Reshaping the Construction Industry

Dodge, ConstructConnect, ABI, Census find divergent starts, design and permit trends

The value of construction starts rose 2% from January to February at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, Dodge Data & Analytics reported on Tuesday. "This was the second straight monthly increase, following a 15% hike in January [revised up from an initial estimate of +12%], as construction starts regained the upward track following four consecutive monthly declines to close out 2016. Much of February's advance came from a strong performance by the public works sector, led by the start of a $1.4 billion natural gas pipeline in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, plus an improved level of highway and bridge construction. The electric utility/gas plant category also strengthened with the start of two large power plants and a major transmission line project. At the same time, nonresidential building made a partial retreat [-9%] after its strong January performance, yet still remained slightly above its average monthly pace during 2016. Residential building in February also settled back [-3%], due to a slide for multifamily housing....Additional perspective is obtained by looking at...the 12 months ending February 2017 versus the 12 months ending February 2016, which lessens the volatility present in comparisons of just two months. On this basis, total construction starts were up 2%. By major sector, nonbuilding construction dropped 12%, with public works down 4% and electric utilities/gas plants down 30%.    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: March 20-23, 2017

Now that it’s been given the green light by the the Austin City Council, a new program will launch in the coming weeks to expedite permitting for construction projects including "living wages" for large commercial projects.

The Austin Business Journal described the program this way:

After paying the additional fees, residential, mixed-use and small commercial projects can join the expedited permitting program with no extra hurdles. However major commercial projects — at least 75,000 square feet or $7.5 million in value, with no residential uses — must submit to oversight by a third party, such as the Workers Defense Project through its Better Builder Program.    Read more » about Austin Prepares to Launch New Expedited Building Permit Program

Construction input costs again outpace building PPIs; hires rise; 39 states add jobs

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

The producer price index (PPI) for final demand in February, not seasonally adjusted, increased 0.4% from January and 2.2% year-over-year (y/y) from February 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Tuesday. AGC posted tables and an explanation focusing on construction prices and costs. Final demand includes goods, services and five types of nonresidential buildings that BLS says make up 34% of total construction. The PPI for final demand construction, not seasonally adjusted, dipped 0.1% for the month but increased 1.2% y/y.    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: March 13-17, 2017

From the window of my home. I can see two cranes against the skyline. I live in Houston and over the past few years, cranes have become a pretty common site. With binoculars, I can see the sole operator in his solitary perch. All day he swings the long lateral arm. Sometimes it is a bucket of cement, other times long steel rods and other assorted materials. Any other method of moving so varied payloads would take a great deal more time and human power.    Read more » about Drill Bits

“The Future is here, it is just not very evenly distributed yet.” - William Gibson, Author

Advanced technology is screaming onto the construction jobsite today. Everything from remote driverless dump trucks to self driving concrete trucks, smart phones, ipads, laser scanners, thermal imaging cameras, RFIDS and geospatial devices are all being adopted by contractors on the jobsite. Some companies are investing in the new technologies and others are waiting. They will soon be screaming if they don’t pay close attention to the rapid development of augmented reality and its impact on all parts of our industry.

Personal protection too, is about to get a makeover for the first time in decades.    Read more » about The Future is Here

This game has many variations, but one of the worst is the basic game of change orders.

As a subcontractor, you are into the job and the scope changed or the drawings were finally completed and you were finally able to get the shop drawings completed. It took longer because the owner’s rep or the designers could not or would not make a decision.

Sometimes you have to submit a change order to help you cover the additional work that was necessary to meet the revisions. You submit them to the General Contractor as scheduled and a week later get a denial in no uncertain terms.   Read more » about Games General Contractors and Subs Play – Change Orders

Following a recent report that some immigrants have avoided construction jobsites out of fear that they’ll be deported, the AGC in Austin decided to conduct a survey aimed at determining whether recent immigration enforcement actions by the Trump Administration have had a real impact on the workforce.

Here are some major takeaways from the survey:

76% of local commercial construction industry having hard time finding hourly craft workers, according to the survey. This is almost identical to the statewide results of 74% reported in an AGC of America survey last year.

40% responded that they’ve been having trouble for years finding workers, regardless of the recent government policy changes regarding illegal immigration. Only 19% responded that the recent changes are having SOME or a MAJOR impact on their work. 17% say it’s too early to tell. 28% say that the often-cited statistic that “50% of construction workers in Texas are undocumented” is either too low or about right. 22% say it depends on type of work and trades involved. 21% said they don’t know.   Read more » about Survey: 76% of Austin Area Construction Firms Say It is Difficult to Find Hourly Craft Workers

When I was in grade school, we used to play “Crack the Whip” where one boy would act as an anchor and 5 or 6 other kids would form a chain, hold hands and begin to run usually counterclockwise. As the speed began to pick up the kid at the end of the line would go flying into the air usually taking a nosedive into the turf. I was a skinny kid and usually ended up flying through the air, fun until gravity played its role.

Later, as a teen at the roller rink or on the ice, we played the same game with the person at the end of the whip speeding at an incredible speed, but sometimes ending up being slammed into the boards. You get the idea I’m sure. The person at the end of the chain takes the brunt of the blow. This might be a fun game to play as a kid, but tough on the person at the end of the whip, especially when it is you. Crack! Bam! Boom!

General Contractors play this game with higher division subs when it comes to scheduling.    Read more » about Games Contractors and Subs Play: Crack the Whip

Employment jumps in February; "Momentum" looks positive for building, power projects

Nonfarm payroll employment in February increased by 235,000, seasonally adjusted, from January and by 2,350,000 (1.6%) year-over-year (y/y), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. The unemployment rate dipped to 4.7% from 4.8% in January. Construction employment (6,881,000) increased by 58,000 from the upwardly revised January total to the highest level since November 2008 and rose by 219,000 (3.3%) y/y. The monthly increase was the largest since March 2007 and probably reflected exceptionally mild weather in much of the U.S. in February. There was an increase of 15,100—the largest for February since 1996—in heavy and civil engineering construction employment, which is likely more affected than building or specialty trade contractors by winter weather. Average hourly earnings in construction increased 2.7% y/y to $28.48, or 9.2% higher than the average for all private-sector employees ($26.09, a y/y gain of 2.8%).   Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: March 6-10, 2017

The first of four Lift & Move USA career events in 2017 was held February 14 in Tampa, Florida, hosted by ALL Crane Rental of Florida, LLC, part of the ALL Family of Companies.  The event saw approximately 450 young people from local schools and colleges who converged on ALL Crane’s Tampa facility to learn first-hand about careers in the crane, rigging and specialized transport industry and to see heavy equipment at close quarters.  I attended one of the Lift & Move events last year in Houston and shared some video interviews I recorded then.

Lift & Move USA is a program promoting careers in the industry to high school and college students and veterans.  It was launched in 2015 by the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA), the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), and industry publisher KHL Group, owners of American Cranes & Transport magazine.   Read more » about Lift & Move USA one-day Events Continue in 2017

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