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TradeWinds

Industry News List

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Every State And The District Of Columbia Lost Construction Jobs During The Past Year, New December Employment Data Finds
Mississippi tops list of Six States to Add Construction Jobs Between November and December 2009, Wyoming Had Largest Monthly Percentage Decline in Construction Employment

For the first time since the start of the economic downturn, every state and the District of Columbia reported losing construction jobs over the past twelve months, according to a new analysis of state-by-state employment data released today. The analysis, conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, found few signs of a construction industry recovery with only six states reporting construction job increases between November and December 2009.

“There’s nowhere for construction workers to turn for relief from job losses and hardship,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Sifting through the monthly variations, it is obvious that construction employment is losing ground almost everywhere.”

Simonson noted that Nevada experienced the largest annual percentage decrease in construction employment (27.7 percent), followed by Wyoming (23.8 percent); Tennessee (20 percent); Montana (19.6 percent); and Arizona (19 percent). He added that California had lost more construction jobs (116,100) than any other state during the past year.

The smallest declines in construction employment between December 2009 and December 2009 were in Louisiana (3.5 percent); D.C. (4 percent); Oklahoma (4 percent); West Virginia (4.2 percent); and North Dakota (4.8 percent), the economist noted. Simonson added that the District of Columbia lost the fewest of construction jobs (500) during that time.

Unusually cold and wintry weather throughout most of the country in December contributed to the downward trend in monthly construction employment, Simonson suggested. He said that compared to November reports showing 24 states added construction jobs during the past month, the December report had only six states adding jobs after normal seasonal adjustments (which does not take into account exceptional mild or harsh weather.)

Mississippi had the largest monthly percentage increase in construction employment (1.2 percent) followed by Virginia (1.1 percent); Hawaii (1 percent); Oklahoma (1 percent); South Carolina (0.5 percent); and New Mexico (0.2 percent). Meanwhile, Montana had the largest monthly percentage decrease (10.5 percent), followed by North Dakota (9.6 percent); Wyoming (6.8 percent); Nevada (5.7 percent); and Wisconsin (5.5 percent).

Given that 90 percent of contractors don’t expect a recovery in 2010, according to an industry forecast the association released earlier this week, construction officials urged Congress and the Administration to act now to avoid continued construction job losses. “The best way to boost employment is to continue making the kind of infrastructure investments everyone agrees our country needs to remain globally competitive,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

View state-by-state construction employment data.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the employment figures, combines mining and logging with construction employment in Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee.

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Nearly 90 Percent Of Contractors Say Industry Will Not Recover In 2010 As Construction Outlook Finds Stimulus Lone Bright Spot
Construction Firms Predict Drop in Private-Sector Work, Fewer Equipment Purchases Amid Widespread Uncertainty About 2010 Hiring & Lay Off Plans

Nearly nine-in-ten contractors say there will be no recovery in 2010 as part of a new national construction hiring and business outlook forecast released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. As a result, fewer contractors plan to purchase construction equipment and after a year of near-record industry layoffs, many doubt they’ll be able to hire new staff this year.

“Unfortunately for the industry and for our economy this year’s construction outlook is far from positive,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “As long as the construction industry remains mired in its own depression, broader economic and employment growth will continue to lag.”

The outlook, which is based in part on survey responses from nearly 700 construction firms submitted in late December and earlier this month, shows that privately-funded construction activity is likely to decline even further this year. Indeed, 64 percent of responding contractors expect demand for new manufacturing facilities will decline, while 71 percent expect demand for new retail, warehouse and lodging facilities will drop.

As a result, the number of firms expecting to buy new equipment is down to 46 percent this year from 61 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 81 percent of firms report already having to cut profit margins in their bids just to stay competitive and another ten percent say they are now submitting bids so low they will actually lose money on the projects.

Sandherr added that many construction firms are uncertain that they’ll be able to add staff following a year of record layoffs. In 2009, 73 percent of firms said they laid off employees, averaging 39 layoffs per firm. For 2010, however, 60 percent of firms say they are unsure whether they will be able to add new staff, or be forced to make further cuts. “Perhaps they can’t imagine who else to let go,” Sandherr noted.

One of the relatively few bright spots for the industry was the federal stimulus. Thirty-one percent of contractors say they were awarded stimulus funded projects. Of these, 46 percent say the stimulus helped them retain an average of 24 employees each. Another 15 percent say the stimulus helped them to add an average of 10 new employees per company while 12 percent cite the stimulus as driving new equipment purchases.

Sandherr added that the stimulus is driving up expectations for publicly-funded construction activity in 2010. He noted that 62 percent of contractors expect the highway market to improve or remain stable, 61 percent say water and sewer construction will improve or remain stable. And 55 percent say work on public buildings will improve or remain stable in 2010.

“The stimulus is finally beginning to have a measurable, but limited, impact on the construction industry,” Sandherr noted. “The full impact of those investments has sadly been tempered by the inability of Congress to put a host of multi-year infrastructure funding plans in place.”

In addition to stimulus-funded projects, contractors also are relatively upbeat about prospects for power and hospital/higher education construction. Fifty-two percent expect demand for power facilities to be at or above last year’s levels while 57 percent of contractors expect growth or stability in demand for hospital and higher education construction.

Overall, however, the outlook points to another difficult year for contractors Sandherr said. The only truly good news, he added, is that construction costs remain at multi-year lows, providing good deals for anyone willing to begin a construction project.

Citing examples like a DC-area county that is increasing its capital budget in light of the “limited time sale,” Sandherr said the association was contacting Congressional and Administration leaders to urge them to invest in new construction activity. “If they act now, they can save taxpayers millions on construction costs while immediately boosting employment and economic activity,” Sandherr said.

Read Stephen Sandherr’s remarks.

View the 2010 National Construction Hiring and Business Forecast.

View the state-by-state Construction Hiring and Business Forecasts for 29 states.

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Architecture Billings Index Remains in Negative Territory
Inability to get financing main roadblock to recovery

On the heels of a more than three point drop in November, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) had a negligible increase of less than one point in December. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI rating was 43.4, up slightly from 42.8 in November. This score indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry score was 55.3, down more than three points.

“The main impediment to an economic turnaround for the design and construction industry remains frozen credit markets. We continue to hear that there are numerous viable projects out there awaiting financing,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “And the longer this situation persists, the more dire the news for the architecture profession which is struggling at unprecedented proportions.”

Key December ABI highlights:
  • Regional averages: Northeast (48.6), Midwest (46.6), South (43.2), West (40.0)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.0), institutional (44.2), commercial / industrial (42.7), mixed practice (38.1)
  • Project inquiries index: 55.3

About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index is derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey and produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group. Based on a comparison of data compiled since the survey’s inception in 1995 with figures from the Department of Commerce on Construction Put in Place, the findings amount to a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly survey sent to a panel of AIA member-owned firms. Participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended. According to the proportion of respondents choosing each option, a score is generated, which represents an index value for each month. The regional and sector data is formulated using a three-month moving average.


About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit www.aia.org/walkthewalk.

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Demand For Consensusdocs Contract Documents Jumps Nearly 20 Percent In 2009 Despite Decline In Construction Activity
Use of Construction Documents Grows as More Private, Federal, State and Not-For-Profit Project Owners Embrace the Standard Documents

Demand for ConsensusDOCS standard contract documents grew by nearly 20 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year despite significant declines in construction activity, the organizations that developed the documents reported. The jump in users comes as private, public and not-for-profit owners have begun using the standard documents and getting positive results.

“Today’s market conditions are forcing people to reevaluate the outdated model of drafting documents from scratch for every construction project,” said Brian Perlberg, executive director of the ConsensusDOCS coalition. “These documents offer an easier, faster and more efficient way to go from concept to construction.”

The number of subscribers for ConsensusDOCS documents climbed from 3,291 at the beginning of 2009 to 3,895 at the end of the year, an increase of over 18 percent, Perlberg noted. He added that in December 2009 alone, the coalition saw a 28 percent increase in sales compared to the previous December.

The growth occurred even though construction spending hit a six-year low in 2009. Perlberg noted that the jump in users was impressive given that demand for competing standard contract documents was down significantly during 2009.

One factor driving growing demand for the documents is that public and not-for-profits groups increasingly allow the use of ConsensusDOCS documents. The federal government recently authorized the use of ConsensusDOCS documents for up to $20 billion worth of Agriculture Department projects. States like South Dakota, Michigan and North Carolina have all recently allowed the documents as well. And not-for-profits, including Florida Habitat for Humanity chapters, now routinely use ConsensusDOCS contracts for key projects.

“In a year of little good news for the construction industry, it is encouraging to be the exception instead of the rule,” said Perlberg. “Using these documents will make it easier for owners and contractors to survive and thrive during these difficult days.’

Offering a comprehensive catalog of more than 100 contract documents covering all project delivery methods, ConsensusDOCS contracts are the first and only industry standard contract documents written and endorsed by 23 leading construction organizations. For more information, visit www.ConsensusDOCS.org.

ConsensusDOCS Media Contacts:
  • Brian Turmail, The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 703-837-5310, turmailb@agc.org
  • Greg Sizemore, The Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), 513-563-4131, gsizemore@curt.org
  • Terry Cook, Construction Owners Association of America (COAA), 800-994-2622, coaa@coaa.org
  • Dan Walter, Associated Specialty Contractors (ASC), 301-215-4520, dgw@necanet.org
  • David Mendes, American Subcontractors Association (ASA), 703-684-3450 x1335, dmendes@asa-hq.com
  • Gregory A. Howell, Lean Construction Institute (LCI), 303-655-8385, ghowell@leanconstruction.org
  • Richard Bright, Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), 410-869-3253, rbright@pdca.org
  • Thomas J. Soles and Rosalind P. Raymond, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), 703-803-2980 and 703-803-2996, tsoles@smacna.org and rraymond@smacna.org
  • Kathy Hoffman, National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP), 202-464-1175, khoffman@nasbp.org
  • Dean D’Ambrosi, Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), 609-452-8000, ddambrosi@cfma.org

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AP Story On Stimulus-Funded Highway Work Is ‘Flawed’ Says Top Construction Economist
Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America issued the following statement today in response to an Associated Press story looking at the impact of stimulus-funded highway projects on overall construction employment:

“While highway construction plays a significant role in shaping the nation’s economic fortunes, it only accounts for five percent of the total domestic construction workforce. And because of declines in the amount of state and local funds invested in road work in 2009, the roughly $20 billion in federal stimulus highway funds obligated in 2009 only contributed to a $4 billion net increase in highway construction activity last year. Meanwhile, total construction spending declined by $137 billion between November 2008 and 2009 to a six-year low of $900 billion.

“As we cautioned the story’s two authors in advance, the fundamental assumptions in today’s Associated Press story are flawed. It is virtually impossible to measure the impact of $4 billion by looking at overall employment figures for an industry experiencing a $137 billion drop in activity – especially when only one in twenty construction workers stand to benefit from those stimulus funds.”

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Garland Delivers Rooftop Coating Solutions

The Garland Company, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio-based manufacturer and distributor of high- performance solutions for the commercial building envelope, recently released Garland Coating Solutions, a brochure providing architects, building owners, and specifiers with an overview of the numerous coating technologies available to enhance the performance and extend the life of commercial roofs.

The brochure analyzes the cost-to-value benefits of using coatings to enhance, restore, and maintain roofs, while helping customers differentiate coatings solutions according to specific performance requirements, such as reflectivity, chemical resistance, sustainability, moisture control, and color retention. Joe Mellott, Garland’s director of technology, reports, “In today’s economic environment, timely restorations offer a lot of dollars-and-cents benefits by extending the service life of a roof before eventual tear-off and replacement. The proactive use of protective coatings to maintain and enhance roof surfaces can significantly reduce the long-term costs of ownership for high-performance roofs.”

Founded in Cleveland in 1895, Garland has been employee owned since 1985. Its Cleveland-based research, development, and manufacturing operations are ISO-9001 certified. The company currently employs over 400 people, including a field sales force of 200 across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. For more information, or to receive a free copy of Garland Coating Solutions, contact your local Garland representative, call 1‑800‑321‑9336, or visit www.garlandco.com.

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Nearly One In Four Construction Workers Are Unemployed As Industry Loses Another 53,000 Jobs In December
With Construction Unemployment Now at 22.7 Percent, No Time to Single Out Construction Industry For Higher Health Care Costs and Penalties, Trade Group Says

Deteriorating demand for construction services continued to drag on the economy as new federal figures show another 53,000 construction workers lost their jobs in December and the industry’s unemployment rate climbed to 22.7 percent. The new employment data underscores the need to rethink health care legislation that singles out small construction firms for new mandates and fees, the Associated General Contractors of America noted.

“If it wasn’t for construction, our economic picture would actually be getting slightly better,” said the association’s chief economist, Ken Simonson. “Unfortunately, construction layoffs are dragging down the broader employment picture.”

Simonson noted that outside of construction, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 31,000, seasonally adjusted, in November and shrank by just 32,000 in December. Construction, however, lost 80,000 more jobs in both months, he added, while the industry’s unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, is now more than double the all-industry rate.

According to the new federal employment figures, over 2 million construction workers are currently unemployed and 934,000 construction workers lost their jobs during the past 12 months alone. Simonson added that construction employment declined by 0.9 percent between November and December and 13.7 percent between December 2008 and 2009.

The construction economist said falling demand for nonresidential construction in particular was driving the sector’s job losses, with 34,900 nonresidential jobs lost in December. He noted that federal figures released earlier this week indicate that construction spending declined by $137 billion between November 2008 and 2009 to a six-year low.

Association officials urged Congress to reconsider provisions in the Senate-passed health care legislation that exclude small construction firms from measures designed to protect small businesses from costly new provisions. Small business employing between 5 and 49 people are not required to pay fines for employees without health care insurance. However, a last minute amendment added to the Senate bill requires small construction firms to pay the fines.

“It is hard to understand the sense in singling out construction for higher health care costs and penalties when the industry’s unemployment rate is nearly double that of any others’,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “For the vast majority of small construction firms that already provide comprehensive health care, the Senate provision will increase reporting costs, making it harder to retain and add staff.”

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Another Steep Decline in Nonresidential Construction Activity Projected for 2010
Modest increase in spending possible by 2011


Despite signs that the overall U.S. economy is beginning to improve, nonresidential construction spending is expected to decrease by 13.4 percent in 2010 with a marginal increase of 1.8 percent in 2011 in inflation adjusted terms. Commercial and industrial projects will continue to see the most significant decrease in activity. Thanks, in part, to federal stimulus spending, institutional building categories will fare better over this period. These are highlights from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, a survey of the nation’s leading construction forecasters.

“When economies emerge from this prolonged recession, recovery for nonresidential construction activity typically takes longer,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Hardest hit will be the commercial and industrial sectors with projected declines in the 20 percent range for 2010 in most building categories. Led by the healthcare market, the institutional sector will see far less dramatic declines and should help lead the construction industry into recovery in 2011.”
Market Segment Consensus Growth Forecasts

                               
2010                      
2011
Overall nonresidential 
-13.4                     
1.8
 
 
 
Commercial / industrial
 
 
 
  • Industrial           
-24.3                     
-7.8
  • Hotels                  
-23.5%                 
5.4%
  • Office buildings               
-18.6%                 
11.8%
  • Retail                   
-17.2%                 
3.2%
 
 
 
Institutional
 
 
 
  • Amusement / recreation          
-12.9%                 
4.4%
  • Religious            
-5.8%                    
2.0%
  • Education           
-5.6%                    
6.0%
  • Health care facilities
-0.3%                    
2.5%
  • Public safety     
0.8%                     
-0.1%

About the AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel
The AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel is conducted twice a year with the leading nonresidential construction forecasters in the United States including, McGraw Hill Construction, Global Insight, Moody’s economy.com, Reed Business Information, the Portland Cement Association, and FMI. The purpose of the Consensus Construction Forecast Panel is to project business conditions in the construction industry over the coming 12 to 18 months. The Consensus Construction Forecast Panel has been conducted for 12 years.

About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit www.aia.org/walkthewalk.

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New Structural-Connector Screws, LSCZ Stair-Stringer Connector and DeckTools® Deck Design Software at International Builders’ Show

Simpson Strong-Tie is introducing several new products for homes and decks in 2010. These products will be on display at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, January 19-22 in booths C755 and C955.

Strong-Drive® SD Structural-Connector Screws – Booth C755
As an alternative to nails, the new SD structural-connector screw is the only screw designed, tested and approved for use with some of the more popular Simpson Strong-Tie® connectors. Why screws instead of nails? In tight spaces and overhead applications, screws are easier to install than nails and in some cases, achieve higher load ratings than 10d and 16d common nails. In addition, the SD screw has a corrosion-resistant galvanized coating so it can be used in interior and most exterior conditions.

LSCZ Adjustable Stair-Stringer Connector – Booth C755
The LSCZ connector offers a versatile, concealed connection between the stair stringer and the carrying header or rim joist while replacing costly framing. It is field slopeable to all common stair stringer pitches and is suitable for either solid or notched stringers. The LSCZ installs with hot-dipped galvanized nails or our new Strong-Drive® SD screws, has a ZMAX® coating for additional corrosion protection, and can be used in interior and some exterior applications, such as decks.

DeckTools® Deck Design Software – Booth C955
DeckTools™ sales, design and estimating software program for decks makes it easy for deck builders and suppliers to create one-of-a-kind deck designs right from their laptops. The 3D program allows users to customize nearly every detail, from the deck shape and railings to material choices, while quickly generating plans, proposals and material lists. The latest version of the program, DeckTools Software 3.0, includes new features, such as hardware solutions (Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and fasteners) and DWG and DXF (CAD-compatible) file export. The software retails for $1895.00; IBS attendees will receive 20% off the retail price if purchased at the show. For more information about the software, visit the DeckTools site.

For more information about these products and other new products for 2010, visit our new products page on our website.

In addition, Simpson Strong-Tie will feature the Strong Frame™ ordinary moment frame, Anchor Systems products for cracked concrete, Quik Drive® auto-feed screw driving systems, structural connectors and corrosion-resistant fasteners in booth C755.

About Simpson Strong-Tie Company Inc.
For more than 50 years, Simpson Strong-Tie has focused on creating structural products that help people build safer and stronger homes and buildings. Considered a leader in structural systems research and testing, Simpson Strong-Tie® products are recognized for helping structures resist high winds, hurricanes and seismic forces. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of connectors, fasteners, fastening systems, anchors and lateral-force resisting systems in the world. Featured product lines include Wood and Steel Strong-Wall® prefabricated shearwalls, Anchor Tiedown Systems for multi-story buildings and Strong Frame™ moment frames. Specialty products include Quik Drive® auto-feed screw driving systems, corrosion-resistant fasteners and Simpson Strong-Tie Anchor Systems® - anchors and fasteners for concrete and masonry. Simpson Strong-Tie is committed to providing exceptional products and service to its customers, including engineering and field support, product testing and training. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.strongtie.com.

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Construction Employment Declines In 324 Out Of 337 Cities As Construction Spending Hits 6-Year Low, New November Data Shows

Construction Employment Down 36 Percent in El Centro, Calif., Up 12 Percent in Harrisburg, Pa., As Construction Spending Drops 13.2 Percent Compared to Last Year

Construction employment declined in 324 out of 337 metropolitan areas over the past year as spending on construction projects dropped by over $137 billion in November to a 6-year low of $900 billion, according to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of federal figures released today.

“Private nonresidential construction is in freefall, with every category except private power construction down sharply compared to a year ago,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Those cuts are causing layoffs in virtually every part of the country for tens of thousands of skilled construction workers.”

Simonson noted new Census Bureau figures released today show developer-financed construction suffered the largest decline in spending between November 2008 and November 2009. He added that private lodging investments were down 46 percent; retail, warehouse and farm spending were down 41 percent and private office construction investments were down 39 percent. A recovery in homebuilding may spark some improvement in retail construction later this year, and higher education and hospital construction may come back in the second half of 2010, the economist suggested.

Simonson noted that public construction benefitted from federal stimulus funds, with a year-over-year increase of 2.7 percent. He predicted, however, those gains will continue to be tempered by sharp cutbacks in projects funded directly by states, local governments and school systems.

Simonson said the declines in investments were leading to sweeping industry layoffs. El Centro, Calif., lost a larger percentage of its construction work force (36 percent) from November 2008 to November 2009 than any other metropolitan area according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. The agency includes mining and logging with construction in most metro areas to prevent disclosure about industries with few employees, Simonson noted.

Other areas experiencing sharp declines in construction employment during the year include Kokomo, Ind. (31 percent); Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, Wash. and Reno, Nev. (both 28 percent); and St. George, Utah and Grand Junction, Colo. (both 27 percent).

Of the six metropolitan areas with an increase in construction employment during the past 12 months, only two areas had gains of more than 100 jobs: Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa. (1,500 jobs, 12 percent gain) and Tulsa, Okla. (700 jobs, 3 percent gain.) Four metro areas had gains of 100 jobs each in construction: Anderson, Ind. (6 percent); Columbus, Ind. (5 percent); Bismarck, N.D. (3 percent) and Fargo, N.D., including nearby areas in Minnesota (1 percent).

View the latest construction spending figures, and view latest metropolitan area construction employment figures.

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Late-Night Amendment To Health Care Legislation Adds New Costs, Regulatory Burdens To Hardest-Hit Construction Industry
Amendment Will Increase Construction Unemployment, Hurt Small and Family Business Owners, Top Construction Association Official Says

Without debate or advance notice, language was added to the Senate health care legislation that singles out small construction firms for harsher treatment than any other industry. Whereas most employers with fewer than 50 workers that do not offer health coverage are exempt from fines that apply to larger employers, under the newly added provision construction firms employing as few as five workers would be subject to health care coverage fines. Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, issued the following statement regarding the late-night inclusion:

“Unconcerned that construction has endured more pain than any other sector, supporters of the Senate health care bill appear poised to exclude the industry from thoughtful measures designed to protect small businesses. With construction unemployment already at 19.4 percent, nearly twice the national average and higher than any other category, the Senate’s decision couldn’t come at a worse time for contractors. It is impossible to understand the wisdom of singling out small, mostly family-owned construction firms even though the vast majority of them already provide comprehensive health insurance. If Washington was looking for a way to push more construction workers into unemployment lines, the late-night amendment to the health care ‘reform’ measure does just that.”

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First Integrated Green Construction Code Poised For 2010 Debut

Drafters of the International Code Council’s International Green Construction Code (IGCC) are nearing completion of the first-ever integrated green code for traditional and high-performance commercial buildings, set for a public release in March.

“This will be the first time code officials, owners and designers will have an integrated regulatory framework to put into practice that meets the goal of greening the construction and design of new and existing buildings,” according to Code Council CEO Richard P. Weiland. “Only a code that is useable, enforceable and adoptable will have the capability of impacting our built environment in dramatic ways.”

The IGCC is designed specifically to integrate and coordinate with the other International Codes already being enforced by governmental code officials at all levels. All 50 states and more than 20,000 U.S. jurisdictions use the International Codes developed by the Code Council for safety and sustainability. The International Codes also serve as the basis for construction of federal properties around the world, and as a reference for many nations outside the United States. The International Code Council is a non-profit membership association dedicated to building safety, fire prevention, energy efficiency, and sustainable building construction and performance.

The IGCC’s unique drafting approach links the International Codes to a public process bringing together diverse areas of expertise to create the first integrated, regulatory framework for green commercial buildings. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International are Cooperating Sponsors. Other organizations with representation on the IGCC drafting committee, known as the Sustainable Building Technology Committee (SBTC), include the U.S. Green Building Council Green Globes Initiative along with over a dozen others.

“We are not an industry or advocacy organization, but rather the same folks who have written the building codes used throughout the United States and around the world for decades,” said Code Council Board Member and SBTC Chair Ravi Shah. “From the beginning of our code development earlier this year, we’ve had 29 SBTC members and countless work group members from across the spectrum of government, industry, non-profit and academia weaving their views into a consensus code,” Shah said.

The Code Council’s unique consensus process invites continual public input from all perspectives, culminating in a final approval from code officials to ensure the best possible rate of compliance.

A critical element of the IGCC is that it is consistent and coordinated with existing International Codes that span the spectrum of the industry from building, to energy conservation, fire safety, plumbing, mechanical fuel gas and existing buildings among others.

“Voluntary systems have led market transformation and paved the way for a regulatory framework that includes specialized standards addressing highly technical areas around installation and equipment performance,” Weiland said. “And with our Cooperating Sponsors at the AIA and ASTM International providing the essential perspective of the design and standards communities, there is finally an option on the table that a local, state or federal code official can actually use, enforce and adopt to impact the built environment.”

The last drafting meeting of the SBTC will be in January in Austin, Texas. The first public version of the IGCC will be published in March, which is expected to inform many policy discussions currently underway. At the same time the IGCC will undergo continual maintenance with the solicitation of additional public comments thru hearings being conducted in August. The IGCC will then go through another round of review, comments and public hearings in 2011 for the publication for the 2012 ICC Family of Codes.

Information on activities about the IGCC is available for review at www.iccsafe.org/igcc.

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Housing Downturn Resulting in Demand for More Infill and High-Density Options
Greater emphasis for housing closer to public transportation and job centers

Consumer preferences for community design that once preferred areas removed from metropolitan hubs is moving increasingly towards infill sites that have greater access to public transportation options.  Mixed-use developments focused around denser is being favored in some cases over traditional neighborhood design with homes close to the street, sidewalks and smaller lots. These types of developments are still gaining in popularity, but at a slower rate than recent years most likely as the result of the overall economic challenges. Home exteriors with durability and low maintenance are also proving to be more popular in recent years. 

 
Billings at residential architecture firms remain weak, but remodeling activity showing an improvement. These findings are from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey for the third quarter of 2009 that focused on community and neighborhood design.
 
“There is an extremely high level of inventories of unsold homes due to the prolonged downturn in the housing market,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “That element and the fact that home energy and transportation costs have risen in recent years has people rethinking living options. Demand for homes in urban centers with greater access to transportation, retail, commercial and employers has a tremendous appeal.”
 
Design strategy tailored towards access to public transportation and job centers helps reduce sprawl, dependence on automobiles, encourages sustainability and creates an overall more vibrant and healthy community.
 
AIA Home Design Trends Survey highlights
 
Popular Home Exteriors Features                    
2009               
2008
Durable exterior materials
75%                            
73%
Sustainable roofing    
47%                            
62%
Porches                      
53%                
46%
Windows (number and size)
26%                
33%
Tubular skylights        
24%                
n/a
Green roofs                
21%                            
n/a

 (% respond. report. popularity of feature “increasing” minus % report. “decreasing”; Q3)
 
Housing market business conditions
The residential market continues to struggle. The national billings index was 38 for the third quarter of 2008 (any score below 50 indicates a decline in activity), the same as the previous quarter’s mark of 38. Inquiries for new projects are 47 for the second consecutive quarter, but encouraging compared to the score of 35 in the first quarter of the year.
 
Specific construction segments                   
2009               
2008
Additions / alterations           
27%                
13%
Kitchen and bath remodeling                
26%                
8%
First-time buyer / affordable home market                        
-2%                 
-64%
Move-up home market
-29%                           
-57%
Townhouse / condo market
-43%               
-49%
Custom / luxury home market                        
-48%               
-30%
Second / vacation home
-70%               
-66%

 (% of respondents reporting sector “improving” minus % reporting “weakening”; Q3)
 
About the AIA Home Design Trends Survey
The AIA Home Design Trend Survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector. Residential architects are design leaders in shaping how homes function, look, and integrate into communities and this survey helps to identify emerging trends in the housing marketplace. Business conditions are also monitored on a quarterly basis. Future surveys will focus on kitchen and bath trends (February 2008), overall home layout and use (May 2008), and specialty rooms and systems (September 2008).
 
About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes.  By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit www.aia.org/walkthewalk

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