Reshaping the Construction Industry

Following concerns raised here on Construction Citizen by contractors in Austin, the Austin Community College Board of Trustees has decided to create a task force to hammer out new rules for construction under a proposed $386 million bond.

The ACC board was planning to move ahead with the new rules when Associated General Contractors Austin President Phil Thoden wrote on Construction Citizen that it appeared the proposal was being rammed through:

"...the resolution appears to have been crafted without input from a broad range of the local construction community.  This is especially puzzling when you consider that the owner in this case has the word “community” as part its official name.   Read more » about Austin Community College Taps the Brakes on New Rules for Construction

The following article was written by Marek Workforce Development Coordinator, Arthur Ehmling and was originally published on MarekBros.com.

After the 2014 Workforce Development Graduation July 23rd, I met with one of the twenty-one new Marek Helper graduates, Rodrick Horn. Rodrick came to us during the probation period of the Workforce Development Training program. Rodrick completed the process and started the probation period in January 2013. He proved to be an outstanding trainee, and was switched to MBS payroll that March. Rodrick is working toward his goal of becoming a foreman.

MBS projects that Rodrick has worked on include Minute Maid Park, BBVA, Katy High School, Baylor College of Medicine, Moody Gardens, UTMB-Galveston, Halliburton, and Nordstrom.  : Read more » about Helper Graduate Discusses Marek's Workforce Development Program [VIDEO]

In a September 2014 study entitled Sinking Underground: The Growing Informal Economy in California Construction, misclassification of more than 39,800 construction workers is a key reason that the underground economy in construction is contributing to the low wages, difficulty in recruiting qualified craft workers and loss of wages and taxes in the State of California.

According to the study, released by the Economic Roundtable, a non profit research organization based in Los Angeles, in 2011 more than 143,900 construction jobs in the state were “informal” – code for off the books, misclassified as independent contractors or unreported by employers.

The study looked at wages and construction jobs from 1972 to 2012 and found that the number of construction workers that were unreported or misclassified increased by 400% during that period.   Read more » about New Misclassification Study Shows Impact in California

It’s been said that the military’s purpose is two-fold: “To kill people and to break things.”  But in the battle against an invisible enemy, in this case the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, United States military forces are tasked with building infrastructure that will hopefully help struggling nations contain the deadly infectious disease.  Specifically, they are arriving in Monrovia, Liberia as part of a plan to build tent hospitals and train local nurses to treat a reportedly widening Ebola epidemic in Africa.

The Wall Street Journal reports the troops are getting a slow start:

“On Saturday, a handful of troops from the Navy's 133rd Mobile Construction Battalion led a bulldozer through thigh-high grass outside Liberia's main airport, bottles of hand sanitizer dangling from their belt loops.   Read more » about US Troops Get Started with Construction of Ebola Treatment Centers [VIDEO]

The following article was written by Marek Fabric Panels Project Manager, Bill Rankin, and was originally published on MarekBros.com.

In commercial construction, fabric panels systems seldom hit the radar when Fire Code compliance is considered. They usually come to light after an incident. Typically, Plan Review Departments within some major metropolitan areas focus primarily on the obvious considerations of occupancy, egress, exits, stairwells, sprinkler heads and strobes long before wall finishes and then, sometimes they are not considered or reviewed at all. The continual non-enforcement of fire ratings and testing on textiles or fabric panel systems contributes to the complacency about fire code compliance for those systems. The lack of enforcement may actually make it appear to some contractors and designers that the code is non-existent, but the code does exist.

If a state, city or metropolitan area adopts the International Building Code (IBC), then wall finishes and fabric panel systems fall under Chapter 8 Section 803 for fire code compliance. Section 803.1.1 describes that “Interior wall and ceiling finish materials shall be classified in accordance with ASTM E84 or UL 723. Such Interior finish materials shall be grouped in the following classes in accordance with their flame spread and smoke developed indexes. Class A, B or C.”

What is true about the IBC is that it establishes the minimum requirements, and a jurisdiction cannot subtract from a code or contend that a section of the code does not apply. A jurisdiction can only add to the code, and usually those additions create more stringent requirements than the code may already provide.   Read more » about Liability for Fire Code Compliance in the Absence of Enforcement

Last month marked the end of summer.  For most of us, that means no more trips to the beach or outdoor BBQs, but for many of our neighbors working construction in Texas, the falling temperatures offer desperately needed relief from brutal, and often life threatening, working conditions.

Billy Tirado is a foundation repairman from Dallas.  For the past 12 years, he’s worked hard to provide for his wife and three daughters, but he risks his health every time he works in the hot Texas sun.  Last summer, Billy was working for a foundation repair company that forbade him from stopping for water or rest.  As a result, he nearly fainted from heat exhaustion.  “Your body feels like it is suffocating...I felt dizzy.  My eyes got blurry.  I felt nauseous.”

Sadly, Billy’s experience is typical in the Texas construction industry.  Because there is no state or federal law ensuring rest breaks for construction workers, many employers fail to do the right thing; nearly 40% of Texas construction workers do not receive rest breaks on the job.  Workers who are denied rest breaks face higher risks of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death.  This summer in Dallas, an average of two workers were hospitalized due to heat-related illnesses every day.   Read more » about Working Without Rest Puts Lives in Danger

The following article originally appeared in the October newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC for the purpose of providing the latest leading indicators and industry issues to those clients.  Reprinted with permission.

The market continues to prosper in Houston. New projects are being announced each week and the market shows no signs of slowing. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a national leading indicator for construction still shows growth across the nation, and even stronger growth in the southern region, which includes Texas. The ABI’s project inquiries index is even higher, which suggests that the architect’s telephone is still ringing as more owners want to pursue projects across the nation.   Read more » about Houston’s Monthly Metrics: October

On Monday, October 6th, the Austin Community College Board of Trustees will consider a resolution addressing wages and working conditions on future construction projects included as part of a combined $386 million bond package. Bond packages for new construction typically enjoy broad and strong support from our industry, but the Austin AGC is troubled by certain provisions that will impact the day-to-day operations of companies performing the work.

What’s even more problematic is that the resolution appears to have been crafted without input from a broad range of the local construction community. This is especially puzzling when you consider that the owner in this case has the word “community” as part its official name. To be fair, ACC Trustees have a priority focus on local education, not construction, issues.    Read more » about Austin Community College Proposes New Construction Requirements, Fails to Consult Contractors

The following article was originally published on Marekbros.com.

This business is just as much about the relationships we build over the decades as it is about the projects we build for our customers. Perhaps more so. After all, without those relationships, the projects for those customers would never go from concept to reality.

Each year at Marek, we pay tribute to select partnerships by honoring some of the most trusted and respected companies in construction. We host an annual dinner where we have, for years, honored a Supplier of the Year and a General Contractor of the Year. In 2014, we’ve added something new: An Architect of the Year.   Read more » about Honoring Our Partners in the Industry

Texas is an economic engine unlike any other, but there are things that could put the brakes on our dynamic growth.  Congested highways and the unreasonably long commutes that go along with them have the potential to slow commerce in a way that promises to be detrimental to the Texas economic experience.  With over 1,000 people moving here each day, we’re told to expect as many as 18 million additional vehicles on our roads by the year 2040.  That’s 45 million cars and trucks.

When Governor Rick Perry first took over the central office at the Texas Capitol in 2000, the state had zero debt for roads.  One of Perry's enduring legacies – for better or worse – is that he embraced government debt to finance construction of highways.  Now the credit card is maxed out, and voters across the ideological spectrum are opposed to more toll roads.   Read more » about Texas Voters to Decide on Taking a Step Forward for Road Construction

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