What do you get when you put a general contractor, a half-dozen subcontractors and an owner on a construction site without anyone talking to each other? Delays and preventable expenses.

We’re not laughing either, because it isn’t a joke.

This is our collaborative building issue, and it’s our annual opportunity to convince electrical contractors to approach the table to make their voices heard. There’s design/build, design/assist, integrated project delivery, and so on and so forth, but along with all of these new-age-y terms for building stuff, the construction industry faces a cultural desire to get hands dirty and figure it out in the field.

But there’s a better way. The construction industry is notorious for having small margins. At a recent conference in Philadelphia, hosted by JBKnowledge, we learned that only 37 percent of a worker’s time is actually spent working. Therefore, productivity is a problem. How can we use our workforce’s time better and minimize preventable costs?

Building information modeling (BIM) is one way. But technology presents an obstacle in learning curves, and BIM is no different. In “Lay of the Land,” Susan Casey introduces us to contractors that have overcome this challenge and successfully deployed BIM.

At the JBKnowledge conference, we heard an anecdote about a contractor who used the “candy bar method” to encourage his employees. This contractor would embed an image of R2-D2 in the BIM plans every day, and the first employee to find it would get a candy bar. By simply exposing his people to the software, they built a familiarity, and it became easier to overcome the learning-curve obstacle.

This month, we present some other topics that may come with their own learning curves. Chuck Ross, our Alternative Energy and Utility Business columnist, educates us about making net-zero energy work on the community level in “Scaling up Net Zero.” Jeff Gavin provides examples of ECs that have married high and low voltage in “Changing the Voltage Game.” In “Grid Intelligence,” Claire Swedberg writes about utilities that are developing specific solutions to modernize their grids.

Whatever you do, don’t disregard an upfront investment that might save money in the long run. Often, technological investments pay for themselves quickly by enabling you to avoid direct and indirect costs. You may not even know how much figuring it out in the field could cost you until you find a conflict that requires reordering materials, rework and schedule delays, which can eat up a lot of money and build resentment with the other trades.

You know, the people you should be collaborating with.