The current and future economy, trends in design and construction, political influence – sometimes we have something to say about topics which may be signs of things to come.

Owners, developers and contractors have a new critical issue to add to their list of concerns about the hiring of illegal labor on their projects – human trafficking victims.

We were alerted to the seriousness of the issue by Brandon Darby, a subcontractor and human rights activist who has been investigating human trafficking in the U.S., its impact on the construction industry and its toll on human lives.  Darby is best known for his work with law enforcement agencies on anti-terror issues.  We followed up with Darby and asked him a few questions.

Why did you contact Construction Citizen about this issue?

“When I found Construction Citizen and realized that many construction industry organizations and leaders are working to hold their own industry accountable, I wanted to alert them to another issue that exists in our industry, one that is undermining the image and future of the industry, the issue of human trafficking and slave labor in construction.”    Read more » about Slavery on Your Construction Site?

Daniel W. Rasmus, blogger for the online magazine Fast Company, is focused on the uncertainties that companies will face.  Our companies.  Our industry.  Our uncertainties.

Issues like wellness, generational change and conflict, technology, leadership, skills gaps and worker shortages will plague those companies who do not take the initiative today to create action and contingency plans to address each of the issues before they demand an immediate solution.

About the possibility of a skilled worker / talent shortage, Rasmus writes:

“If nationalistic tendencies prevail, then the outcomes of individual education systems, public and private, and training programs provided by firms and immigration policy will combine to determine the available talent pools.  Read more » about Fast Company Blogger Talks About the Challenges of our Future Organizations

According to the latest industry figures from the Associated General Contractors Association (AGC):

“The construction industry added 5,000 jobs in April while the industry’s unemployment rate declined slightly to 17.8 percent, nearly twice the national average, according to an analysis of new federal employment data released [earlier this month] by the Associated General Contractors of America.  Association officials said the figures continue a year-long trend of little change in construction employment after years of steep declines and predicted the stagnation is unlikely to change soon.”

In a press release from the AGC, their chief economist, Ken Simonson, states:

“The construction industry may have stopped bleeding jobs, but there is no sign that employment Read more » about Lots of Construction Workers Still Looking for Work

2011 has begun with more optimism, for sure.  It is supported by some encouraging facts and activities involving Houston’s energy companies, the real estate community, architects and engineers, even lenders.  However, as it relates to actual non-residential contract awards the facts are still sobering; the market is still significantly depressed.  Data from McGraw Hill suggests that 2011 will be only slightly better for non-residential construction than 2010, well behind 2009, and light years behind the pre-recession 2008 numbers.  While we expect the market to improve over the coming months, it will be gradual, and may not be truly discernible until the 4th quarter of this year.

So what gives reason for optimism?

There are several “front end conditions” that are significantly better than a year ago.  If they continue, they will promote new commercial construction projects over time.  Specifically, the overall Houston economy is better, thanks mainly to the health of the energy companies. Read more » about Strategic Realities

In the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) process, one core idea is that there is shared risk and responsibility for the delivery of the project.  This has made it difficult on the companies who insure these project teams as the normal approach is that each player on the project has their own liability insurance.  That approach is based on the suspicion by team members that one of their partners might be intentionally negligent leading to a loss of life or shoddy construction.

According to Green Source Magazine, “The $385 million Owensboro Medical Health Center project in Owensboro, Kentucky, is using IPD and has a single-project insurance policy that covers the entire team, in addition to the Read more » about Integrated Project Delivery Invites Innovative Insurance Model

The use of the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) process is growing a slow rate around the country, possibly because of the requirement for shared risks and rewards and the form of contracting and insuring those teams.  However, owners are beginning to push for new forms of delivery and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently surveyed their members to see what the current status of IPD is within the profession.  As the use of IPD within the industry expands, architectural firms will be a likely signpost of that expansion.

Here is that survey as reported in GreenSource magazine, a collaboration of Architectural Record, McGraw-Hill Construction, and BuildingGreen, LLC.   Read more » about AIA Survey on the Use of IPD Contracts

Texas based commercial contractor SpawGlass is not only changing CEOs at the end of this year, but according to Mobile Enterprise, the firm has deployed Motion Computing’s Motion F5v Tablet PCs into the field as part of their Building Information Modeling (BIM) efforts.  One of the first projects where the tablets are being used is at the construction site of the new University of Texas Student Activities /Liberal Arts Building at the UT campus in Austin.

According to Chris Tisdel, BIM technologist at SpawGlass, “Our goal is to create a tight connection between design intent and field activities, and then provide the owners with the same level of coordination and visibility throughout the lifecycle of a structure.”

Motion Computing is an Austin, Texas designer of tablet computers for industry including healthcare, government and field personnel.  Their website offers a 13-minute webinar which explains how Tablet PCs in Construction can improve job site productivity, as well as some information about specific tablet PCs used in construction (free registration required).   Read more » about Coming Soon to a Contractor Near You?

Today was Tax Day for millions of Americans, but not for some in our industry.  The current situation with our broken immigration system and the smuggling of workers into the country across our open borders; the “cash” and underground economy in the construction industry; and those contractors and owners who tolerate and turn a “blind eye” to the misclassification and wage theft happening on the construction sites of their buildings have created a situation where the tension in the industry and in the economy is rising to a boiling point.

This week, thousands of construction workers will be paid as independent contractors and in the process, their bosses will avoid reporting or paying any taxes on their behalf.  They in turn, will pay no federal income taxes.  In a number of cases, those contractors paying cash will even refuse to pay the workers even the monies that they are due, not to mention the taxes that should be withheld, reported and paid.   Read more » about Tax Day In America