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  • Graham Davis

Do We Understand Each Other?

Updated: May 8

The construction of the American home has gone through a significant evolution in the last 50 or so years. From architectural design to performance complexity, homes and the materials that go into building them have come a long way and continue to evolve.

But why is it that in many cases, the laborers (trades) have struggled to keep up with this evolution?

One possible explanation is that of language barriers, which result in an inability to adequately train and develop a workforce. The majority of the construction workforce in the U.S. today does not speak English as their first language. Higher turnover rates of a largely migrant workforce make it difficult to provide the degree of training and expertise to the workers who show up each day to build our homes. What is a production builder to do?

First of all, don’t give in and don’t give up.

In spite of language and training obstacles, today’s construction worker is ready to work hard and wants to do the job right… as long as “right” can be made perfectly clear. Here are few ideas we have found around the country that seem to work:

  1. Provide your construction standards in graphic or physical format. Isometric drawings are typically easier to follow correctly than traditional line drawings. Provide these for your trades. As a project passes through various phases of construction, a superintendent could staple printouts of illustrations to help trades with challenging details or requirements.

  2. Physical mockups are a great way to communicate how you want specific details installed regarding exterior flashing, window installations, and claddings.

  3. Set the expectation with your trade partners that each crew needs to have at least one worker who is proficient in English.

  4. Hire superintendents who are bi-lingual.

There are certainly other additional ideas that could be added to this list. If you have one, share it with us, as we’re all better when we work together!



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