Top Seven U.S. Construction Projects

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Construction industry projects are on the rise according to the 2015 Construction Industry Snapshot. Released in February, the annual tally of top construction projects across America provides a glimpse at the type and description of projects so developers and contractors can get a bigger picture of what is driving the industry. Philadelphia has up to $160 million slated for engineering/civil projects, with the state of Pennsylvania building ramps on the Betsy Ross Bridge and a DOT central office.

Construction Employment Rises Across Many States

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Here's some good news for both contracting firms and laborers looking for construction jobs: Year-over-year and month-to-month employment is on the rise, indicating an increase in building opportunities. While the construction industry was somewhat more resilient than many others during the economic downturn that plagued the U.S. in recent years, it still took a hit and saw reduced opportunities for growth. The market is still somewhat unstable in the short term, as the decline in non-residential construction in May, reported on by Contractor Magazine, indicates. Thankfully, the slowdown in commercial and residential construction, along with the long-term decline in spending by local, state and federal government agencies, is being substantially recovered from, based on recent labor statistics.

Construction Hampered by Severe Weather in Midwest

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Although the country is no longer dealing with what was one of the worst winters on record in many parts of the nation, other weather-related problems are slowing down construction projects as temperatures rise. Heavy rains have put a temporary halt to construction on some large projects in Ohio and Illinois, among other states.

In Illinois
In the southern Illinois city of Pinckneyville, construction on a new hospital has stalled significantly, according to the Southern Illinoisan. Although little could be done about approval delays relating to the U.S. Department of Agriculture green lighting for the project, that hold caused the initial groundbreaking to be pushed back from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014. Due to heavy rain and resulting wet and unstable ground, Tom Hudgins, hospital administrator predicted a loss of approximately 16 work days since construction started.

This continued bas weather has led to workers on construction jobs fulfilling their regular duties as well as pumping water out of holes dug on site so that they're able to continue work the next day. For a large project like the 83,000-square-foot hospital, dealing with water issues can be especially difficult.This drop in productivity has led to a projected cost overrun of approximately $600,000 and a delayed completion date, with a month already having been added to the timetable.

And in Ohio
Southwest Ohio is experiencing significant weather-related construction issues as well, reports local news station WDTN. Although many projects have been delayed or negatively affected by increased rain, one smaller effort demonstrated the issues that all construction projects face when the weather doesn't cooperate. In West Carrollton, a beautification project has lost approximately 10 to 15 partial or full days to heavy rain.

While the crew has been working 10-hour shifts on nicer days to make up for lost time, Greg West, project manager, said the approach is making workers more tired during subsequent work periods. The construction crews also expressed a strong desire to keep working, because they don't like sitting idle and for the practical reason of their paychecks. Although the crew has lost a significant amount of time to bad weather, they still expect to complete the project on time. The long-term unpredictability of weather on a local scale will likely cause other problems across the country, although the dryer part of summer is approaching in many areas.


Apartment Occupancy Rise Interesting News for Builders, Investors

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While much attention has been paid to the recent numbers related to homebuilding starts in the U.S., the rise in apartment occupancy may have been overlooked. Although both investors and the construction marketplace as a whole have focused more on the building of single-family homes in recent months, individual dwelling units have hit the highest level of occupancy in six years, according to statistics from apartment data company Axiometrics and reported by CNBC. In all, 95 percent of such units were occupied in May. Home and apartment occupancy numbers are more resilient than some economic measures, but this increase in the number of people living in apartments is an indicator of financial recovery.

Why Contractors Should Embrace the Lean Construction Philosophy

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Over the past 30 years, the U.S. construction industry has decreased its productivity levels, according to the Construction Industry Institute.  One way of addressing this discouraging trend is utilizing lean construction. The lean philosophy improves productivity among the construction workforce. From eliminating waste and aiming for perfection, lean is about building quality structures correctly the first time and making maximum use of all resources. Waste can include redundant activity and frequent mistakes.

Contractors should adopt this attitude as it prioritizes value over cost, improves workforce productivity and saves time and money. Intergraph recommended managers integrate lean practices into early planning of projects. 

The Birth of the Lean Concept
The term "lean" as it relates to a business practice is 25 years old, according to Lean Blog, a news and commentary site devoted to lean methodology. It is equivalent to the motto "less is more." The concept of lean manufacturing originated from the Japanese automaker Toyota in the 1970s. The manufacturing company was the first organization to apply lean principles to production. It focused on improving customer value. This model influenced the construction industry. The term "lean construction" was adopted just 20 year ago.

Why Construction Companies Enjoy this Model
Lean construction is gaining steam in the industry, as it comes with many benefits. It improves communication with owners, contractors and suppliers as well as visualization and the display of workflow, design and schedule. Additionally, it creates a safe working environment, reducing work-related injuries. With efficient planning, contractors prioritize improved workflow and realistic tasks.

However, construction firms can't implement this philosophy overnight. It's a long-term commitment and a cultural change throughout the company. It is a holistic way of thinking and if contractors can successfully implement their approach  at their company, they can save money and improve delivery times by meeting deadlines.

Before contractors integrate this method at their companies, they should conduct a self assessment. Project managers can consider if there is a pattern to profitable projects. They should identify how they can improve their productivity levels. 

Pair Lean Principles with Technology to Enjoy Effective Results
Technology can support lean construction. Computers increase speed and ensure accuracy, New software, such as enterprise resource planning programs, helps material deliveries arrive on time. If they come in late, this may affect workers' productivity as they may be waiting to start their work for the day.