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The Three Myths About Roofing

shingles

You probably already know that roofs need to be replaced about every 20-30 years and when it’s time for a replacement, every DIYer has to resist the urge to do it themselves. Repairing roofs takes a lot of skill and know-how. Let’s dispel the three common myths that surround roof repair and replacement.

Myth #1: It’s OK to add new shingles on top of old ones.

Unless old shingles are removed, you’ll never know what damage is hiding underneath them. For example, shingles may be concealing rotted or damaged sheathing. If these issues are not identified and addressed before the new shingles are installed, additional repairs will need to be done sooner than later, costing even more money.

Myth #2: You don’t need new gutters.

Shingles and gutters are both part of the roofing system that protects your house. When it rains or snows, these two components work together to funnel the water away from your house so its structure isn’t damaged. It is highly likely that if the roof is being replaced, the gutters will need to be replaced too. Clogged gutters can also cause water to pool on the roof, causing damage. It’s a good idea to check and clean the gutters several times a year.

Myth #3: Flashing should only be replaced when a roof is replaced.

Flashing keeps water away from openings in the roof such as chimneys, vents, and pipes. When its integrity is compromised, your entire roof can suffer. Flashing should be visually inspected twice a year and more often when there are severe storms or strong winds. Look for cracks, rust, and loosened edges. The good news is that flashing is fairly simple to replace.

5 Types of Roof Shingles

roof

If you’re building a home or just renovating or repairing, the roof is an oft forgotten aspect. You’ve picked out siding, cabinets, and flooring but shingles may be low on your list. The truth is, you can match your shingle style to your home and decor just the same as you would paint color or carpeting. There are a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from. Here are a few of your options.

Metal

Metal roofing is incredibly durable and can last decades with only a few repairs. You’ll want to watch out for loose nails, rust, or leaks that will need to be taken care of immediately. Though any metal is a little noisy when it rains or hails, the sound is actually pleasing to many.

Wood

Wood shingles are affordable, versatile, environmentally friendly and energy efficient. These shingles do, however, need to be carefully watched for termites, mold, decay, and fire hazards. When taken care of properly, however, they can last decades.

Slate

Slate is a fantastic choice for durability and is quite damage resistant. Although it’s a little pricier than other options and can be expensive to repair, the long-lasting properties of slate make it a viable selection. Slate is heavy so make sure your home’s structure can handle the added weight.

Asphalt

Asphalt shingles are one of the most popular choices because of their affordability and ease of repair. They come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and styles but have the drawback of being weaker than others. In climates where temperature fluctuates drastically, asphalt shingles have been known to crack or become damaged.

Tile

Tile is the most stylish option here. Tile shingles come in different shapes and colors, and usually last for years and years. They are a bit heavier than other shingles so if this is your choice, make sure your home can handle the weight.

Trade School vs. College Degree in the Job Market

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For years, the only lauded next step for many graduating high school seniors was pursuing a degree at a 4-year college. Meanwhile, trade school degrees and certifications were viewed as less desirable in the workforce and less lucrative in terms of pay, an assumption that went hand-in-hand with some “blue collar” work. But with the latest developments in the trade industries and the rising cost of a college education, the tide is starting to turn. The path to success looks different now than it did years ago, with many choosing to seek a traditional degree and many choosing a less traditional but equally rewarding path.

According to GoBuildGeorgia.com, Georgia students who graduate with a 4-year degree will have student loan debt of $23,768. This can take years to pay off. Debt aside, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only about 50% of Americans complete college once they start. And once they finish their degrees, the starting salaries of these graduates are often lower than those of skilled tradesmen. This doesn’t mean that pursuing a traditional degree isn’t a worthwhile endeavor for people with certain interests and career aspirations. But there are certainly other paths to success to consider. Here’s how trade schools and colleges stack up in terms of cost, time, earnings and general outlook:

Cost

An average trade school degree costs $33,000. An average traditional 4-year degree today costs $127,000, a difference of $94,000.

Time

A bachelor’s degree takes 4 years of attain, with some students taking as long as 6 years. A degree from a trade school takes 2 years or less to complete.

Earnings

Average earnings for tradesmen in nonresidential construction is $914/week or $47,528 yearly. The average earnings for people with a bachelor degree is $55,000.

Outlook

The economy plays a big role in unemployment rates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers with traditional college degrees have the lowest unemployment rates. However, skilled-trade jobs are currently in high demand and there are simply not enough workers to fill the open positions.

If you are undecided about your career path, you may also want to consider the educational environment. In college, courses are held in a classroom or lab and you will usually have homework in form of reading and writing assignments. Some students enjoy learning in this structured environment. Trade schools do have typical lectures and assignments but also offer a lot of hands-on work and on-the-job training (in form of apprenticeships). This may be appealing to students who can’t wait to put their learnings to use and find traditional classroom settings unstimulating.

No matter which path you choose, remember that workers in the construction industry come from a variety of educational backgrounds. No degrees can match the learning you will experience while on the job (or site).

In-Demand Trades in Georgia: Electricians, Plumbers & HVAC Technicians

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As long as new community centers, residences and churches are being built, the jobs for skilled tradesmen will remain plentiful. Three trades that are particularly in demand in Georgia these days are in plumbing, electrical and HVAC sectors. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they will continue to see job growth of about 20% over the next decade. Let’s take a look at these career paths.

Electrician
An electrician installs and maintains electrical systems in residences, factories and businesses.  They are trained to determine ideal locations for circuits, outlets, panelboards and other fictures while adhering to local and federal electrical codes. Electricians can also repair electric machines, generators and motors. The average salary of an electrician in U.S. is $48,000.

Plumber

If you have ever had a plumbing issue in your house, you know how invaluable a good and reliable plumber is to a home or business owner. Plumbers specialize in installing and repairing water pipes and fixtures. Like electricians, they have a solid knowledge of building codes and the ability to read blueprints. With an increase in environmental concerns, many plumbers now also have to stay on top of water-conservation techniques. The average salary of a plumber in U.S. is $52,000.

HVAC Technician

HVAC technicians install, repair and maintain HVAC systems which run the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration in homes and businesses. They know how to control temperatures and climates inside buildings. Like plumbers, HVAC technicians need to be increasingly vigilant about environmental concerns and implement “green,” energy-efficient solutions when appropriate. The average salary of an HVAC tech in U.S. is $42,000, with some earning as much as $67,000 a year. This sector is projected to have the highest job growth –an increase of 34%!

Construction Contributing to Economic Growth

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According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, for the first time since 2008, the construction industry has contributed more than $650 billion to the U.S. economy. In most states, construction is finally seeing growth that it hasn’t experienced since the Great Recession. At the peak of the industry in 2006, 7.7 million people were employed in construction. To contrast, today that figure is about 6.7 million people, which though not quite as high, is up from 5.4 million in 2011.

The states that have felt the construction boom are also the ones experiencing population growth. Unlike the slowly-growing populations of our southern neighbors Alabama and Mississippi, Georgia’s head count has been trending up since the recession, specifically in urban areas. The increase in population is fueling apartment construction, which had been previously been on pause. Work is also being resumed on our infrastructure, including roads and bridges. This pent-up demand for new housing, offices and infrastructure is quickly catching up to the industry.

As a result of the construction boom, the demand for skilled workers, particularly carpenters and electricians, has gone up significantly. Unfortunately, according to a survey done by the Associated General Contractors in 2015, 86% of contractors struggle to fill these open positions. The recession had turned off many high schools from encouraging students to attend trade schools and instead emphasize the path of a traditional college education.

In Georgia, both the private builders and the state are working to encourage students to change the trend and choose a skilled trade. It bears repeating, working in the construction industry has a number of perks. As always, we encourage anyone who’s interested in this field to contact our office to discuss an apprenticeship, internship or another opportunity.

The Importance of Air Quality and Ventilation in Construction

Rock Eagle 4-H Center Cabins

Unless you live the life of a nomad or work outdoors, you probably spend the majority of your day inside, whether at work or at home. Though it may seem like proper air flow and ventilation should occur naturally in a building, there are actually many decisions that must be made during and after the building process in order to optimize air exchange. Without special considerations, the building’s structural integrity and occupants will suffer.

Health Concerns

The concentration of pollutants like pollen and dust is at least twice as high indoors. In addition to these pollutants, occupants may also use cleaning agents that contain chemicals and bring in furniture pieces that hold volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you consider that there are approximately 50 million people in U.S. who suffer from hayfever, asthma, and other allergic diseases, it is imperative that buildings are built to achieve optimal indoor air quality (IAQ). Another consideration is the growing construction of multi-family homes, which has been fueled in part by increasing populations in urban areas. To increase efficiency and keep up with national sustainability efforts, multi-family dwellings are now built tighter. These high-performance homes place people in closer living proximity of each other and require special efforts to ensure proper ventilation.

Dwelling Concerns

Health concerns aside, proper ventilation can also prevent a lot of issues down the road with the structure itself. Some of those issues include:

  • Mold growth, which can not only cause illness but also make the dwelling unlivable
  • Moisture buildup
  • Spikes in carbon monoxide levels

The Bottom Line

Achieving the best IAQ requires a holistic approach of not only building to code to improve ventilation but using cabinetry, carpeting, paint and other products that are low in VOCs, formaldehyde, and glue chemicals. There are also systems such energy recovery ventilators and central vacuum system that help to ensure maximum ventilation and air exchange. When proper steps and precautions are taken, the occupants can enjoy their homes for decades to come.

Women in Construction

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It comes as no surprise that the construction industry, like most skilled trades, is a male-dominated field. Today, women comprise only about 10% of the construction workforce in Georgia and 9% in the United States. The numbers weren’t always so low. Just between 1985 and 2007, the number of women who are employed in the construction industry in the U.S. grew by 81%. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis in 2008, many men and women lost their construction jobs and the industry itself has since seen a slow recovery.

The good news is that a number of organizations and private construction companies are actively working to make the construction industry a more inviting and exciting place for women. The Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI), which is made up of union leaders, community organizers, tradeswomen and government leaders, is pushing for such change and is working toward the goal of increasing the percentage of women employed in the construction industry to 20% by the year 2020.

It’s hard to overlook the perks. Constructions jobs often pay well, sometimes much better than other jobs typically occupied by women (child care, retail, healthcare). In the first year of an apprenticeship, a woman can earn as much as $20 per hour and receive additional health insurance and retirement benefits. As we’ve discussed before, there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen and almost 200,000 jobs are available every year within private and public construction sectors.

Of vital importance in this initiative is educating girls who are still in high school about their career options and setting up young girls up with female role models and mentors who already hold positions in construction. Here are some local and national organizations that are doing just that:

National Association of Women in Construction

The NAWIC maintains an online career center to help women find jobs, post resumes and connect with apprenticeship programs. There are also many local and regional chapters. Learn more.

Goodwill of North Georgia

This program offers hands-on training, informational seminars and job placement assistance. Learn more.

MAGIC

Mentoring a Girl in Construction (MAGIC) is a week-long summer camp that allows high school girls to learn more about the construction industry and participate in hands-on activities related to the field. Learn more about our previous involvement with MAGIC.

What to Ask Yourself Before a Church Construction Project

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Maybe your church membership is outgrowing your facilities or you believe it’s time to breathe new life into your sanctuary. No matter the reason, contemplating church renovations and upgrades is an exciting time for any congregation. It’s easy to get lost in the details: After all, there is never a shortage of improvements one could make to a facility.

It’s important to remember that what seems like a small or quick project can actually affect a lot of people: the ministry, the current congregation and potential new members. Bad planning or a lack of planning can create a strain on everyone involved. Before you contact a builder and dive into a construction project, take some time to ponder what you imagine for your church. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help shape your vision:

  1. Who are we as a church now and where do we see ourselves in 5 to 10 years?
  2. Is our membership growing? If so, by how much or how steadily?
  3. Why do we want to renovate or build? Do we believe new facilities will increase membership? Do we believe our congregation will get more involved due to the expansion?
  4. What kind of an impact do we want to have on the community we serve?
  5. How many members do we want to be able to meet at one time (whether for a special or regularly occurring event)?

If you don’t have answers to all of these questions, don’t worry! We’ve worked with many churches in our community and can guide you through this often-overwhelming process. Together, we can evaluate your answers and motivations for the renovation and arrive at a plan that will suit both your needs, budget and timeline.

Meanwhile, if you are in need of inspiration, check out these featured church construction projects on our website:

Building Housing for the Elderly and the Disabled

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According to the American Seniors Housing Association, about 5 to 8% of baby boomers will eventually choose a senior-only housing arrangement over living alone or with family. Considering that there are currently 76 million baby boomers in the U.S., that leaves about 6 million people to find a suitable senior-specific living arrangement. Baby boomers aside, there are also more than 7 million households that have a family member with a disability.

Whereas the demand and need for multifamily housing that is affordable and accessible is staggering, the availability is lacking. Building housing that allows for independence, mobility and, when possible, a sense of community, is challenging and requires thorough planning.

In 1991, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Guidelines that establish the minimum standards for Fair Housing Act compliance. Here are just some examples of the considerations that we keep in mind when designing and building a housing unit for the elderly and/or disabled:

  • Doors and hallways that are wide enough for wheelchair access
  • Accessible, single-floor routes into and around the grounds of the housing complex
  • Easy access to switches, outlets and thermostats
  • Windows that can be easily opened
  • Grab bars in the bathroom and/or bathtub, as well as wheel-in showers
  • Kitchens and bathrooms wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Lowered counters, sinks, stoves and appliances

The state of Georgia has its own stringent accessibility code that we must observe when tackling new projects, such as the Hunt School Village housing for the elderly.

At Stafford Builders, we are well versed in what it takes to build housing that not only checks off all the legal requirements but adds value to the community and its people. Additionally, we build housing within the EarthCraft Multifamily certification program, which addresses sustainability and environmentally sound building practices.

Take a look at our latest community projects.

All About Demolition

excavator

Demolition is the tearing down and dismantling of a building structure or some of its parts, and it is often the most fun, fast and messy part of any new construction project. But, keep in mind, fun does not equal easy. Demolition requires detailed planning and considerations: A proper plan helps to avoid delays, blows to the budget, and, most importantly, injuries to construction workers or bystanders.

To avoid danger, construction supervisors and personnel typically take these steps before the start of any demolition:

  • Identify the hazards: Evaluate the structure and its surroundings to look for potential hazards that could arise during demolition (e.g., structure collapse, exposure to chemicals or falling objects).
  • Assess the risks: A thorough risk assessment takes everything from structure layout to demolition method to weather conditions into consideration.
  • Control the risks: A hierarchy of control is created to minimize or eliminate the risks that were determined during Step 2. Some risks require more protection and precaution than others.
  • Review the risks: All determinations and controls in place must be regularly reviewed.

Once the planning phase is complete, it’s time to begin to demolition! Demolition methods vary based on many factors, including the size, material and location of the structure. One of the Here are just some of the demolition methods in use today:

  • Manual: In our case, a lot of demolition is manual and requires good ol’ fashioned elbow grease! Think swinging sledge hammers, chiseling masonry and jack hammering concrete.
  • Implosion: Explosives are strategically placed within the structure and detonated in sequence. This method is ideal for large structures located in urban areas.
  • High arm excavator: Excavators are equipped with special arms and attachments that “chew” the building apart, piece by piece. This method is used on concrete, masonry, steel and mixed-material buildings.
  • Wrecking ball: A steel ball that weighs up to 13,500 pounds is suspended from a crane and is dropped or swung into the structure. This method is ideal for concrete or masonry structures.

Demolition is not required by every project. When it is, however, no shortcuts should be taken during this vital step.

 

Nail Gun Safety 101

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Nail guns are powerful, easy-to-use tools that can save construction workers many hours on a job site. Unfortunately, what makes a nail gun so simple and efficient is what also makes it dangerous. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nail gun injuries send approximately 37,000 workers to the emergency room every year. About half of the accidents are puncture wounds to the hands and fingers, and many are a result of unintentional nail gun discharge.

Nail gun safety should be practiced every single day at a job site. To minimize your risk of a nail gun accident, use these tips and guidelines:

  1. Read the precautions and warnings listed in the manual. Because every nail gun is unique, manuals should be readily available in the construction zone.
  2. For most control, operate the nail gun using your dominant hand.
  3. Use a sequential-trip trigger nail gun. It is the safest trigger mechanism because a nail is fired only when controls are activated in a specific order. To fire a second nail, the process is repeated.
  4. Wear personal protective equipment—after all, it’s required by OSHA. For construction workers, that includes hard hats, eye protection and hearing protection.
  5. Make the habit of never pointing the nail gun at anyone, even if it is disconnected. Only point the nail gun at the work material.
  6. Don’t press the trigger unless the nose of the gun is pressed against the work material. Also, try not to hold your finger against the trigger when you are carrying the nail gun or having a conversation with a co-worker.
  7. Don’t attempt to fix any issues such as a jam with your nail gun while it is connected to the air supply.
  8. Keep a distance between your free hand and the nail gun. When possible, use a clamp or brace instead of your hand for reinforcement.
  9. Avoid nailing dense material or material that has metal. In these instances, nails can ricochet. Inspect the surface you are working with for knots or other characters that can prevent the smooth insertion of a nail.
  10. If you become aware of a broken or malfunctioning nail gun, remove it from the worksite immediately.

Stafford Staff Spotlight: William Denmark aka. Mr. D

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To say that Mr. D stays busy at Stafford Builders is an understatement. Whether he’s picking up material for a job or helping to demo a building due for a refurbishment, Mr. D juggles multiple projects throughout the day, all of them in the field. As he puts it, “I do a lot” and “almost anything”.

Before joining Stafford Builders as a laborer/lead man about nine years ago, Mr. D held various positions in the mining industry, working at Davidson Mineral and CSR (Southern Aggregates). Coming from a family of construction workers, he began working in the business at a young age. Even so, he never envisioned himself in the construction industry and left to focus on mining instead. It’s not until Mr. D came to Stafford Builders that he found a fit for his broad knowledge and skills.

These days, Mr. D enjoys the demolition phase of any project the most but he doesn’t go as far as to name a favorite. He finds all projects are fulfilling, and it’s especially satisfying when they are completed. The Hunt School Village project is one that’s highly anticipated this year and everyone is eagerly awaiting its unveiling.

Although his job keeps Mr. D busy five to six days a week, he always makes time for church.

Trends in Construction Industry

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Technical innovations have enabled construction firms to build better buildings more quickly and safely than ever before. Let’s take a look at three trends that are driving change in our industry.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

No technology will or can completely replace skilled workers, but the construction industry is starting to warm up to the use drones and robots in the field. A UAV is a small device equipped with rotors and a high-resolution camera that can be piloted using a ground-based transmitter or, in some cases, fly autonomously using predetermined routes. Because UAVs can take stills and send live video feeds, they’ve become invaluable to construction firms that need to obtain aerial footage without incurring high costs. A drone can help a crew visualize a site and its terrain before construction begins and then serve as a surveillance tool to inspect sites for safety and to monitor progress. Small and nimble, UAVs can easily zip around busy and intricate construction zones. Furthermore, many firms also use drones as a marketing tool to showcase finished projects.

3D Printing

In its most basic form, a 3D printer is a device that connects to a computer to process and print three-dimensional designs by using a hot, liquid material. Because many construction projects rely on 3D models, the idea that a 3D printer can, layer by layer, print an entire building isn’t far-fetched. For now, many construction firms will settle for the convenience of being able to print small building components and parts. 3D printing can save time and money, as well as cut waste, by enabling firms to reproduce manufacturer parts on an as-needed basis. WinSun, a Shanghai-based 3D printing construction company, “expects 3D printing will save construction companies up to 50% on the cost” of building a home.

Sustainable Construction

Green building is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. According to the 2013 World Green Building Trends report from McGraw Hill Construction, about a half of current and planned construction projects in U.S. are considered “green.” That figure is continuing to grow and firms are seeking certifications that show their sustainability practices, even when it’s not a project requirement. Energy consumption is at the core of this trend but so are other social and environmental factors. Sustainable construction can help to lower water usage, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve our natural resources. Read more about the sustainable construction practices we implement here at Stafford Builders.

 

Stafford Staff Spotlight: Don Snyder

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Everyone takes a unique path to their final career: Some are lucky to land a job that helps them advance, some spend years finding the right fit, and some know exactly what they want to do early on. The latter is the case for Don Snyder, Stafford Builders’ project manager and skilled negotiator.

In a way, Don’s career began long before he obtained his degree in Building Construction from the University of Florida, which has the oldest continuing building construction program in the country. As he puts it, he comes from a “family of constructors.” Don’s grandfather was in the construction industry and his father went on to own a building supply company. Don himself started out as a cost engineer, working on large industrial construction projects before heading several construction companies in Georgia.  By the time Don joined Stafford in 2012, he had almost 40 years of construction industry experience.

On any given day, Don is managing a handful of projects at Stafford and works with superintendents to ensure that everything is moving from conception to completion with minimal interruptions. He estimates the projects, subcontracts the work and purchases the necessary building materials. Don enjoys the negotiations he has to handle at work, comparing the process to a chess game: “It’s fun to negotiate the best price and try to get the best possible deal for your company while ensuring it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

When asked what advice he would offer to someone who is thinking about going into construction, Don says both education and field experience are important and encourages hopefuls to get as much of both as they can. Construction is a tough business and field experience will prepare you for the inevitable challenges that will come up. “Books are one thing, but you’ve also got to get out to the school of hard knocks,” he adds.

These days, Don is particularly excited about and proud of the Hunt School Village project, which will feature a senior community center and 60 low-cost rental units for seniors. The project is scheduled to wrap up by January 2017.

When not handling negotiations or managing projects, Don relaxes by doing yardwork or practicing his favorite hobby, woodworking

Now is the Time to Choose a Career in Construction

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Careers in the construction trade have always been a popular choice for people who find it rewarding to work with their hands and learn on the job in a non-traditional office environment. In fact, today, more than 7.2 million people in U.S. work in industrial and commercial construction. There is no question that this line of work is absolutely essential to the development of our communities and improvements for existing infrastructure. From churches to doctor’s offices to skyscrapers, you can truly dream and build anything.

In fact, statistics for the construction field are promising, encouraging and show that there is a high demand for this trade. More than 185,000 construction jobs are available for tradesmen every year, with a projected growth rate of 19% through 2018. So, it’s unfortunate that we’ve recently learned that the state of Georgia is facing a skills gap.

According to Go Build Georgia, for every 4 people that retire in this trade, only 1 person steps up to take their place. At Stafford Builders, we hope to change that. We know that great careers don’t always begin with a traditional degree and a 9-to-5 job in a corner office. Hands-on, skills-based work can get you on a path that will reward you personally, professionally and financially for years to come.

We’ve previously covered many of the basics about entering the construction field and want to expand on some of the benefits people often forget. For one, you don’t necessarily need a 4-year degree to work in construction. Graduates of traditional 4-year schools often graduate with plenty of debt—some as high as $25,000—that takes years to pay off. The cost to attend these universities is also climbing every year. For many construction jobs, especially those in the field, an apprenticeship or a technical degree attained in just 2 years is enough to get your foot in the door. Another perk? The average entry-level salary of a tradesman in the construction field is higher than that of a 4-year college graduate. This is a huge opportunity for women and men who are hard-working, dedicated and willing to learn as they go.

Here are just some careers in construction to consider:

  • Carpenter: Builds structures using wood and other materials. This job is ideal for those who like to stay physically active and move around.
  • Millwright: Installs and dismantles machinery used on construction sites. This is a great path for someone who is detail oriented – you’ll need to read lots of instruction manuals!
  • Civil Engineer: Ensures that construction is completed safely, effectively and efficiently. You’ll need to know and be able to apply laws and regulations, observe proper procedures and do extensive planning.

We encourage anyone who’s interested in this field to contact our office to discuss an apprenticeship, internship or another opportunity.

Stafford Staff Spotlight: Frank Carson

To say that Frank Carson has it in his blood to work in construction is not an exaggeration. Frank’s dad was in the construction business so that’s what he’s known and been around since a young age. “It’s the only career choice I considered,” he said. This alignment of skills, knowledge and passion has worked out well for Frank and Stafford Builders.

Frank joined Stafford Builders 14 years ago as a superintendent. As he put it, “when I find a job I like, I stick with it.” The duties of a superintendent are part quality control, part project management and part people management. Day to day, Frank supervises the construction of buildings and facilities and ensures that the work is being performed on schedule and in accordance with the contract and specifications. In between, there might be site visits and check-ins with his foremen. “I walk a lot,” he says. He wants to be the best superintendent he can be for his foremen and adds “I give 110%.”

When talking with Frank, it’s clear that he not only enjoys and takes pride in his day-to-day duties but truly values his interactions with fellow men and women. In fact, being able to spend time outdoors and work with people both in the office and at sites is his favorite aspect of his job. “The people I work with are outstanding. They are recognized and highly thought of in our area and industry. Part of my enjoyment is working with and for people of high caliber with high standards.”

Frank doesn’t have a favorite project – maybe that’s like picking a favorite child – because he loves the unique challenges and aspects of every job. While he’s juggled 6 to 7 daily site visits before, these days Frank is staying at one site, the Hunt School Village. There, he is overseeing the construction of three buildings. We can all relate to Frank’s philosophy for finding fulfillment in his work: “I learn something new every day. If you didn’t learn something new, maybe you didn’t work.”

In his spare time, Frank stays busy with his hobbies: fishing, hunting, golf, and perfecting his aim to help with the first two hobbies. He’s married and has 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.

Stafford Staff Spotlight: Shawnda S. Chaney

You know the old dilemma, “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?”  The same dynamic works for Stafford Builders.  “What comes first, Mr. Stafford’s buildings or Shawnda S. Chaney’s payroll, bookkeeping and accounting?”

Shawnda S. Chaney has been serving the financial needs of Stafford Builders from the time it was a home-based business.  In those early days of the company, Shawnda would handle the financial needs of the company, which freed Mr. Stafford up to do what he is good at — building quality buildings.

Graduating from Fort Valley State University with a B.A. in Accounting and an M.B.A, Shawnda entered the corporate world working for Ikon Capital, Inc.  While she worked there for two years, she also managed Stafford Builders’ bookkeeping.  Shawnda would often joke with Mr. Stafford asking, “When can I work for you full-time?”  The answer came in 2001; she left the corporate world and started working full-time for Stafford Builders.

Now, Shawnda is entrusted with all the financial responsibilities of Stafford Builders.  Depositing funds, making payments to vendors, payroll, preparing financial, auditing, accounting and tax reports all fall under her direction.  This seems overwhelming, but Shawnda loves it.  It’s with infectious enthusiasm that she talks about numbers and takes delight in making sure everything matches up.

At Stafford Builders, Shawnda enjoys the work she does with numbers, but on a personal level she loves the way she’s able to use her financial gifts to help Stafford’s employees.  Employees may face financial challenges – tax liabilities, garnishments, or other fiscal challenges they may not know how to manage.  Here’s where Shawnda shines.  She takes the time to find out what’s going on, educate them, help them make a plan and reassure them that it’s going to be OK.  This is the sweet spot where Shawnda’s heart and abilities match, serving people with financial tools. It is also a core part of the Stafford culture: Caring about people as well as projects.

While we may not solve the age-old “chicken or egg” question, you can be confident that without the contribution of Shawnda’s financial management, Stafford Builders would not be able to provide the quality construction services their customers have come to expect.

Construction Outlook in 2016

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Seeing the construction pipeline dry up after the Great Recession was so traumatic that fewer people trust economic forecasts while ironically the interest in them has increased.  It seems it’s not just the magic word “growth” that people want to hear; people also need evidence of growth.

The good news according to Benjamin Ayers, dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia is that in Georgia, “the economy will continue to grow, and it will expand faster than the nation’s economy.”  Ayers’ forecast is based on the state’s economy getting “more leverage from the housing recovery,” faster population growth and continued low oil and gas prices.

What is the Reality on Main Street?

It is great to hear the word “growth,” but what is the reality on Main Street?  Baron Worthington of Vulcan Materials Company describes the construction cycle as typically expanding for 3 to 9 years, followed by a construction recession ranging from 2 to 6 years.  The reality is that the Great Recession hit the construction industry so hard in 2008 that even though Georgia has experienced growth during the last 5 years, construction demand still lags well below normal demand levels.

Worthington’s assessment is reflected by Dodge Data & Analytics which shows single family housing starts in Georgia gaining momentum in 2015, while multi-family housing starts fell.  Dodge Data & Analytics also demonstrates that for Georgia the 20-year average of housing starts per 1,000 people should be 7.6 per year.  In 2015, they were at 5.7 starts per 1,000 people, even as the industry has been slowly growing since 2009.

What Does 2016 Look Like?

So what does 2016 look like?  For the state of Georgia, private demand far exceeds public demand for construction services, but the continued recovery of state revenues should help improve public construction spending.  For a company like Stafford Builders, this is good news, as many recent projects such as the John Drew Smith Tennis Center, Hunt School Village, Bayside Village, and the Bibb County Central Kitchen are built with public funds.

Stafford Builders has continued to grow throughout these difficult past years, building a solid reputation for working with both private and public customers in meeting and exceeding their expectations.  As we not only hear the magic word “growth,” but see evidence of economic expansion, Stafford Builders has demonstrated it will be a key contributor to Georgia’s growing economy in 2016.

Sustainable Construction Practices

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“Sustainable construction” and “green building” are quite the buzz words thrown around by contractors and developers, but can they tell you what they mean?  Saying “green” and being “green” are two different things.  At Stafford Builders, we don’t just say we are “green,” we have a proven track record of being “green.”

The current trend in building more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable buildings can trace its roots to the Energy Crisis and environmental pollution concerns of the 1960s and 1970s.  Since then, the term “green” has been used and misused by political interest groups, but there is little debate that reducing the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment is a good thing.

At Stafford Builders, we take both the effect of what we build on human health and the impact of what we build on the natural environment seriously.  That is why we are a certified EarthCraft Builder.  The certified EarthCraft program was developed by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association in 1999 to specifically address the challenging energy, water and climate conditions of the Southeast.

The Hunt School Village is one project that Stafford Builders is constructing under the EarthCraft Multifamily Certification Program guidelines.  This project integrates the restoration and repurposing of existing buildings with cost-effective new construction that is energy, water and resource efficient.  The final result keeps tons of construction debris out of landfills, breathes new life into an abandoned school and provides 60 new apartments for low-income seniors.

In addition to the EarthCraft Multifamily Certification, Stafford utilizes other green building certification programs.  Bayside Village and Third Neighborhood, housing complexes that provide permanent supportive housing for individuals with a chronic mental health diagnosis and special physical needs of the chronically mentally ill, were built using the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Version 3 program.

Stafford Builders is proud of its sustainable construction practices because we are proud of the buildings we build and the customers we serve.  Far from being just a buzz word, Stafford Builders has invested in sustainable construction certifications and has a proven track record of implementing sustainable construction practices throughout its building portfolio.

Stafford Staff Spotlight: Kesia Stafford

Not everyone gets to have a job that brings them personal fulfillment and satisfaction, but that’s exactly how Kesia Stafford feels about her job.  As Contract Administrator for Stafford Builders, she has the opportunity to walk with clients through the entire building process.  When asked what the most enjoyable part of her job is, Kesia said, “Being a part of delivering what a person has dreamed up is a blessing.”

Being a Contract Administrator is a demanding job, and Kesia plays a key role during each phase of the project, from the pre-construction bidding process to post-construction payments and warranty fulfillment.  Yet for Kesia, managing all these responsibilities is rewarding because she enjoys seeing a project go from a dream to completion.

Kesia’s work experience is an exciting story of how Stafford Builders saw her potential, took a special interest in her and developed her talents.  When she joined Stafford Builders in August 2000, Kesia was hired as an administrative assistant and receptionist.  From the beginning, President Shawn Stafford believed in Kesia’s potential and nurtured her abilities.  He showed her the different elements to a project, taught her how to read and decipher project plans, and mentored her by allowing her to hear, see, and participate in learning the construction business.

As Stafford Builders grew as a business, Kesia’s responsibilities grew.  Initially, Stafford did a lot of church construction work.  As Stafford Builders expanded into government work, Kesia was in a position to manage the greater demands (and paperwork) that come with government contracts.

Kesia enjoys working on a variety of Stafford projects, but bringing beauty out of “diamonds in the rough” is particularly satisfying.  One of those projects is the Henry A. Hunt School Village.  Not only is the Hunt School Village project revitalizing a closed elementary school, bringing needed housing for low-income seniors and breathing new life into the East Macon neighborhood, but for Kesia, this school is special because this is where she went to elementary school.

It is obvious from talking to Kesia that she is good at managing the multiple details of her job, but it is also evident that she is grateful.  Kesia is appreciative and proud of being a part of the work that Stafford Builders does, being a part of a team, and working in an environment that fosters her professional growth.

Complete Makeover at Unionville Missionary Baptist Church

A brand new sanctuary with notable upgrades and improvements will soon be unveiled at the The Unionville Missionary Baptist Church.

The facility, which will be completed this year, is located at 3837 Houston Ave in Macon. The Church itself is 151 years old and has been active at this location for the past 21 years. After the 63-year old structure was gutted, only 4 walls remained! The blank slate allowed Stafford to implement an improved design and install a new metal roof and windows.

The brick and stucco exterior will make a striking first impression before members will even enter the church. Stafford made the entrance more inviting and accommodating by adding wheelchair-accessible ramps on either side of the stairs. In addition, a new covered drive-through will allow for convenient drop-offs and pick-ups, especially on those rainy days.

Once inside, members will be greeted with a new front reception and gathering area that was expanded to comfortably fit 125 people. Stafford also added convenient and spacious restroom facilities for women and men.

The sanctuary itself houses an upgraded choir area, platform and podium. And not only does it offer completely new seating, Stafford was also able to increase the seating capacity from 900 to 1,100.

Members of the Unionville Missionary Baptist Church have been worshipping at this location since 1994 under the leadership of Pastor I. Edwin Mack. When asked about what it was like to work with Stafford Builders, Pastor Mack said “Shawn is a man of high integrity when it comes to business. He doesn’t make promises that he can’t keep.” He also added that “never has there been a time when I’ve attempted to reach him with a question that he didn’t make himself accessible and responsive to me.”

Stafford is proud to be a part of this project and is excited to see the congregants gather in their new space. Stay tuned for updates about this project!

The Hunt School Village

The Henry A. Hunt Elementary School was an east Macon fixture for nearly 50 years until it closed down in 2003.  Today, this once abandoned school is undergoing an $8.5 million transformation into 60 multifamily, affordable housing units for seniors 62 and older.

Named after noted African American educator Henry A. Hunt, Hunt School Village maintains the historic link between Hunt’s legacy and the east Macon elementary school to this redevelopment.  As a high-visibility project, efforts have been made to preserve and restore this key landmark in order to reinforce the connections between the current project and the east Macon community.

The Hunt School Village is made possible by the cooperation of the Macon Housing Authority, Georgia Department of Community Affairs and federal Community Development Block Grant funds.  Macon Housing Authority’s non-profit development arm, In-Fill Housing, Inc. awarded Stafford Builders the project in June 2015.  After value engineering the project to make it more cost effective, Stafford was able to mobilize quickly and begin the initial phase of the project.

This development calls for the renovation of the existing administration building and the construction of two additional three-story apartment buildings containing 30 units each.  These affordable senior apartments will be constructed to house a diverse group of elderly residents, including those with special needs.  The entire complex will be brought into compliance with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs accessibility requirements.

The plan calls for the former administration building to be rehabilitated and converted into offices and community space for the residents, and will include meeting rooms, a kitchen, a fitness center, and a computer center.  This fits into the housing authority’s tradition of preserving and reusing landmark buildings.

In addition, all of the improvements (renovation and new construction) will be completed within the EarthCraft Multifamily certification program.  This certification underscores Stafford’s commitment to sustainable and environmentally sound building practices.

Currently, Stafford is simultaneously in the midst of abatement, demolition, and construction.  They are removing hazardous materials from the classroom buildings slated for demolition, demolishing the interior of the administration building, and pouring the slab for the first housing unit.  While still in the initial phase of construction, Stafford is on schedule to complete the redevelopment by January 2017.

Once a significant source of blight in the neighborhood, the newly redeveloped Hunt School Village will continue to honor Henry A. Hunt’s legacy, the east Macon children who attended the school, and will serve the needs of low-income seniors in east Macon for the next generation.

Bayside Village Project

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Thanks to the work of Stafford Builders, individuals with a diagnosis of chronic mental illness will have another option for permanent supportive housing.

River Edge Behavioral Health has teamed up with Macon-Bibb County to receive a HOME Investment Partnership Program grant.  This HUD grant for $847,000 allows River Edge to develop Bayside Village, a supportive housing community for low-income individuals with a chronic mental illness, chronic substance abuse, or a dual diagnosis of both conditions.

Currently, the Bayside Village Project provides eight new one-bedroom/one-bathroom units grouped into two one-story buildings.  They are designed to meet the special physical needs of persons with disabilities to enhance the accessibility and common service potential of the units.  Architecturally, they blend in with surrounding residential units and provide a more stable and “home-like” feel for the residents.

The selection of Stafford Builders was “a natural fit” according to Cass Hatcher, Chief Facilities Development Director of River Edge Behavioral Health Center.  “This isn’t our first rodeo with Stafford,” Hatcher said.  Previously, Stafford built Third Neighborhood, a 10-unit complex built with $1.5 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program 3 funds made available to the City of Macon and developed by River Edge.

In addition to experience working with River Edge, Director Hatcher is proud of Stafford’s sustainable construction practices.  He said, “Stafford also built Third Neighborhood to Energy Star Version 3 standards, and they built another group home for us to EarthCraft Gold level specifications.”

The eight units that Stafford Builders is constructing at Bayside Village provide a much-needed permanent and supportive home for vulnerable individuals who were homeless, residing in shelters, or moving from relative to relative because of their chronic mental illness.  As funding becomes available, Hatcher hopes that these first two buildings are just the beginning, as there is a need for an additional 110 permanent supportive housing units in the Macon-Bibb County area.

Check back soon for updates on this project!

Central Kitchen Freezer Addition

A huge food service facility, 3.6 million lunches and 1.5 million breakfasts each year, and school schedule that can’t be interrupted. All in a day’s work for Stafford Builders.

The Bibb County School District’s Central Kitchen serves millions of meals to children each year.  Since 2001 the freezer facility that supports the Central Kitchen has been located off-site, so when it began to break down plans were made to replace it with a new on-site facility .

Stafford Builders was selected as the contractor for this $1.6 million dollar project.  The Freezer Addition and Building Modification Project required Stafford to construct two pre-engineered structures on concrete pads to house the freezers.

Feeding nearly 25,000 students a day requires a lot of freezer space, and these two freezers are enormous.  Each freezer is built with a center aisle in which pallets can be driven in and placed on floor to ceiling racks up to 20 feet. The small one is approximately 577 square feet and the large one is approximately 1,940 square feet – more like visiting Sam’s Club than your average restaurant’s walk-in cooler.

As with every project they undertake, Stafford Builders works hard to meet the unique needs of the client. The freezer addition at the Central Kitchen required close communication and flexibility because the building was in continual use.

Jason Daniels, Executive director of Capital Programs for the Bibb County School District was highly complimentary of Stafford Builders’ willingness to be flexible to meet the District’s needs:  “Stafford was very responsive and agreeable to working around our schedule.  They worked through holidays and off hours to minimize disruptions to the kitchen.”

Stafford is proud of the way in which they were able to coordinate their work around the needs of the school district.  And while the freezer addition itself may not be the architectural highlight of a building portfolio, Stafford made sure that the customer service provided was second to none.

John Drew Smith Tennis Center – Clubhouse Project

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Over the last ten months, Macon’s John Drew Smith Tennis Center has improved its facility with a $1.2 million renovation of its clubhouse, all without interrupting its busy schedule of state and national tennis tournaments.

Stafford Builders worked closely with the tennis center staff throughout the project to limit disruptions while transforming the clubhouse into a showplace.

Parks and Recreation General Manager of Tennis Carl Hodge said, “The thing that stands out to me was the relationship we were able to have with Stafford. We were in a unique situation. Whereas most builders want the end-user completely off site, we were still hosting national and state tournaments.”

Hodge singled out Stafford’s Building Superintendent John Sears for special praise. He said that Sears “was just over-the-top, incredible and stayed on task. There was a great, mutual understanding of our needs and communication of what the contractor needed.”

The clubhouse project, funded through a voter-approved sales tax initiative, includes both new construction and renovation. The new clubhouse includes the addition of a second floor with a shaded observation deck, meeting space, offices for the Macon Tennis Association, and a new and expanded pro shop.

The goal of the project was to create a user-friendly clubhouse for the existing local clientele as well as the state and national tournaments that The John Drew Smith Tennis Center hosts. Hodge repeatedly said how pleased and satisfied he is with the project. “It’s an amazing project … all the patrons are just overwhelmed with the results.”

In 1990, the John Drew Smith Tennis Center was selected as one of the top 25 municipal tennis facilities, and in 2005 they were selected as the #1 tennis program in the country with the existing facility. With the new and renovated clubhouse that Stafford Builders constructed, Hodge proclaims, “The sky’s the limit!”

See more photos.

Church Construction

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You’ve read in these pages about our extensive experience in a variety of industries, including government entities, public organizations, and a variety of commercial businesses. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to work efficiently and effectively on any type of project, and we enjoy working with all types of agencies and organizations.

One kind of construction project, however, is especially close to our hearts: The building of churches. Macon has a long and deep-rooted religious history, and those traditions and ties continue today. We take special pleasure in working closely with Macon’s spiritual leaders to help them create the facilities they need to worship and serve the community.

Unfortunately, few churches have leadership with expertise in construction. When a church congregation decides it’s time to renovate their building (or build an entirely new one), it falls on the shoulders of a representative or a small committee of representatives to interview contractors, evaluate bids, and make critical decisions. It can be an overwhelming process, and we understand that. We have worked with enough churches to know the challenges likely to arise. We use our experience to guide our clients through those challenges to build the facility they’ve dreamed of.

Are you a church representative tasked with hiring a contractor? The following recommendations can help ensure you project is a successful one:

  1. Choose a contractor who is bonded. What this means is the contractor has a contract with a bonding company, which guarantees that if anything happens during the building process (the contractor is unable to continue work for any reason), the bonding company will step in and protect you, the client, to ensure your work is finished. Stafford is a fully bonded company.
  2. Make sure your contractor has had experience working closely with churches. There are special challenges and circumstances specific to churches, and if your contractor doesn’t have that experience, you may end up being his guinea pig!
  3. After taking the time to speak with all the interested parties within the church community, designate a liaison to work with the contractor. This is much more effective than designating a group of people.  By choosing a single person to make or at least convey all decisions about the project, communication is clear, processes are established for approvals and changes, and delays caused by internal debates are avoided. Just as a religious community designates certain members for certain tasks such as deacons or ministers to specific groups, we highly recommend that you designated a member of your church to work one-on-one with your contractor for the smoothest experience.
  4. Look for a contractor who shares your values: An honest, caring professional who will take the time to walk you through pre-construction, explain with patience and detail what the process will entail, and who listens to your concerns.

Members of the Stafford team are also members at several of our local churches, and we have a deep connection with our spiritual community. We understand the needs of a congregation and take care to be trusted servants.  If you are a church member tasked with interviewing contractors, we would love to speak with you.

Advice for Entering the Construction Industry

The Stafford Construction Group takes great pride in being a Macon business, and as residents of Macon, we are committed to the growth and enrichment of our community. One of our favorite organizations here in Macon is M.A.G.I.C. Camp (Mentoring A Girl In Construction). In fact, we love working with youth any way we can, and we believe anybody willing to work hard should have a future in Macon.

We are often asked how to get started in construction. It’s a field that can be very attractive to young people eager to finish school and get to work, and there are low barriers to entry: You don’t need a college degree, necessarily. You don’t need a lot of “start up” money or even experience. What you do need is a willingness to work hard and learn.

Most young builders enter the industry by working for an existing builder as an apprentice of some kind to learn the ropes on the job. Then they may choose to go out on their own, or simply join a team.

High school students interested in the construction industry should focus on mathematical skills and honing their attention to detail. They should seek out any construction work they can find, including internships, school clubs, or work task forces. And they should read contractor magazines and become familiar with the industry. While construction can be lucrative, it’s not always stable in the way an office job might be, so it’s important for young people to educate themselves about the realities of this lifestyle before committing to it.

Construction is not a 9-5 job, and it’s not for everybody. The work can be spotty and unpredictable. The hours can be grueling, the weather not always favorable. But if you’re a person who enjoys working with your hands, who takes pride in building something from the ground up, it can be enormously rewarding.

But not all construction industry jobs involve a hammer and a hard hat. There is always a need for smart, driven people in more traditional office roles within the industry. As technologies advance, we need people skilled in a variety of areas to help keep the company going. There are also contract administration jobs that require deep organizational skills and attention to detail; no construction company can survive without smart, capable employees managing contracts, permits, and other vital paperwork.

Finally, construction is an industry that’s very friendly to entrepreneurs. If you’ve dreamed of owning your own business, being your own boss, that’s achievable in the construction industry. If you own a truck, a little know-how and experience, and a license, you own a construction company. It takes work to build up clientele and win jobs, but if you have the drive and are willing to take some risks, it can pay off.

We encourage young people in the Macon area who have questions about the field to contact our office to discuss apprenticeships, internships, and other opportunities for learning the trade.

Community Spotlight: M.A.G.I.C. Camp

Stafford Builders and Consultants tip our hard hats to M.A.G.I.C. Camp, Mentoring A Girl In Construction.  The camp’s director, Renee Conner, is a construction worker who runs her own firm and hopes to encourage an interest in construction among the female students of Bibb County School District.

This summer, Bibb County School District and Renee Conner hosted a five-day camp for Bibb County high school girls. The camp aimed to show girls opportunities in careers they may not otherwise have considered; women occupy only eight percent of construction jobs, even though on average construction jobs pay more than hairdressing and other trades girls may traditionally consider.

Over the five days of the summer camp, these students worked on daily projects to learn about construction safety, teamwork, and skills including welding, carpentry, and electrical jobs.

We applaud Ms. Conner and the Bibb County School District for making this program available to the young women in our community, and look forward to meeting some of its graduates when they apply for jobs with us here at Stafford Builders!

Learn more about M.A.G.I.C. Camp here: http://www.mentoringagirlinconstruction.com

Public Work

Stafford Builders is particularly proud of our extensive and successful track record in working with public organizations and government entities. We have built everything from a firehouse to military base facilities.

In fact, the close proximity of Robins Air Force Base to our offices in Macon has offered us many opportunities to work closely with military personnel. In 2011, for example, we revamped and repaired an airplane hangar on the base. Stafford Builders shaved 18% off the production calendar, enabling the men and women who needed use of the building to get back to work 16 days ahead of schedule.

Working with government and military clients brings a special set of challenges, and Stafford is experienced and equipped to meet those challenges and exceed even the most demanding expectations.

We are fully familiar with the necessary forms, bidding procedures, documentation requirements, and other government policies pertaining to construction projects, and our office staff does everything in their power to make working with Stafford easy and stress-free for our public servants.

We value the relationships we have built with military personnel and other government agencies among our clientele. If you’re a public employee in need of construction services, we would love to meet with you and discuss your needs and how we can make your next construction project smooth, efficient, and fully compliant with your unique regulations and procedures.

Technology and Project Management

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Just 10 to 20 years ago, builders and contractors did all their job estimates longhand on yellow legal pads. Today we have a wide array of tools at our disposal: Estimating software, document management software, project planning software, tablets, and smartphones, to name a few.

We love any tool that lets us serve our clients better and with more efficiency. Sometimes that yellow legal pad is still the best tool in our toolbox, but we also take full advantage of new technologies when they truly improve our processes.

One way technology benefits our clients is that we are able to easily record, track, organize, and archive all documentation throughout a project. This makes it easy to submit reports, history, and other information clients often need for their own accounts and records.  We are able to provide this information quickly and accurately using the powerful software applications available today.

Software has also greatly improved the accuracy and speed with which we are able to write an estimate for a job. This helps us meet our clients’ needs on their timelines, so they’re not left waiting weeks or months for an estimate. Compared to the older methods (all longhand, or using Microsoft Excel templates), the estimate process is greatly improved.

Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized so many industries and nearly every aspect of our lives. The construction industry is no exception. Twenty years ago, builders who came across a problem or concern that required the project architect’s attention would need to call the architect; schedule a time for all necessary parties to visit the site; and physically meet there to discuss the problem. Today any builder can pull out his or her phone, snap a picture, and send it to the architect or other stakeholders instantly.

At Stafford Builders, we are dedicated to providing the best possible service to each and every client. We make it a priority to learn and use new technologies as they arise, furthering our goal of constantly improving our service to clients.

Is Church Construction in Decline?

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Americans aren’t building churches like they used to anymore.”

Construction of religious buildings is at an all-time low in the United States. Spending on church construction is down by half from a decade ago. The Journal links this decline to a corresponding decline in religious attendance and contributions.

We haven’t seen this phenomenon at play here in Macon, though! Locals know you can’t throw a rock around here without hitting a church building, and that’s part of why we love living and building here.  What’s more, our church communities aren’t simply older generations holding onto a forgotten past, as seems to be the case in some cities. In Macon they are young, vibrant, and growing, and Stafford is here to help them grow!

Church construction and renovation continues to make up roughly 45% of Stafford Builders’ annual projects. From the 11,500 square foot facility we built for Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church to the innovative New Piney Grove Church building with a unique connector between the old sanctuary and the new, Stafford has a rich history of working closely with religious organizations in the Macon area and looks forward to many more years of just that.

If your church is in need of a bigger worship center, a renovation, or a totally new church building, we hope you’ll consider Stafford Builders. We’d love to work with you.

Deals in the Field: Harmless or Hazardous?

In any construction project there is a proper protocol to follow, a chain of command. The pre-construction checklist and statement of work are vetted and approved by certain authorities to ensure that the project will fulfill all deliverables.

Changes can happen mid-project, and competent project managers expect these changes and plan for them. But it’s important to follow the proper chain of command for any changes to the original plan.

If a client visits a construction site with a new idea and simply begins speaking to the foreman or other workers on the job about it, and the workers agree to the change, this is a “deal in the field.”

Deals in the field should be avoided. Why? Because failure to follow the chain of command can lead to increased liability, incorrect records, inaccurate billing, and client dissatisfaction. For example, when we work with a government agency, there is a Contract Administrator at that agency who has authority over modifications to the contract. If that administrator does not sign off on a change, that change never happened.

If workers continue to go ahead with the change and something goes wrong, the contract administrator has no formal record of approving the change, and the builder is liable for problems caused by the undocumented change. Conversely, if the change works out and everybody’s happy, the builder will be unable to bill for any additional cost because the contract administrator has no formal record of the change.

All of this contributes to scope creep, deviations from the established work plan that lead to higher workflow, longer timelines, and diminished returns for everyone.

The easiest way to avoid deals in the field is simply to make sure all employees, on both sides, are fully informed of protocol and know how to submit a formal change order. Workers should insist on a change order before making any changes to their plans, and clients should insist on the same. Clear communication and attention to protocol will ensure all changes are approved, budgeted, and documented, so all parties are protected.

Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church Grateful for Room to Grow

Bibb Mt. Zion Church interiorThe Bibb Mount Zion Baptist church began meeting in their new building on New Year’s Eve 2014, celebrating the coming of 2015 together in song and praise from their brand-new sanctuary.

Pastor Paul Little, who presides over the 500+ membership at Bibb Mount Zion Baptist, says the new building has been a blessing to the congregation. “It’s not only beautifully designed,” he said, “it’s also very practical and very functional.” The edifice includes a main auditorium that seats 650, a choir stand, and a dedicated “cry room” for parents with babies and young children.  It also features a wing designated for administrative offices.

Pastor Little appreciated Stafford Builders’ level of communication, saying the firm was “very thoughtful, strategic, and intentional in including us” in conversations and decisions about the project.

The 11,500 square foot facility, completed in December 2014, is located at 3268 Avondale Mill Road, where it has served the community for over 150 years. The church was originally established in 1862 by a group of slaves seeking spiritual peace and strength to bear the frustrations and injustices of their lives. Today the church is still strong and growing rapidly, and Pastor Little says they’re grateful for the space offered by their new facility, and the positive experience of working with Stafford Builders.

Stafford is proud to have been involved in this project, and thrilled to see the congregants at Bibb Mount Zion Baptist worshipping joyfully in their new space.

Eliminating the Fatal Four

At Stafford, we want everyone on our crews to go home to their families in the same condition they showed up for work that morning. Statistically speaking, in our industry, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

Consider this sobering fact: 20% of all private-sector workplace deaths in 2013 were construction-related. That’s 1 in 5 worker fatalities. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), eliminating the “fatal four” would save the lives of nearly 500 construction workers a year. Falls lead the pack, accounting for more than one-third of the fatal four numbers cited by OSHA:

  • Falls —36.9%
  • Blunt-force trauma —10.3%
  • Electrocutions — 8.9%
  • Caught-in/between — 2.6%

We fight the Fatal Four by constantly reinforcing the importance of adhering to sound safety measures in the field. Our guys meet once a week, on Friday mornings, to discuss a new safety topic. Attendance is required for “Toolbox Talks,” and we pass a sign-in sheet to keep a running record of who attends and who doesn’t. We keep it short, causal and friendly in tone but serious in topic and approach.

Topics vary from week to week, but are typically pertinent to ongoing projects. Our Friday morning toolbox talks include safety management issues such as compliance with Federal and state regulations, scaffolding and ladder safety tips, proper equipment handling, potential electrical hazards, and weather-related dangers.

Taking this time together every week not only helps the team stay safe, sound, and on track with ongoing projects, but also keeps safety foremost in our minds when we’re on the job.  It’s protection that is proactive, and helps ensure that Stafford workers hold themselves and each other accountable for staying accident-free.  It also gives seasoned crew members a chance to mentor new hires and younger workers, and opens the floor for discussions that may save someone’s life.  And while zero accidents is good for the bottom line in terms of risk management, the real victory is making sure our guys make it home for dinner every night.

3 Submittals Tracking Tools We Like

My father, Shawn Stafford, has a well-known nickname to employees: Hawkeye. He earned it through his intensely high standards for quality control. At the end of every project, before we turn it over to the client, “Hawkeye” gets it first, for a final inspection. He always chooses a Saturday, when everyone is gone, and then he walks the job, inch by inch, step by step, looking for things that are wrong, things that could go wrong, or put someone—be it a worker or the client—in harm’s way.

Quality control isn’t just a turn of phrase—done well, it allows the contractor to deliver a quality project. Done poorly, it can cost money, time, and even lives. Taking the time on a big construction job to check the specs through submittals keeps all stakeholders on the same page. Quality control doesn’t just stop an “oops” from happening, it helps guarantee compliance and accountability.

Harnessing new technology solutions for submittals not only streamlines the efficiency of the process, but also increases transparency and helps reduce costs. Here are three tools to consider:

  • Collaborative software tools such as Submittal Exchange® can help cut admin time in half while providing all stakeholders with instant access to critical documentation.  Submittal Exchange allows users to review, route, and archive submittals. The software development company also offers a “green” integration for LEEDS projects.
  • Procore™ is a cloud-based solution that allows users to control the submittals workflow with custom options, and also filter submittal lists by status, spec section, response, and designated approver. Apps for mobile and tablet devices are available.
  • Another option, Buildsite®, features you-build-it reporting features that “tie line by line to the specs … Product selection and submittals work together. Document packages work just like a shopping cart—click what you need to add it. Packages then flow directly into templates.”

Walter Stafford

Leadership: Meekness is Not Weakness

Leadership is essential at the workplace and in life—often inaccurately understood as merely “being in charge,” real leadership is actually more about service. An effective leader cultivates the qualities of encouragement for and inspiration of those around him, employees and clients alike. Humility is an essential quality of an effective leader, but it can be a difficult trait to master. A recent study by the nonprofit think-tank Catalyst defined the qualities of humility as actions:

  • Admitting your mistakes
  • Accepting and learning from criticism and different points of view
  • Seeking contributions from others to overcome limitations

At Stafford Builders, we apply these principles both internally and externally. Whether we are communicating with each other or with a client, we consciously strive to embody humility, because we believe it paves the way to great customer service and long-lasting relationships.

A true leader is not necessarily the smartest person in the room nor the loudest. In fact, he is often the meekest, and he listens more than he speaks. It takes an humble nature to recognize your own blind spots and allow those who serve with you to compensate in those areas where you need it. That shows meekness, not weakness—the kind of humility that inspires those around you to do better and those you serve to place their trust in you with confidence.

Fire Station 110 Opens On Schedule, Under Budget

macon-bibb-fire-station-110

Responders at Fire Station 110 received their first emergency dispatch before the ceremonial ribbon was even cut. Supporters attending the Nov. 21 grand opening cheered as firefighters sped swiftly to the scene in two trucks, sirens blaring.

“I am very excited to enhance safety and fire protection in Bibb County. This will allow for better service for the community and will make response times much quicker” Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggs said. “I’m proud that we can provide this level of quality and protection.”

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert A. B. Reichert echoed the chief’s sentiments, applauding the success of the SPLOST project, as well as its timely completion.

“I am most grateful for Stafford Builders being able to finish this project on time and under budget.” Stafford delivered the project on schedule and almost a million dollars shy of the allotted $4 million budget. The remaining $800,000 will be funneled into other SPLOST projects.

Located at 2930 Heath Road in Macon, the fire station is dedicated to Joe O. Allen, former Bibb County District 4 Commissioner and veteran fire fighter, and will serve the western community.

Previously, the closest fire departments to west Macon were located on Price Rd and Mercer University Dr. But as the city of Macon continues to expand west towards Lizella, public safety concerns have increased in recent years due to emergency response delays. The new station is expected to decrease emergency response times by a minimum of three minutes—which can be a critical in times of peril.

The 8,000-square foot structure will house more than half a dozen responders and two trucks at any given time. Additionally, it includes such state-of –the-art features as customized, sensored traffic lights that signal fire truck drivers whether they have sufficient clearance when making rapid exits. The station also includes dedicated classroom space for firefighters for ongoing professional development with a computer, projector, television and dry erase board as training aids to enhance firefighter training. This space, which accommodates up to eight people, can also be reserved by the public to host local association, church, and neighborhood meetings.

— By Jasmine Wright

Preventing Scope Creep

In any large-scale construction project, changes are to be expected. Some are significant and meticulously documented, like an owner deciding to add a hot bar to the employee cafeteria six months after ground has broken. Others may not amount to a formal change order—such as the architect tweaking a doorframe from standard to arched—but even seemingly minor modifications start to add up over time.

Also known as “scope creep,” deviations from the established workplan can have a domino effect on the resources and labor required for project completion. Scope creep can double, even triple workflow and timelines, resulting in diminished returns for everyone. Liability increases as well. Subcontractors can, and have, successfully sued for uncollected overages owners refuse to pay, and damage to professional reputations can be irrevocable.

Scope creep can be difficult to stamp out completely, because a lack of flexibility can be equally inefficient and under-serving to the project. But it can be managed. An effective pre-construction process can minimize the onset of scope creep by setting expectations and mapping out a clear vision and plan before the first shovel ever hits the ground. Site selection, project scope, execution plan, risk analysis, materials evaluation, scheduling, and estimation are but a few agenda items that should be hammered out during pre-construction.

The investment in time and resources can be considerable in this evaluation phase—as much as 12 weeks or more depending on the scope of the project. But the added value can me measured in time and money saved through this process. By putting in the time and legwork up-front, key stakeholders are able to evaluate project commitment and needs at a granular level and set milestones before the meter starts running. And a clearly defined workplan helps maintain timeline and budget constraints once execution is underway.

The most important scope-creep killer in your arsenal however, is not a pre-construction checklist, or even a statement of work. It’s clear communication. Getting everyone—owner, architect, engineers, and construction supervisors—around the table to define and document project budget, timeline, and protocols for change orders will help ensure a positive project end and prevent scope creep.

Rock Eagle 4H Center Cabins Under Construction

Stafford construction crews are preparing to break ground on new 4H center cabins.

The cabin renovation project at Rock Eagle 4H Center in Eatonton, GA continues this summer, with Stafford Builders ready to forge ahead on cabins #7-12. Funds for the $2.4 million Stafford project are a combination of private donations and a $7.5 million allocation in the 2014 state budget approved last year by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Stafford construction crews will build, furnish, and install  the cabins,  which can accommodate up to 22 people. Each new cabin at Rock Eagle features six bedrooms with four vanity areas plus a private bath, and each is equipped with wireless Internet access.

Rock Eagle hosts more than 5,000 4-H members from across the state for weeklong camps that include outdoor adventures such as archery, canoeing, swimming, zip line outings, and sailing as well as workshops that range from forestry to entomology.

Funding is in place for a little more than half of the entire renovation project, which includes the replacement of 54 cabins. To contribute to the Rock Eagle 4-H Center Cabin Campaign, contact the Georgia 4-H Foundation Office at (706) 542-8914.

New Macon-Bibb County Fire Station Project On Track

Macon-Bibb Firemen at the dedication of another SPLOST-funded fire department, one of three stations funded by the special sales tax voters approved in 2011.

Stafford Builders construction crews are on track to complete Bibb County Fire Station #110 by this fall. The addition of the new Heath Road station will provide more rapid response times and expanded fire coverage for homes and businesses in the area, and is expected to also help lower insurance rates  for those located within a 1.5 to 5-mile radius.

The new station will house more than a dozen firemen and is one of three fire departments to be funded by a 1% special purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2011. The $1.65 million project, located at 2930 Heath Road, will service the western part of the county and is part of strategic plan to improve public safety. For additional updates on this and other Macon-Bibb projects, follow the Macon + Bibb Facebook page as well as the Macon-Bibb SPLOST website.