Building by design: Wifi and EMFs

Written by Econ’s Dalit Holzman and originally published by North Shore News September 2013

Sitting at my kitchen table off Grand Boulevard in North Vancouver, my laptop picks up three wireless networks. When I lived in a high-rise near Park Royal, I routinely would see 20 or more pop up. If I take a stroll down Lonsdale, it seems like just about every business has its own; plus my Internet provider has blanketed the area with its wireless network making it ever easier to jump online. The convenience is remarkable. But still, I can’t help but feel wary. All of these signals, bouncing around: wireless coverage, lightning speed cell phone networks, Smart Meters, standard EMFs…our bodies sitting in the middle. 

Most of us are not strangers to the Smart Meter debate. I walked by a home the other day with 8 “no Smart Meter” signs on its various doors. The group Citizens for Safe Technology has created action kits for Wi-Fi, Smart Meters, cell towers and cell phones stating its concern about the exponential increase in public exposures to harmful wireless technologies. However, BC Hydro defends its technological achievement, stating that “the exposure to radio frequency from a smart meter, over its entire 20-year life span, is less than a single 30-minute cell phone call”. 

Many, including the WHO, deny that we are at risk within our modern world. The World Health Organization publicly states: “Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields. However, some gaps in knowledge about biological effects exist and need further research.”

And it’s the gaps that worry me. I am certain that when I turn down the dimmer switch in our bedroom, the light actually buzzes, and am pretty sure I detect a high-pitched ringing when my cell phone is on charge. These items are dwarfed by our very near future filled with smart networks, sensor networks, smart buildings and self-driving cars. From my perspective, the “gap” WHO mentions is that all of these technologies have not been around for long enough to know the greater effects on our collective health.

In the meantime, there are a handful of principles commonly used to limit EMF, wireless and radiation exposure when building a new home. People embarking on construction should have a thorough discussion with their contractor to communicate their wishes, understanding that their desires will certainly translate to extra project cost. 

The safest option to decrease EMF exposure is to distance oneself from it as much as possible. This can affect not only one’s decision on where to build his/her home (in relation to transfer stations, cell towers, etc.), but also how the home is laid out within the interior. The kitchen and media room are a home’s technological epicenters, while the bedroom is traditionally designed to function as a safe-haven from technology. In this regard it is best to keep the kitchen, media room, office and mechanical room grouped together within the home, and sitting as far away (vertically and horizontally) as possible from the bedroom(s). 

Furthermore, the permeability of the house’s membrane affects the overall shielding to exposure. As builders, our company has experienced that steel cladding and roofing can virtually eliminate radiation, wireless, cell coverage and EMFs from external sources. On the interior of the home, limiting exposure can be achieved by hardwiring your computers, using corded phones, eliminating dimmer switches, installing master kill switches (used to turn off circuit zones during sleep hours, etc.), and running wiring through well-shielded rigid conduit in patterns that do not encircle bedrooms.

Anticipate The Phases of Construction

Written by Econ Group’s Dalit Holzman and originally published in North Shore News July 2013

To anyone outside the construction industry, the process of building might easily feel daunting. As with any other field, terminologies and acronyms abound, making our lingo sometimes sound completely foreign to people outside the business. Over the next few weeks I hope to shed some light on the standard phases of construction in order to help readers feel a bit more at home with building a home. In this part I have used a sequential checklist format for your easy future reference.

 

Pre-Construction phase

  • Design process: a homeowner can work with a designer, an architect or even directly with a design-build construction company for this. (In the case of single-family residential construction within the Vancouver area, an architect’s stamp is not necessary from a Municipal point of view.) It is helpful to be upfront during this process with overall budget requirements so that the home being designed can best fit within them. In this regard, it is advantageous to have your builder selected early on so that their knowledge of real-world costs can be utilized during the design process.
  • Construction Plans are finalized
  • A builder is selected (visit www.tumblr.com/cliffhangerhouse for one North Vancouverite’s insightful account of “Choosing a Contractor”)
  • Homeowner begins selecting products in conjunction with the design team (you may or may not decide to bring on the services of an interior designer for your project)
  • Builder prepares home warranty documents for building permit submission
  • Plans are submitted to Municipal approval body
  • Builder prepares a line item budget (upon Municipal stamped approval of any design and engineering plans)
  • Budget is finalized
  • Homeowner secures project financing
  • Homeowner determines who will fulfill the role of Consultant and Payment Certifier during construction (this often is the designer of the home)
  • Homeowner, Consultant and Builder sign the Construction Contract after full legal review

Construction phase

  • On-going: Builder tracks the timeline and budget, updating the Homeowner regularly
  • On-going: Change Orders issued and approved (to request major modifications)
  • Trees and plants protected as defined by Municipality
  • Site is mobilized with temporary power and on-site equipment storage/office facility
  • Site is surveyed/pinned for excavation
  • Road access is created
  • Site is prepared: demolition, excavation and blasting
  • Temporary de-watering put in place if needed
  • Footings are poured with subsequent Municipal, engineering, geotechnical inspections
  • Foundation is poured with subsequent Municipal, engineering inspections
  • Exterior concrete (stairs, walkways, etc.) are engineered
  • Homeowner is now eligible to receive “first draw” of construction financing upon bank appraisal of jobsite
  • Frame is built with subsequent Municipal, engineering inspections
  • Roofing and deck are installed
  • Mechanical Trades phase: HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning), plumbing, electrical
  • Windows and doors are installed
  • Envelope and rain-screen are built
  • Municipal and engineering inspections
  • Homeowner is now eligible to receive “second draw” of construction financing upon bank appraisal of jobsite
  • Insulation and drywall are built
  • Homeowner is now eligible to receive “third draw” of construction financing upon bank appraisal of jobsite
  • Interior finishing is built: floors, lighting/plumbing fixtures, painting, millwork, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, tile, etc.
  • Exterior finishing is built: siding, painting, railings, etc.
  • Exterior pool is built if necessary
  • Appliances are installed
  • Property is landscaped
  • Final Municipal inspection carried out to secure Occupancy Permit
  • Homeowner/Builder walk-through and final approval
  • Homeowner is now eligible to receive “final draw” of construction financing upon bank appraisal of jobsite

Post-Construction phase

  • Builder provides Homeowner with Project Binder noting all relevant contacts, products, finishes, maintenance procedures
  • Home warranty document enrollment and activation
corecon2

Construction Management enters the modern age

We at Econ Group are excited to share great news regarding the Corecon software we’ve been using for estimating, project management and job cost control.

The developer of the software has just released its newest, and most exciting collaboration tool: TeamLink.

Corecon’s TeamLink Portal connects fully the internal efforts of employees and gives project owners and other outside team members secure, real-time access to important project information. The portal, when utilized properly, aids communication, thereby reducing changes in the field and shortening schedules.

Via our computers and SmartPhones this portal gives the right Econ member or supplier/sub-trade the right information at the right time. In an industry where volumes of information are exchanged among project team members throughout the course of a project, streamlining communication is a crucial aspect to maximizing productivity, mitigating risk and increasing project success.

In a nutshell, with TeamLink, all communications run through a consolidated network, so that documents, changes and all other notes are stored in one place. As with other software of this type, permissions are granted so that the owner, architect, sub-trades, etc. will see data meant only for their respective eyes, while full access will be granted to our internal Econ team.

Corecon Construction Management Software


Corecon Technologies Construction Software affords Econ Group complete visibility into every facet of construction project management. The comprehensive program is a web-based suite used for estimating, project management, job cost control, and scheduling that incorporates industry best practices and improves productivity from the office to the job-site.

Econ Group is the first local construction company of our size to have implemented this technology.

Estimating: As a Corecon user, Econ Group offers timely estimates, with the ability to quickly revise the budget based on alternate client choices or through the change order process.

Project Budget: Corecon software offers an integrated Job Cost Control solution that continuously assists Econ’s project team and accounting staff. With a centralized, single point of data entry, Corecon’s Financial Dashboards provide management a clear, real-time overview on active projects.

Time tracking: For companies that self-perform work, tracking employee labor and/or equipment on a daily or weekly basis is crucial to keeping projects in line with budgets. Corecon’s Time and Expenses module allows Econ Group employees to enter their own time remotely via Smart Phone and supervisors to review and approve.

Scheduling: Corecon’s technology provides a cutting edge solution for scheduling. No longer needing to designate an individual in our office to manage and print schedules Econ now uses this web-based solution to provide distributed teams the ability to view and update task information anytime, anywhere.

Econ Group Construction gets ready to grow

Really, it’s no secret that neither Vancouver’s economy nor its housing market is in any sort of the same rough shape as is being experienced south of the 49th. Just last month the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reported that there were 1,555 housing starts in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in January 2012, compared to 1,436 starts in January 2011. Truly, as the only explicitly modern residential contractor in the Lower Mainland, Econ Group can attest that single-family home construction just isn’t hurting here in Vancouver.

“In 2010, we began to realize that the work wasn’t slowing and that we just had to get ready to grow from small to truly medium-sized in a relatively short time frame,” says Michael Dutson, one of Econ Group’s Principals. “In an industry where unforeseen schedule and cost impacts often occur as par-for-the-course, we at Econ Group have always expected more of ourselves.”

As prerequisite to any further, well-organized growth Econ Group identified its core back-end Project Management process to be in need of a major overhaul. After a period of product testing, the team finally settled on Corecon Technologies’ Construction Management software for all its Project Management, estimating and scheduling needs.

Internal office structure

“Both internally and externally, we have always strived for easy, honest and well-informed communication. Implementing Project Management software was one thing, but as our business has grown over the past 10 years, the responsibilities of myself and my business partner, Mike, became cumbersome,” says Marcel Studer, the other of Econ’s Principals. “We found ourselves needing support staff to carry and direct our growth.”

To that end, Econ Group brought on both an Operations Manager to control the Corecon-maintained backend and a Manager of Communications and Marketing to keep the team busy with exactly the kinds of modern, forward-thinking home construction on which they have built their strong reputation.

With a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Vienna, Patricia Lubensky, Operations Manager, brings to Econ Group 13 years of experience within the fields of technical account management and controlling, software development and IT system administration. A passionate yogi and mother of two, Patricia’s attention to detail and thorough communication style makes her the perfect fit within the Econ team.

Dalit Holzman, Econ’s new Manager of Communications and Marketing, comes to us freshly returned from a five-year stint on Vancouver Island. Through her 2 years as Manager of Operations, Customer Service and Marketing at Natural Pod (Canada’s leading manufacturer/online-retailer of natural toys) and founding of the Vancouver Mommy Map and Co-op Radio’s It Takes a Village, Dalit’s foundation within her job-description is solid.

Continuing Professional Development

In a field where staying current on the latest innovations and certifications is essential, Econ Group has been hard at work keeping up to date and in the know.