Ritchie Bros. auctioning die-cast models for charity

December 18th, 2013 by Ben

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers on Thursday will sell two dozen die-cast models of construction equipment at its yard in Chehalis, giving the proceeds to Toys for Tots and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southwest Washington.

The 1:50- and 1:32-scale models are of rock trucks, dump trucks, truck tractors, bulldozers and other heavy equipment under the brands Caterpillar, Kenworth, John Deere, Freightliner, New Holland, Volvo and Komatsu.

“The items that will be sold as part of the charity auction have been generously donated by our customers from across the Pacific Northwest, and we believe we will receive bids on these items from far and wide, quite possibly from outside our region,” said Ritchie regional sales manager Brad Maas in a release. “This truly is a community effort and our customers are always very generous. We look forward to being able to bring some families in need a little more holiday cheer this season.”

The models will be auctioned along with more than 1,100 pieces of full-size heavy equipment. The charity part of the auction will include an ax signed by Mike Phil from the History Channel’s Ax Men.

Bids can be made in person at the Chehalis auction site, online at www.rbauction.com and by proxy. Charity items (lot numbers 5474T to 5495T) will begin closing at 12:30 p.m. PST in 30-second intervals and will be part of a timed auction, which takes place over several days with online bids prior to the live auction.

UPDATE: A Ritchie spokesman says the auction raised $2,500 and Ritchie kicked in $3,500 for a total of $6,000 that was split between Toys for Tots and Big Brothers. Mike’s ax fetched $375, the highest of any of the charity items.
Good work Ritchie and those who donated!

Low carbon fuel standard could negatively affect construction

December 10th, 2013 by Jerry

Washington State is considering the implementation of a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). While some of the effects of such a policy on the construction industry are unknown because it has yet to be tried anywhere, the things that are known about the policy are not good.

The push for a low-carbon fuel standard is coming from two directions: The Governor’s Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup (CLEW) will soon be making its recommendations for greenhouse gas-fighting policies the state could adopt, and the LCFS is one getting serious consideration. Plus, Governor Inslee signed a pact with other western states and British Columbia that promises to enact greenhouse gas policies regionally, including a LCFS. Neither of these actions actually creates new policies; they are more suggestions of what the state could do regarding greenhouse gases. In any event, these are strong indications of upcoming legislative battles.

The draft CLEW report talks about implementing a LCFS of a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of the fuel mix over a 10 year time period in the State of Washington. It doesn’t prescribe what the fuel mix will be; just that it should have lower carbon intensity.

Keep in mind that for years refineries have been making fuel with 10% ethanol for many markets. But, even a 10% ethanol mix reduces the fuel’s carbon intensity by only 1%. Adding even more ethanol (and it would take a lot more!) has been shown to dissolve seals and gaskets in engines. Fuels with something else – such as agricultural waste products – has never been developed in the mixes needed to reach the 10% carbon intensity reduction.

So without a real-world test, it’s hard to say what the affect would be of a not-yet-developed fuel mixture on construction equipment and vehicles. But as AGC’s Oregon-Columbia Chapter pointed out in battling a similar proposal in Oregon, converting to higher biofuel content fuels would affect truck engine warranties. Currently, there are percentage limits on blended fuels, which when exceeded will void many manufacturers’ warranties. It is very likely that construction equipment and vehicles would have to at least be retrofitted to accommodate blended fuels, as was the case for recent clean air rules and their impact on older diesel-powered equipment.

Other concerns raised about LCFS proposals include:

  • Limited supply of biofuels in the US would likely trigger fuel shortages and spikes in fuel production costs, and industry analysts forecast that fuel costs could go up by as much as $1-$1.50 per gallon as a result.
  • Retro-fitting equipment to handle these biofuel blends is incredibly expensive. The majority of contractors would be faced with making changes they cannot afford, while only some contractors are able to make the necessary investments in biofuels/energy production technologies, onsite fueling depots, total fleet conversions and all of the costs associated with these capabilities.
  • California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard Program was ruled unconstitutional in a United States District Court based on the Interstate Commerce Clause.  The court battle continues.
  • This kind of program is not feasible at the state level- these policies should be a matter of discussion at the Federal level. In fact, there are already federal mandates in place for advanced biofuels technology through the Federal Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program.

Don’t spend Black Friday shopping for plumbers

November 26th, 2013 by Ben

One of the busiest days for plumbers is the day after Thanksgiving.

What brings the plumbers out? All that animal fat, cooking grease and poultry skin that ends up down the drain or in the garbage disposal. Those extra helpings of scraps and grease clog pipes and extra house guests put additional pressure on the plumbing system.

If it’s too late to heed that warning, the state Department of Labor & Industries is telling consumers to take their time when choosing a plumber.

L&I says state law requires plumbers to be certified for jobs inside buildings. Plumbers also must work for a company that’s registered as a general contractor or a specialty plumbing contractor. Registration ensures the contractor is bonded and insured if something goes wrong.

Here are some more tips from L&I:
•    Get three bids for the job.
•    Before calling plumbing companies, check whether they’re registered contractors at www.protectmyhome.net.
•    Ask each company for the name of the plumber who will do the work. See if the plumber is certified at www.protectmyhome.net. Plumbing certification isn’t required for workers pumping out septic systems.
•    Ask to see a certification card when the plumber arrives.
•    If it’s a trainee, the worker must have an active trainee card and must be supervised by a certified plumber at the jobsite.

L&I recommends people find a good plumber before an emergency, then keep the contact information handy.

DJC profiles the Apple Cup of construction

November 21st, 2013 by Ben


Just in time for the Apple Cup football game, the DJC has put together a special section profiling construction projects at the UW and WSU.

Included is a list of the top 10 projects at each school. Who gets bragging rights? If you go by dollar volume, the nod goes to the Huskies, with just over $900 million. That’s more than twice the value of WSU’s top 10.

UW also has the top project: the second phase $186.3 million expansion of the UW Medical Center. WSU’s top project is the $96 million Veterinary and Biomedical Research Building. Of course, WSU’s list of projects includes a $23 million Wine Science Center stocked with 3,500 bottles of wine.

For those wanting to watch football, the Apple Cup will be held Nov. 29 at Husky Stadium – another new project!

Crank out green kilowatts with wind turbines

November 5th, 2013 by Ben

The following post is by Liz Nelson :

When it comes to renewable energy sources, the first two that are predominately on the minds of many is the use of solar panels and wind turbines. For wind turbines, the principle is the same that you see in every gasoline guzzling car. Each of those vehicles are using an alternator to turn torque power into electric current to charge the battery. The wind turbine is no different. It is using the wind to turn the generator to produce large amounts of electricity in the same fashion as the automobile – minus the gas guzzling engine.

Depending on the area you live in, the wind may be constantly blowing. As there may be no resistance to hold the wind back, it is free to blow. Home-based wind turbines don’t have to stand at 200-feet in order to harness some of the wind that is blowing. As long as there is a deep cycle battery connected, any amount of wind could help reduce your energy expenses and could possibly remove your dependence from the grid. What are some of the features that are tied in to a wind turbine for residential and business locales?

1. Sizes - Various sizes are available for wind turbines, so you don’t have to assume it’s going to stand 200-feet tall with blades longer than your house. In fact, there are smaller units that can produce up to three kilowatts of energy from wind speeds of approximately 25 miles per hour that can fit in your garage next to your car. Devices like the Aleko WG3KW has a security feature that will throttle itself back at speeds of 40 mph in order to prevent damage from overcharge or burning the motor out.

2. Inexpensive - Compared to other renewable energy developments, wind power can be less expensive to produce similar results. For less than $2,000, you can assemble the small Aleko unit featured above and cover a large portion of your energy needs. Typically, a large family home could utilize 5,000 to 7,000 kilowatts of power requiring a few of these devices. However, the cost for implementing solar could be four to five times that amount if you installed it yourself.

3. Zero Emissions – The only source required by a wind turbine to generate power is wind. As there are no consumable fuels going into power generation, there are no emissions. The generator is simply powered by the wind spinning the blades of the unit. Although skeptics may point out that there are emissions being created by the vehicles used to ship the items, the point is moot. Unlike coal and oil based power plants, there are no other fuels being consumed to create energy. Tens of thousands of tons of coal are shipped annually to various power plants.

4. Combined Efforts - If you discover that a single unit isn’t supplying the power you need, additional units can be erected and tied into your power. This allows you to purchase turbines as you need them and not have to worry about coming up with a lot of money in order to be energy efficient.

Renewable energy sources are being developed and utilized all over the globe. What was once thought as a passing fancy has turned into a quest for continued efficiency. Whether you are a household of five or need to supply power to your business, wind turbines can offer an affordable solution to help reduce your bills and help conserve energy from the grid for other uses.

Liz Nelson of WhiteFence.com is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. She can be reached at liznelson17@gmail.com.

Learn what local architects think

October 31st, 2013 by Ben

The DJC surveyed several local architecture and engineering firms for its A&E Perspectives special section. Contractors can learn about upcoming projects, trends and other relevant issues by reading about the designers’ insights.

Check it out!

Vote for wild crane photos

October 9th, 2013 by Ben

Want to see some cool photos of cranes at work? Check out Craneblogger, which is running its 4th annual crane photo contest. There are three categories:

Coolest Mobile Crane Photos

Coolest Tower Crane Photos

Wildest Crane Photos

You can vote until Oct. 30 and winners will be announced on Nov. 8. The top three from each category will win a Liebherr crane model and the top winner will be profiled in Wire Rope Exchange and Crane Hotline.


Under construction forever

September 24th, 2013 by Ben

The following post is from Jason Kane:

According to the Bible, God created heaven and Earth in seven days. Proving that humans are no gods, some men have been constructing buildings for an eternity. It’s understandable that circumstances arise where a building can’t be finished on time. However, most of the following examples of buildings under construction forever can be blamed on the folly of men.


Hotel of Doom

The Hotel of Doom under construction in North Korea has suffered under fits of start-and-stop delays for nearly three decades. The 105-story hotel was ordered by Dear Leader No. 1, Kim Il-sung, to proclaim the greatness of his communist slave-labor state. Started in 1987, the construction disaster is composed of three jagged sides to form a pyramid but with no windows or other amenities like rooms, plumbing, lighting or a bar to sip a drink. The name of the hotel, Ryugyong, means Capital of Willows, telling people what to eat when times turn tough. Construction has taken longer than Lady Gaga sobering up from a weekend whiskey binge.


One World Trade Center

Once the politicians got involved, everyone knew it would take forever to rebuild the Twin Towers that were destroyed on 9-11 in New York City. True to form, our beloved politicians can’t even agree on a name for the new building much less its design. Started in 2006, the One World Trade Center, also known as Freedom Tower, is plodding along and still unfinished.


The World

The wealthy sheiks in Dubai like to build things big with their oil wealth, and The World is no exception. Designed to replicate the world, this construction project is taking place on a series of man-made islands in the shape of a world map to represent the planet. The chief sheik, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, is begging investors to build gambling resorts on the islands. To date, $18 billion has been spent. Thus far, a single home has been built, and engineers are warning that the islands are sinking. Bookies are taking bets on the day it sinks like Atlantis.


International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion ongoing construction project started in 1998. The ISS began as a noble experiment for nations to live together and perform lofty experiments for mankind. That, however, went out the window when a Ukrainian astronaut demonstrated how to chase a shot of vodka around in zero-gravity. The ISS is expected to be completed in 2015, and then scrapped. Till then, it’s party time at the ISS Saloon and Lab.


Jason Kane is a former construction worker and avid blogger. Jason writes for Fall Protection USA, a supplier of self-retracting lifelines and other construction safety equipment.


Could OSHA change course on its proposed delay of crane operator certification?

September 6th, 2013 by Ben

By Debbie Dickinson

Crane Institute of America Certification



Just because OSHA has proposed a delay to operator certification, doesn’t mean it will happen. Take notice of recent activity in Washington, D.C.

We recently learned about a different regulation in a similar situation to 1926.1400 Cranes and Derricks in Construction; on Aug. 7, OSHA withdrew a proposed rule to amend the On-Site Consultation Program.


Although not related to cranes and derricks, there are parallels worth noting. Stakeholder concerns that a delay discourages employers from participating was the key reason for moving forward. Many in the crane industry fear the same would happen if crane operator certification is delayed.

OSHA first issued an intent to delay and outlined plans for changing the Consultation Program at the end of July, just a few months after its proposal about crane operator certification. Yet, no such plan has been forthcoming from OSHA for cranes and derricks. The final rule for both are just 8 days apart.

While we remain unsure of what OSHA will do regarding crane operator certification, we do know that:

1. A delay is unnecessary; CIC has offered specific solutions to OSHA that fully solve the concerns raised.

2. According to industry studies, 80% fewer crane-related deaths and 50% fewer accidents occur with certified crane operators.

In addition, Peg Seminario, Director of Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO testified on Aug. 1, 2013 before the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action Senate Judiciary Committee on “The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis.”


According to Seminario: “It is inexcusable and shameful that even where there was broad agreement that the cranes and derricks standard was needed and about what the rule should require, that the regulatory system failed to protect workers…During the eight year rulemaking, 176 workers died in crane accidents that would have been prevented.” Seminario’s testimony is clear: OSHA knows that certification saves lives and that delays will mean more people will die, unnecessarily.

Please contact OSHA and express your expectation that the agency remember its mission “to ensure a safe and healthy workplace,” which does not align with OSHA’s recent attitude that the purpose of regulations is to provide the agency with greater authority for imposing citations and fines on employers.

I hope that out of respect for the lives at stake, for the negotiated rule-making process that was fully supported by industry experts, and for the millions of dollars already invested by the industry, that OSHA does not delay. CIC will continue to remain compliant with OSHA and to drive our business based on the safety and needs of the industry.  Employers can rely on CIC to:

1. Conduct meaningful certifications; CIC certified by type and capacity years before the OSHA regulation because this helps employers make sound decisions and gives operators credentials with merit.

2. Assess the knowledge, skill and abilities of operators for the purpose of reducing accidents.

3. Provide affordable, accessible and accredited certifications for crane operators and riggers.

Debbie Dickinson is executive director at Crane Institute of America Certification, which offers NCCA accredited certifications for mobile crane operators (five classifications) and qualified and advanced riggers and signal persons.

WSDOT Reform Takes Center Stage

August 20th, 2013 by Jerry

Two substantive efforts to consider reforms of WSDOT and transportation spending are underway.

The Legislature mandated a study of transportation cost-drivers.  Meanwhile, Senate Transportation Committee Co-Chair Curtis King has announced a series of meetings around the state to review reform proposals.

House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn chairs the advisory committee overseeing the Transportation Project Efficiencies Study required by the Legislature.

“As we make policy we need to do it from an educated point of view, and not just have it be something we pulled out of the air that we heard two years ago and nobody has ever been able to validate,” said Rep. Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, at the committee’s first meeting. “The other side of it is that there are some things that are myths and there are some things that are reality, and we have to deal with them in a realistic way.”

The study will conclude with a report to the Legislature on the cost drivers by the end of the year.

On a separate track, Sen. King, R-Yakima, said he has contacted WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson, requesting her agency’s cooperation in coordinating a series of public meetings around the state. King said he and his colleagues in the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus would like to gather as much input as possible from Washington residents and WSDOT officials in various regions around the state in order to craft a viable transportation package that could be supported by lawmakers as well as taxpayers.

“In order to pass a transportation package of any substance there will likely be a need for additional revenue to pay for projects,” King said, “but before we go to the people asking for more money, the state needs to prove that it’s already stretching every dollar it has. We’ve compiled a list of ten reforms that could be implemented to save millions of dollars with minimal impact to other areas of the budget, and it’s our intention to discuss those ideas with DOT and the public at these meetings.”

King’s letter to Peterson requests that regional administrators present a prioritized list of projects based upon safety, congestion relief and economic development, and asks that their list contain a detailed scope and a cost estimate for each project that would be valid through the 2014 legislative session. In addition, the letter asks for reform suggestions from each regional office and seeks to encourage public comment on the Majority Coalition Caucus list of specific reform proposals. The proposals include exempting transportation construction projects from the state sales tax, streamlined permitting and an “open dialogue about prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements.”

Click here for more info about these meetings.