Designs are often created online, clients and partners are interacted with online, but can someone learn design online? New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) believes at least the basics can be understood on the Internet with the launch of its first full online program: a one-year basic interior design (BID) certificate.

NYSID launched the program in August. The one-year online program aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the field of interior design. Students are not required to submit a portfolio for admission to the BID program, but NYSID stresses the online program provides the same rigorous education offered with the onsite BID certificate, although with greater flexibility. 

Even though many homeowners think of spring and early summer as the premier seasons for building a deck, that’s no reason to let business significantly slow down come chilly weather. It’s our job to educate homeowners about off-season building to help keep business booming throughout the year.

Regardless of the season, the variety of available products and the competitiveness of the market require sharp sales skills. Simply put, if you’re not upselling your customers, you’re missing out on a critical opportunity to grow your business and better serve your clients. Here are several strategies I’ve found to help upsell decking – while prompting homeowners to renovate their outdoor living space later in the year.

Builders and remodelers that view siding color as a critical design tool are ahead of the curve in creating appealing, one-of-a-kind households. After all, exterior color is a far more permanent investment than wall paint or interior décor and can help a homeowner increase the value of their home. 

“To select the right colors for your home, view siding colors as an exterior project tool that both turns a home into a showpiece and increases its value,” says Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the United States. 

The early 1900s saw automobile production explode with the introduction of the assembly line by Ford Motor Co. Nearly a century after the concept was first pioneered, the modular building sector is taking the assembly line model and applying it to homes. This concept has turned homes into a mass-produced item not unlike automobiles or household appliances. The big difference between what Henry Ford was able to accomplish in the early 1900s and today is the use of automation with CNC technology, allowing manufacturers to increase the accuracy and speed of production.

How CNC Automation is Possible

Over the last few years, the modular building sector has seen growth rising from 1 percent of the total value of construction in 2011 to 1.5 percent of the total value of construction in 2012. Modular construction involves building a home in “modules” and then transporting these pieces to the jobsite where they are connected. 

These modules are built in a facility where construction is uninterrupted by weather, subject to better quality control, and most importantly, where the use of CNC machinery is possible. Since 80 to 95 percent of the construction actually occurs in this facility, manufacturers can install CNC machines without needing to transport them back and forth between jobsites. 

How CNC Automation is Being Used

These modular construction facilities are designed in one of two basic flow patterns. Side-saddle flow factories move the modules through sideways in a single line and shotgun-flow factories move modules end-to-end with two separate lines. The flow pattern, regardless of the one used, takes the modules through eight major steps in the construction process: floor framing, floor decking, wall framing, wall set, wall sheathing, roof framing, roof set and roof decking. 

As little as a decade ago, the sizing and joining in each major step was done manually by workers. This has since changed as modular homebuilders have shifted to fully automated productions. The same cuts that workers provided manually, CNC routers now provide with greater speed and accuracy. CNC machines are now being used extensively to do everything from sizing studs and joists, drilling holes for cables or plumbing, and manufacturing stairs. 

Advantages of CNC Automation

CNC automation is quickly gaining traction in the modular building sector because of the many advantages it offers over traditional labor. As baby boomers begin to reach the age of retirement, more and more manufacturers are experiencing a shortage of skilled labor in the workforce. In December 2012, nearly 50 percent of companies surveyed in the Canadian manufacturing sector said they faced an immediate shortage of labor. 

CNC automation hedges against this decreasing pool of workers by reducing the need for skilled labor. CNC automation is shifting the demand away from skilled laborers toward CNC operators. CNC automation provides faster production times than manual labor. These reduced production times, coupled with the ability to work concurrently at both the construction facility and jobsite can lead to huge cost savings. Although the initial costs of CNC automation may be high, it can save manufacturers thousands on operating costs in the long-run. 

CNC automation also allows manufacturers to use their material more efficiently. Manufactures are able to use CAD/CAM software to optimize the use of their material and reduce waste. In some cases, site waste has been reduced by 5 percent or more, which translates to more than one ton of waste diverted from landfills. This optimization can result in a 20 percent increase in material yield, meaning materials are used much more efficiently. This will ultimately save manufacturers thousands of dollars over time as they make use of material previously thrown to the wayside.

Ford’s Model T made its debut in 1908 and sold more than 10,000 units. Over the next six years, Ford perfected the assembly line and by 1914 Ford held 48 percent of the entire auto market. The modular building sector is still in its infancy, but as more manufacturers shift to fully automated productions it too will see a massive rise in growth. There is no denying the many advantages that CNC automation offers and as the technology continues to be optimized for modular building it will only become more appealing for manufacturers in the industry. )

Daniel Austin is the vice president of sales and marketing at MultiCam Canada, a leading distributor of CNC cutting equipment. He can be contacted at

Griffin Coulter is the marketing intern at MultiCam Canada. He can be reached at

Many industries are eyeing mobile apps for their potential to streamline processes and save costs, and the construction industry is no different. Mobile apps are especially appealing to the construction industry because of the sheer number of moving parts in a project – from materials to labor – and the high costs associated with delays. Mobile app uses in the construction industry can be grouped into the following categories: 

1)Project management – This includes tasks such as materials ordering, time tracking, document management, change orders, expense reporting and data collection in the field. Foremen can carry a small tablet that allows them to track the job throughout the day. In addition, apps can tap into the native functions of a smartphone or tablet. For example, a camera can be used to provide precise measurements, or to overlay a current photo of a work site with a rendering of the finished project. 

2)Equipment management – Construction is an equipment-heavy industry and mobile apps can help simplify and reduce the paperwork that’s required to track and manage expensive equipment and supplies. For example, vehicle inspection checks can be performed on a smartphone or tablet, and can include video or photos of the equipment. Mobile apps can track the maintenance needs for equipment, help pinpoint and troubleshoot malfunctions via a mobile dashboard, and provide an electronic operation manual. 

3)Safety compliance – Mobile apps can play an important role in documenting and reporting incidents, and in safety training. Safety incident reports can be captured via a mobile app, which can use the device’s camera to document the scene for reporting and legal purposes. Job sites can be monitored with motion-triggered camera systems that provide real-time notifications and video via smartphones to foremen regardless of their location or the time of day. Finally, tablets can play an important role in training apprentices and new workers.

4)Real-time construction – Mobile apps can help by tracking the delivery of equipment and building products and notifying foremen when a delivery is imminent so it can be guided to the right place for unloading. Mobile apps also can facilitate the ordering of supplies by taking a picture of a barcode, eliminating the need to type in orders.

Which App is Right for You?

Now that you have an idea of how mobile apps can be used in construction, how do you go about determining which app will provide the most business value? A global provider of products to the construction equipment market identified eight apps that together would provide a return of up to $323 million the first year and a billion dollars over the course of three years. They arrived at this number using six easy steps:

1)Outline the opportunity – Start by white-boarding your business strategies and goals for the year. Your goals might be to reduce cost overruns or to better manage labor.

2)Identify how you will get there – Each goal will have one or more workflows. If your strategy is to reduce cost overruns by 10 percent this year, think about all the workflows you need to use to make this happen.

3)Know the roadblocks – Identify all the issues that get in the way of these workflows functioning optimally. These roadblocks typically include things that take up unnecessary time and resources. 

4)Apply mobile apps – Envision ways you can apply mobile apps to alleviate issues. For example, a searchable catalog on an iPad may reduce the time needed to write orders.

5)Score the apps – Once app concepts are developed, you can begin scoring them to determine the value they will bring to your organization in terms of time saved or revenue potential. I call this Return on App (ROA). For example, saving 10 percent of time on a task that costs the company $1 million annually delivers a cost savings of $100,000 a year.

6)Assess other criteria – In addition to revenue potential and cost savings, look at other criteria that can affect the success of an app. These criteria are specific to each company, but often include things like the cost to implement an app and how excited users will be to adopt the app.

Alex Bratton is CEO at Lextech (, a mobile app development company. Email him at


For the better part of my 20 years as a design/builder of estates in the Hamptons, the market – both custom and spec – could be summed up in one word: traditional. Gambrel and gabled roofs top exteriors elaborately trimmed with fascia moldings, deep soffits, details around windows, capitals on corners and raised panel columns. And while interiors began to open up over time, with larger rooms and better flow, layouts remained fairly classic. Two developments in recent years, however, have converged to bring significant change to the market, revealing a shift in the desires of affluent buyers.

Technology is at the center of our world – and for many homeowners, it’s where home improvements and renovations begin. Last year, 81 percent of consumers went online before making a major purchase decision, which is why, in the past several years, there’s been an influx of online resources designed to help homeowners create and plan their ideal interior and outdoor living spaces.

I often hear feedback from deck builders about what tools they find most useful, and what we’ve heard is that the best resources are the ones that are highly visual and designed to inspire and engage customers throughout the entire process of building an outdoor living space.

Here is how we view digital inspiration and function, and the strategy I predict we’ll be seeing more of in the future as both manufacturers and builders vie for the attention of today’s tech-savvy consumers.

As a realtor, I’ve learned that buyer preferences are the best measuring stick for what trends are on the rise. Today, boomers are hitting retirement age and moving out of their estate homes in search of more attractive packages that can add comfort, reduce maintenance efforts and put a little money back in their pockets.

But what factors are most important to consider when trying to appeal to this particular the market? It’s likely that their perfect choice will mean building an individualized home in a community that fits their lifestyle. 

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