Cybersecurity in Construction: Five Tips

Too many construction firms believe “it won’t happen to me.” But it can and will happen to you if you’re not careful. Recent high-profile hackings have proven that no matter how big your company is, there’s always a way around lax security. Construction Dive also found a 400% increase in ransomware attacks, proving the industry is not immune.

Read on for these five tips on how to protect yourself and your business.

  1. Beware of phone hackers.

A surprising amount of hacking depends on phishing, and not the digital kind. A hacker may call a receptionist or any more junior employee and try to mine the conversation for useful information. Teach your employees about this tactic and offer ways to counter callers who seem a little too curious.

  1. Choose your email system carefully.

Your email system is the weakest link in a cunning—and often highly effective—phishing technique known as “spear phishing.” Hackers who use this technique can send phishing emails under seemingly legitimate accounts. Imagine getting an email from your CEO asking you to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to an account. Or a similar email from an associate, contractor, or supplier. You’d answer it, right? Many people would.

Which is how the Boulder Valley School District lost $850,000 to scammers. They were lucky compared to MacEwan University, which lost $12 million to a scam.

It’s worth investing in a solid, secure email system. Before you ditch your cloud service, consider that most newer cloud-storage email systems have security that can help prevent these situations. Two-factor authentication is one.

  1. Bring security in-house.

It may be the last line item you want to add to your budget, but a dedicated security professional on your team can go a long way towards ensuring your company and its data are safe from attack.

If you just can’t make room for a full-time staff member, consider hiring a certified contractor to fill the gaps. Look for CISSP, CCE, CISA, CRISC, and GCIH certifications. The Federal Trade Commission has also produced this security guide for beginners. You may want to take a look.

  1. Don’t make too many admins.

Sure, it’s more convenient to add an additional admin to an account, program, or system, rather than finding an existing one. But convenience can also cost you in the long run, giving hackers access to a greater number of targets. You may need stakeholders to be able to access a BIM file, but does every member of every organization need access? Probably not.  For more advice on better security around BIM files, read this report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

  1. Update your software.

The business equivalent of going to the dentist, updating your software is vital to good cybersecurity. Updates will patch holes, fix bugs, and generally prep your system to handle newer forms of attack.

In short, the construction industry is vulnerable to the hacks, scams, and other forms of cyberattack that plague other industries. But with good security hygiene and a careful look at your existing security systems, you won’t have to worry.

The State of Green Building: the 2017 NAHB and Walls Fargo Housing Survey

Last year, NAHB and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index polled 337 single-family home builders on their use of environmentally-friendly products and practices. The answers are revealing. While the majority of surveyed builders do incorporate green products and practices in their construction, many lag behind when it comes to getting homes green-certified.


What counts as a green practice or product? For the purposes of this survey, the National Green Building Standard served as a guide for the survey questions, which asked builders if they had used any of 21 selected products and practices.


Here are the results:


Builders could also write in different products or indicate that they used no green products or practices whatsoever. However, every builder who responded said they used at least one. 13% wrote in other green features they used in their homes.


The poll also asked builders whether their homes were certified by any industry standard of green building.


Understandably, builders who use a higher number of green products and practices in construction also have a tendency to have their homes certified.


However the gap between builders who always or almost always have their homes certified and those who never or almost never have their homes certified is very large, with 48% reporting they never or almost never certify their homes to a green standard.

Back to the Future: Construction Technology Uses Sci-Fi Capabilities to Solve Today’s Jobsite Problems

Some things will never replace the hammer and nail, but construction technology continues to evolve. Yesterday’s science fiction– including robots, virtual reality, and “smart” technology– has gone mainstream as engineers address today’s challenges.


Redshift by AutoDesk recently published a list of cutting-edge technology trends that shaped 2017, and will continue to be influential in 2018.


Photo by Built Robotics. 


Green Asphalt

The construction industry is no stranger to using recycled products to improve the sustainability of our roadways. It began with rubber. Today builders use recycled bottles.



Two high-profile bridges added visibility to the power of concrete printers in 2017. Both a Madrid Gaudi-inspired  pedestrian bridge and a cyclist bridge in the Netherlands were constructed on-site.


3D-printed concrete is not just a fun sci-fi material. It lowers the amount of cement required, eliminates the need for formwork, and extends design possibilities.


Robots on the Jobsite

Robotics has been quietly transforming the jobsite for years. Trucks and especially dump trucks are often automated.


You may be familiar with the SAM, or Semi-Automated Mason, a robotic bricklayer that can work alongside its human counterparts. Another recent innovation is the autonomous track loader, which cuts and files while using a combination of GPS, LIDAR, and other digital resources to guide itself around the site.


Virtual Reality

Once a sci-fi idea, virtual reality is now a useful and commonly-used tool in industry. It has proven its effectiveness in cutting costs, helping an Alabama hospital shave $250,000 off its bottom line by replacing physical mock-ups.


Augmented Reality

Equally popular with VR is AR, or augmented reality. Google Glass may not have become a household product, but the system has found a home in manufacturing applications. The DAQRI smart helmet and an iOS app called Air Measure bring BIM to the jobsite in new and immersive ways.


Photo via AGCO.


Circular Business Models

Circular building is less of an innovation and more of an innovative shift in thinking.  These buildings are referred to as “circular” because they are built to be deconstructed and their materials reused.


Speaking for European construction firm Royal BAM, Nitesh Magdani said, “In effect, we’re trying to create ways to lease materials, so that this future value can be captured.”


Self-Healing Concrete

The ancient Romans knew how to pave their roadways with self-healing concrete, but modern engineers have yet to catch up. Materials scientists at Rutgers University may be close, however, with their experimentation with the fungus Trichoderma reesei that fixes cracks as they form.


Solar and “Smart” Roadways

Last year, the Federal Highway Administration gave a big boost to proponents of solar roads when they granted $750,000 to a firm called Solar Roadways. Solar roadways feature embedded solar panels that may “pay for themselves” by generating power.


Glow-in-the-dark roadways and roadways designed to charge electric cars may be in our future as well.


The Internet of Things and the Construction Industry

Aside from attracting a flurry of consumer interest, the Internet of Things also has less-obvious implications for the jobsite.


Recently Cisco took a look at the evolving role of IoT in construction.


Enhancing Jobsite Safety

Safety is one of the main benefits of smartening the jobsite.


Machinery is increasingly sensor-based, primed to avoid crashes. Data shared among machines “leads to decisions being made real-time on the movement of cranes, to ensure they don’t collide with each other,” says Dima Tokar, co-founder and chief technology officer at MachNation.


These systems can also reduce theft. Big-name construction firms such as CASE and Caterpillar hard-wire technology that allows owners to track the location of each machine.


Optimizing Performance

Machine makers have started to embed augmented reality, virtual reality, and remote-controlled parts into their machines. These tools are designed to bring performance to a new height.


Like cars, machines often need to be serviced. With the new generation of smart machines, they’ll let you know. An IoT-era digger will send you an alert when engine fluid is low. Other devices employ thermal imaging to check older machines.


Building from a Distance

The jobsite of the future may look very different from the jobsite today. It might not even be a jobsite. AutoDesk is among those leading the charge to a fully-automated, remote-controlled jobsite that can be managed from afar.



As these changes hit the industry, expect the trend lines to point to a safer, more productive future.


Smarten Up Your Jobsite: Three Reasons Why

With the Internet of Things transforming many industries– including construction– you may be wondering what this powerful new (and old) technology can do for you.


The construction management blog Capterra summarized the main benefits of making your jobsite a little smarter.


Lower Your Costs

This one is a no-brainer. Of course you’d love to spend less, and increase your profit margin. The Internet of Things shaves off your costs by attending to small details. Stop losing equipment by fitting them with RFID tags, or track your supplies and have a notification sent to you when you need to place another order.


Self-detecting sensors can send maintenance requests before the situation gets critical, saving you the expense of handling a complete breakdown.


You can also save energy and cash and install temperature and electricity monitors so you know when you need to turn off the lights.


Make Your Jobsite Safe

A 10% annual accident rate is too high. But that’s what most job sites are facing.


Remote-controlled machinery, operated via internet, reduces the risk of human-involved accidents. They can be operated in environmentally hazardous zones, at no cost to your crews.


Hands-free, or wearable gadgets reduce the risks that come when your workers need to pause and send texts or emails or read instructions. They can also do automatic time logging for you, reducing fraud. Some hands-free devices, such as Google Glass, also feature AR, or augmented reality, functions.


Improve Design

Over the past ten years, 3D BIM technology has all but replaced 2D architectural blueprints. This opens up a new world of possibilities for construction workers to use ultra-accurate computer-generated imagery to enhance their performance. Combined with AR, it is now possible to lay a BIM image on top of a construction site as you work.


Also, the benefits of “smart homes” are not just for the buyer. Sensors in a smart home can monitor the air pressure and temperature after construction is complete.



A smart machine represents an evolution—in safety, in maintenance, and management. Make the investment now, and you will reap the benefits in lower costs, fewer accidents, and better design down the line.


The Data-Driven Jobsite

Pillar Technologies Harnesses the Internet of Things for Smarter, Safer Jobsites


Construction is an inherently risky business. Even if you account for the (unfortunately not too unrealistic) possibility of jobsite theft, you still have to contend with the elements. Flooding, fires, and mold can endanger your project—and cut into your profits—as well.


Enter Pillar Technologies, the company behind a new line of smart sensors for construction sites.


Pillar Technologies’ sensors are designed to be mounted every 2000 square feet. These battery-powered, internet-connected devices monitor jobsite conditions. The system collects and analyzes data for environmental conditions like humidity, temperatures, air pressure, chemical pollution, and noise vibration. If there is cause for concern, smart sensors automatically alert site managers.


Photo Courtesy of Tech Crunch


For contractors, site managers, and owners, the monitoring and early intervention offered by this system has the power to save millions of dollars in repairs, claims, court fees, and compensation. Who wouldn’t want to be told before humidity becomes water damage? Pillar technology can also help builders adhere to safety laws and best practices. Sensors track the amount of dust workers are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. This will eliminate false claims and also help builders ensure a safer jobsite.


Pillar recently was recognized with a $425,000 grant and won the Forbes Under 30 Change the World competition.


It’s a nod to the potentially ground-breaking power of Pillar Technologies’ sensor technology. Their website acknowledges their desire to be a “pioneer for change.” They are one of many firms transforming the industry through the skillful use of data through the Internet of Things. If their innovation makes the whole construction world a little safer and more profitable—well, that’s a win for everyone.


No Construction Jobs Please, Say Millenials

Where is the next generation of construction leaders? It’s one question everyone in construction, from builders to framers, has been asking themselves. It’s an especially relevant question given the ongoing labor shortage—a situation likely to worsen with enforcement up on immigration laws.


Upcoming talent is a significant health indicator for any industry, and that goes double for the labor-strapped construction industry. According to an NAHB study published last year, the next generation of construction labor may not be waiting in the wings.


How the Construction Trades Fared


The survey respondents ranged from 18-25 and included 2001 people selected to create proportional representation along race and gender lines. In this group, 74% felt they had decided on a career, while 26% were still undecided. The top draws included management, IT, and the medical field.



Unfortunately, for those who are decided, only 3% plan to pick up a hard hat anytime soon. Though the numbers are higher among white and Hispanic men, few young people overall seem decided on a career in the construction trades.


Choosing a Field


The good news is that undecided young adults are more open to considering it, with a few caveats. Many Millenials seem less moved by pay than interest – they want a job they love. The second largest group of ‘decided’ respondents indicated they chose their field based on skills they already possess.




While pay is not a primary motivator, undecided young adults seemed more open than their decided peers to choosing a career based on compensation.


Perceptions of the Construction Trade Among Young Adults


There seems to be a gap between what young adults want and what construction offers.


However, it seems to be due in part to a perception problem—not a genuine mismatch.


Young adults who felt strongly against a career in construction cited their perception of construction work as “difficult” (32%) and physically demanding (48%). They doubted the pay would make up for these perceived deficiencies. 19% said they “wanted to make more money than people in construction trades make.”


Just 13% thought construction work could yield salaries of over $75,000.


Finding out construction work might, in fact, command a higher paycheck than they thought led many to second-guess their decisions.



The jump is particularly noticeable at $75,000.


While most construction roles don’t earn that amount, a substantial minority do—including supervisors, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamers. US Bureau of Labor data indicates that one-fourth of those key roles are filled by workers making more than $75,000 in 27 states for supervisors, and in 14 states for other skilled roles, respectively. The top 10% of most construction trades also make more than the cut-off.


Of course, rising to the top of any profession requires skill and work. But the rewards may be worthwhile. Management and executive positions in construction often go to those with the most experience in the trades. In construction, it’s relatively easy, in other words, to start at the bottom and work your way up. And that’s what this achievement-minded age group really wants.


Next Steps


Construction trades suffer from an image problem among Millenials and Gen Z. If the industry emphasizes that the construction jobsite can be a safe place to make a living– and that numerous opportunities for advancement and pay raises are available—we can begin building the construction leaders of the future.



Takeaways from the 2018 International Builders’ Show

After three days of walking around the 583,000 square feet of IBS, checking out as many of the 1,500 manufacturers and suppliers as you could, gushing over the Kohler exhibit and sneaking cookies from the Sherwin-Williams booth you are probably exhausted. We are too. But we are also pretty pumped about all the new technology showcased and the overall energy of show attendees!


We asked MiTek thought leaders what takeaways they have from IBS this year. Here are some big things they noticed.


Builders are feeling optimistic.


With the economy improving, more people are buying homes and that means more people are building homes. Builders are ready to explore new options for their operations that will harness this economic boom and help grow their business.


There is a significant skilled labor shortage.


It comes up again and again as we chat with builders, and this shortage was on the minds of builders at IBS — especially as business is starting to rise.


Technological solutions are the future.


All over IBS we saw automation, software and a precision crafted approach. Builders seem more open than ever to find innovative solutions to their problems.


We love hearing from our readers, customers and partners! Follow us on Facebook and send us a message about YOUR takeaways from this year’s IBS.

Inside the MiTek Booth at IBS

The NAHB 2018 International Builders’ Show® is a wrap! The show hosted 85,000 attendees and we were privileged to share our new technology and trusted solutions with people from all aspects of the building industry.


Eye Candy: OZCO

The MiTek booth made a statement, featuring an impressive OZCO pergola. This was our way of showing off how excited we are about this beautiful addition to our connector offerings. Professional builders and DIY-savvy homeowners are head over heels with this new product.


Barry Ashwell, MiTek VP of sales and marketing, talks about the inclusion of our OZCO product line.


Heart and Soul: The Combination of Hardware and Software


While the pergola was eye-catching, the heart and soul of MiTek is the system of innovative software suites and the most solid hardware in the market. We aimed to communicate the breadth of our offerings within our booth. But more than that, we wanted builders to know that MiTek understands their needs and we work hard to provide real solutions.


MiTek’s Tom Dixon explains the ecosystem of hardware and software at MiTek.


Inside the Booth: Real Solutions for Real People


As builders visited the MiTek booth, our team members took the time to figure out what kind of solutions we could provide each individual. One size does not fit all. We also had experts demonstrating the products and software in real time, allowing visitors to ask questions and get real-time feedback.


Sales manager, Jean-Marc Lefebvre, explains how he helps visitors to the MiTek booth.


Interested in learning more about the solutions we showcased at IBS this year? Read about how builders are “wasting less” and “building more” with MiTek:

Bumps Ahead: A 2018 Housing Market Forecast

This could be a tough year.


All the same, real estate experts have a nuanced take on what “tough” looks like.


A robust second half of 2017 may foreshadow a more productive 2018 in terms of housing starts.


Builders can expect a continued fight with trends that have characterized the last few years: shortages of labor and buildable lots, as well as a ramp-up in laws and regulations.


Rising Interest Rates

Low inventory, low interest rates, high prices. That was the 2017 housing market in a nutshell, according to Inman analysts.


At least one of those trends will likely reverse course in 2018.


30-year fixed rate mortgages have been hovering at an average interest rate of 3.9%. A team of top Zillow analysts projected that in 2018, that number will rise to 4.5%. This is still within the threshold of affordability for most buyers, but some may decide to sit this year out.


Sky-High Prices

New construction won’t be enough to offset the lingering shortage in most markets, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. It’s still a seller’s market, and there are no indications that will change in the coming year. Since the majority of sellers are also looking to buy, these sellers will be “prisoners in their homes,” despite the lucrative market, says Mark Fleming, chief economist of First American Financial.


Lawrence Yun is concerned about home prices most of all, citing a dramatic rise over the last few years- “four to five times faster than income growth.” According to a CoreLogic report half of the housing stock is overvalued in the top 50 markets.


Incomes are projected to grow in 2018, which could alleviate a bit of that pressure. However, rising interest rates could erode even those affordability gains all the same.




The Impact of Tax Reform

Under the recently-passed tax bill, property values could take a fall. The tax bill will be felt the most by homeowners in expensive coastal markets in New York and California, who will notice their property taxes have gone up. It may also slow growth in the spring as the public takes time to understand the impact of the bill on their specific situation. Accountants may find their phones ringing off the hook.



It may not be the smoothest ride, but 2018 does hold some promise for the industry, and especially for those who can make the most of the year’s unique challenges and opportunities.