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.
News & Updates
The major renovations to Boston's TD Garden are providing plenty of jobs in construction for workers in the area. With an approximate budget of $70 million, according to Boston CBS affiliate WBZ, work will through the next two years and continue on a more limited schedule while the arena is open for games, concerts and other events. Some of the biggest changes that will occur during the current concourse renovation phase are the addition of the physical infrastructure needed to implement high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the building. Parts of the club section seating areas such as the pro shop will also be modified, along with updates to the restaurants inside the arena.
The changes during this phase are mostly focused on visitors, ultimately attempting to attract capacity crowds with better amenities and improved dining options. The New England Sports Network pointed out that the improvements currently being made involve complete renovations of two floors of the arena, along with more minor changes elsewhere. This is good timing for major renovations to the areas that primarily cater to servicing fans, as two of the TD Garden's major tenants, the Celtics and the Bruins, have both finished their 2014 seasons.
Modernization a Key Factor
Far from the problems that plagued the original Boston Garden, such as a lack of air conditioning that led to fog forming above the hockey rink when weather began to warm up during playoff season, the TD Garden is trying to maintain its position as a top-tier venue. Rossetti Architects, a firm specializing in sports and arena-related construction projects, is in charge of the concourse renovations. Rossetti is emphasizing improving the fan experience inside the Garden and offering digital avenues for sponsors to convey their messages. The addition of the high-density Wi-Fi, along with approximately 200 advertising display screens, are two of the biggest components of this renovations.
Other elements including reconfigured common areas to provide visitors more room to interact with each other and the addition of more upscale dining options, such as craft beer bars, point to the driving force of modernizing the arena. Although the renovations are costly, they are necessary to keep the arena competitive in the heavily populated area where it resides. By building now, the arena owners are better able to adjust for the future and keep the Garden an attractive option.
It's easy to dismiss the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce about home construction numbers as negative. After all, a 6.5 percent drop in overall starts is clearly a reduction from April, when construction started on 1.07 million new homes. Newsday pointed out the drop equates to 60,000 fewer homes being built, and fewer projects mean fewer construction jobs. However, viewing the numbers from a pure volume of construction starts means missing a fact highlighted by MarketWatch: The number of permits issued to begin construction rose significantly in May, gaining 3.7 percent from April. Additionally, the confidence interval for that 6.5 percent reduction was 10.2 percent, which is the statistically precise way of saying the Department of Commerce isn't entirely sure if construction numbers actually decreased or not.
MarketWatch provided the reminder that a single month of increases in permitting doesn't mark a trend, but the marked jump as the seasons change and weather improves across the country is likely good news for contractors. More construction projects of all kinds take place across the country during the warmer seasons, as crews aim to take advantage of longer daylight hours and more hospitable temperatures. Because many contractors, especially those in colder climates, rely on increased workloads in the summer, the uptick in overall home construction is a good sign overall.
Home Construction Slowly Recovering
Although there are still hurdles to overcome until the construction industry reaches pre-Great Recession levels of overall productivity, the trend of slowly growing home construction rates are a positive. In a recent economic forecast from MarketWatch, homebuilder confidence showed a five-month high that indicates both a recovery from the seasonal swing of construction and other factors. The index, put together by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo, currently sits at 49 points. This means the industry is almost evenly divided on whether they have a positive outlook for future construction in the short term.
Because economic recovery has generally been slow, many contractors are hedging their bets by slowly and cautiously adding inventory and employing additional workers. This slow return to normalcy from the depths of the Great Recession is less than ideal, but it indicates positive, although slow, growth in the home construction industry. While many builders would rather have already experienced a complete righting of the economic ship, the generally positive growth in home construction numbers is a good outlook for the future.
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 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.
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.