keeping up with the newest and best ways to process and engage in the bookkeeping we provide for our clients.
  2. Learning about the ways our clients can stay ahead of the curve whether it be housed in their financial reports or the latest tech devices and systems geared toward the construction industry.
  3. Gaining understanding of the best ways to assist our short term customers* through consultations and one-on-one training.

*We provide ongoing bookkeeping for a few select firms, and we also provide training and consultation for others who wish to do their own bookkeeping but need occasional information and guidance.

How we acknowledge and celebrate when we achieve a learning goal

Crazy as it seems, after we clink the glasses together, take the last bite from our celebration plate, and speak words of congratulations the final part of our celebration is to establish a new learning goal. Yeah, we’re crazy like that.

Do you need to continue your education in order to be able to use your bookkeeping system to its fullest? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to set up a consultation or one-on-one training for you or your staff. 480-442-4032