Monday, 30 November 2009

National Green Building Code is in the works


The Sustainable Building Technology Committee, an arm of the International Code Council (ICC), a Washington association of 50,000 members, has been meeting in cities to draft a code to guide all development of green commercial buildings in the United States.

The proposed International Green Building Code would, as its name implies, also be available to other countries. But drafting it has been the work of U.S. construction professionals who share a desire for the built environment to incorporate more green features, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The ICC develops residential and commercial building codes and standards that states, counties, and municipalities adopt or use as a guide in creating their own.

The Green Building Code would address only commercial development. Last year, the International Code Council and the National Association of Home Builders developed green standards for municipalities and other governing bodies to use for residential construction.

Like most building projects, the green construction code is not expected to be without controversy when the first draft goes public in March for evaluation and input.

Typically, building codes cover health, safety, and welfare issues to ensure a structure's reliability for use. A green building code does the same from a more global perspective --the health, safety, and welfare of the planet.

It's the kind of thinking that California, which adopted a completely voluntary green building code in July 2008, is looking to make mandatory. The state's Building Standards Commission is scheduled to vote Jan. 12 on several proposed mandatory provisions.

Some of the proposals call for reducing indoor water use by 20 percent over conventional construction and cutting construction waste by 50 percent.

The public-comment period on the first draft of the international code will run through next summer, concluding with a hearing in Chicago in August. A revised draft will be considered at hearings in spring 2011 in Dallas, with the code council slated to adopt a final version that year at its annual convention in Phoenix.

Click Here to read the complete Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Green builders’ study forecasts job growth


Building green could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the economy, according to a new report released by the United States Green Building Council.

The study, conducted by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, predicts that over the next four years, green building practices will create 7.9 million jobs and contribute $554 billion to the gross domestic product of the United States.

The report, which was released at U.S.G.B.C.’s annual Greenbuild conference, also estimated that spending on green construction already supports more than 2.4 million jobs from 2000 to 2008 and generated more than $120 billion in wages over that time.

“This study validates the work that the 25,000 people who gathered at Greenbuild and every member of our movement do everyday,” said Rick Fedrizzi, the president and founding chairman of the U.S.G.B.C. “Our goal is for the phrase ‘green building’ to become obsolete by making all building and retrofits green.”

The study argued that the terms “green jobs” and “green collar jobs” are not well defined, and are often limited to professions such as wind turbine designers and architects.

Its own employment estimate, the study stated, includes everyone “from the architects who designed the building to the construction laborers who poured the building’s foundation.”

In figuring out the estimated impact on the gross domestic product of the United States, the study included the direct effects, which includes the contractor who built the building; the indirect effects, such as the companies who provide the supplies to the contractor; and the induced effects, such as when an employee of the supplier uses “their additional income from green construction spending to purchase products and services.”

Click here to view the study.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

ConsensusDOCS 310 green building addendum released

ConsensusDOCS just released the construction industry's first and only comprehensive standard contract document addressing the elevated risks and complex responsibilities in green building projects -- the ConsensusDOCS 310 Green Building Addendum.

Key elements include:

*Establishes project participants' roles and responsibilities

*Identifies critical implementation steps to successfully achieve a LEED rating or other green goals

*Defines "green" terminology, green work scope, and clarifies legal risks

*Coordinates various project participants efforts to cooperate and resolve potential objections for a range of issues

*Can be used with any standard contract document, including the family of ConsensusDOCS contracts.

To receive a free copy of the guidance document, an excerpted sample, or to purchase, visit ConsensusDOCS.org. The 310, like all ConsensusDOCS, was developed by a unique coalition of 23 leading construction organizations with designer, owner, contractor, subcontract, and surety members.

REGISTER TODAY for the December 2 webinar about Green Building!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

ABC of the Carolinas announces training course on new NC OSHA crane law


NC OSHA has incorporated a new set of standards (13 NCAC 07F.0900) that significantly changes the requirements for crane and derrick operations in the NC construction industry.

According to Bill Fletcher, Senior Consultant and Trainer, SafetyTech Consultants, Hamptonville, the changes, which went into effect October 1, cover anyone who uses a crane or derrick. It places strict training and documentation requirements for crane operators, signal persons, and riggers.

The Associated Builders & Contractors of the Carolinas (ABCC) is offering a Crane Standard Training Course on December 16 at the association’s Charlotte office. This training is not for crane operator certification, or for rigger or signal personnel qualification, but to make contractors knowledgeable about the new standard as it relates to their work. The training is an 8-hour session, in English only, and is limited to 20 persons per session.

The course is $170 for ABCC members; $225 for non-members. For information, contact ABCC, 2101 Sardis Road North, Suite 220, Charlotte, NC 28227. Phone: 704-367-1331. Email: Jean Turner at jturner@abccarolinas.org.

Monday, 23 November 2009

'A new day' for power in NC


At first glance, the thousands of glimmering panels erected on a former farm in southwest Davidson County seem like a brigade of energy soldiers, poised to vanquish America’s environmental bugaboos.

But construction manager Greg Cunnington knows the pollution-free electricity that Maryland-based SunEdison generates from the 64,000-panel solar array will be just a drop in the bucket compared with the state’s total energy use, reports the News-Record.

“If you don’t put any drops in the bucket,” Cunnington said, “then you never have a chance of getting it filled up.”

The construction scene where Cunnington works looks like any other, full of hard hats, forklifts and dusty utility vehicles, except the workers won’t leave behind the typical industrial park or subdivision when they finish. Steel columns hold rows of rotating blue and silver panels that track the sun’s movement from east to west.

The cells in the panels will absorb sunlight and convert it into direct-current electricity, which a device then will convert into the more practical alternating-current electricity. A Duke Energy substation near the farm will change the voltage of the AC power before distributing it through power lines to homes and businesses.

The company began construction in July and expects to start generating about 3.5 megawatts of usable power by year’s end. The operation should power more than 2,600 homes .

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before,” said Karli Christman , an assistant project manager from High Point. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of a green project.”

Meeting state targets

Duke Energy will purchase the output — a planned 16 megawatts of the roughly 20 megawatts generated — over a 20-year period as part of its goal to meet the state’s interim and long-term renewable energy requirements. The utility provider needs to sell 12,000 megawatt-hours of solar energy per year by 2010 and 10 times that amount by 2018 .

That solar mandate covers fewer than 1 percent of the 8 million megawatt-hours of renewable-based electricity Duke needs to sell by 2021 . And all of this must cost residential customers no more than $10 to $34 more per year.

The company believes it can meet its near-term goals without hitting cost caps, said Owen Smith , managing director of regulated renewable energy and carbon strategy . Among other things, Duke plans to spend $50 million building mini solar farms on the rooftops of buildings in Greensboro and other cities. It also will purchase credits for the energy generated by two North Carolina companies that build solar heating and cooling systems.

“There’s a lot we need to do between now and then,” Smith said about meeting the goal. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what renewable resources will cost.”

Despite its modest contribution to our energy needs, renewable energy will have a substantial effect on utilities’ management practices and North Carolinians’ sense of control about their energy future.

Residents and business owners will see more, and possibly get paid for operating, solar arrays atop roofs, near parking lots, on farmland and in their neighborhoods. Duke estimates that it could oversee 750 renewable energy projects throughout the state by 2021 , compared with the 17 conventional power plants it’s managed in the past, Smith said.

Solar is clean but costly

Installation costs — not lack of availability — are the biggest obstacle to solar energy meeting a larger portion of the country’s energy needs . Component prices have steadily declined over the years, but large, grid-connected systems can cost 28 to 42 cents per kilowatt-hour versus 5 to 10 cents for natural gas power plants and 9 to 12 cents for wind turbines, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change .

Still, solar’s flexibility — it can go anywhere the sun is shining — and its ability to harvest the planet’s largest renewable resource keep it high on the list of ways to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Even after initial enthusiasm for solar energy waned in the late 20th century, firms continued to research and install panels across the country.

Now, the U.S. has at least 8,800 megawatts of installed solar heating and electrical capacity, with more than 18,000 individual photovoltaic systems going up in 2008, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Helping the industry were long-standing tax credits and groups such as N.C. GreenPower, a 6-year-old nonprofit that offsets system costs for home and business owners who sell their renewable energy to utilities. The group contracts with almost 300 solar electricity generators, including Leon’s Beauty School , which installed a 165-panel rooftop array in October as part of its efforts to adopt green practices.

“I’m doing this for my grandchildren,” said Parker Washburn , owner of the Greensboro school. “When you finally have grandkids, you want to change your legacy.”

State renewable energy quotas created openings for utility-scale projects, and SunEdison rode North Carolina’s policy wave into the Piedmont, purchasing a 356-acre farm on New Jersey Church Road in Davidson County and promising to invest $173 million on a massive array that, at the time, would have been the largest in the country. The company also sells or plans to sell output from a 1.2-megawatt operation in Wilmington to Progress Energy and a 1-megawatt array in Alexander County to EnergyUnited Electric Membership Corp. in Statesville .

The solar farm carries modest economic benefits for Davidson County, at least in the short term. SunEdison, sold to a larger company in October, will employ about 80 people during construction and three permanent workers. The county will receive $7,800 more per year in land-related taxes, but SunEdison will pay only 20 percent of the system’s appraised value, thanks to a state tax incentive.

Still, county leaders believe the project’s greatest promise is its potential to draw other green industry; County Commissioner Larry Potts noted that “the PR far exceeds the job creation.”

Can solar stand alone?

Tax breaks and policies can take the solar industry only so far, especially if the economy stays weak and federal lawmakers don’t pass a climate bill limiting carbon emissions. The assistance gives companies and researchers time to bring their costs down, so the technology can eventually stand on its own, said Mark Preston , chief operating officer for MegaWatt Solar in Hillsborough .

“Nobody in this industry believes it’s viable unless we’re able to be competitive without those subsidies,” Preston said.

MegaWatt Solar designed a photovoltaic system with the potential to cut costs by up to 30 percent and generate significant job growth in North Carolina. The company wants to build large-scale systems for utilities and it sells output from one pilot project in Caswell County to the 31,000-member Piedmont Electric Membership Corp.

“Not only does it look good, but it’s a new technology that optimizes the rays from the sun and reduces the use of silicon,” said Susan Cashion , the cooperative’s manager of public relations .

The “solar trees” use readily available components, including mirrors, precast concrete pads, aluminum frames and circuit boards, and only 5 percent of the system’s cost comes from imported solar cells, Preston said.

“Because the things we are using are simpler and more conventional technologies and we don’t need an investor to spend millions developing something, that means we can have a lot of local suppliers who can do these things easily,” he said.

Click Here to read the complete News-Record article.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Contractor associations tackle the issue of Owners’ financing and ability To pay


Representatives from American Subcontractors Association (ASA), the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), and the Associated Specialty Contractors (ASC) discussed strategies contractors and subcontractors can implement to ensure they have access to project financing information.

Over Nov. 13-14, association representatives learned how ConsensusDOCS contract documents can provide access to vital project financing information, and how some owners are getting payment flowing more quickly to contractors.

ASA member and workshop presenter, Stephen W. Freeman, Hess, Egan, Hangerty & L’Hommedieu, Chevy Chase, MD., described how general contractors and subcontractors can work with sureties and banks to confirm construction financing. In his presentation, Freeman advised subcontractors to: thoroughly research the general contractor (i.e., litigation history, reputation in the local market, etc.) before partnering on a project; check the economic viability of the project under consideration; determine the financial strength of the lender; and secure a copy of the general contractor’s payment bond.

For more information, on ConsensusDOCS click here.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Architecture Billing Index reaches highest mark in more than a year


The American Institute of Architects' Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reached its highest mark since August 2008 with its October rating of 46.1, up sharply from 43.1 in September and 41.7 in August. The August 2008 watermark came just before the fall 2008 credit crunch affected not only the AEC industry, but the entire economy.

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

Even though the ABI has improved for two consecutive months, the October rating of 46.1 indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 58.5, following the 59.1 mark in September.

"This news could prove to be an early signal toward a recovery for the design and construction industry," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "On the other hand, because we continue to get reports of architecture firms struggling in a competitive marketplace with a continued decline in commercial property values, it is far too early to think we are out of the woods."

While Baker says it is too early to think we have emerged from the economic downturn, two straight months with an improved ABI rating stops the up-and-down pattern of the past several months. The index was 42.9 in May, dipped to 37.7 in June, increased to 43.1 in July, dipped to 41.7 in August, went back up to 43.1 in September and has now improved to 46.1.

Numbers that constantly move up and down make it difficult for architecture firms to make strategic decisions with any certainty that their fortunes are turning for the better. Clearly, two months with improved ABI numbers is not a large enough sample to determine with any certainty if conditions will continue to brighten, but any positive sign is one that will be welcomed by architecture firm leaders.

The new projects score was 58.5 in October, down slightly from 59.1 in September, but both months are ahead of the 55.2 in August, 50.3 in July, and 53.8 in June.

The bright spots regionally were in the South and West, posting their highest numbers in several months while the Midwest held flat for the third straight month and the Northeast dipped.

Regional averages were as follows: South (46.1, up sharply from 42.7 in September, 44.1 in August, 43.4 in July, and 40.5 in June), West (42.8, up sharply from 36.0 in September, 37.5 in August, 39.7 in July, 39.9 in June, 39.4 in May, and 39.2 in April), Midwest (43.0, the third consecutive month at that number), and Northeast (44.3, down from 47.2 in September and 45.2 in August, but up from 37.8 in July and 42.8 in June).

The October ABI breaks down by sector as follows: institutional (48.7, up sharply for the second straight month from 43.9 in September and 37.5 in August), multi-family residential (45.4, up slightly from 45.1 in September, 43.4 in August, 40.7 in July, and 42.7 in June), commercial/industrial (41.7, up from 39.0 in September, bbut down from 45.6 in August and 42.9 in July), and mixed practice (39.1, up from 36.3 in September, but down from 41.4 in August, 42.9 in July, 43.5 in June, 44.5 in May, 44.2 in April, and 44.0 in March).

Click Here to view the AIA Billing Index press release.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Construction materials prices lower in October



Prices for construction materials and supplies modestly fell 0.2 percent in October, according to the November 17 producer price index (PPI) report by the U.S. Labor Department. Overall, construction materials prices are 5.8 percent lower on a year-over-year basis according to the Associated Builders & Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

Ready mixed concrete prices are down 0.6 percent from September to October, and down 0.4 percent from the same time last year. Cement is 0.1 percent lower from the previous month and down 1.7 percent on a year-over-year basis. Softwood lumber prices are down 1.7 percent from September and down 5.8 percent from the same time last year.

In contrast, prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding products in October rose 3.2 percent higher from the previous month, and are up 0.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Steel mill products were up 2.7 percent from September, but down 24.9 percent from October 2008. Nonferrous wire and cable prices are up 1.2 percent for the month, but are down 0.9 percent from a year ago. Prices for fabricated structural metal products are up 0.3 percent, the first increase since October 2008. However, on a year-over-year basis, prices are 9.0 percent lower. Plumbing fixtures and fittings prices increased 0.2 percent on a monthly basis and are 0.5 percent higher from October 2008.

Crude energy prices escalated 8.3 percent in October as natural gas prices jumped 16.3 percent. Gasoline prices were up 1.9 percent, but down 16 percent from the same time last year. Overall, the nation’s producer prices in October rose 0.3 percent higher than the previous month, but are still down 1.9 percent compared to October 2008.

What This Means

“Commodity prices are now generally drifting higher, a sign that the recent declines in construction materials prices may have largely come to an end,” said ABC's Basu. “Key materials prices have already been rising briskly in recent weeks, most notably oil and natural gas.

“There are a number of reasons for the recent uptick in commodity prices. Some observers cite the resurgence of the Chinese economy and the infrastructure-oriented focus of its stimulus package – an economic boost that constituted roughly 13 percent of their gross domestic product,” notes Basu.

“In addition, the ongoing recoveries of countries with which the Chinese trade, as well as the recovery of the Indian economy, have also contributed to rising demand for construction materials,” said Basu. “Global investors have also been seeking asset classes that help them diversify away from global equities.

“Meanwhile, equity markets around the world have been rebounding since March, making many investors nervous. Commodities represent a logical mechanism to which diversification can occur and this also helps explain the recent rebound in commodity prices and the stabilization of construction material prices,” said Basu.

Click Here to view the ABC Construction Economics Update.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

ABC Construction Backlog Indicator slightly higher in September


The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) reports the nation's Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) reached 5.9 months in September 2009, 3.2 percent higher than in August. CBI is a forward-looking measurement of the amount of construction work currently contracted to be completed in the future.

"While the CBI edged higher in September, backlog generally remains uncomfortably small, particularly for firms in the heavy industrial category. With the exception of firms operating in the infrastructure category, overall backlog remains weak," said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

"As with data collected in recent months, September's figures continue to reflect the impact of the stimulus package signed into law in February. It is expected that the peak of infrastructure-related stimulus spending will occur sometime during the first half of 2010," said Basu. "Although backlog within the infrastructure category remains elevated, it is no longer rising, which indicates the likelihood that infrastructure-related spending will slow once the stimulus funds have been exhausted. However, a timely new surface transportation bill could alter that expectation."

ABC's CBI is the only reliable leading economic indicator focused on the U.S. commercial, institutional, industrial and infrastructure construction industries at this level of detail. The indicator is published bi-monthly and data are collected from ABC members on an ongoing basis.

Regional Highlights

The average backlog for September rose in all regions with the exception of the South, where CBI fell slightly by 0.05 months from August to 5.76 months, or roughly 0.9 percent.

Click Here to view the CBI Map of Regions showing the relative changes across the nation since ABC began tracking CBI data in November 2008 when the national average backlog was 7.1 months. The September 2009 national backlog average is 5.9 months.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Compliance monitoring is a first priority for using stimulus money


While stimulus dollars funneled into North Carolina come with line items aimed at ensuring compliance with federal law, the state auditor's office said no additional staff members are being hired to follow the money, the Burlington Times News reports.

"It will be handled just like regular federal money," said Dennis Patterson, director of public and legislative affairs for the state auditor's office. "That will be considered just like federal grants and other stuff we do for the feds."

Nicole Meister, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said that the department is monitoring money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for compliance. But no new staff members have been added to oversee the projects. She also noted that before the stimulus money came in, contract letting had been reduced because of a decrease in revenues used for transportation projects.

"We had reduced our lettings (contract awards) by about 75 percent," Meister said.

The stimulus money has essentially allowed the Department of Transportation to get back to a higher level of construction and awarding of contracts, Meister said.

In an interview this summer, Dempsey Benton, who heads the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment, said that every agency receiving stimulus money is required to establish separate accounting codes for the money. He said 3 to 5 percent of the administrative budget is for compliance.

"We're making sure that compliance monitoring is a first priority for using the funds," Benton said.

Meister said that Department of Transportation bean counters are used to working with federal regulations since the department receives a lot of money for federal highway projects. However, money for stimulus projects comes with added reporting requirements, she said.

"The main thing is the jobs reporting, to show the number of jobs that are being sustained or created," Meister said.
The N.C. stimulus office has a button on its Web page (http://ncrecovery.gov/) for people to report suspected waste or fraud.

Cathy Akroyd, a spokeswoman for the state stimulus office, said that a staff member checks into all such reports.

Thus far, the office has received 11 responses through that Web site button, Akroyd said. "None were legitimate problems," she said, noting that some were general complaints about government but not related to the use of stimulus funds.

Akroyd said that the federal General Accounting Office is conducting checkups to monitor weatherization operations. Patterson said that the state auditor's office will be conducting fiscal year-end audits on stimulus projects as a normal course of business.

Budget cuts that hit the auditor's office won't allow it to put extra emphasis on monitoring the stimulus money, he said, adding that the auditor's office hasn't received any federal money to monitor the stimulus.

To view the complete Times News article, click Here.

Friday, 13 November 2009

2010 Construction Economic Forecast


The nonresidential construction industry can expect a mixed bag in terms of construction activity in 2010, according the Associated Builders and Contractors' (ABC) November construction economic outlook. Federally funded projects, such as water/sewer and road resurfacing projects, are likely to see a stable 2010, although others less aligned with federal spending will have a tougher year.

“While the industry battled the effects of the recession in 2009, expect 2010 to be a transitional but sluggish year on the road to recovery,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

On the jobs front, in 2010 the nonresidential construction industry is expected to see job loss decelerate and slowly turn around. ABC expects employment to be down only in the mid- to high single digits on a year-over-year percent change basis compared to a recent 12-month period that saw nonresidential construction employment down 13.2 percent, and heavy and civil engineering down 12.6 percent.

In addition, the stimulus-related activity that began manifesting itself in ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator in May 2009 will continue to steadily translate into actual construction spending into the next year and further.

“The financial crisis that began in 2007 and deteriorated significantly in September 2008 also led to the introduction of a variety of policies designed to jump-start the economy, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA),” said Basu.

“One of the bigger beneficiaries of ARRA will be the public sector,” Basu noted. “Public buildings – particularly courthouses and federal facilities in need of modernization – will receive a sizable increase next year due to stimulus funds reaching the market.”

ABC expects institutional construction, including hospital construction, to be soft due to depleted state and local budgets and significant pressure to contain health care costs. However, state governments will continue to receive substantial support from the federal government over the next year, which will help stabilize capital budgets.

The outlook for materials prices looks to be roughly flat next year after falling nearly 8 percent between August 2008 and August 2009, although a sharp downturn in the dollar could generate increases even in the presence of a still weak U.S. construction economy, according to ABC’s outlook.

“Construction firms should prepare for 4 percent to 6 percent growth in construction costs per annum during the next several years, which is considerably slower than the two-year average for 2008 and 2009,” Basu said.

ABC predicted commercial, lodging and office construction will see a rough 2010 as office vacancy rates rise and hotel occupancy rates continue to fall. In addition, construction related to manufacturing is expected to be off 19 percent as the sector is unable to keep up with the brisk pace of activity it has seen in previous years.

To learn more about what to expect in the coming year, what it may mean for ABC member businesses and how to stay ahead of the game, ABC members can attend the Nov. 18 webinar, “2010 Construction Economic Forecast.” To sign up, click here.

To view the entire “2010 Construction Economic Forecast.” including a year-to-date performance graph, click here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Milken Institute ranks Durham MSA 6th nationally


The Durham metropolitan statistical area has made it to the upper rankings of another rankings list, reports the Herald Sun.

The area, which encompasses Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, moved into sixth place on the Milken Institute's "Best Performing Large Cities" list from 21st place last year.

The institute, an economic think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif., attributed the area's economy hardiness to technology start-ups and IBM, the largest employer in Durham's Research Triangle Park.

"The volatility associated with information and communications technologies has hit the region as Nortel Network's bankruptcy is causing layoffs and rippling through the local economy," the institute noted in its report. "Nevertheless, the metro area has weathered the recession remarkably well given its industry mix."

The institute also said that positive net migration, much of it from young professionals, into the area has helped buoy the housing market.

The top 10 economic performers in the country were the following, in order: Austin-Round Rock, Texas; Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas; Salt Lake City; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas; Durham; Olympia, Wash.; Huntsville, Ala.; Lafayette, La.; Raleigh-Cary.

The Raleigh-Cary MSA had come in second in 2008. The institute noted that the area ranks fifth in total job growth in the country over the past five years, and included UNC-Chapel Hill in the mention even though it's in Orange County, as well as SAS and Cisco.

The Durham MSA, in sixth place, was the highest-ranking metropolitan area in North Carolina. Other NC metro areas 2009 rankings include:

Fayetteville 31st

Wilmington 34th

Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord 47th

Winston-Salem 92nd

Greensboro-High Point 154th

Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown 185th

Click Here to read the complete Herald Sun article.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

ABCC and NCDOT sponsor Construction Careers Days


The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas (ABCC), partnered with Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University and Pitt Economic Development, coordinated a three day event, offering over 1200 high school students the opportunity to discuss, learn and try their hand at various construction career related activities.

The Pitt County Construction Career Days marks the 25th event of this kind since being introduced to North Carolina in 2001. Over 29,000 students from every county in the state have experienced these events.

Building a stronger workforce in the Carolinas is a founding principal of the ABC and providing opportunities for youth to learn about careers in construction is a critical component. ABC members, Watson Electric, Starr Electric, Precision Wall and Joyner Masonry all provided displays and hands-on activities.

NCDOT worked with the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas, Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University and the Pitt County Development Commission to coordinate the event. It is the 25th of its kind held across the state since 2001, Butler said.

Butler says the event has welcomed more than 29,000 high school students during that time.

Tim Eldridge, vice president of workforce development for ABCC said it is important for students to get exposed to construction careers because there will be plenty of jobs available when the economy improves.

“An event like this helps improve the perception of construction,” Eldridge said. “That is a good thing.”

Students had the opportunity to do everything from operating heavy equipment to bending conduit, laying brick, surveying and many other activities. Several of these events are already in the planning stages for 2010.

Click Here to read about the Pitt County event in The Daily Reflector.

Construction Career Days is an excellent opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to learn about rewarding careers in the commercial and highway construction industry. For more information check out NCDOT's Construction Career Days website.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Gov. Perdue unveils rare finance plan to complete I-485

The Charlotte Observer reports Gov. Beverly Perdue introduced a plan yesterday to complete the outer loop around North Carolina's largest city by 2015 in part through alternative financing that could save tens of millions of dollars.

Perdue said the state would put the last five miles of I-485 along the northeast side of Charlotte as well as two other area projects on the fast track. The loop project will begin next year, Perdue's office said in a news release.

The state could save money off the three projects valued at $540 million because contractors would be allowed to design and build the road and put up some of the financing, Perdue's office said.

"This innovative solution saves time, saves money for N.C.'s taxpayers, creates jobs and proves that North Carolina will develop new solutions to our 21st century transportation challenges," Perdue said.

Road contractors would be reimbursed over time for their share of the financing as a way to help state funds go further, Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said.

Loop construction began in 1988 and was supposed to be finished six years ago. Before Monday, it had been on track to be completed in 2020, Pearson said.

The governor, speaking along I-485 and surrounded by Charlotte and state transportation officials, said the other two fast-track projects are an interchange connecting the loop to Interstate 85 and a road widening project for I-85 into Cabarrus County.

Perdue said in February that construction on the last section of I-485 would start by year's end. The state floated a plan to shift money away from another area project to do so, but Charlotte officials didn't like that idea.

Click Here to view the Charlotte Observer article.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Nonresidential construction jobs fall in October


Nonresidential building construction lost 3,200 jobs in October, according to the employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. On a year-over-year basis, U. S. nonresidential building construction employment is down 107,900 jobs, or 13.3 percent, and now stands at 706,400.

Associated Builders & Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu observes employment with nonresidential specialty trade contractors continues to get hit the hardest with 30,200 jobs lost in October and 441,000 jobs, or 17.4 percent, lost since October 2008. In the heavy and civil engineering construction sector, employment decreased by 13,700 for the month and 129,400 jobs, or 12.6 percent, on a year-over-year basis.

Meanwhile, despite the recent uptick in residential construction spending, the homebuilding sector shed 5,600 jobs for the month and 123,300 jobs, or 15.5 percent, since last October.

Over the past 12 months, total construction employment has shrunk by 15.6 percent losing 1,100,000 jobs, with 62,000 jobs lost last month alone.

The nation’s unemployment rate now stands at 10.2 percent – the highest level in 26 years. Last month, employers shed 190,000 jobs and 5,504,000 jobs, or 4.0 percent, have been lost since October 2008.

What This Means

“The headlines that will emerge from the October employment report will undoubtedly be fixated upon the fact that unemployment is now above 10 percent,” said Basu. “National unemployment is now at its highest level since April 1983. As a result, the markets are aware that consumer confidence will likely sag in the wake of this jobs report and that is not conducive to an improved corporate earning environment.

“However, there were some reasonably positive elements to the employment report. The three month average of national job loss is now down to 188,000 – the lowest it has been since August 2008,” said Basu.

“Further, the pace of job loss by nonresidential building contractors has slowed sharply with just 3,200 jobs lost last month. Professional and business services, an important engine of income growth in recent decades, added jobs for the second straight month, and for the first time since December 2007. In addition, temporary jobs, seen as a leading indicator for permanent employment, grew significantly,” said Basu.

“Unfortunately, at least two key segments of the nonresidential construction industry continue to experience significant job decline,” said Basu. “Despite stimulus spending, heavy and civil engineering construction and specialty trade contractors are still losing jobs. Based on today’s report, it remains unlikely that job losses will end on a monthly basis until well into next year.”

Click Here for the current ABC Construction Economic Update

Friday, 6 November 2009

OSHA issues guidelines for construction workers in highway work zones


The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released a formal letter of interpretation that now requires workers in all highway and road construction zones to wear high-visibility garments in two specific circumstances: when working as flaggers and when exposed to public vehicular traffic in the vicinity of excavations.

“Road and construction traffic poses an obvious and well-recognized hazard to highway/road construction work zone employees,” said Richard Fairfax, OSHA’s acting director for the directorate of construction. “[H]igh-visibility apparel is required under the [Occupational Safety and Health Act’s] General Duty Clause to protect employees exposed to the danger of being struck by public and construction traffic while working in highway/road construction work zones.”

The revision of the interpretation stems from an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruling, which found that a 2004 interpretation letter stopped short of requiring that high-visibility garments be worn in all highway and road construction work zones. With this revision, OSHA now more clearly requires construction workers in all highway/road construction work zones to be protected from road and construction traffic by wearing high-visibility garments.

To read the release, click here.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Danis buys NC-based R. N. Rouse


A major Ohio construction contractor is expanding its reach with the acquisition of a North Carolina firm, reports Columbus Business First.

Ohio-based Danis Building Construction Co., agreed to acquire Goldsboro, N.C.-based R.N. Rouse and Company Inc. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Danis has more than 400 employees company-wide and annual revenue of more than $300 million. R.N. Rouse is a privately owned construction company with 90 employees and average annual revenue of $75 million. In addition to its headquarters, the company has offices in Wilmington, N.C. and Cary, N.C. It serves health-care, industrial, institutional and corporate clients in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

CEO John Danis said the firm had been looking for expansion opportunities since opening a Jacksonville, Fla., office in 2000. The R.N. Rouse deal builds the company's geographic reach and gives it room for growth, he said.

A broader footprint also should allow the company to take on different work. While Danis' main focus is health-care contracting, R.N. Rouse’s focus is corporate office and technology construction.

Click Here for further information.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Magazine ranks NC business climate No. 1


North Carolina claimed the "Top Business Client" designation from Site Selection Magazine for the fifth year in a row. This is the eighth time in nine years that the state has the top hone in the publication's annual ranking.

"Business leaders know we are listening to them and working aggressively to meet their needs,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “Companies know that in North Carolina they will find top-quality talent, world-class infrastructure, a pro-business environment, and premier education institutions. North Carolina is simply a great place to do business.”

“The synergy between North Carolina’s research parks, corporations, communities, and economic developers at the state and local levels is a major factor in this year’s top ranking,” said Site Selection Editor-in-Chief Mark Arend.

Site Selection magazine is an economic development publication. For more details, click Here.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

OSHA lists 10 most frequent workplace safety violations


The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revealed the preliminary top 10 most frequent workplace safety violations for 2009 as part of a presentation at the NSC’s annual Congress & Expo. The number of top 10 violations has increased almost 30% over the same time period in 2008.

“We appreciate our colleagues at OSHA presenting their new violation data to such a receptive audience,” said National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Froetscher. “The sheer number of violations gives us new resolve in raising awareness about the importance of having sounds safety procedures.”

The workplace violations are:

1. Scaffolding - 9,093 violations
Scaffold accidents most often result from the planking or support giving way, or from the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.

2. Fall Protection - 6,771 violations
Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime, and six feet in construction.

3. Hazard Communication - 6,378 violations
Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers.

4. Respiratory Protection - 3,803 violations
Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors, and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases, or death.

5. Lockout-Tag out - 3,321 violations
“Lockout-Tag out” refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected start up of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

6. Electrical (Wiring) - 3,079 violations
Working with electricity can be dangerous. Engineers, electricians, and other professionals work with electricity directly, including working on overhead lines, cable harnesses, and circuit assemblies. Others, such as office workers and sales people, work with electricity indirectly and may also be exposed to electrical hazards.

7. Ladders - 3,072 violations
Occupational fatalities caused by falls remain a serious public health problem. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for 8% of all occupational fatalities from trauma.

8. Powered Industrial Trucks - 2,993 violations
Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur in U.S. workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.

9. Electrical (general) - 2,556 violations
See #6.

10. Machine Guarding - 2,364 violations
Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injures the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.

Source: Today's Facility Manager. Click Here.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

NC voter information found online


Last year, NC voters set record high turnout throughout our state. But a year later, voting booths could be sadly silent on November 3 if pivotal local elections are overlooked by the same voters who flocked to the polls last fall.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Research by the N.C. Center for Voter Education shows that the No. 1 reason why voters don't go to the polls is because they don't know enough about the candidates.

Fortunately voters can find the facts they need to cast a confident ballot by visiting NCVoterGuide.org, an online voter guide created in a partnership between the N.C. Center for Voter Education and UNC-TV. The guide features candidate profiles, along with resources on voting in this year's election.

Local elections may not have the flashy ads and endorsements we had last year, but they do deal with such vital issues as the water we drink, the neighborhoods we live in and the schools our children attend. Cast your vote on Tuesday.