Research + Tech

NRCA repair manual now is available

NRCA's Repair Manual for Low-slope Membrane Roof Systems, 2nd Edition now is available.

The unbiased, authoritative reference guide offers industry best practices for the repair of low-slope membrane roof systems, including thermoplastic and thermoset roof membranes, polymer-modified bitumen and built-up roofing, and mechanically attached metal flashings.

In addition, the repair manual provides updated photos and instructions for more than 90 step-by-step repair procedures.

To order a hard copy of the repair manual or download the electronic version, click here.

Pennsylvania updates its building and plumbing codes

The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved the update of its state building code, the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), based on the 2015 International Codes (I-Codes). The I-Codes are a family of comprehensive building codes used in U.S. states and many countries.

Pennsylvania's building codes for residential and commercial construction had not been fully updated in nearly a decade. The updates to the state's building codes took effect Oct. 1.

"This full review is the result of a great collaboration between the Code Council, Pennsylvania's elected leadership, and the construction and building safety community," says Sara Yerkes, senior vice president of government relations for the International Code Council. "We are excited to see Pennsylvania taking this important step to elevate building safety and make it a priority for people throughout the state."

IRRC's decision to update Pennsylvania's building code comes after similar efforts in Philadelphia to modernize building codes at the city level. In June, Philadelphia adopted the International Building Code,® 2018 edition into law for commercial construction. The new order, which also took effect in October, will make new commercial and multifamily buildings within Philadelphia more efficient and safer.

Survey reveals technology can help ease the labor shortage

A recent survey of more than 2,500 construction professionals conducted by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America and software company Autodesk has revealed some construction companies are introducing new technology in response to the ongoing labor shortage, according to

Eighty percent of survey respondents indicated they are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, and 81 percent of construction firms said it will continue to be difficult or become more difficult to find craft workers this year. Nearly half the firms indicated project completions are taking longer and bid prices are higher because of higher than anticipated costs.

Some employers have increased pay, benefits and training to help attract more workers. Other companies, the survey found, are introducing technology such as virtual construction, off-site prefabrication, building information modeling, drones, GPS, laser-guided equipment and 3-D printing to ease labor shortages.

Sarah Hodges, senior director of Autodesk's construction business line, believes technology can help construction companies complete projects faster without requiring extra workers. Technology enables connectivity between a company's job site and back office like never before, she says, and changes how information is collected and analyzed, both of which can drive increased efficiencies. Autodesk aims to have students and craft workers exposed to technologies that help automate portions of construction processes and enhance technology users' problem-solving capabilities.

"Construction is not a dangerous, dead-end career," says Ken Simonson, chief economist for AGC of America. "It provides great opportunity to use tools and technologies of many kinds."

Dan Gilbane, senior vice president of Gilbane Building Co.'s southwest division, recognizes the construction industry is experiencing a rare time where most geographies and market sectors are growing. As a result, Gilbane has introduced drones, 3-D printing and virtual environments into his company. Using such technologies has had a "huge impact on our business not only from attracting and retaining talent, but also by accelerating productivity," he says. And the inclusion of technologies within his construction company has the added benefit of appealing to young workers, a group that is notoriously difficult to attract to the industry.

Virtual reality technologies can enhance safety training

The use of virtual reality- (VR-) based simulators and apps are changing how construction industry trainees are learning about safety, according to VR allows trainees to gain hands-on experience with common job-site hazards without undertaking real-world risks.

In a Sept. 12 webinar, "Upping the game: The evolution of virtual reality technology in the construction industry," presented by Engineering News-Record, presenters explained how VR has evolved and how it will continue to transform safety within the industry.

Thomas E. Kramer, managing principal at engineering firm LJB Inc. and vice chairman of the ANSI Z359 Accredited Standards Committee, said VR can reinforce elements of an effective fall-protection program. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations related to fall safety quadrupled between 1995 and 2016, and annual personal protective equipment sales increased from $300 million to $800 million. Yet annual workplace fall fatalities increased from 651 fatalities to 849 fatalities during the same timeframe.

To help combat the problem, the American Society of Safety Professionals developed a VR, headset-based Fall Protection Experience app designed to simulate high-risk construction environments. Users are immersed in a simulation of a two-story building and prompted to identify common fall hazards before building an appropriate fall-protection system. The app visually demonstrates fall protection as a system of interconnected components, rather than a single piece of equipment, and reportedly can teach trainees in seven minutes what would take hours of lecture time in a classroom.

Kramer also said turning safety training into a game helps hold trainees' attention while they learn about an important topic. The VR app "increases attention spans and reinforces critical behaviors," he said.

Sometimes fall-related deaths happen because an untrained person is being asked to conduct temporary work at heights using an improper or inadequate method to reach the height, said Tim Whiteman, CEO and managing director of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF). He explained powered access via a mobile elevated work platform or mast-climbing work platform is the safest and most effective way to reach a needed height.

Training workers how to safely use powered machines always is a challenge, so IPAF has turned to VR simulations as a new training method. Traditional training methods involve a half-day in a classroom and a half-day on machines before trainees take a test, Whiteman said, but VR simulation takes users through true-to-life demonstrations for enhanced and expedited instruction. The most sophisticated 3-D simulations present such a realistic portrayal of a powered machine that some trainees are initially hesitant to operate them.

"People who haven't been on a simulator have a vastly different opinion of what VR and simulators can be used for compared to those who have been on one for even five minutes," he explained. "It changes your view very quickly."

As with many technologies, VR-based simulators and apps have some drawbacks. A trainee can use the technology to experience high-risk situations, but constant immersion in a VR environment can cause a trainee to develop a false sense of invincibility and reduce his or her reaction to real-life dangers.

Despite the drawbacks, Whiteman expressed confidence simulators can realistically be used to complement real-life training, citing how airline pilots train in simulators.

"VR has the capacity to enhance training and make it more engaging," he said. "We're really only just starting to understand what's possible. There's no doubt there's an exciting future for VR."



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