Brian Deery of the Associated General Contractors of America says "business is good but not booming" for the construction industry given the limited increase in federal infrastructure spending. Furthermore, the industry is not yet "past the wilderness" with regard to the impact of steel tariffs on the industry despite sentiment among some that initial price bumps resulted from opportunistic suppliers.
Dodge Data & Analytics says the value of construction starts declined 5% month over month in September and 1% year over year. Nonbuilding construction dropped 13% due mainly to a dearth of big electric utility and gas plant projects, but manufacturing plant construction increased 36%.
SG Blocks is using prefabricated steel shipping containers to give homeowners in natural-disaster-prone areas a durable, cost-effective alternative to brick and wood shelter structures. Shipping containers have been approved as a mainstream building product since 2017, and SG Blocks says the process of retrofitting a container-based building is roughly 10% less expensive and as much as 50% faster than traditional construction methods.
The Appraisal Institute says environmental improvements to new and existing structures can benefit residential sellers and buyers. While the upfront costs can be steep, green homes may offer lower utility bills, eligibility for federal tax credits and potentially higher value upon selling.
Associated General Contractors of America Senior Counsel Leah Pilconis says AGC would like to see a streamlined National Environmental Policy Act process to expedite efforts and cut costs of projects with water impacts, but she notes that the Trump administration's executive orders on environmental permitting already are having an immediate effect. "We are seeing a lot of movement, and even more proposed rules coming that are intended to streamline environmental programs that are on the books," she says.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has approved erosion, sediment and stormwater runoff control plans for a 300-mile section of the roughly 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Project consortium leader Dominion Energy will now look to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its approval so construction can begin.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs between September 2017 and September 2018, while 29 states and Washington, D.C., added construction jobs between August and September, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data released Friday. Association officials noted that the continued job gains were a sign of an exceptional business environment, but that difficulty in hiring qualified craft workers could increase contractors' costs and extend construction times. "Construction activity is expanding nearly everywhere, as only three states experienced a decline in construction employment over the past year," said chief economist Ken Simonson. "These results show that contractors remain upbeat about demand for projects going forward. However, further employment gains may be difficult, given low unemployment in most states and an inadequate pipeline for training future construction workers." Read full news release here.
With the US midterm elections around the corner, several science policy issues -- including American infrastructure -- loom large. April Reese examines pressing needs in each state, including deteriorating bridges in Mississippi, flood management in Texas and coastal protection in Florida.
President Donald Trump signed a memorandum directing the government to make the regulatory process faster, including accelerating environmental reviews on water projects such as the Central Valley Project in California and the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon and California. While the move was praised by the Family Farm Alliance, John Buse, legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity, believes it exhibits the president's lack of understanding of water issues.
Virginia transportation officials expect to propose $2 billion worth of projects to reduce congestion and improve safety on Interstate 81. Tolls, retail sales tax, gas tax and use tax are suggested ways to fund the 72 projects, and the study group is likely to make its recommendation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Oct. 30.