Building Construction

Do it Yourself Tips and Tricks for Building Construction

Every building construction trade has its share of useful tricks that make life easier, and the job go faster! Here are a few gems I’ve learned through the years.

Making a 90 degree angle, or squaring a large area.

Every now and then you find yourself needing to make sure that the project you are working on is square. You might be building a deck, laying a concrete pad, or building a wall that you want square to another wall. If the area is bigger than you’re framing square how do you square it?

Use the 3-4-5 rule. A simple but very effective way of measuring a right triangle that works in any size as long as those increments are used. You can use 3x4x5, 30x40x50, or 300x400x500 inches or feet, the results will remain the same.

Measure over three feet, then four feet down, and finally close off the triangle by marking where a five foot line stretched from the outer end of either mark intersects the opposite angle at its far end. You just drew a right triangle.

You may have to adjust one of the legs of the triangle until the ends of the measurements meet to form the right triangle. A great thing for any do-it-yourself type to know!

Finding plumb

There are times when you may need to find a plumb line straight down from ceiling to floor with no wall or other guide. A plumb bob, or a string with a pointed weight used to be the best way to do this, but now we have laser levels to work with! Simply set the level in place (as long as it is a self leveling model) and mark the floor or ceiling where needed. For most do-it-yourself types the laser level is an expensive toy that would not get used much.

The plumb bob is more patience intensive but still works. Keep the bob just above the floor and wait until it stops swinging, then either mark the floor, or if you need to find that spot on the ceiling move the string around until you find your spot on the floor with the plumb bob as still as you can manage. Small circles are ok as long as the mark is in the center. It helps to have two people when using this over longer distances.

The angle finder

A great device for matching angles needed to cut pieces to fit an angle. It usually has two arms and a lock nut to hold whatever angle you measured so that you can transfer it to your work piece.


Dividers come in many styles and sizes, but they all do the same basic thing, they draw circles. Dividers can be used to mark off specific distances by walking them, find the center of a work piece by making an arc from each side, and drawing a straight line between the two outer points where the arcs meet, and even draw… a circle.

However, if you need a really large curve or circle, a string attached to a stake or nail with a pencil attached to the other end will work wonders.

Finding level

Levels come in many shapes, and each one has its own uses. A nine inch torpedo level is a handy item to have around and a magnetic one is perfect for certain things, but it is not a good idea to try leveling a large surface with one when a four or six foot level would give much more accurate results.

A line level is necessary when a string line needs to be level, and no other level is going to take its place in a pinch. They hook right onto the string, they are small, and they are cheap.

A graduated level is used for plumbing work and have marks to set the fall or drop of the pipe without having to constantly measure it, water after all does not flow uphill unless under pressure.

Laser levels are handy once again in certain places and can save you a great deal of time in many applications.

Home improvement is an ever present reality for most home owners, and knowing these tricks and special tools can make a world of difference when you really need one as any do-it- yourself home owner knows!

Sustainable Business Planning

Sustainable Business Planning: Director of Sustainability Says Need to Green Business is Urgent

In his book, Auden Schendler of Aspen Skiing Company says climate crisis requires businesses to lead sustainability revolution. Efficiency, new energy sources needed.

In Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution, Sustainability Director Auden Schendler makes no bones about it: Climate change is real and requires the urgent attention of business leaders. Business has caused climate change, he asserts, and business is threatened by climate change. Business is between a rock and a hard place.

Although books like Natural Capitalism and Cradle to Cradle make green sound easy enough to accomplish in a timely manner, Schendler is not so sure. Such books seem to say that “business can have it all: competitive business and clean air, booming sales and biodiversity.” His experience is that environmentally sustainable practices are much harder to put into practice. By sharing his failures at the tony ski resort in Aspen, he hopes to help others get over the hurdles.

Climate Science: We Must Cut CO2 Emission

Schendler notes that scientists who speak different languages and examine different data have come to the same conclusion: climate change is real. Changes are happening and the speed of change now exceeds the direst predictions. We must cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent by mid-century. This is a colossal task and individual actions aren’t enough.

It is difficult and expensive to make the changes that need to be made, but we must. The time has come to stop studying the problem and just move on to the hard work.

Objections to Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Actions

At Aspen Skiing Company, the author met resistance even to projects that guaranteed energy savings because others in the organization saw change as too risky. The reluctance to change from business as usual and risk damage to existing business is powerful.

In another case, Schendler met resistance because the green plan would cause a budget overrun. Even when cost savings over the life of the project was demonstrated to managers, the budget did not allow the new green technology to be used. If the money was not in the project budget, he could not make headway.

There are often good business reasons why green technologies or environmentally sustainable actions were denied due to traditional business rules.

Call to Wait for New and Less Expensive Technology a Smokescreen

Schendler notes Bush administration tactics that encouraged businesses to think that they could put off change because a new and better technology is just around the corner. Schendler says it is not and we cannot wait.

The green wave is building and companies like Wal-Mart know it. As an example, they are pricing CFL lightbulbs at $2 and stacking them at eye level. They are calling on suppliers to go green. Smart business leaders are going green and, most importantly, are changing consumer awareness about sustainable purchasing.

First-cost barriers, lack of understanding, and the tendency to deny that climate change is happening quickly are impediments, that are slowly being overcome

Ideas to Move Sustainable Business Plans Forward

Some ideas are offered to get businesses moving on making the changes that must be made.

  • Government incentives can be used to prime the pump. Once energy efficiency savings are noted, businesses will be hooked.
  • Put a price on carbon emissions. Move beyond cost savings.
  • Create an emissions reduction profession.
  • Buy renewable energy credits, but use care. Get honest information about projects to be funded. Don’t buy cheap RECs to greenwash. The consumer will expose such action.
  • Good government regulations are needed to correct previous supports for coal and oil that pervert the market. The free market can’t work in favor of green energy alternatives with old supports in place.
  • Reform LEED; turn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design into a manual for green building rather than a certification program.
  • Use lifecycle analysis instead of straight line budgeting on new and retrofitting projects.
  • Use green marketing and public relations tactics. Consumers will steer businesses who misuse these toward improved practices because research shows that consumers are using the Internet to check up on claims.

Green is Niche Marketing … For Now

Schendler says that green is a niche market for now but businesses that dominate brands are going green because they care about the perception that they are green. Leading businesses recognize that a cultural change is taking place in society and that green and sustainable ways of doing business are becoming the new normal.

The vision for a sustainable society speaks to the human spirit, he believes, as well as the search for meaningful existence and noble action.