News & Updates

Housing Market is in Flux This Spring

on . Posted in Construction industry trends

The housing marketing continues to remain tepid at best, which is bad news for the economy, home builders and contractors. The National Association of Home Builders recently announced that the sales of newly built, single-family homes decreased 3.3 percent in February, citing data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the NAHB, believes the unusually harsh weather conditions across the country may be playing a role in the smaller number of homes being purchased. According to the research, new-home sales activity declined more than 32 percent in the Northeast, fell 1.5 percent in the South and dropped nearly 16 percent in the West. However, there is still hope for the housing market to turn around. The Midwest boasted an increase of 36.7 percent in February, showing a strong recovery from the previous month.

"We still expect 2014 will be a strong year for housing," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The first two-month average of 2014 is exactly in line with where 2013 left off. If not for the unusual weather, we would easily be ahead of last year's pace. We also continue to see household formations and pent-up demand driving sales forward."

The Spring Isn't Starting Off Quite as Planned
While there is a sense of optimism that home sales will improve throughout the year and the inventory of homes has grown to 189,000 units in February, The Wall Street Journal indicated individuals and families are demonstrating a weaker interest in purchasing a new homes. Home sales usually take off in March, but fewer investors are buying this year. With the construction marketplace already struggling, it could mean trouble for home builders throughout the country.

"The spring selling season is off to a weaker start than people in the industry had been expecting or hoping for," Tom Lawler, founder of Lawler Economic & Housing Consulting, told the newspaper.

Buyers are Expected to Come Around
With 440,000 units purchased in February, buyer interest may turn around throughout the year. According to The WSJ, home prices are similar to what they were about 10 years ago, although interest rates are higher. Keeping this in mind, many cities throughout the country may be somewhat affordable to purchase a new home in. These factors show that many home buyers will come around in the near future.

The economy has had a dramatic effect on income growth throughout the country, which has made it difficult for Americans to save up enough money to purchase a new home. However, the number of home construction projects has continued to rise in recent months, demonstrating that a spike in home sales could be right around the corner. 

Kelly said that with the inventory of for-sale homes on the rise, a relatively strong buying season isn't out of the picture. This is not only good news for the economy, but also for home builders.


Pay Attention to Environmental Risk During Health Care Construction Projects

on . Posted in Construction safety and enforcement (OSHA)

Promoting eco-friendliness is often a focus when carrying out construction projects. When the site is a health care facility, it becomes even more critical to pay attention to every detail to ensure that pollution isn't an issue. It has to be a top priority that potential exposures to fugitive dust, fumes or mold to patients and residents are eradicated right away, Gerry Rojewski, vice president and national product line manager of ACE Environmental Risk, wrote for Construction Business Owner magazine.

"Environmental problems linked to construction at health care facilities can lead to costly project delays, significant cleanup and remediation costs and negative media coverage that can cause lasting damage to a contractor's reputation," Rojewski wrote. "A comprehensive risk management strategy that includes detailed planning in conjunction with environmental experts and insurance that addresses a wide range of pollution exposures can help construction business owners mitigate those risks."

Be Prepared to Manage Environmental Risks
Craig Richardson, senior vice president at ACE Environmental Risk, said many health care facilities are beginning to upgrade their technology and infrastructure, not only creating jobs in construction, but also turning hospitals into construction sites. Using environmentally sound practices is the only option for contractors, especially when renovating or adding to existing facilities. With clinicians, patients and other civilians on-site, the risks associated with pollution are escalated. Assessing the potential threats should be the first step before even getting started on the project.

Getting an understanding of where mold may exist and bacteria risks will help construction firms know whether they need to leverage a containment system to minimize the spread of any materials, according to an ACE Group white paper. If any issues need further examination, it may be a good idea to bring in safety experts in emergency response, business continuity, environmental compliance, hazardous materials management, patient safety and industrial hygiene to mitigate any potential threats.

Proper Planning is Absolutely Necessary
Once all of the potential risks have been identified, it's time to look at insurance policies that can protect the company from financial threats. According to Rojewski, contractors' pollution liability coverage is a smart option for construction firms. Purchasing these policies will ensure that any gaps in general liability insurance are covered, while any injuries and property damage caused by pollution are protected by insurance. With environmental issues becoming a growing concern in the construction industry, it makes sense to allocate as many resources as possible to ensure that all risks are taken care of. The last thing business owners want to deal with is reputational harm because of poor risk management.

"Health care facilities require an even higher standard of care," wrote Rojweski. "Before work begins, contractors should develop a plan to identify and mitigate the environmental exposures. When work gets underway, careful project management and environmental monitoring are necessary to make sure those measures are adequate to protect the health of patients, staff and workers." 


Obama Sends Legislation to Congress for Transit Reparation Funds

on . Posted in Construction industry trends

Almost 64,000 bridges in the U.S. have posted load limits or restrictions, and 63,000 nationwide need repair, according to The Washington Post. When state and  county budgets are tight these reparation projects are often put on the back burner until additional funding is received.

"There's only so much state and local governments can do with very, very limited resources," said Alison Premo Black, the chief economist of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Many of these transit construction projects rely on federal dollars to meet reparation needs, the Highway Trust Fund stated. However, the fund is depleting.

With insufficient bridges and aging transit systems in the U.S., the Obama administration sent Congress legislation that would provide $302 billion for road and transit projects over the next four years. These funds will ensure the U.S. Highway Trust Fund does not run dry, Bloomberg Business Week reported. The fund relies on gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes.

"Having a concrete proposal from the administration is a positive step forward in the reauthorization process," said Janet Kavinoky, who tracks transportation policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Transportation leaders in Congress want to pursue six-year measures. If the Transportation Department does not receive enough funds, it may lead to halted construction work. Funding for transportation could benefit construction companies as demand increases. As the summer construction season approaches, companies are requesting consensus on all financial and policy priorities, according to Bloomberg.


Develop Disaster Readiness Plans Before They're Needed

on . Posted in Construction industry trends

An important part of contractor and construction management is being prepared, whether that means dealing with labor and material shortages or handling an increased influx of jobs.

Safety is another important area that contractors need to focus on to protect employees, physical assets and the reputation of a company. Besides the obligation to provide a hazard-free environment for employees, construction businesses that have poor safety practices can negatively influence potential customers and discourage the highest-quality tradesmen from working with them.

Contractors need to have everyday safety protocols in place and plans developed to deal with uncommon but potentially severe incidents, like lightning strikes, fires and major weather events - for both their own operations and those of their clients. Some risk analysis and emergency planning done before the fact will help keep staff members, equipment and supplies safe, as well as allow a construction business to render its services in the aftermath of a disaster event.

Where Disaster Strikes is an Important Consideration
A complete disaster-preparedness plan should involve strategies for serious problems in the immediate area of a company's headquarters, as well as remote work sites and surrounding areas. Electrical Contractor Magazine points out that when an unforeseen event happens in the vicinity of major work operations, the focus of recovery efforts will be different from a problem at a remote worksite. Decision-makers should have a plan to determine the problems caused and duration of repairs, as well as timelines to get back to functional and full strength.

When contractors work with customers covering a large geographic area, responding to the aftereffects of a disaster can actually be easier. It's less likely that operations will be directly affected, and a quick response to client needs can get them back up and running in a short period of time. Effective disaster response can also be marketed as a service included in overall construction projects at an additional cost. When a disaster occurs near or at a company's base of operations, it's more likely that employees will be occupied dealing with the damage to their own homes and personal property.

Where to Start
When it comes to projects in progress that are interrupted by weather or other natural disasters, it's important to have a plan to repair damage and get work back on schedule. Construction Today says that assessing damage is extremely important and businesses should be in touch with regional experts in this field to increase effectiveness. After estimating costs and documenting damage, contractors need to do whatever they can to stop problems from worsening in severity or spreading throughout a project, from turning off possibly damaged utilities to sealing entrances to prevent moisture from seeping in and other issues.

The most important part of disaster preparedness for construction companies is to understand how the organization will deal with damage to their own facilities and their projects. By having plans in place before a disaster occurs, the response will be more focused and effective.


Olympic Games Construction Workers in Brazil Launch Labor Dispute

on . Posted in Large construction projects

In Rio de Janerio, more than 2,000 construction workers for the 2016 Olympics Games went on strike this past week. The conflict escalated to construction workers and security guards firing gun shots. No one was injured, Reuters reported. Rio Mais, the association constructing the venues, has not yet announced when the construction will pick up again.

The employees claim to be fighting against low wages, subpar benefits and poor working conditions, reported The Associated Press. They are also requesting improved union representation, according to Reuters.

The labor dispute is causing construction delays, and Brazil faces tight deadlines to complete the Olympics project. Rio has just over two years to construct the cluster of Olympics venues.

"We are worried by the fact we are losing time," said Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio Olympic organizing committee, according to The AP. "Beyond that, there is catch-up to do and we will have to move faster to make up whatever time we've lost."

Additional issues delay construction 
There are other issues causing these hold-ups, such as water pollution in Guanabara Bay, according to The AP. Guanabara Bay will house the Olympic sailing games. Pollution in the area would pose potential health issues for athletes, a major concern for the International Olympic Committee.The Coordination Commission plans to eliminate 80 percent of sewage by 2016, according to Inside the Games. Other dangerous conditions involve the Joao Havelange stadium, which hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, added Reuters. Engineers warned that the roof could fall down in high winds, so Officials closed the stadium last year.

The 2016 Olympics Games are expected to cost Brazil $15 billion, according to The AP. The City Government and the Rio Mais Consortium are funding the construction, but the three government levels are debating over who will pay for the construction. 

The Government is also prioritizing accessibility and environmental efforts. This includes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which requires the building to meet certain prerequisites., the official Olympic Movement website, reported the building will feature energy-saving air conditioning and lighting systems.

Additionally, the Brazilian government is focusing on accessibility for those with disabilities. The buildings will offer ramps to accommodate people in wheelchairs and will post Braille signs.

"Modernity and sustainability mark the new headquarters," said Carlos Arthur Nuzman, Rio 2016 president, according to "The modular construction is an innovation that better suits our project. We will use the building according to the committee's growth demands."