AGC to build equestrian center for Horses 4 Heroes

agc-charitiesConstruction charity organization AGC Charities, Inc. announced today that it will build a new equestrian center for a local charity group that provides equestrian programs and activities for veterans, their families and local first responders. As part of its annual Operation Opening Doors effort, contractors will donate their time, expertise and money to create a new facility for Horses 4 Heroes.

Since its establishment in 2006, Horses 4 Heroes has been operating out of the back yard of the woman who founded the group, Sydney Knott. But thanks to AGC Charities, Inc. and the help of many member firms, the group has received permission from Las Vegas to build a new facility at the historic Tulley Springs Ranch on the northern end of town.

Las Vegas-based Martin-Harris Construction has volunteered to serve as the lead contractor for the charitable effort. The AGC of Las Vegas has also committed to recruiting many of its members to participate in the effort. The new facility will have an area for farm animals, riding arena and Mare Motel, as well as new fencing. In addition, the team will renovate one of the Ranch’s old cottages into a residence for the horse caretaker and perform significant site-prep work. The facility is scheduled to open on Thursday, March 6.

Clemens said the AGC Charities group is currently fundraising to support the soon-to-be renovated facility. He noted that the charitable group was established six years ago to channel and support the charitable efforts of the construction community. He added that the group held previous national Operation Opening Doors projects in Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Orlando and Palm Springs.

Click here for more information about Horses 4 Heroes, AGC Charities, Inc. and its Operation Opening Doors projects.

Construction firms expect demand to grow in 2014

Associated General Contractors of AmericaMany firms plan to start hiring again and most contractors predict demand will either grow or remain stable in virtually every market segment this year according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America. The survey, conducted as part of Optimism Returns: The 2014 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook, provides a generally upbeat outlook for the year even as firms worry about growing worker shortages, rising costs and the impact of new regulations and federal budget cutting.

Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer noted that many firms plan to begin hiring again, while relatively few plan to start making layoffs. Forty-one percent of firms that did not change staff levels last year report they plan to start expanding payrolls in 2014, while only two percent plan to start making layoffs. However, net hiring is likely to be relatively modest, with 86 percent of firms reporting they plan to hire 25 or fewer new employees this year.

Among the 19 states with large enough survey sample sizes, 100 percent of firms that did not change staffing levels last year in Utah plan to start hiring new staff this year, more than in any other state. (Click here for state-by-state survey results.)

Contractors have a relatively positive outlook for virtually all 11 market segments covered in the Outlook, in particular for private-sector segments. For five of those segments, at least 40 percent of respondents expect the market to expand and fewer than 20 percent expect the market to decline in 2014. The difference between the optimists and pessimists – the net positive reading – is a strong 28 percent for private office, manufacturing and the combined retail/warehouse/lodging segments, and 25 percent for power and hospital/higher education construction.

Among public sector segments, contractors are more optimistic about demand for new water and sewer construction, with a net positive of 17 percent. Contractors are mildly optimistic about the market for highway construction, with a net positive of 10 percent. Respondents are almost equally divided regarding the outlook for the other four segments, ranging from net positives of 5 percent for public buildings, 4 percent for schools, 3 percent for transportation facilities other than highways, to a negative of 2 percent for marine construction.

Sandherr added that contractors’ market expectations are significantly more optimistic than they were at this time last year. At that time, more contractors expected demand for highway, other transportation, public building, retail, warehouse and lodging, K-12 schools and private officers to shrink than expected it to grow.

Many contractors also report they plan to add new construction equipment in 2014. Seventy-three percent of firms plans to purchase construction equipment and 86 percent report they plan to lease it this year. The scope of those investments is likely to be somewhat limited, however. Forty-four percent of firms say they will invest $250,000 or less in equipment purchases and 53 percent say they will invest that amount or less for new equipment leases.

One reason firms may be more optimistic, association officials noted, is that credit conditions appear to have improved. Only 9 percent of firms report having a harder time getting bank loans, down from 13 percent in last year’s survey. And only 32 percent report customers’ projects were delayed or canceled because of tight credit conditions, compared with 40 percent a year ago.

Ninety percent of construction firms report they expect prices for key construction materials to increase in 2014. Most, however, expect those increases will be relatively modest, with 43 percent reporting they expect the increases to range between 1 and 5 percent. Meanwhile, 82 percent of firms report they expect the cost of providing health care insurance for their employees will increase in 2014. Despite that, only 1 percent of firms report they plan to reduce the amount of health care coverage they provide.

Simonson noted that as firms continue to slowly expand their payrolls, they were likely to have a harder time finding enough skilled construction workers. Already, 62 percent of responding firms report having a difficult time filling key professional and craft worker positions. And two-thirds of firms expect it will either become harder or remain as difficult to fill professional positions and 74 percent say it will get harder, or remain as hard, to fill craft worker positions.

Those worker shortages are already having an impact, the economist added. Fifty-two percent of firms report they are losing construction professionals to other firms or industries and 55 percent report they are losing craft workers. As a result, a majority of firms report they have improved pay and benefits to help retain qualified staff. One reason they are likely worried is that nearly half of the firms believe training programs for new craft workers are poor or below average.

Adding to their challenges, 51 percent of contractors report that demand for their services is being negatively impacted by federal funding cuts, new federal regulations and/or Washington’s inability to set an annual budget. “It would appear that Washington is not here to help as far as contractors are concerned,” Simonson noted.

Association officials added that survey respondents would prefer that Washington officials work on other priorities. Seventy-seven percent of firms reported listed having Washington find ways to make it easier to prepare the next generation of skilled workers as a top priority. Sixty-three percent listed repealing all or part of the Affordable Care Act as a top priority. And 63 listed renewing tax deductions and bonus depreciation for construction equipment as a top priority.

The Outlook was based on survey results from over 800 construction firms from every state and the District of Columbia. Varying numbers responded to each question. Contractors of every size answered over 40 questions about their hiring, equipment purchasing and business plans. Click here for Optimism Returns: The 2014 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook report. Click here for the survey results.

SBIC Recognizes High-Performance Building Leaders

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The National Institute of Building Sciences’ Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) recognized the 2013 Beyond Green™ High-Performance Building Awards winners at Building Innovation 2014: The National Institute of Building Sciences Annual Conference and Expo.

The SBIC Jury selected six winners ranging across four categories. Each of the six award-winning projects, products, initiatives and innovations demonstrate leadership in advancing the production of high-performance buildings.

The top prize in the High-Performance Buildings Category went to DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office. During this project, the team transformed an abandoned, distressed building in a redeveloping community of Phoenix into a modern sustainable facility that achieves net-zero energy use. Their efforts earned the building an Honor Award, First Place.

In the High-Performance Products Category, SageGlass earned an Honor Award, First Place. The electrochromic or electronically tint-able, dynamic glass provides architects, building owners, glazing contractors and homeowners with an energy-efficient glazing solution that controls the sun without blocking the view to the outdoors.

RDH Building Engineering’s Enclosure Renewal approach, which lowers a building’s energy consumption at low incremental capital cost, earned it recognition as an Honor Award, First Place recipient in the Innovations for High-Performance Buildings Category.

The SBIC Jury also recognized three Merit Award winners. In the High-Performance Buildings Category, a Merit Award went to Chemeketa Community College, Salem, Oregon for its new Health Sciences Complex.

Construction employment declines by 16,000, but unemployment rate also declines

Associated General Contractors of AmericaConstruction employment declined by 16,000 in December but the industry unemployment rate fell to 11.4 percent, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that the new employment data was likely impacted by cold weather, but also reflects underlying weakness in the construction sector.

Construction employment totaled 5,833,000 in December, an increase of 122,000 from a year earlier, noted Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. But while employment grew by 2.1 percent during the past year, construction employment remains nearly 1.9 million below the sector’s April 2006 peak. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for workers actively looking for jobs and last employed in construction declined from 13.5 percent in December 2012 to 11.4 percent last month.

Nonresidential construction firms lost 22,900 new jobs in December while residential firms added 6,200 jobs. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors lost 12,900 jobs for the month, the most of any segment, while heavy and civil engineering firms – which are most likely to perform federal construction work – lost 8,800 jobs, the second most. Meanwhile residential building contractors added the most new jobs during the past month, 4,800 jobs.

The number of unemployed construction workers dropped from 1,105,000 in December 2012 to 958,000 in December 2013, a decline of 147,000. Yet the industry added only 122,000 new jobs during the same timeframe. The shrinking pool of available construction workers may be one reason so many firms reporthaving a hard time finding qualified workers, Simonson noted.

Association officials said the outlook for construction could be helped by new investments in infrastructure and other construction programs. They urged Congress to finalize Water Resources Development Act legislation to invest in ports and other waterways. They also said Congress and the administration should work together to find a way to pay for needed repairs to aging roads and bridges before the current transportation legislation expires at the end of September.

Construction spending increase by 5.9% between November 2013 and 2013

Associated General Contractors of AmericaTotal construction spending increased between October and November and for the year amid growing private-sector demand, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted, however, that the spending levels were held back by declining public sector investments for both the month and the year.

Construction put in place totaled $934 billion in November, rising 1.0 percent since October and up 5.9 percent since November 2012. Private residential construction spending increased by 1.9 percent in November and jumped 17 percent from a year earlier. Private nonresidential spending climbed 2.7 percent for the month and 1.0 percent year-over-year. Public construction spending dropped 1.8 percent for the month and 0.2 percent over 12 months.

Over the past 12 months, the biggest jump in construction spending has occurred in new multifamily construction, which rose 0.9 percent for the month and 36 percent year-over-year. The lodging sector recorded the second highest annual gain, with spending rising 32.7 percent for the year and 0.3 percent for the month. Spending on communications facilities experienced the largest monthly increase, jumping 11.2 percent in November, although it is still down 10.5 percent for the year.

The largest private nonresidential category, power construction—which includes oil and gas field and pipeline projects as well as power plants, renewable power and transmission lines—increased by 3.3 percent in November but is actually down 24.2 percent for the year. The analysis noted, however, that there was a surge in power construction during the last quarter of 2012 as contractors rushed to finish wind projects before the expected expiration of the wind production tax credit at the end of 2012. Those credits were extended for projects that broke ground by the end of 2013, explaining the more recent surge. “Both the electricity and oil and gas components of power construction should do well in 2014,” he added.

Highway and street construction, the largest public category, declined by 0.4 percent in November but is up 4.6 percent compared to a year ago. The next largest public niche, educational construction, increased by 1.1 percent for the month but was unchanged for the year, he added.
Association officials noted that the spending figures would have been even better had it not been for the public sector declines. They urged Congress and the administration to work together in 2014 to pass vital transportation and other infrastructure legislation.

Slight Contraction for Architecture Billings Index Contracts Slightly

AIAAfter six months of steadily increasing demand for design services, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) paused in November.  As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the November ABI score was 49.8, down from a mark of 51.6 in October.  This score reflects a slight decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).  The new projects inquiry index was 57.8, down from the reading of 61.5 the previous month.

Key November ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: South (52.0), Midwest (51.6), West (50.2), Northeast (47.5)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (55.2), mixed practice (53.1), commercial / industrial (48.6), institutional (47.7)
  • Project inquiries index: 57.8

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Symposium Aims to Increase Life-Cycle Savings

Natl Inst of Building ScienceSmart buildings and building analytics are increasingly of interest within the facility operations and maintenance community. The National Institute of Building Sciences Facility Maintenance and Operations Committee (FMOC) was founded to develop the information exchange standard known today as the Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie) and to support the adoption of COBie as a standard practice within the building industry.

Today, the need for additional information exchanges is apparent. During the Facility Maintenance and Operations Committee (FMOC) Symposium: Improving Life-Cycle Savings through Intelligent Building Data, to be held Wednesday, January 8, 8:45 am – 11:45 am, as part of Building Innovation 2014: the National Institute of Building Sciences Conference and Expo, attendees will become acquainted with activities that provide a solid foundation for communication and analysis. Speakers will present and then converse in a moderated panel about three related areas in which FMOC members are engaged: OmniClass tables, equipment inventory standards and building sensor information exchange standards.

OmniClass tables emerged from the realization that a common classification of objects was needed to better support communication and use of project information. The presenters will explain how a number of legacy classifications and information standards fed into the development of the OmniClass tables; the process used to create these new standards; and practical applications and benefits to users; as well as provide an early view of several new tables being submitted to the nation’s building information modeling (BIM) standard, the National BIM Standard –United States®,as well as other tables that are being revised.

Smart buildings typically involve periodic monitoring and comparing to some static benchmark. COBie organizes the static product information provided by the manufacturer and installer; the equipment inventory organizes the data within the maintenance management system; and automated control systems and other inspection methods provide the periodic data. Presenters will discuss developing standard information exchanges pertinent to sensor systems, as well the benefits of having a complete and comprehensive equipment database.

Speakers include:

  • Chris Bogen, Computer Scientist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • William Brodt, Chair, Facility Maintenance and Operations Committee
  • Greg Ceton, Director, Technical Services, CSI
  • Alan Edgar, Workgroup Program Manager, Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate
  • Robert A. Keady, Jr., CEM, FMP, Facility Manager, Author

Register to Attend
Register now to attend Building Innovation 2014 and the FMOC Symposium and save. Online registration rates end 12/31/13.

E-book version of NBIMS-US available for $5

Natl Inst of Building ScienceThe National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance has officially released the e-book version of the National BIM Standard-United States® (NBIMS-US™) Version 2 (V2), the first-ever consensus-based standard governing building information modeling (BIM) for use in the United States. It was first released in spring 2012 as a free, online standard. With this new release as an eBook, the Alliance helps the NBIMS-US V2 advance the art and science of the building life cycle by making the standard that much easier to reference anywhere, anytime.

Developed in response to requests for an off-line and portable form of the standard, the eBook contains the fixed content of the NBIMS-US™ V2, as well as internet-accessible links to reference supporting material online. NBIMS-US™ V2 covers the full life cycle of buildings—from planning, design and construction to operations and sustainment. Part of an international effort, the standard is serving as the kick-off point for a number of other countries around the world to adopt as their own BIM standard, as well as the basis of NBIMS-US™  V3, which is currently under development here in the United States.

The standard is arranged into three main categories: reference standards, information exchange standards (which are built upon the reference standards) and best practice guidelines that support users in their implementation of open BIM standards-based deliverables.

The Alliance, which is both a council of the Institute and the North American chapter of buildingSMART® International, is working with several other nations on BIM standard development. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Korea, Australia and New Zealand are all using the NBIMS-US™ V2 as the basis for their own standards. The NBIMS-US™ V2 eBook is compatible with MAC and PC devices, Android Tablets, Kindle and Nook eReaders, and related formats. The application is available online through the Institute Store for just $4.99. Download the NBIMS-US™ V2 eBook now.

Aluminum sustainability white paper is available for free

American Architectural Manufacturers Assn.The Aluminum Material Council (AMC) of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) has released a new white paper on aluminum’s sustainability, strength and efficiency entitled, Aluminum: The Total Solution for Sustainable, Strong and Efficient Commercial Building Design.

“The overall goal of the AMC white paper is to encapsulate the many strategic advantages when incorporating aluminum extrusions into today’s commercial fenestration products,” says Brent Slaton (Keymark), chair of AAMA’s AMC Marketing Committee. “These advantages include energy efficiency, recyclability/sustainability, cost advantages, freedom of design, strength to weight ratio and the plethora of colors and finishes available in the marketplace. Throughout this white paper, it’s easily understandable as to why aluminum extrusions have been used by design professionals for decades.”

According to the AAMA/WDMA 2011/2012 Study of the U.S. Market for Windows, Doors and Skylights, in 2011, aluminum accounted for nearly 40 percent of the nonresidential entry door market and 24 percent of the nonresidential interior door market. Aluminum framed skylights were the dominant (87 percent) configuration on the market in 2011.

Aluminum: The Total Solution for Sustainable, Strong and Efficient Commercial Building Design is available for free download in AAMA’s online Publication Store.

24 students win awards in ACSA/AISC design competition

Amer Inst for Steel Construction.Twenty-four architecture students from universities around North America were honored in the 2012-2013 Steel Design Student Competition. Administered by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), the program challenges architecture students, working individually or in teams, to explore a variety of design issues related to the use of steel in design and construction. A total of $14,000 in cash prizes was awarded to the winning students and their faculty sponsors.

Students submitted designs in two categories that required steel to be used as the primary structural material and with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design. The Bridge to Building category challenged students to design a pedestrian bridge that would enrich its location and provide a vital spatial connection, as well as include an ancillary function - a small pavilion - that supports the cause for the crossing. In the Open Category, students were given the opportunity to select a site and building program that included at least one long-span steel structure.

The award winners in each category are:

Category I - Building to Bridge

  • First Place: “Stream_Line”
    Students: Christopher Garrow, Heather Martin and Kaitlin Shenk
    Faculty Sponsors: Donald Dunham, Brian Johnston, Thomas Kirchner, Lisa Phillips and Barbara Macaulay
    School: Philadelphia University
    “Real-world issues require more inclusive and interdisciplinary strategies - strategies that can help craft sustainable real-world solutions,” commented Dunham. “Giving our students real-world frameworks through international and national competition forums allows them to test new knowledge patterns in the most competitive, creative and intellectual environments.”
  • Second Place: “Adaptive Connections”
    Students: Vahe Markosian, Andrew Maier III, Mark Pothier and James P Stoddart
    Faculty Sponsors: John C Cerone and Adam Modesitt
    School: Columbia University
  • Third Place: “Building [Equilibrium] Bridge”
    Student: Javier Bidot-Betancourt
    Faculty Sponsor: Jose Lorenzo-Torres
    School: Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico

Category II - Open

About 250 project submissions from more than 1,000 students were received during this year’s steel design competition, and nearly 100 faculty members served as student advisers for the competition. In total, 48 universities from across North America took part.

This year’s competition jurors were: Terri Boake, professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo, Canada; Phillip Anzalone, director of the laboratory for applied building science at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University; Peter Weismantle, director of supertall building technology at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) in Chicago; Jeremy Ficca, associate professor of architecture and founding director of the Digital Fabrication Laborary [dFAB] in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University; Patricia Kucker, associate professor of architecture at the University of Cincinnati; and Kirk Martini, associate professor of structural design at the University of Virginia School of Architecture.

 For additional information about the ACSA/AISC Steel Design Student Competition, visit www.aisc.org/studentdesign or www.acsa-arch.org/programs-events/competitions/2012-13-steel.