February 2014 Newsletter

Hello Friends!

Spring break and SXSW seem to kick off a stream of events in Austin. So many things are on the horizon – from the big events around town to the flurry of golf tournaments, conferences, youth sports, etc.  Springtime and activity is upon us, so if you are tasked with event planning, please keep Miller Blueprint in mind for your print pieces – outdoor banners, window adhesives, event signage, way-finding signs, banner stands (see coupon below!), or just flyers promoting your event. May your springtime be filled with fun as well as good weather!


Luci Miller


A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Cement Go Down

PouringSugar - crop

Few things make a construction worker panic more than a flood of concrete going where it shouldn’t go, and that’s exactly what happened in January during construction on London’s subway. Fortunately, the application of a little high school chemistry involving sugar saved the day.

The story began when workers building the new Victoria station on the London “tube,” as the subway is called, began pumping quick-setting concrete into an excavated void around a new shaft being built for an escalator. Suddenly someone noticed that the wet concrete had burst through a crack or hole in a wall and was gushing into the adjoining control room.

What happens when wet concrete hits signaling equipment? The concrete wins. Apparently a foot of concrete flowed into the room before it was stopped, submerging three rows of relay equipment in a rapidly hardening morass. Train services at two stations were halted, causing massive rush hour problems for commuters.

The agency responsible for rail in London, called Transport for London, tweeted that “flooding” had caused the problems. But an anonymous worker posted photos of the true nature of the flooding on a popular photo-sharing site.

“The civil engineering team has poured fast-setting concrete into the Victoria Line signaling equipment room and shut everything down,” the worker wrote in the caption.

Sugar to the Rescue

With long-term damage just hours away, engineers rushed to area grocery stores and came back with the solution: bags of sugar!

How did sugar help the situation? Sugar interferes with the chemical reaction that causes concrete to harden by binding with the minerals and slowing down the process. (For a more thorough explanation of how sugar does this, read this explanation.)

Tests show that adding just 0.04% of cane sugar can double the time it takes concrete to harden, and adding 1 percent can keep the concrete fluid almost indefinitely.

By stirring the sugar into the spilled concrete, the workers in the subway were able to delay hardening long enough that they were able to shovel it out and restore operations by the next morning.

Sweet success!


Tired of HR Issues? Try a PEO

PEOimage - crop

Architects, engineers, builders, reprographers, and all the other professions that comprise the AEC industry have demanding jobs that require training and skill. Very little of that training involved preparing payroll or planning insurance, but many of them spend hours each week on those tasks.

Some, however, have found a better way to deal with HR: they let a professional employer organization (PEO) handle it.

PEOs differ from typical payroll providers and other HR management companies in that they legally become the employer of a client’s employees. The client retains all the normal employer rights and responsibilities, such as directing the employees’ work and making hiring/firing decisions, but the “co-employer” arrangement allows the PEO to secure much better insurance, retirement, and other benefits than a small client could get on its own.

PEOs typically run several core HR functions, depending on the client’s needs. Payroll administration and employee benefits support are the most common functions a PEO handles, but others may include risk management/worker’s compensation insurance, human resources consulting, and assistance with any other employee-related issue.

Who Uses PEOs?

Walter Avis, senior vice president of human resources for Acadia HR, a PEO headquartered in Red Hook, New York, explains that PEOs are most commonly used by small to mid-size companies that need HR help but aren’t large enough to hire an employee to handle that.

“The typical client has grown to the point they realize they are just shy of needing to hire an HR manager in-house, say 50 to 100 employees depending on the organization,” Avis says.


PEOs offer a wide range of human resources services.

The job may begin with helping recruit and screen prospective employees. Many PEOs perform criminal background checks and previous employment verifications.

Payroll administration is perhaps the most obvious service, and this includes handling all the tax filings, new employee reporting, and other paperwork. It can also extend to time management.

“We can implement and maintain everything from a simple online clock-in system to a full biometric handprint system where there’s an actual unit they put their hand on when they clock in and clock out,” Avis says.

Insurance management is another major benefit of a PEO, especially because a PEO’s buying power often results in better rates than if an employer sought its own insurance.

Legal compliance is another important PEO benefit. A PEO can create an employee manual, help with training and discipline issues, and even make sure that employee terminations occur properly.

“A PEO has trained HR and labor law people,” Avis notes. “One service that is often performed is assistance with a face-to-face termination. When I tell people that I get a low of raised eyebrows – ‘You help fire people?’ – but business owners are usually happy to hear that that kind of help is available.”

How much does it cost?

PEOs typically charge in one of two ways – either a flat percentage of gross payroll or a per-payroll fee.

Whether the fee is worth the expense or not often comes down to a calculation of time savings – if a business owner is currently spending four hours per week on HR matters, would having a PEO handle those issues instead allow her to make that much more revenue?


MBP Plan Room Offers Convenient Solutions

Miller Blueprint’s Plan Room is an extremely intuitive and efficient web-based tool that many owners and contractors have found useful.  It is the perfect solution for bid document distribution, construction document management, and web-based document storage.

In the construction phase, the MBP Plan Room offers a central place for awarded contractors to find the initial construction set, ASI’s, submittals, shop drawings and other critical construction documents.  When the project is substantially complete, Miller Blueprint performs digital closeout services and archives the project on the Plan Room for the architect, contractor and even the owner.  Check us out at www.planroom.millerblueprint.com!

For more information on the Miller Blueprint Plan Room, closeout, scanning, and document management services, call or email Steve Coyle at 512.381.5271 or steve.coyle@millerblueprint.com.


Tips & Tricks: Preparing Your Documents for Print


Are you worried about how many postcards are going to fit on a sheet? Frustrated with trying to get the front and back of your prints to line up? Confused by what printer marks to include?

Stop the worrying, end the frustration, and find some clarity. These tasks can all be handled by your printer. Here are some tips and tricks to make your life a little easier:

  • Don’t design with multiple pieces on one sheet.
  • Create your design one per page, and at the size your piece will be printed.
  • Leave off printer’s marks, but include your bleed. We’ll add marks before we send your file to print.
  • Let the printer worry about layout, imposition, and how many pieces fit on a page.
  • Not sure what size works best, or which is the most cost effective? We’re here to make printing easier. Give us a call before you start your design, and we’ll be happy to help.

For help with your next print job, call or email our Customer Sales and Service Rep, Ian Cousins, at 512.381.5276 or cssr@millerblueprint.com.


This Month’s Coupon

February Coupon - BannerStands

Mention this ad to receive discount, or click here for printable version.

For more information or to place your order, please contact Ian Cousins, at 512.381.5276 or cssr@millerblueprint.com.


News You Can Use: Austin

Society of Architectural Historians Hold Conference to Discuss Austin’s Future

Armed Forces Reserve Complex in South Austin Completed

New Austin Marriott Tops Out

UT Design Team Named Finalist in Prestigious ULI Competition

Austin Urban Rail Route Proposals Released


Amazing Architecture: Kitchen Edition

Check out the beautiful windows and views in this New York kitchen.

This beautiful kitchen in Texas features country farm style.

Clean, white tiles dominate this Chicago kitchen by Kitchen Lab Design.

See how Leah Greenwald made a narrow space in a Boston home into a stunning kitchen.


ArchiFacts: Average Carpenter Hourly Wage by Industry

Foundation, Structure, Exterior:

Residential Building Construction:

Building Finishing:

Non-residential Building Construction:

Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014


Being Green: Countertop Edition

Walnut shell countertops? Yes, they’re durable and beautiful and made from the left over shells after Minnesota’s walnut harvest.

Windfall Lumber makes countertops from old telephone poles, gym floors, trees killed by bugs, and other reclaimed sources.

Eighty-five percent of the material in Chicago-based Gilasi countertops is 100 percent recycled glass.

Vetrazzo uses recycled bottles and jars to create beautiful countertops in a variety of colors and patterns.

Bamboo countertops offer strength, durability, and the peace of mind knowing they came from a sustainable source.