Tag Archives: home improvement

Construction Trends that are Beyond Science Fiction

In Chicago, it is said there are only two seasons: winter and construction (and the saying is employed in other regions of the Midwest). Even if true, that certainly has not detained the many predictions for 2015 trends from general contractors and other sectors in the construction industry. All the forecasts are based on sound data, and some are so innovative and high-tech, they could be in the providence of the next James Cameron film.

In fact, some of these haven’t even made it to any science fiction blockbuster:

Bottled water…so why not bottled sunlight ?

The solar industry continues to boom, and the idea of sunlight assisting society is no longer even modern (if that even makes sense). The U.S. has even surpassed Germany as the world’s leading producer of solar power. Solar panels and other solar equipment are becoming more available, but the cost is often something along the lines of buying a star.

So why not just buy the solar energy itself? That’s what one company already does, with one million customers and growing.  Consumers don’t exactly purchase liquid plasma, but electrical energy from solar energy at a much affordable cost.

Your home will be in the clouds, at least at first

A blogger from Construction Monitor wrote last year:

Designing and managing construction projects in cloud-based technology will soon be the norm. Now’s the time to get on board with the fast, efficient collaboration cloud computing enables .

Society has come a long way from the late 90s resistance to the notion of handing over large amounts of information to third party companies for online storage. Efficiency overcame safety in society. When it comes to general contractors, though, safety will surely always come first, even as project management becomes effortless and cloudless.

Put a cork in it and open your doors

Cork has been used since the days of the ancient Greeks, but it is actually in demand as a high-tech construction solution. It is waterproof, fire resistant, flexible, sound proof, and completely organic. Using cork on floors and walls in construction makes perfect sense, and furthermore it has been utilized in car engines, airport runaways, and even space shuttles.

Some companies now offer cork in liquid form, basically transforming any construction into a green and safe building with a few sprays!

Buildings that recycle more than humans

As seen above, solar energy can be transported and sold. In addition, solar energy buildings are now able to send surplus solar energy back into a grid, thereby assisting other green facilities.

In addition, using the Seattle Bullitt Center building as a prime example, it is possible to have buildings that treat and recycle rainwater or even sewage water. At this rate, buildings and houses will even be able to take out the trash on a rainy day…

Screaming at your appliances no longer makes you crazy

Grid-aware appliances are growing in numbers, and it basically means your smartphone will soon no longer be the only smart object at home.  A fridge can now remind one that it is low on milk, while the washing machine can be controlled remotely with a smartphone or tablet. Even if some of the grid-aware technology borders on creepy, its real advantage is that its controls are in real-time—meaning owners know exactly how much energy they are using. This will make anyone’s wallet speak with a positive tone.

As mentioned, some of the above trends have yet to make it to any science fiction, and perhaps the latest Avengers or Star Wars flicks in 2015 will catch up with the inventiveness and determination of general contractors, engineers, tech gurus, and architects in the (seemingly) mundane world of reality.

Until then, may the Force be with those involved in construction.

 Solar Energy Usage Statistics Infographic

 

Will General Contractors Ever Embrace Smartphones for Shopping?

A recent qSample study uncovered the intimate shopping habits of general contractors, including their usage of smartphones while in-store for purchases. This is a vital area to study for marketing, as it is no secret that consumers now use mobile devices more than PCs when it comes to online retail…and they are very engaged online while inside stores.

Yet to better understand general contractor in-store shopping behaviors with smartphones it is insightful to compare them to general shoppers with smartphones.

The general shopper statistics were gleaned from a 2013 Google study: Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices.

Here is some of the eye-catching breakdown:

– 84% of general shoppers use their smartphones in-store to assist purchasing.
– 66% of general contractors use their smartphones in-store to assist purchasing.

– 53% of general shoppers use smartphones to compare prices elsewhere while in-store.
– 17% general contractors use smart phones to compare prices elsewhere while in-store.

– 19% of general shoppers have used a QR Code in-store.
– 10% of general contractors have used a QR Code in-store.

This brief comparison reveals evident differences of in-store smartphone usage between general contractors and general shoppers. Why do general contractors rely less on smartphones, one would ask?

Here are two initial possibilities:

– General contractors shop 61% of the time at the big four stores (Home Depot, Menards, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware). With such cemented shopping habits, the idea of seeking other deals will be more limited than general shoppers.

– General contractors, in general, spend less time working behind a desk with a screen in the conventional office environment—as they are clearly in a more labor-intense industry. Thus, technology in more a universal sense has not translated to general contractors.

More research needs to be conducted, naturally, but market forces are certainly not ignoring general contractors in their use of mobile technology (as seen by the many contractor and builder apps available).

There are possible solutions to increase general contractor engagement with their smartphones while in-store—with the insights of the Google study:

– 64% of general shoppers in-store still use search engines to find product information. According to a study by Symantec, 71% of businesses employ mobile apps (although almost half of the respondents find it “extremely challenging”). This means there is a disconnect between consumers and business mobile apps; and therefore there is opportunity for companies that invest well in creating attractive yet useful online apps.

– Consumers are more educated than ever because of technology. This means they expect more out of a store while visiting. Beyond friendly service, they want informed, customized experiences that include exclusive in-store deals; personalized recommendations/choices while shopping (personal or online); and knowledgeable employees to engage with.

The above is certainly germane to businesses of any size or market share vying for general contractor dollars via smartphone avenues. After all, the average cost of a business app is a sensible $6,453. Furthermore and regardless of the consumer sector, the Google study stresses one key, universal rule when it comes to satisfying smartphone users: make buying a complete and involving experiencing the entire process.

In a way and good news for the future, customer service has not changed, except that information is always at the shopper’s grasp. Therefore, it is essential for marketers to continue gaining and giving data to general contractors—especially with a vastly improving housing and building economy.

Contractor VS General Shopping

High Tech Solutions for Mobile Offices

Offices are traditionally a sedentary place where business is conducted and your clients come to you for services. But for general contractors and those who work on job sites rather than in a traditional office, it can be difficult to maintain efficient technology.

 

Apple Pay

Apple Pay launched this week and although it has some glitches, it allows people to pay for services and products with a few clicks on their iPhones, even at retail stores.  iPhones and other smartphones are now also handheld computers that perform almost as efficiently as a laptop or tablet. The new iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy 4 Note can be both phone and computer in industries with mobile job sites.

 

Using a Smartphone means draining the battery but there are new ways to combat the constant empty battery syndrome. Samsung Galaxy 5’s are offering interchangeable battery systems so phones don’t have to be plugged in constantly. For other phones, pre-charged power packs are available.

 

Handoff

Apple also created ease for Macs and iPhone owners with the new OS X Yosemite operating system. It allows an instant switch from iPad to Mac to iPhone using Handoff. Contractors can easily start a document or project on one device and finish it on another. The new operating system also features an updated format that makes it easier to send spreadsheets via services such as Google Docs or Dropbox. This means that documents can be worked on at home and then accessed on the road.

 

Pocket-sized projectors

Pocket Projectors are the answer to packing light and still being able to present high quality presentations to clients and subcontractors. Projectors run anywhere from under $100 to several hundred dollars. They work with Smartphones and one can access and control the projector through an app. Samsung, Philips, Epson, 3M, and GE are just a few big names that offer pocket projectors. There are wireless options, and those that offer superior picture quality, though of course that raises the price of the projector. Recently, our team attended a technology day at a local business and the presenters brought a mini projector as part of their technology display. The projector was small, and fit into an adult hand, but displayed the PowerPoint and worked just as efficiently as a full-sized projector.

 

Mobile job sites also need data and many phone companies offer Smartphones as hotspots. Smartphones, projectors and other technology can be used as a hotspot to share Wi-Fi for up to ten devices.

 

Agent

This is a new app free through the Google Play store that can help contractors keep tabs on the little things.

• Agent helps conserve phone battery

• Agent silences phone during meetings, based on one’s Google calendar

• Agent can remember details, such as where a car is parked

• Agent can auto-respond to calls when one is driving

• Agent only allows urgent calls and messages through when one wants to sleep

The advancement of technology provides many avenues of professionalism and efficiency. It also provides the ability to easily offer clients high quality work. Understanding how to best utilize this technology is easier in today’s world as well. Many companies not only provide a manual but have created hands-on ways to learn to use new technology. Companies like Apple offer classes for those buying new products, and many also post how-to videos on Youtube.

Upgrading a mobile job site may take some work but once completed, the technology and efficiency is easily moved to the next venue. It’s an investment in organization, saving time and banking on that bottom line.

Did you know? We have access to almost 80K contractors for your marketing research needs. Call us today!

 

 

 

 

Sci-Fi Writing Influencing Innovation

Video Chat. The Internet. Ear buds, Antidepressants. All of these innovations can be found in science fiction stories many years before they became reality, and now the Holoroom is one of them.

In an interesting collaberation, Lowe’s teamed with science fiction writers at SciFutures to help solve a common problem that vexes home improvement customers everyday. One might wonder, “What could sci-fi writers possibly bring to a brand selling DIY products and home decor?”

The seeds of the idea were planted with SciFutures co-founder Ari Popper, who commissioned a story and pictures about a hapless future couple who design their next DIY projectusing a 3D virtual simulator.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs made the simulator a reality they’re calling Holorooms. Holorooms will launch in two Lowe’s outlets in Toronto later this year.

Essentially, shoppers can build virtual 3D models of, for example, their bathroom and see how different mirrors, vanities, fixtures would look in it. The concept helps tackle the difficulty shoppers often have visualizing what new products will look like in their own space.

Lowes VR
The Holoroom uses augmented reality, a technology that enriches the real world with digital information such as 3D models. Shoppers input the dimensions of the room they’re trying to animate into a computer program and load different products they’re thinking of purchasing. They then gointo a Holoroom with a tablet. There, they can use the tablet to see what the room would look like with the new products they’re thinking about purchasing. Markers on the walls and floor of the Holoroom helps inform scale so that products appear correctly sized for the environment.

Walking around the Holoroom is designed to replicate the feeling of walking in the users’ actual room, giving shoppers the ability to, for example, toggle through different cabinets for their kitchen.

Although Holoroom will launch in only two Lowe’s stores in Toronto later this year, Lowe’s Innovation’s Labs have continued their work with the writers of SciFutures and will be making more announcements in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Top 5 Home Improvement Projects for the Summer

Summer is an excellent time to start looking at areas of your home that might need some remodeling. With cold winters and wet springs, a house can endure a lot of seasonal stressors.

Wind, snow, ice and rain all take their toll, which makes summer a great time to assess what damage has been done. Though hot and humid, there tends to be less adverse weather in the summer months. This removes certain complications that could come with winter construction projects, such as dealing with ice and materials that expand due to shifts in temperature and sunlight exposure. While there could be any number of structural issues that require attention around the house, here are five renovation ideas to consider this summer:

Home Improvement Projects Infographic

1. Clean, Repair or Replace the Gutters
A simple yet important task to consider this summer is examining the condition of gutters. After a year of seasonal changes, summer is an optimal time to schedule an inspection.

Strange leaks, water splashing out during rainstorms and standing water are all signs the gutters are going to need repair or even replacement. You should also consider the possibility of installing self-cleaning gutters to help sustain their longevity throughout the years.

2. Install New Siding
Although the freezing rain and wind have passed, their effects can still resonate in your home’s siding. The first step is deciding whether or not the current siding materials are helping the homeowner conserve energy. Next, schedule a professional inspection of the siding to identify any current or potential problems.

If the material covering the house is vinyl, it’s very likely a large portion of the siding will have to be replaced if there’s been any damage from previous months. This is because vinyl cannot be repaired.

If you need to replace your vinyl siding, consider experimenting with modern alternatives. For example, fiber cement siding is stronger than vinyl and is more prepared withstand the stresses of winter.

3. Repair and Seal Decks and Porches
Summer is a great time to enjoy sitting on the porch or deck, but before you get too comfortable, make sure these outdoor areas survived the winter. During colder months, water can seep into the cracks of concrete and freeze, pushing the material out and causing cracks. Frigid temperatures are also tough on wood decks, and in areas that experience snow, it’s sometimes hard to keep the wood healthy and in optimal condition.

Repairing these areas and sealing cracks can help ensure they last through another winter. If you hire the right contractor to handle the job, your deck could possibly be just about as strong and visually attractive as when it was new.

4. Install Energy-Efficient Windows
During the past several years, there’s developed a growing interest in ways to keep temperatures low without the need for constant air conditioning. This helps the environment and saves money at the same time.

Fiberglass and vinyl offer great energy-efficiency compared to wood, and they don’t require as much upkeep. Looking into how different types of glass may be able to improve the functionality of existing windows is also a great idea.

5. Metal Roofing
If it fits the budget, installing a metal roof is one of the smartest decisions a homeowner can make. It can easily increase the property’s value and reduce power cost. Metal roofs also last longer than asphalt shingles—and with less maintenance. The color and texture is entirely customizable, making metal a versatile roofing material.

Metal roofs are particularly effective at keeping the home interior cool during warmer months. They reflect sunlight away from the house, an advantage that can be enhanced by special coatings and finishes. Quality metal roofs also withstand snow, rain and even hail much better than traditional asphalt shingles, making them a practical choice to prepare a home for adverse weather.

Summer is not only a great time to enjoy the outdoors, but it’s also an opportunity to improve the condition of a building and even make it more energy efficient. By taking the time to inspect the different areas of your home, and taking action to make repairs or replacements as necessary, you can help maintain your property’s value, as well as its structural integrity, no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.

About the Author
Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul is a guest blogger for qSample and also writes for the Global Home ImprovementHe strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar.