Tuesday, 30 June 2009

New LEED standards serious about reporting energy use


Starting this week, all construction projects seeking certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, must use a new version of the green building standard. The New York Times reports one of the biggest changes to LEED with the new version has to do with energy reporting — building owners must now annually submit data about how much energy (and water) they use or get recertified every two years.

The new requirements aren’t perfect, and the standard’s approach to building energy use has some critics, but companies developing energy-related technologies for buildings could see some increased demand for their products.

The U.S. Green Building Council, which designs LEED, says the collection of data will provide valuable information about the way buildings actually perform and help improve future versions of LEED. And the nonprofit organization hopes that forcing certified building owners to report energy use on an ongoing basis will push them to reduce the amount they use. In a press release, Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, said it “will bring to light external issues such as occupant behavior or unanticipated building usage patterns, all key factors that influence performance.”

The new LEED provisions could give a boost to companies that sell the tools that enable building owners to manage energy consumption. While building owners can simply turn over their utility bills to the green building council to meet the new reporting provisions, some might look to emerging technologies to keep that energy consumption down. In particular technologies that utilize wireless sensors, and intelligent analytics to identify faults in heating and air conditioning could enable building owners to make sure they continuously meet the energy requirements.

California has been moving to require buildings to report annual energy use, and Michele Russo, director of green building research at McGraw-Hill Construction, said she believes state governments probably will eventually require performance standards.

Click Here to read the complete NY Times article.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Over $73 million awarded for NC highway projects


Gov. Bev Perdue announced today that 31 contracts totaling $73 million have been awarded for highway and bridge projects across North Carolina, including 11 projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The contracts were awarded by Transportation Secretary Gene Conti to the lowest respective bidder, as required by state law.

“All of these projects will help generate new jobs and economic development for North Carolina, as well as improve travel throughout our state,” Perdue said.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, every $1 million spent on transportation creates 30 jobs, and according to the construction industry, every dollar invested in transportation generates $6 in economic impact.

The 11 recovery projects awarded are located in Bertie, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Guilford, Lee, Stokes, Transylvania and Watauga counties. The 20 other projects awarded are located in Anson, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Catawba Cumberland, Granville, Henderson, Iredell, Lincoln, Madison, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, New Hanover, Polk, Sampson, Stanly, Transylvania, Warren and Yancey counties. Work on all contracts will start in July (See www.ncdot.gov for respective start dates.

Five additional projects let to contract in June will be awarded if the low bidder demonstrates that it has met “good faith effort” requirements in attempting to reach the disadvantaged business enterprise goals set forth in the contracts. One project that was advertised for bid as a potential cluster project ( two separate projects that could be bid as one ) will not be awarded since the bids received on the individual projects were lower than the cluster bid. The bids received on all 37 projects advertised came in more than 22 percent, about $35.8 million, below NCDOT estimates.

For more information about funding for infrastructure improvements in North Carolina, as well as other NCDOT projects and activities, visit www.ncdot.gov.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Good and bad signs ahead for construction


About $135 billion in federal economic-stimulus money is being pumped directly into U.S. construction projects. That will do some good for the hard-hit construction industry, but it will take time, Kenneth Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America said yesterday.

"It is the largest-ever piece of legislation for construction," Simonson was quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But even the so-called "shovel-ready" projects targeted by the stimulus take time to get going, he said at the Richmond Association for Business Economics meeting.

Simonson also said he sees an improving outlook for single-family residential construction this year. Nonresidential projects, however, are heading into a contraction as building plans have slowed in response to the economy.

When the stimulus was passed in February, "people assumed that . . . you would see lots of jobs right away," he said. "The reality is, in most cases, states have needed a few months to obligate the money, to identify projects, and then they still have to give contractors time to prepare their bids."

The housing market bust and financial crisis hit construction especially hard. Only two states -- Louisiana and North Dakota -- had growth in construction employment from May 2008 to May 2009, Simonson said. Employment in the industry has declined 13.6 percent in the same period.

Simonson cited one study indicating that every $1 billion put into construction through stimulus spending would create or support 28,500 jobs.

The Charlotte Observer reported today that Federal energy officials have approved North Carolina's use of $76 million in stimulus funds to create a state energy plan. Gov. Beverly Perdue's office said the money would help improve energy efficiency, promote renewable energy and create jobs.

Some of the money will be used to help small businesses implement energy savings measures. Around $9 million will go to higher education programs to help expand the work force dedicated to energy issues. Other funds will help government, residents and other groups develop and implement long-term energy savings.

With the federal stimulus providing an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, single-family residential construction "will see a turnaround," this year, AGC's Simonson said. "Residential may wind up the year slightly positive, at worst only slightly negative."

But multifamily construction will remain weak through 2011, Simonson predicts. And nonresidential construction, such as commercial building, is set for a "steep single-digit" contraction this year as ongoing projects conclude and developers scale back, he said. Exceptions could be health-care and energy-related work.

"How much so depends on how quickly that stimulus money turns into construction put in place," he said. "My guess is most of it won't be spent until next year."

Read the complete Times-Dispatch article Here. Find the Charlotte Observer article Here.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Charlotte commercial building still slow

The number and value of commercial building permits issued by Mecklenburg County continued to decline last month, reports the Charlotte Observer.

For new commercial buildings, which include office and retail space, the county issued only 11 permits in May, down 42 percent from the 19 issues in April – and 90 percent fewer than a year earlier.

The value of those permits was around $4.8 million – a fraction of the $271.5 million worth of permits issued the same time last year.

Still, some companies continue to build despite the dragging economy.

Among those receiving permits, health care companies, drug stores, fast-food restaurants and apartment complexes dominated.

Presbyterian Hospital received a permit to build a $287,000 children's movie theater for its young patients and their families. Work is under way on the theater at the hospital's main campus in central Charlotte, with a grand opening scheduled for this summer, said spokeswoman Marcia Meredith. The money for the building, which will hold 28 patients, including those in wheelchairs or bound to hospital beds, was raised during a charity event, she said.

In a broader category that also includes multi-family units, condos, industrial and institutional properties as well as additions and renovations, the number of commercial permits issued rose to 466, about half what it was a year earlier. The bulk of permits issued – 264 – were for additions and repairs.


The numbers have been falling for about a year, reflecting the weak commercial real-estate market, where rents are falling, office vacancies are rising and companies and investors are nervous about buying property.

Commercial real estate lagged Charlotte's housing slump by about a year.

The value of all commercial, industrial and multifamily permits issued in May, about $49 million, is only about 10 percent of the $474 million worth of permits issued in May 2008, a time when home prices were falling but commercial projects were still cropping up.

Perhaps one of the busiest recipients is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, a private, nonprofit housing development and finance corporation. It partners with governments and private companies to rebuild communities. Last month it received multiple permits, part of its $120 million redevelopment of the troubled Double Oaks apartment complex, a project estimated to last 10 years.

“Right now, all we're doing is moving dirt,” said Pat Garrett, partnership president, of the condos it plans to build on Kohler Avenue. “We have not started any of the vertical stuff.”

Yoruk Development Co. in Charlotte received a permit to build a $2.2 million, 27-unit apartment complex on Treyburn Drive.

Two ongoing condo projects pulled multiple permits to continue building. The Vue, a luxury tower on the rise in Fourth Ward, expects to finish its 50 stories by August. And Ty Matthews, one of the developers of 28th RO in NoDa, said that work continues on the first phase, which is sold out. Developers plan to start building 28th RO's second phase in January.

Click Here to read the entire Charlotte Observer article.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Government contracts - It's where the money is

Construction for military bases in North Carolina is one of the few games in town this season for many contractors in North Carolina reports ENC Today. A seminar on how to get in line for those contracts brought more than 200 representatives from regional businesses to New Bern, NC.

Jerry Campbell of Ivey Mechanical Company was one of those at the Federal Contracts Fair at Craven Community College. Campbell was looking at new ways to tap into government contracts during hard economic times.

Campbell said the company, located in the Fayetteville area near Fort Bragg, has business.

"But it comes in spurts," he said. "With the market being what it is, I came to see what other contracts might be out there and to network."

Catherine Chew, Craven Community College president, welcomed the business people, reminding them that "the mission of the community college is very much tied to workforce development."

She said the fair gives established small businesses a "better understanding on how to compete for federal contracts ... (and) understand how the system works."

It also provided those attending an opportunity to talk with representatives of federal agencies.

Chris Wall, economic development director for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who helped organize the event, said there is work to be had.

"The federal government doesn't do anything for itself. It outsources," he said.

The fair, with about a dozen large government procurers represented, was set up "so you can get some of your money back," Wall said.

Wall said sometimes there is confusion about the contracts.

"There is a difference between grants and federal contracts," he said. "Grants are only available for nonprofit groups. The federal government does not give grants to small businesses."

Larry Mallory, a contracting representative from the Small Business Administration, said project managers are hired at federal agencies to do the buying and are the only ones authorized to spend federal dollars.

Mallory said knowing the rules is the best way to play the federal contracts game, and it requires some reading. He said SBA officials are willing to help.

He advised that businesses make sure they are listed in the Central Comptrollers Record and said there is a wealth of information available on the Federal Business Opportunities electronic bulletin board.

"If you know the target, you have a better chance of hitting it," Mallory said. "Know the rules."

Dave Gibson of the General Services Administration said it buys more than 12,000 products and services.

"GSA is the largest buyer in America," he said. "It is a $51 billion procurement arm of the federal government."

GSA is also the world's largest landlord, Gibson said, and its customer service center spends "nickels and dimes, but it's a lot of nickels and dimes."

"If you can't do business with us, you probably can't do business with anyone," he said, encouraging those attending to do their homework to take full advantage of the opportunities.

There will be a Department of Defense trade show Aug. 9 and 10 at Fayetteville Technical and Community College, said Molly Maxson, an Economic Development Fellow working for Senator Burr. More information about this event is on the senator's Web site, www.Burr.senate.gov.

Some Web sites for federal contract information include:
www.fbo.gov
www.dla.mil/db/procurem.htm
www.sba.gov

Click Here to view the complete article.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Serving those in your network

Today's message is provided by NC Construction News group publisher Mark Buckshon reproduced in part from today's Construction Marketing Ideas blog.

Service and relationships rather than "selling" are at the core of successful networking. Serve those in your network.

Helping others is a great way to build relationships and, of course, to build service businesses like yours. Networking often fails to yield satisfying results when it is approached from a self-serving perspective.

When you interact with others for the primary purpose of uncovering sales leads, it's common to find your network become increasingly unproductive. But when you are motivated to help others, most people are inclined to reciprocate. Serving your network includes:

Providing timely information
Making introductions and referrals
Sharing ideas and advice
Helping others succeed

Then can you or your organization be systematic and measure your networking success?

Here, in my opinion, things become as complex as the wildest and most obscure mathematical equation. Great networks after all are multi-dimensional. Your relationship quality and depth will vary, the person within your network will have varying levels of influence, and your influence with that person (and his or her own network) will vary depending on expertise, chance, personality, and how generous you are in sharing rather than taking.

And you can add another variable to the mix: The velocity of network development has accelerated with online resources, at the extreme measured in minutes with your number of Twitter followers.

I suppose you can measure the number of people you do something good for, the number of calls you return, the number of referrals you share, and the like. These measurements might encourage you to do more of the right thing. And it you are mathematically inclined, you might want to work out some Game Theory equations or the like to connect the dots and explain why and how you should network more effectively.

But that belies the point. Networking, to be successful, must be indirect and selfless. However it never hurts to be selfless in an environment where you can ultimately receive some returns for your efforts. That's why I advocate, especially for business-to-business marketers, that you participate in relevant associations and groups where your clients and potential clients congregate.

Friday, 19 June 2009

NCDOT will reform how it chooses projects

North Carolina will take on fewer transportation projects to ensure more of them are funded and completed, the Department of Transportation chief said this week at a Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti said the agency will begin reforming how it selects road-building and other projects, according to an article in The Daily Reflector.

For years North Carolina has published the Transportation Improvement Plan, a document that spells out projects the department plans to work on during a seven-year period, Conti said.

“The TIP has been one of our better works of fiction,” he said. Typically only 50 percent of the projects are funded.

Officials want to be better about basing project funding on safety, traffic and growth, Conti said. Public discussions about the reform effort will be held later in the year, he said, and the plan should be completed in 12-18 months.

Major road and rail construction projects in the Greenville area are still on schedule, said Conti, who also talked with The Daily Reflector staff and local Department of Transportation workers in separate meetings.

Movement of a train switching station from Howell Street to outside Greenville's city limits is moving forward and should be finished by late 2010, Conti said. There's also movement on plans to upgrade a connector rail that will make it easier for trains to change direction and lessen traffic delays at Beatty and 14th streets. Combined the two projects will cost $9 million.

The city is holding a series of public meetings about the 10th Street connector that will link downtown to Stantonsburg Road, he said.

Purchasing right-of-ways for the Southwest Bypass project, which will link U.S. 264 at Stantonsburg Road to N.C. 11 near Ayden, will begin later this summer and should be completed in 2014. Finding construction dollars is the next step, he said.

Transportation department revenues are expected to be $250 million to $300 million less than originally budgeted, Conti said. The loss has forced the department to cut 1,200 temporary workers and reduce the number of projects funded monthly from $75 million to $20 million.

Almost half the lost revenue — $113 million — was designated for the state Highway Trust Fund, the program that funds the construction of four-lane highways and loops around seven cities, including Greenville. No guidelines were in place to direct which loops were funded first, he said.

“It was a project without a formula to prioritize, so it was politicized,” Conti said. The reform process will examine loop projects and decide the revenue sources for funding the work, he said.

Toll roads likely will become more commonplace in the state, he said. North Carolina already has a plan to work with a private-sector partner to build a bridge across the Currituck Sound to the northern Outer Banks, and tolls will repay the investment. There also are discussions about using tolls on Interstate 95 to modernize that highway.

Despite revenue losses, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has brought more than $800 million for transportation projects to the state, including $7 million for upgrading the Pitt-Greenville Airport, $1.4 million for the Greenville bus system, and $129,251 for Pitt County's transit system, he said.

To read the complete article, Click Here.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

NC's green jobs growing swiftly

North Carolina created "clean-energy economy" jobs at more than twice its overall job-growth rate from 1998 to 2007, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In the decade studied, North Carolina's number of clean-energy jobs grew 15.3 percent, to about 17,000, compared with 6.4 percent for all jobs. This job growth rate ranked 21st highest nationally. Our state exceeded the national average for growth in this industry of 9.1 percent and outpaced all but 12 states in venture capital, bringing in more than $82 million in the past three years.

Click here for more details on Pew's national study and
click here to learn more about its findings for North Carolina.

Pew defines clean-energy jobs as those that help produce energy, use it more efficiently, reduce greenhouse gases and pollution, or conserve water and other resources.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Prices for construction materials edge up in May


Recent increases in commodity prices, including a hike in oil prices, represent an emerging challenge to the nation's construction momentum because they compromise a necessary asset of the recovery to come. — ABC Chief Economist Anirban
Basu


After 8 months of decline, prices of construction materials increased 0.5 percent in May 2009, according to the June 16th producer price index (PPI) report by the U.S. Labor Department. However, prices are still down by 5.3 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Construction materials trending higher include fabricated ferrous wire, up 0.5 percent, marking the first increase since October of last year. On a year-over-year basis, prices are up 0.1 percent. Prices for prepared asphalt and tar roofing are 1.3 percent higher from April, and up 40.4 percent from a year ago. Plumbing fixtures and fittings prices were unchanged on a monthly basis and are up 0.6 percent from May 2008.

In contrast, prices for fabricated structural metal products continue to decrease, down 0.7 percent from April and down 2.0 percent on a year-over-year basis. Softwood lumber prices dropped 2.1 percent from April and are down 18.4 percent on year-over-year basis.

Crude energy prices increased 5.3 percent in May as crude petroleum price spiked up 18.6 percent. Overall, finished goods prices were up 0.2 percent from April but are still down 4.7 percent from May 2008.

“The monthly increase in construction materials prices was not entirely unexpected, but it is still cause for concern,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The U.S. construction economy remains quite soft in many key segments, including both the office and commercial categories. For these construction segments to rebound there must be a combination of positive factors including well-behaved interest rates, reasonably priced construction materials and spreading economic momentum and prosperity.

“However, recent increases in commodity prices, including a hike in oil prices, represent an emerging challenge to the nation’s construction momentum because they compromise a necessary asset of the recovery to come,” added Basu.

“From a broader prospective, any additional increase in construction materials prices would be most unwelcome given the nation’s ongoing efforts to address its infrastructure needs,” stated Basu. “Should construction materials prices continue to rise in the months ahead, the nation will end up purchasing less infrastructure for each dollar spent.”

Click here to view Associated Builders & Contractors Construction Economic Update.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

UNC Charlotte study ranks Raleigh-Durham top city; Charlotte is third


Raleigh-Durham ... Austin, Texas...Charlotte...Atlanta...Dallas-Fort Worth...Richmond, Va....Nashville...Tampa, Fla....Jacksonville, Fla.

With more than 130 local executives, elected officials and others getting ready to tour Charlotte this week, the Charlotte Observer reports a new benchmark report has ranked the region high for income and productivity, as well as livability and connectivity.

Charlotte fared worse, however, when compared with eight other metro areas on equity and diversity, employment and workforce, and having a new economy, according to the report.

Compiled for the Charlotte Chamber by UNC Charlotte geography professor Harrison Campbell, the benchmark report ranks Charlotte third overall among nine Southern metro areas. The top two, Raleigh-Durham and Austin, Texas, also bested Charlotte last year, Campbell said.

The report says Charlotte excelled in worker productivity, air service and the balance in income levels between the center city and the suburbs. It trailed competitors in equal wages for women and creative workers – the latter related to a lack of research universities compared with other regions.

“The issue of education keeps popping up,” Campbell said. The weaker showing in “new economy” – innovative, knowledge-intensive businesses – is “not cause for alarm,” he added, “but we're certainly not at the top of the heap.”

Click here to read the study findngs in the Charlotte Observer.

Monday, 15 June 2009

NC will see $6 billion from Recovery Act


North Carolina's share of federal stimulus money will go to everything from building roads to weatherizing homes. Here are some of the biggest allotments.

$3.8 billion: To shore up the state budget in areas such as education and Medicaid.

$839 million: Transportation (includes $735 million for roads and bridges; $103 million for transit).

$700 million: Education.

$266 million: Energy programs.

$83 million: Public housing.

$80 million: Workforce development.

$71 million: Clean Water.

$66 million: Drinking water.

With North Carolina facing a record budget shortfall – and painful cuts everywhere – Dempsey Benton may have the most enviable job in state government: giving away more than $6 billion.

Benton, 64, runs the state's Office of Economic Recovery and Investment, the agency that oversees distribution of federal stimulus money.

Along with Gov. Bev Perdue, he'll be in Charlotte Thursday for a workshop on the program at Central Piedmont Community College's Harris Center. They will explain how the state plans to use its share of the $787 billion federal stimulus, or recovery program.

“It's primarily to … make sure people understand how the Recovery Act funding comes to North Carolina,” Benton says. “Where there are opportunities for applications to be submitted, we're trying to help folks understand where those opportunities are.”

Benton was Raleigh's longtime city manager before joining state government in 2001, most recently running the Department of Health and Human Services. In his new $98,500-a-year job, he oversees a 12-person staff and coordinates distribution of the federal money with other state agencies.

There's a lot of money to oversee in the program, designed to boost the economy and create or save more than 100,000 jobs in North Carolina.

North Carolina is getting more than $8 billion. About $1.3 billion of that goes directly to individuals through programs such as food stamps; another $450 million goes to federal facilities such as Fort Bragg.

That leaves $6.3 billion for everything from roads to home weatherization.

The biggest chunk, $3.8 billion, is in so-called “stabilization funds.” That money is going into the state budget to shore up areas such as education and Medicaid. It comes as an estimated $4.6 billion shortfall in tax revenues has lawmakers looking at deep spending cuts and tax hikes.

The rest of the recovery money, about $2.5 billion, is going to projects across the state. About 40 transportation projects are already under way. Others are in the pipeline. Last week, for example, Perdue announced more than $70 million for 21 urban transit systems, including nearly $21 million for Charlotte Area Transit System's North Davidson Street bus facility.

“It's beginning to create some jobs with the transportation projects,” said Rep. Joe Tolson, an Edgecombe County Democrat who chairs the House panel helping oversee the recovery money. “And the governor has used some to help with this year's budget.”

With so much money coming at once, Tolson said he has been concerned about accountability, particularly with programs such as weatherization. North Carolina is getting $132 million over three years to weatherize homes. That's at least four times more than normal.

“I'm concerned about ‘fly-by-nighters' and shoddy work being done,” he said.

State Auditor Beth Wood has said her office will be stretched by the stimulus. She told nonprofit news site ProPublica last month that in order to audit stimulus spending, she may have to audit the state's 59 community colleges once every five years instead of once every other year.

Federal rules are loosening up more of the money for oversight and administrative costs. Benton acknowledges that his office will have to beef up oversight of programs such as weatherization. But he said agencies such as the departments of Transportation and Environment and Natural Resources already have the ability to oversee a lot of projects.

“We will be able to build on their capabilities,” he said. “We've got some programs that are going to require some additional management capacity in place, and we're working on this.”

Here are several sites where you can monitor North Carolina's stimulus spending.

NCRecovery.gov: Site of the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment.

Recovery.org: A Seattle-based consulting company that monitors government contracts and tracks stimulus spending across the country.

propublica.org/ion/stimulus: ProPublica, an independent investigative journalism site.

Click Here to view the complete Charlotte Observer article.

Friday, 12 June 2009

SBA issues guidelines on small business loans in stimulus package


The Small Business Administration (SBA) issued guidelines on “America’s Recovery Capital” (ARC) loans that were authorized as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide up to $35,000 in short-term relief for small businesses facing immediate financial hardship.

ARC loans are interest-free to the borrower, carry a 100 percent guaranty from the SBA to the lender, and require no fees paid to SBA. Loans are disbursed over a six-month period and repayment of the principal is deferred for 12 months after the last disbursement. Repayment can extend up to five years.

The best candidates for ARC loans are small businesses that were once profitable but are currently struggling to make loan payments, or are just beginning to miss loan payments due to financial hardship. ARC loans can be used to make payments on one or more existing, qualifying small business loans for up to six months. Examples of qualifying loans may include credit card debt, capital leases, payments to suppliers, loans to small businesses made without an SBA guaranty, and loans made by or with an SBA guaranty on or after Feb. 17, 2009.

ARC loans are made by commercial lenders who are SBA participants and will be offered by some SBA lenders until September 30, 2010, or for as long as funding is available. Each business is limited to one ARC loan, but that loan can be used to make payments on multiple debts. The SBA will begin processing applications June 15, but individual banks may take longer to draft their own application procedures.

To view a list of lenders, click here.

To learn more about the ARC loan program, click here, or call the SBA’s toll free number, 866-947-8081, Mon. – Fri., between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

New standard subcontract for federal construction projects


First Best Practice Contractor/Subcontractor Agreement for Stimulus, BRAC, and Other Federal Government Building Projects

It is now easier for construction companies to work on federal government construction projects. An industry-wide coalition, ConsensusDOCS, is publishing a new contract agreement written to specifically address the complexities of federal subcontracting.

At a time when the stimulus and other federal construction programs are rapidly expanding, general and specialty contractors will benefit from using the first standard subcontract to address new complex contractual rules and regulations for federal government projects.

“With America looking to the construction community to rebuild our economy and restore our hope, the last thing we want is contractors being excessively burdened by complex rules and regulations,” said Tom Kelleher, Senior Partner in Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP and Chair of the national coalition of associations who wrote and endorse the new standard contract. “The new ConsensusDOCS federal subcontract will keep needed construction projects from getting tangled up in red tape.”

The new document, known as ConsensusDOCS 752 – Subcontract for Federal Government Construction Projects, addresses the terms and conditions needed for subcontractors and contractors to comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations, Kelleher noted. He added that the contract also addresses new legal and ethical requirements pertaining to the legal status of employees, complying with ethics rules, as well as federal Prompt Pay Act requirements.

Kelleher added that the document was written, reviewed and approved by a team of professionals representing every part of the construction process, including contractors, subcontractors, owners and sureties.

“There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time someone wants to engage a subcontractor or work as a subcontractor on a federal government construction project,” Kelleher said.

ConsensusDOCS contracts are the first and only industry standard contracts written and endorsed by 22 leading construction organizations. Offering a catalog of more than 90 contract documents covering all methods of project delivery, ConsensusDOCS contracts utilize best practices to represent the project’s best interests.

Endorsing organizations represent designers, owners, contractors, subcontractors, and sureties. For more information or to download excerpted samples, visit www.ConsensusDOCS.org.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Poll: U.S. voters back privatized infrastructure


U.S. voters are increasingly supportive of privatized investment in the country's infrastructure, especially in lieu of tax increases or budget cuts, according to a new poll reported by Reuters. The survey was sponsored by investment banking firm Lazard.

The poll, the result of interviews with 1,000 likely voters nationwide, found that 59.8 percent of those questioned support private investment in public assets like roads, airports or stadiums. That was up from a support level of 52.2 percent last year and 57 percent in 2007.

"On the broad question of public private partnerships, if you view that as an available budget tool for governments together with every other alternative that is a budget tool, public private partnerships poll better," George Bilicic, chairman of Lazard's Power, Utilities and Infrastructure business, told Reuters. "That includes cutting spending, borrowing more money and raising taxes."

Just over 60 percent of those polled who consider themselves political moderates favor the spending, according to the poll.

Private infrastructure investment has picked up steam in the United States in recent years. Still, several high-profile infrastructure deals have been torpedoed under the scrutiny of voters and politicians, including the failed $12.8 billion effort to privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Bilicic stressed that it is important for governments and investors considering such deals to be able to clearly demonstrate the benefits of private infrastructure investment.

"The broad question is 'can you structure the private investment solution in a way that is even more consistent with the public interest and that would generate even more support?'"

Bilicic said the data in the poll could help government bodies and private investors understand how to better structure the deals in order to improve their perception by the public.

"People want their governments to pursue creative solutions to the fiscal problem," he said. "We see that to be a logical opening for public private partnerships, assuming they are properly structured in a manner consistent with legitimate public policy objectives."

Voters are more likely to back deals with shorter lease terms, according to the poll.

More than half of the respondents polled said they would be in favor of renewable 15-year lease terms in new infrastructure projects. That compares with less than 37 percent support for lease terms of 20 years, 30 years or longer.

Bilicic suggested that the deals could be structured with a 15-year lease that would automatically renew if certain operating standards are met -- a structure that could be beneficial to both investors and voters.

"A shorter lease term polls better, and you can structure the lease so you can get similar economic benefits as a long term lease," he said.

The success of a possible deal could also depend on the type of asset in question.

Private investment in convention centers and stadiums, trash disposal, parking garages, rail, airports, and roads and bridges all received more than 60 percent of support in the poll. Assets like wastewater treatment plants, ports, lotteries and drinking water systems were all viewed less favorably.

"In the United States, non-energy infrastructure is a brand new asset class and it's a brand new area of commercial activity," Bilicic said. "The level of constructive creativity has been pretty limited and there's a tremendous opportunity for new structures, new approaches, (and) new ways to work with governments and stakeholders."

To read the complete Reuters article, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

NC House considers tax increases


The plan under review today would boost sales tax, income tax on state's wealthiest.

The state House will consider today a $940 million tax package that would raise the sales tax and increase the income tax on the state's wealthiest residents in an effort to offset deep budget cuts to education and social services, the News & Observer reports.

House Democrats, who control the chamber, met privately for two hours Monday evening debating whether to balance a $4 billion deficit with cuts alone or to include new taxes. The state deficit has grown to nearly 20 percent of the current budget, and erasing the shortfall with cuts alone would set state spending at a level it last adopted in 2006.

The House tax plan will be heard in a key committee this morning. The plan would:

•Raise the sales tax by a quarter-cent.

•Add warranties, installations, repairs and other services to the sales tax rolls.

•Raise the income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent on residents who make between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.

•Increase the income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 8.5 for residents who earn more than $500,000 a year.

•Raise the tax on alcohol sales, and boost the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 25 cents.

Democrats in the House have resisted raising taxes, while Senate Democratic leaders and Gov. Beverly Perdue have said the cuts required to avoid new taxes would be crippling to state services such as education. Perdue issued a statement Monday calling on the House to include new taxes in the budget.

The tax increases would need 61 votes to clear the House. Democrats would need most of their 68 members to support the taxes since Republicans are likely to vote "no."

The new taxes would be used to offset cuts such as a plan to increase the average class size by two students, or to cut services to the mentally ill, or to reduce payments to Medicaid providers.

After the Senate approved its budget proposal, which was based on a $500 million tax package, the state saw its revenue collections drop even more sharply. The recession has put people out of work, which means the state collects less in income tax.
Consumers are buying fewer items, which cuts into sales tax revenue, and businesses are making less money, which has diminished the state's take in corporate taxes.

The House budget plans that have been made public include no new taxes and slash spending across state government.

The House plans to vote on the full budget proposal this week. Whatever plan the House adopts, its differences with the Senate proposal would have to be negotiated before a final budget is approved.

CLICK HERE to read the complete News & Observer article.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Firms slow to restrategize in current changing economy


Contractors are feeling the impact of the changing economy, but many are failing to prepare for what may not be just a normal recession, according to industry management consultant FMI Corp. in a new report.

In its survey conducted in February of 230 executives of U.S. construction firms in various revenue categories and market segments, Raleigh, N.C.-based FMI says respondents anticipate much uncertainty ahead. Three-quarters of respondents foresee workforce cuts, and 77% expect profits to drop. While 74% of firms have boosted business development in the last six months, only 56% are formally evaluating their capabilities and constraints and only half are reviewing customers and markets with any formality. The survey contends that midrange firms with annual revenue between $500 million and $1 billion “are anticipating the most uncertainty and are least prepared.”

FMI says direct responses from executives to the changing conditions ranged from “business as usual, hoping things will get better” to “intense visioning and strategy sessions to examine all products and services offered, cost position and customer requirements.”

According to FMI, 84% of firms say competition has increased, with 80% citing lower pricing as their primary response. Only 30% have a “detailed understanding” of competitors’ strategies, and only 29% are actively assessing the competition. But the survey points to “subtle shifts” in contractor strategy today, with fewer firms adopting the “same game with better execution” approach and more seeking new customers and markets.

Except for firms with annual revenue over $1 billion, few were preparing for the impact of federal stimulus funds, believing that “government intervention will only replace lost demand, not stimulate a building boom,” the survey points out.

“Far too many contractors have yet to adapt to the changing context. As uncertainty increases, so too should the level of preparation and depth of analysis,” says survey author Briston Blair, head of FMI’s strategy practice. “There are many possible futures facing the industry, and those firms preparing and adapting now will be there to win big when the market recovers.”

CLICK HERE to read the survey results published in Engineering News Record.

Friday, 5 June 2009

How can I switch my current LEED-NC v2.2 project to LEED v3?



by Liz Bowen LEED AP

If you have a project already registered under LEED-NC v2.2, you may switch over to the LEED v3 Rating System at no additional charge on or before December 31, 2009. All new projects will be registered under the v3 Rating System and the accompanied LEED v3 Online system.

The new v3 Rating System has several differences to consider when assessing your project. You should use a LEED v3 scorecard to measure the basic differences.

As long as the project is a New Construction project and not a K-12 school or a Core Shell project, then the prerequisites and credits have not changed very much.

For the New Construction path, almost all the credit titles are the same, with just one new prerequisite, Water Use Efficiency 20%. This is an extremely easy point to attain, and it probably is among the credits you are attempting anyway, so this should not be a barrier.

If you do have a K-12 school project, there are new structured prerequisites/ credits including Environmental Site Assessments, Acoustics, Joint Use of Facilities, and Mold Prevention. Core Shell also has its own path through the new rating system.

To do a LEED v3 assessment for LEED v3 New Construction path, I have the following suggestions and pointers.

First, you must update your Energy Model for compliance with ASHRAE 90.1-2007 Appendix G, and may need to modify your design for updated codes based on an assessment of applicable code changes.

Second, if the project is located near public transportation, it is a likely a better candidate for switching to LEED v3 since six points, and possibly seven points depending on your region, are allocated to projects with 1/4 mile to 2 or more bus lines accessible by occupants of your project.

Third, check out the Regional Priorities listed on usgbc.org for extra points associated with credits you are already attempting.

It is best to have an experienced LEED Consultant assess your specific project, since there will be unique challenges and opportunities for your individual situation and this article is intended only as an overview of the changes in the LEED v3 Rating System.

Click Here to read the excellent article "How Green Building Professionals Can Positively Respond to the Economic Downturn," posted by Liz Bowen LEED AP on Green-Buildings.com. Liz Bowen is a LEED Manager and Sustainability Director for GreenTech Consulting in Cary, NC.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

E-Verify rule suspended until Sept. 8


The Associated Builders & Contractors reports the federal government again delayed the implementation of a new rule that requires federal contractors to use the Employment Eligibility Verification (E-Verify) system for verification of all new and many existing employees.

Last summer, President Bush issued Executive Order 12989, requiring federal contractors to electronically verify their employees’ work eligibility. The final rule implementing the order was set to go into effect Jan. 15. It was first delayed until May 21 and then until June 30 when the Obama administration requested additional time to review the rule in light of pending litigation. The most recent delay announcement states that federal contracts awarded prior to Sept. 8 will not require contractors to comply with the new rule.

The rule is the subject of a legal challenge brought by ABC and its coalition partners. The challenge questioned the government’s authority to promulgate the regulation and sought an injunction from a federal court (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Michael Chertoff, et al., Civil Action No. AW-08-3444 (D. Md.)). The legal challenge echoed ABC’s previous comments on the rule and argued that requiring use of E-Verify would be illegal and expose contractors to needless liabilities.

For more information, visit www.abc.org/e-verify or contact Bob Hirsch at ABC, hirsch@abc.org.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Protect your lien rights


Senate Bill 803 introduced by Senator Rand would make substantial changes to the existing lien law. The Carolinas Associated General Contractors and the American Subcontractors Association of the Carolinas think the proposed amendments would amount to a rush to the courthouse every time property was sold so that contractors and suppliers could retain their lien rights and not lose payment rights.

Title insurance companies complain that they have been adversely impacted by “hidden” liens. Such liens arise because, under current law, a subrogated lien upon real property filed by a contractor or supplier dates back to the first day that the contractor or supplier furnished labor or materials to the property.

If the date of first furnishing occurred before the sale of the improved property, and the contractor or supplier files its lien upon real property after the sale, the title insurance company must remove the lien even though the title insurance company had no way of knowing about the lien at the time of closing.

Senate Bill 803 proposes to eliminate the risk of “hidden” liens by adding a new section 44A-12.2, which states in part that a claim of lien “shall not be effective against real property owned by purchasers…whose interest has been registered…after the date of first furnishing…but prior in time to the filing of the claim of lien.” Senate Bill 803 would also make the furnishing of a false written statement of sums due or claimed to be due for labor or material furnished to the property a Class H felony and would absolve the purchaser from having to be reasonable in its reliance upon the lien waiver. Currently, violation of section 44A-24 constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor.

NC Construction News is opposed to Senate Bill 803 introduced by Senator Rand because if enacted, contractors would effectively lose their lien rights where the lien upon real property was filed after the sale of the property. Furthermore contractors and suppliers who execute lien waivers in advance of payment could face imprisonment, if convicted—a harsh penalty.

Contractors and suppliers can protect their lien rights by opposing S 803. Click Here to see the proposed amendments.

The next three weeks will determine the future of Senate Bill 803. Title insurance companies, supporters of the proposed admendments, will attempt to get legislators to vote for the “hidden liens" bill. Urge your legislators to vote against S 803 to protect your lien rights.

If you are not sure who represents you in the NC House and Senate, Click Here to search by your home county or zip code. You can find additional information about your local legislators and the NC General Assembly at www.ncleg.net.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Construction spending posts surprising gain


U.S. construction spending rose 0.8 percent in April, defying economists' forecasts for a decline, the Charlotte Observer reports.

The unexpected gain - the most since August - marked the second straight month that builders boosted spending on construction projects around the country, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Economists were bracing for a 1.2 percent drop in construction spending for April.

Before March's uptick, construction spending had fallen for five straight months.

In an encouraging note, private builders increased spending on housing projects by 0.7 percent, contributing to the overall improvement in April. It marked the first time since August that private home builders boosted such spending. At that time, they increased it 5.5 percent.

Private spending on all other construction projects other than residential ones went up a strong 1.8 percent in April, following a 2.6 percent gain in March. Builders increased spending in April on projects including hotels and motels, factories, power plants and health care facilities. That more than offset reductions in spending on office buildings, amusement and recreation projects and on other projects.

Spending by the government, however, dipped 0.6 percent in April. That refected spending cuts on schools, hospitals and other health-care buildings, and sewer and water-supply projects.

A collapse in the housing market, a credit crunch and a financial crisis helped push the U.S. into a recession. The recession, which started in December 2007, is now the longest since World War II.

Builders have been hard hit. They slashed spending on residential projects in the first quarter at an annualized rate of 38.7 percent, the most since the spring of 1980. Spending on commercial projects was slashed, too.

Economists are hopeful that cutbacks by business in the current April-to-June quarter won't be as deep as they have been. If they are right, the economy shouldn't shrink nearly as much during this quarter as it had in the last six months, analysts say.

Read the complete Charlotte Observer article Here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Military contracts kept in state


The Fayetteville Observer reports five of six companies awarded a combined $300 million Multiple Award Construction Contract for Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point are based in North Carolina.

Helping in-state companies get such contracts is a major goal of the Fayetteville-based North Carolina Military Business Center. The companies are Humphrey Mechanical Inc., R&W Construction Co. Inc. and North State Mechanical Inc., all of Jacksonville; MechWorks Mechanical Contractors Inc. of Beaufort; T.A. Woods Co. of Wilmington; and Virtexco Corp. of Norfolk, Va.

They’ll be working on mechanical construction projects at Lejeune and Cherry Point. So if you run a company that does mechanical work, you might take note of those names.

Jimmy Simmons, president and owner of Simmons Masonry Inc. in Fayetteville, said he has an employee who keeps a close eye on which major companies get construction contracts on Fort Bragg and who might be interested in working with masonry subcontractors.

“She contacted them all by e-mail and said, ‘This is our deal. We’re a masonry company that’s been based in Fayetteville for 22 years’ and gave them a little bit of information,” he said.

That generated immediate interest, said Simmons, who has done some recent work on Bragg.

He hopes to do more. And at least for now, he isn’t pursuing any of the projects going on at the coastal military installations.

“I would rather that the people from Raleigh and Greenville and Wilmington all go after those and let us stay here,” Simmons said. “But a lot of them are coming this way.”

Click Here to view the complete Fayetteville Observer article.