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Construction during a Pandemic

by Mandy Blume
Construction in a Pandemic

Pandemic Impact on Construction

Today we are in a pandemic, and it seems we are facing more than a virus. In construction, as we race to help in crisis circumstances, I’m reflective of the day. In this particular time, it appears we are also facing; fear, panic, rumors, re-prioritizing of affairs, and… a lack of toilet tissue.

Twenty years ago, when Jim moved from his professional desk job to a “hands-on construction job” with Walt Disney World, there was a noticeable difference when someone asked our profession. With a professional desk job as a Mechanical Engineer, graduating from California Polytechnic University, in the top 5%, the respect was evident. However, when he wanted to get his hands dirty and build, and we started a business, the tone changed. 

The response didn’t matter so much because we love what we do. Taking ugly things or nothing and building something beautiful and biodynamic is a rewarding career for both of us. It’s fun to guide and watch; a business owner create a space to fulfill that dream, or a family move into a place they can call home. 

However, in the twenty years of building, this pandemic is changing things in areas we didn’t expect.

A few months back, we installed a new pump for a lift station at a job site. We had to convert and renovate six hotel buildings into 300 workforce apartments. 

It’s been fun to watch homeless families move into the complex with grant monies provided and experience the gratitude of folks moving into their very own apartment. We were hired to do this job, but we get to see the joy of these families. Most tell us this is the most beautiful and most affordable apartment in the area. It puts a smile on our faces, and our team sleeps well at night. These moments are extraordinary. 

studio-apartments pandemic

Unfortunately, on Sunday, a frantic call comes. Many folks already seem to be on edge from this pandemic virus. But on this call, the newly installed lift station is broken. As our team gathers and creates a by-pass so everyone can still shower and use the bathroom, we discover the problem. 


Rags are clogging the pump at the lift station. Our best guess is that because there are people who bought lots of toilet tissue, there are, in contrast, folks with no toilet tissue. 

Therefore, as we pull wipes and rags out of the clogged pipes, we call the owner. The volume of rags is alarming. After a discussion, it is determined that we should buy a grinding pump to chew up the rags and keep the pipes flowing. The work begins.

These are not pretty nor beautiful moments, but it is undoubtedly the time when you realize how essential it is to keep our infrastructure up. We may not get the professional accolades as tradesmen, but we are proud to be included with the many men and women who keep homes and businesses functioning. 

lift station and a pandemic

The new pump is working great, and we hope that the posted notices to: “not flush rags down the toilet” along with our super-chomper pump will manage these unexpected consequences of a pandemic virus.

But we also feel a sense of pride as we stand with our fellow tradesman in keeping the infrastructure going; our waste pick-up drivers, mail carriers, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and more. It is in times like these that we realize we are all in this together, and we are all essential.

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How Plants Add Beauty and Health to Your Home or Business

by Mandy Blume
Peace Lily beauty and health

Adding Beauty and Health

Jim and I have evolved over the many years we’ve been building. We started out like everyone, but having children and volunteering with foster children directed us to consider materials and designs that create more fun and less toxins.

I wanted to share some thoughts that are a bit off the topics of; concrete, wood, and actual building. However, it is something we find to be very important.

Building a business or a home, we generally start with the idea of creating a canvas. We guide our clients to build with a classic style, with less trendy fixtures so that in five years, it’s still a design that is enjoyed. This way, changes can be made with new colors and styles by changing the; chairs, sofas, throws, dishes, curtains, etc… These varying trends and tastes of the different seasons of life will match if the basic design is classic. It is here where we find the beauty of plants comes into the picture to really take a living or working space to the next level.

Green plants are always a great way to bring a living element to the interior space. The choices are limitless; edibles, ornamentals, but I really like intentional placement and thought. Shown is the Peace Lily, which is a family favorite for many reasons.

Peace Lily

The peace lily is a simple plant that is an overall “cleaning plant” known to mitigate:

  • mold spores,
  • formaldehyde, and
  • trichloroethylene.

For this reason, I place these plants in the laundry room and bathrooms, just like my grandmother did. It creates a functional advantage as well as providing a “living” element in a wet room.

From an aesthetic perspective, the white flowers will go with any color scheme of a business or home.

Additionally, I like the name. Peace is something we all aspire to have in this short life and I feel that the name of a plant somehow matters.

Fortunately, peace lilies are easy to maintain by merely watering one day a week. Unless it is placed in a dry spot next to direct sunlight, which you may want to water twice a week.

These are a few of the reasons we use plants. We believe they add an element of fun and the Peace Lily is a terrific, easy, beautiful, and functional addition to any space.

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Tension and Compression

by Mandy Blume
tension compression

A Balance of Tension and Compression

There are two types of forces involved in building. To have a great structure, which we call, “strong bones”, there must be a balance of both tension and compression. Anticipating an inspection, we cut out these holes to reveal the rebar inside. Once the inspector validates the block wall is properly constructed, we will pour concrete into the top of the blocks to solidify and thus strengthen the walls of this two-story home.

Tension and compression


The beauty of being a builder is the daily reflection of life that exists as we work. Gazing at this image of the rebar bound together, I imagine these rebar sticks holding together anticipating the liquid concrete that will soon smother all their space.

As a strange metaphor envelops my thoughts, within seconds I realize that the concrete material and steel material work together symbiotically. This unity is difficult, beautiful, organic, and unavoidable in order to have success. Yet it is the order of things. The steel is stronger when you pull it, which translates to a type of tension. Conversely, concrete is strong when it squeezes together; meaning it is in compression.

To continue this thought process, I begin to smile thinking of my marriage. It is full of a balancing act with little  “gives” and “takes”. Sometimes, it feels like I’m pulled too far and the “tension” is uncomfortable. Other times, it’s confining and stifling with too much “compression”. But as time moves through the forward motion, this friction creates something beautiful. Through all these memories and experiences, I’m proud because only in these experiences can my bond be made stronger. If there is too much tension, I will “crack” or become frustrated. Likewise, if there is too much compression I will “crack”.

All of this reminds me of how wonderful it is to be a builder. Building a good home or a good business requires a good foundation where every material has the capability to handle a specific amount of “pull” or tension. And every material  also has an ability to handle a certain amount of “squeezing together” called compression.

Tension and Compression arrows

Together, this symbiotic tension and compression creates a very good structure that will outlast the storms we face in life.

We will keep on building as long as we are allowed the privilege, and I hope that when the tough elements of life hit us, I can always remember the value and strengthening of the process, even though it is an unwelcome refinement. A little give and take or “tension and compression” is a good thing for the end product. It just means we are still living and moving forward.

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Making a Home Fun

by Mandy Blume
Fun Narnia Mural 306

Home is our Place to Relax and Have Fun

Early on we realized the need to incorporate fun in every home. No matter how the day goes; incorporating elements of fun into our home creates a spirit more than just “comfort”.

In the beginning, we had 5 children under 8 years old. We couldn’t afford a lot of places fun venues. But we could build things and make our home fun.

Incorporating Themes from a Favorite Book or Movie

Our boys loved CS Lewis’, Chronicles of Narnia, so we built the elements into their bedroom.

  • Dawn Treader took place on a ship. This allowed us to incorporate bunkbeds into this large iconic part of the book.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  is the flagship book in the series. There are so many scenes to create, but in the end, we decide to install the famous lamp post. This small element brought the story book to life.Fun Dawn Treader bunk bed
  • There are many talented artists that can paint a mural. It’s unbelievable how much a mural can transform a room.
  • The Magician’s Nephew inspired a ceiling mobile of all the worlds.

Creating a Bit of Play Into Home

  • If you have a deck, try installing a slide along with stairs, a swing or hammock in the bedroom.It’s bringing the outside in and creating fun into a child’s space.
    Fun Built-in slide off the deck
  • Decorate an area inside the house with a unique part of the home (we found an old oil chimney in this home). Discovering fun old chimneys
  • Find ways to add depth with old materials. We found some old wood underneath the ceiling drywall. Finding hidden treasures is always fun.

Fun shapes and contrasting colors

Fun ideas and designs can be incorporated on any budget. However, the key to finding what brings joy and fun to your family is to create elements and spaces that make you smile.

Finding great ways to have fun in life requires intentional thought. This effort pays off with great memories, and of course, more built-in fun at home.