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American Institute of Architects Helps Train 162-Member Team for Safety Assessments in Tornado Ravaged Alabama

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Alabama Council assembled a specially-trained, 162-member team of architects, engineers, building inspectors and fire marshals from across the country who began performing safety assessments in Alabama this week on homes and structures in the wake of the devastating tornadoes that tore through parts of this state on April 27.

You can see this press release online here: http://www.aia.org/press/releases/AIAB089310

The effort is part of the continuous commitment by the AIA and its local chapters to provide disaster assistance wherever possible to communities hit by any number and kind of disasters, from earthquakes to hurricanes to floods. On Monday, the assembled team in Alabama began by performing safety assessments, which determine whether buildings are safe for permanent occupancy, temporary or partial occupancy or if structures need a detailed damage assessment and additional work.

“We are gratified and grateful for the volunteer spirit that has been displayed by our professional colleagues in all these areas of expertise,” said Mike Chapman, President of AIA’s Alabama Council. “This type of expertise is exactly the kind that’s needed to get past the initial shock of the devastation and to begin the long process of recovery and reconstruction.”

“We have volunteered with local building departments since the early 1970s and consider it a privilege to assist those in need where and when we can with our expertise,” said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. “The AIA’s Disaster Assistance Task Force advocates for and educates other architects to evaluate damage to structures affected by natural events, so we may keep people safely away from further harm and return them to their homes as quickly as possible.”

Leading the training was Stan Peterson, AIA, of Kansas, who will be giving a presentation later this week on disaster assistance at the AIA National Convention, whih kicks off here tomorrow. The team was assembled by Rhea Williams, executive director of the AIA Alabama Council’s Birmingham chapter as well as by Butch Grimes, AIA, an architect based in Tuscaloosa, hit hardest by the storms.

Of the total trained, 24 were engineers (as a result of AIA Alabama Council's continuous and immediate collaboration with the Alabama Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC); 18 were building inspectors; 40 were Fire Marshals and 80 were architects. At the conclusion of training all were given a photo ID and certificate, formed into teams, given their maps, and put to work.

All were trained using both California's Safety Assessment Program (SAP) as well as the ATC 45, (Applied Technology Council's Field Manual: Safety of Buildings after wind Storms and Floods).

“As experienced disaster responders, we are reaching out to offer any support we can as our members assist their clients and communities in evaluating the damage and moving forward with recovery,” said Rachel Minnery, AIA Disaster Assistance Task Force Chair.

For building officials that need assistance in safety assessments, please contact the AIA Alabama Council at (334)264-3037.

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. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

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Construction Industry Adds 5,000 Jobs Between March And April, As Sector’s Unemployment Rate Falls To 17.8 Percent
After Years of Declines, Construction Employment Stable Since Early 2010; Declines in Public Sector Demand Likely to Drag on Employment Levels for Rest of Year, Economist Predicts

The construction industry added 5,000 jobs in April while the industry’s unemployment rate declined slightly to 17.8 percent, nearly twice the national average, according to an analysis of new federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the figures continue a year-long trend of little change in construction employment after years of steep declines and predicted the stagnation is unlikely to change soon.

“The construction industry may have stopped bleeding jobs, but there is no sign that employment levels are set to bounce back,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “With declines in public sector investments likely to offset increases in some private sector construction activity, we are unlikely to see significant increases in construction employment for the foreseeable future.”

The construction economist said the nonresidential construction sectors added 10,000 jobs in April, while the residential sector lost 5,400 jobs. The largest gains came from the heavy and civil engineering construction, likely reflecting the start of construction on a number of stimulus and other publicly funded projects that halted during the winter. Meanwhile, employment declined in both the nonresidential specialty trade contractors and the nonresidential building categories, possibly reflecting weak demand for office, retail and school construction.

Association officials said that construction employment is likely to remain relatively stagnant through much of 2011 as federal, state and local governments cut investments in infrastructure and other construction projects. They said that expected increases in multifamily, manufacturing and power construction would help offset the public sector declines, but might not be enough to lead to significant increases in construction employment.

“Construction will keep suffering double-digit unemployment rates as long as federal officials continue to cut infrastructure maintenance and upkeep instead of addressing out-of-control entitlement spending,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The lesson here is you can’t neglect your way to greater economic prosperity.”

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Rising Commodity and Materials Prices Drive Turner Building Cost Index to Slightly Increase for First Quarter
2011 Strong market competition and flat labor costs reduce overall increase in construction costs

Turner Construction Company announced that the First Quarter 2011 Turner Building Cost Index has slightly increased over the Fourth Quarter of 2011. The Turner Building Cost Index measures costs in the non-residential building construction market in the United States. The Turner Building Cost Index of 806 reflects a 0.62% increase from the Fourth Quarter 2010 and 0.88% increase from the First Quarter 2010.

Karl F. Almstead, the Turner vice president responsible for the Turner Building Cost Index said, “The First Quarter forecast reflects price increases in select commodities, materials and equipment. A portion of these increases continue to be absorbed within the supply chain as the level of market demand continues to create an extremely competitive market environment. This is balancing the upward pricing pressure created by the increasing commodity and material costs. Labor costs have remained flat and are not contributing to the escalation in costs.”

Approximately 90% of Turner’s business is performed under contract arrangements, where Turner provides extensive preconstruction planning services before the contract price is fixed and before construction starts. By providing preconstruction services and utilizing enhanced procurement strategies, Turner effectively manages the market risks associated with cost-related issues.

Turner has prepared the construction cost forecast for more than 80 years. Used widely by the construction industry and Federal and State governments, the building costs and price trends tracked by The Turner Building Cost Index may or may not reflect regional conditions in any given quarter. The Cost Index is determined by several factors considered on a nationwide basis, including labor rates and productivity, material prices and the competitive condition of the marketplace. This index does not necessarily conform to other published indices because others do not generally take all of these factors into account.

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Construction Rallies As Industry Spending Increases By 1.4 Percent In March To A Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate Of $769 Billion
Construction Economist Cites Increases in Most Nonresidential Segments, Predicts Future Private Sector Increases, Cautions Public Sector Spending is Likely to Decline

Construction spending bounced back from an 11-year low in March, increasing by 1.4 percent to a total seasonally adjusted annual rate of $769 billion, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of new Census Bureau data released today. Association officials cautioned however that the industry remains weak, noting that total construction spending remains 6.7 percent lower than a year ago and 37 percent lower than the March 2006 peak.

“It is encouraging to see increases in construction spending across most nonresidential categories in March,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Considering how much construction spending has declined during the past five years, however, we are still a long way from anything that can be labeled a recovery.”

Spending on lodging increased the most in March, up 6.1 percent for the month while down -31 percent for the year, followed by manufacturing (5.2 percent for the month, -28 percent for the year) and health care (2.4 percent for the month, -3.2 percent for the year.) Simonson pointed out, however, that spending on only two of the 10 largest nonresidential categories was higher in March 2011 than in March 2010: highways and streets, up 0.6 percent for the month and 4.9 percent over 12 months; and power construction, up 1.8 percent for the month and 3.9 percent over 12 months.

Simonson predicted that spending on certain private construction sectors was likely to increase over the coming months, but that publicly-funded construction activity was likely to decline. “I expect we’ll see improvements in the next few months in manufacturing, warehouse, hospital and data-center construction, but these gains may not offset declines in school and other public construction,” he said.

Simonson noted that residential construction appeared to rise by a strong 2.6 percent in March but that the gain was attributable only to the extremely volatile number for improvements to existing housing, which climbed 6.9 percent for the month. New single-family spending dropped -1.0 percent in March and -9.4 percent over 12 months, while multifamily construction slipped -2.2 percent and -13.2 percent, respectively.

Association officials said the new spending figures reflect cuts in local, state and federal public investments in infrastructure. They noted, for example, that public sector spending on transportation is down -11.1 percent for the year. They added that investments in public safety facilities has declined by 15.6 percent while investments in sewage and waste disposal declined by -7.9 percent since March 2010.

“Delaying infrastructure maintenance while deferring debate on out of control entitlement spending is no way to balance the budget, but it is a good way to lose the future,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

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Recovery Process For Construction Industry Expected To Be Slow

While the economic recession is over and economic growth is strengthening, the construction recession may not run its course for another 18 months, hindering an improvement in cement consumption for the next two years according to the most recent economic forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA).

In 2011, PCA anticipates marginal growth with a two percent increase in consumption. However, this will increase to 8.5 percent in 2012 and swell to 18.5 percent in 2013 when all construction sectors—residential, commercial and public—will be on the upswing.

“The economy clearly has entered a stage of self-sustaining growth, but impediments to a construction recovery are so large that it will take until 2012 to see significant increases in activity,” Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist said. “Tight lending standards, declining property values and reduced state infrastructure spending all need to be resolved for a true recovery in construction.”

Sullivan expects two areas of nonresidential construction to grow in 2011: oil/gas well construction and farm construction. With high energy prices predicted for the next several years, oil well cement consumption is expected to record strength during 2011-2012 and beyond. Farm construction activity is predicted to grow nine percent in 2011.

About PCA
Based in Skokie, Ill., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at www.cement.org.

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Viracon Talks Right-Sizing Glass for Daylighting
New Video Features Interviews with Architects, Daylighting Consultants

on How to Balance Daylight, Comfort and Energy Efficiency

OWATONNA, Minn. – April 26, 2011 – Daylighting has become a buzzword in the architecture and building communities over the past few years. However, building occupants today are discovering that too much light can pose just as much of a problem as not enough light. How much is too much? Viracon, the nation’s leading architectural glass fabricator, listens to those closest to the work.

In a new video, available on the company’s site, Viracon interviews architects, daylighting consultants and building professionals to explore strategies for balancing daylight, comfort and energy efficiency.

“Through the advancement of architectural glass design, we’ve discovered that daylighting is not about letting the maximum amount of light in. Instead, it’s about letting the right amount of light in,” says Don McCann, architectural design manager at Viracon. “We created the video to raise awareness about the issue and highlight strategies architects and building owners can use to balance daylighting and energy efficiency, especially when it comes to achieving LEED certification.”

Through interviews with architects and daylighting consultants, the Viracon video explores ways of “right-sizing” glass for daylighting. Design experts discuss the use of glazing tools such as silk-screening, coatings on the #2 surface, tinted substrates, different high-performance coatings and varied glass configurations to achieve the optimal amount of visible light and energy performance.

The video can be viewed at www.viracon.com by clicking on “Multimedia.”

For additional information, visit www.viracon.com, call 800-533-2080 or email glass@viracon.com.

About Viracon, Inc.
Viracon is based in Owatonna, Minnesota, and has facilities in Statesboro, Georgia, St. George, Utah and Nazaré Paulista, Brazil. Viracon produces high-performance glass products, including tempered, laminated, insulating, silk-screened and high-performance coatings, for North American and international markets. The company is a subsidiary of Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ: APOG). Apogee, headquartered in Minneapolis, is a leader in technologies involving the design and development of value-added glass products and services.

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Bluebeam Software to Host First-Ever International Rally User Conference
Unique Event June 14-17 in Rånäs, Sweden Offers 'eXtreme Learning' Experience Combining Bluebeam Product Educational Sessions with Thrilling Rally Car Competition

Bringing PDFs and RPMs together in a unique and 'eXtreme' learning experience, Bluebeam Software today announced that registration is now open for its first-ever Bluebeam International Rally Conference 2011 (IRC). This event promises three action-packed days of high-octane educational sessions focused on Bluebeam's PDF platform and advanced technologies along with a once-in-a-lifetime rally car racing experience with a team of Swedish professional rally car drivers.

Set for June 14-17 at the enchanting Rånäs Slott in Rånäs, Sweden, the Bluebeam IRC is a must-attend event for Bluebeam users in the European architectural, engineering, construction and manufacturing industries who are looking for new ways to fully-leverage Bluebeam's extensive PDF solutions to reduce printing and shipping costs and achieve greater efficiency. Additionally, the event will push networking into high-gear with rally car, golf and skeet shooting activities at the breathtaking Sundsta Manor in Roslagen.

"We are thrilled to host this first-ever Bluebeam IRC and give our users this great opportunity to power-up their Bluebeam skills and satisfy their need for speed with a chance to get behind the wheel of a real rally car," said Bluebeam Software Director of Worldwide Marketing Stephani Haynes. "In addition to cutting-edge product training, the IRC will provide an excellent opportunity to meet and network with other Bluebeam users and learn from our top developers and experts how Bluebeam's advanced technologies can digitize your workflows."

The Bluebeam IRC features nine educational sessions spanning two full days, including:

  • Three sessions on how to get the most out of PDF editor Bluebeam PDF Revu® with insider tips and tricks including customizing Revu's interface and Tool Chest™, keyboard shortcuts, one-click-away file access and other time-saving tips
  • One session on real-time collaboration using Bluebeam Studio™, and one session dedicated to administering your own Studio Server™ for more control
  • Going mobile with Bluebeam PDF Revu and a tablet PC
  • Two sessions on implementing and customizing the Bluebeam Q™ server solution for automated PDF publishing and processing in enterprise digital workflow environments
  • Integrating Revu's PDF markup tools with PDF files stored online with Bluebeam File Exchange, or bFX™
  • A double session for resellers on the advantages and resources available for Bluebeam channel partners

In addition, keynote presentations from industry leaders and Bluebeam executives will give attendees insight and real world examples on how Bluebeam increases project efficiency and delivers a return on investment.

Limited accommodations are available for a special rate at the historic Rånäs Slott castle nestled alongside Lake Spoon Bay, which serves as the host site for the IRC. Other overnight accommodations are available at the Åtellet Hotell overlooking Nortälje Bay. All conference sessions, keynote presentations and most meals will take place at Rånäs and are all included in the registration fee. Shuttle transportation will be provided for guests staying at Åtellet Hotell to Rånäs and to the rally racing, golf and skeet shooting activities at Sundsta Manor.

Space is limited; to make reservations now, visit www.bluebeamirc.com/registration.

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Maxwell Systems Releases ProContractorMX Mobile Connect for Construction Project Managers
Project Management iPad App Facilitates Proactive and Profitable Project Execution

Maxwell Systems, Inc., a leading provider of complete construction business management software solutions, today announced Maxwell Systems™ ProContractorMX™ Mobile Connect, which is a comprehensive iPad™ application providing project managers with real-time access to critical project information. Available on the Apple App Store, ProContractorMX Mobile Connect (free to download) gives project managers the ability to streamline business processes in the office and in the field and more profitably execute projects.

"Offering the construction industry an iPad app for project managers is an exciting accomplishment for our team," said Jim Flynn, President & CEO of Maxwell Systems. "Project managers now have convenient access to valuable data and documents no matter where they are working on any given day. With the timely details to make confident decisions when on the go, they can more proactively execute projects, and so optimize profit and control costs. The iPad is an extremely intuitive mobile device and combined with our award-winning all-in-one construction management solution, ProContractorMX, it has the potential of revolutionizing the way construction projects are managed."

Using ProContractorMX for project management, contractors can conveniently create, track, and manage project-related data and documents (i.e., RFIs, transmittals, submittals, emails) and, with its Mobile Connect app for iPad, they can easily access important project documents and data, whether in the office, on the road, or at a job site. With the ability to have timely information at all times, project managers can more proactively and profitably execute projects. Furthermore, this functionality eliminates the need to carry around out-of-date, paper-stuffed job binders. Using the solution to manage project documents electronically, project managers have a consolidated virtual binder of all project-related information, which allows the business to minimize risks, stay on schedule, and maximize profitability on every project.

Maxwell Systems ProContractorMX is a comprehensive, all-in-one construction management software solution that includes key capabilities for takeoff; estimating; bids and proposals; management of projects, financials, procurement, inventory, employees, payroll, and equipment; and intelligent dashboards and critical reports for timely analysis of projects or the overall business.

Maxwell Systems is a leading provider of complete construction business management and property management software solutions and services. Founded in 1975, Maxwell Systems is dedicated to helping its 10,000 customers streamline their estimating, job cost accounting, and project management processes and improve profitability. To deliver true end-to-end control of critical business processes, the company's product offerings include: ProContractorMX™, American Contractor™, Management Suite™, StreetSmarts®, and Estimation®. To further help customers grow their business while maximizing the return on their technology investment, Maxwell Systems provides comprehensive support and maintenance, training, and consulting. The company's headquarters are in King of Prussia, Pa., with offices in Baltimore, Md., Fort Collins, Colo., Santa Cruz, Calif., and Sarasota, Fla. More information is available at www.maxwellsystems.com.

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EMCOR Services Team Mechanical Completes Design And Installation Of Solar Wall At New Distribution Center
Energy Saving Solar Wall First For A Commercial Facility In Illinois

EMCOR Services Team Mechanical has completed the design, installation, and commissioning of an innovative, energy saving solar wall for a new distribution center in Minooka, Illinois for Grainger, a leading supplier of facilities maintenance products to businesses and institutions.

A leading mechanical contractor in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest, EMCOR Services Team Mechanical is a subsidiary of EMCOR Group, Inc. (NYSE: EME), a Fortune 500Ò leader in mechanical and electrical construction, energy infrastructure and facilities services for a diverse range of businesses.

Team Mechanical is the first to design and install a solar wall for use at a commercial facility in Illinois. Installed on the exterior south side exposure of Grainger’s new one million square foot distribution center, the 2,700 square foot solar wall pre-heats outside air before it is introduced into a roof mounted air unit serving two storage rooms. The solar wall's pre-heated air is regulated through dampers integrated into the building automation system, resulting in automatic switch-over from preheated solar wall air to outside ambient air based on current outdoor air temperatures---this cuts down considerably on the energy used to power the mechanical unit serving these areas.

In addition to the solar wall, Team Mechanical also installed the total HVAC system and performed the commissioning and functional testing of all new and existing mechanical systems for the distribution center.

"Our client has calculated that the solar wall will pay for itself in less than 10 years,” stated Robert Doessel, President of EMCOR Services Team Mechanical. "This project is an example of Team Mechanical’s ability to provide clients with the latest, cutting edge and energy saving technologies, something we’re very experienced and skilled in delivering, including using our expertise to support the project objective of achieving LEED Gold Certification.”

About EMCOR Services Team Mechanical
EMCOR Services Team Mechanical performs HVAC installation, industrial process, design-build and mechanical services for commercial, industrial, educational, institutional and healthcare clients in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest. Headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, EMCOR Services Team Mechanical is a subsidiary of EMCOR Group, Inc. (NYSE: EME), a Fortune 500â company with estimated 2011 revenues of $5.3B - $5.5B. EMCOR is a global leader in mechanical and electrical construction, energy infrastructure, and facilities services and a leading provider of critical infrastructure systems. EMCOR gives life to new structures and sustains life in existing ones by its planning, installing, operating, maintaining, and protecting the sophisticated and dynamic systems that create facility environments---such as electrical, mechanical, lighting, air conditioning, heating, security, fire protection, and power generation systems---in virtually every sector of the economy and for a diverse range of businesses, organizations and government. EMCOR represents a rare combination of broad reach with local execution, combining the strength of an industry leader with the knowledge and care of 170+ locations. The 24,000+ skilled employees of EMCOR have made the company, in the eyes of leading business publications, amongst the “World’s Most Admired” and “Best Managed”. EMCOR’s diversity---in terms of the services it provides, the industries it serves and the geography it spans---has enabled it to create a stable platform for sustained results. The Company’s strong financial position has enabled it to attract and retain among the best local and regional talent, to undertake and complete the most ambitious projects, and to redefine and shape the future of the construction and facilities services industry. Additional information on EMCOR can be found at www.EMCORGroup.com.

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Construction Employment Falls In 27 States And Dc Between February And March, While 33 States Lost Jobs During The Past Year
Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota, Missouri Led Monthly Gains; Maine, Connecticut, Idaho Had Worst Losses; North Dakota Set New Employment Peak as Tennessee, Texas Led Yearly Pickup; West Virginia Had Steepest Drop

Construction employment decreased in 27 states and the District of Columbia between February and March, while 33 states lost construction jobs during the past 12 months, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis of state employment data released by the Labor Department. Association officials said the data show that construction remains gripped in a depression that merits urgent corrective actions at federal and state levels.

“These data show that recovery is spotty and variable in construction, as the location and number of states with job gains retreated from the levels in February,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “While three states posted healthy year-over-year employment gains of more than five percent and North Dakota reached an all-time high in construction employment, West Virginia lost one out of nine construction jobs in the past year.”

The largest monthly percentage losses occurred in Maine (-4.7 percent, -1,200 jobs); followed by Connecticut (-3.0 percent, -1,600 jobs); Idaho (-2.9 percent, -900 jobs); and Louisiana (-2.8 percent, -3,500 jobs). The largest number of construction job losses over the month were in California (-4,300 jobs, -0.7 percent); Louisiana; Florida (-3,200 jobs, -1.0 percent); and Pennsylvania (-2,800 jobs, -1.2 percent).

Simonson noted that 19 states added jobs during the month and four (Indiana, Iowa, Hawaii and New Hampshire) held steady. Oklahoma had the largest one-month percentage increase in employment (5.6 percent, 3,600 jobs), followed by Arkansas (5.3 percent, 2,400 jobs); North Dakota (4.8 percent, 1,000 jobs); and Missouri (4.2 percent, 4,200 jobs). Missouri added the most construction jobs between February and March, followed by Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama (2,300 jobs, 2.7 percent).

Of the 17 states with year-over-year increases, the largest percentage gains occurred in Tennessee (6.3 percent, 6,500 jobs); followed by Texas (6.1 percent, 34,600 jobs); Wyoming (5.3 percent, 1,200 jobs); and Delaware (4.2 percent, 800 jobs). Texas added the largest number of jobs; followed by Pennsylvania (7,600 jobs, 3.5 percent); Tennessee; and Virginia (4,400 jobs, 2.4 percent). Vermont’s construction employment was unchanged.

North Dakota became the first state to exceed its previous high. The state added 800 jobs over the year, bringing its total in March to 21,900, slightly above the 21,800 employed in October 2008.

The largest percentage drop in construction employment between March 2010 and 2011 took place in West Virginia (-11.1 percent, -3,700 jobs); followed by Wisconsin (-8.0 percent, -7,700 jobs); Georgia (-7.6 percent, -11,500 jobs) and Nevada (-7.5 percent, -4,600 jobs). Florida (-14,700 jobs, -4.2 percent) had the largest number of year-over-year job losses, followed by New York (-12,700 jobs, -4.1 percent) and Georgia.

Association officials said the generally weak results showed the urgency of adopting federal and state measures to improve the investment climate for construction. They urged officials in Washington and in state capitals to review and act on the group’s recently released construction industry recovery plan “Building a Stronger Future.”

“It is unacceptable to allow infrastructure to deteriorate when there are thousands of skilled construction workers and capable companies ready to deliver quality projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “The steps we’ve proposed to cut red tape and address aging infrastructure will put millions to work and boost the overall economy.”

View construction employment figures by state and by rank.

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Architecture Billings Index in Holding Pattern
Business conditions stronger at Midwest firms through first quarter

The first quarter of 2011 has seen the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) remain virtually unchanged and right at, or slightly above, the break-even level. 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 March ABI score was 50.5, a negligible decrease from a reading of 50.6 the previous month. This score reflects a modest increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.7, up significantly from a mark of 56.4 in February.

“Currently, architecture firms are essentially caught swimming upstream in a situation where demand is not falling back into the negative territory, but also not exhibiting the same pace of increases seen at the end of 2010,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The range of conditions reported continues to span a very wide spectrum with some firms reporting an improving business environment and even ramping up staffing, while others continue to operate in survival mode. The catalyst for a more robust recovery is likely financing, with stronger growth occurring only when lending institutions begin approving credit for construction projects with much greater regularity.”

Key March ABI highlights:
  • Regional averages: Midwest (53.5), Northeast (51.4), West (50.6), South (49.7)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (54.7), multi-family residential (50.8), mixed practice (49.8), institutional (48.0)
  • Project inquiries index: 58.7

About the AIA Architecture Billings Index
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity. The diffusion indexes contained in the full report are derived from a monthly “Work-on-the-Boards” survey that is 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 as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months. The monthly ABI index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline. The regional and sector data are formulated using a three-month moving average. More information on the ABI and the analysis of its relationship to construction activity can be found in the White Paper Architecture Billings as a Leading Indicator of Construction: Analysis of the Relationship Between a Billings Index and Construction Spending on the AIA web site.

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. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

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Gulf Widens In March Between Soaring Construction Material Costs And Stagnant Finished Building Prices, Putting Contractors At Risk Of Failure
New Producer Price Index Figures Show Double-Digit Annual Jumps for Diesel, Steel, Copper and Aluminum;

Construction Association Officials Promote Plan to Help Industry Deal with Rising Costs, Low Demand

Contractors’ financial position grew more precarious in March as prices for key materials escalated while prices construction firms charge for completed projects stayed flat, according to an analysis of producer price index figures released today by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Association officials said contractors’ inability to pass costs along imperils the industry’s comeback and urged federal officials to act on a series of recovery measures the group outlined last month.

“Construction spending has sunk to 1999 levels, forcing contractors to keep bid prices down to win projects, despite huge price increases for key inputs,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “That steadily widening gulf threatens to put construction firms out of business and their employees out of work.”

Prices for materials used in construction soared 2.0 percent in March and 6.9 percent during the past 12 months, while price indexes for finished buildings were flat for the month and year, the economist noted. He added that construction materials costs rose faster than the producer price index for finished goods, which climbed 5.8 percent from March 2010 to March 2011.

Simonson said price increases were most extreme for diesel fuel and metals. Diesel prices leaped 11 percent in March and 42.5 percent for the year; prices for copper and brass mill shapes sank 6 percent in March but still jumped 17 percent year-over-year; steel mill product prices increased 5.3 percent and 15 percent, respectively; and prices for aluminum mill shapes rose 1.9 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

“Shrinking demand for both public and privately financed construction is driving up the number of contractors bidding on projects and forcing contractors to hold the line on bid prices for all types of projects,” Simonson noted. The producer price indexes for new office, industrial and warehouse construction rose 1 percent or less over 12 months and the index for new schools was up just 1.3 percent. A new Federal Highway Administration index for highway construction bid prices plunged 22 percent between 2008 and the end of 2010, he added.

Association officials said the new data demonstrates the urgency for public officials to act on a series of measures the group outlined last month in its recovery plan, “Building a Stronger Future.” “Without stronger demand for construction, particularly private sector construction activity, economic growth will leave out a vital sector, stranding millions of workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

View the latest producer price index tables for construction

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Construction Employment Increases In 141 Out Of 337 Metro Areas Between February 2010 & 2011 Amid Milder Winter Weather
Dallas, Texas Area and Battle Creek, Mich. Top List of Metro Areas Adding Jobs while Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.Va. and Atlanta Lost the Most Jobs

Construction employment increased in 141 out of 337 metropolitan areas between February 2010 and February 2011, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that the relatively positive figures were likely affected by significantly improved winter weather in February, combined with the benefits of ongoing stimulus and other temporary federal construction programs.

“With nearly half of all U.S. metro areas finally adding construction jobs, these numbers are welcome news,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But warm winter weather probably played a larger role in driving these numbers up than did any change in construction demand.”

Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas added more construction jobs (7,500 jobs, 8 percent) than any other metro area during the past year while Battle Creek, Mich. added the highest percentage (27 percent, 300 jobs). Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Northern Virginia (5,400 jobs, 9 percent); Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich. (3,300 jobs, 12 percent); Philadelphia (3,200 jobs, 6 percent); and Richmond, Va. (2,700 jobs, 9 percent). Construction employment was unchanged in 49 metro areas.

Atlanta-Sandy Spring-Marietta, Ga. had the largest job loss (-9,400 jobs, -10 percent) of the 147 metro areas that lost construction jobs during the past 12 months. Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.Va. (-32 percent, -1,300 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included New York City (-9,000 jobs, -8 percent); Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. (-5,500 jobs, -12 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (-5,100 jobs, -5 percent); and San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas (-4,100 jobs, -9 percent).

Association officials noted that despite the generally positive outlook for construction employment in February, overall construction market conditions remain weak at best. They noted that construction spending hit an 11-year low as stimulus projects wind down and state, local and private demand for construction continue to shrink. They cautioned that without measures to boost private sector demand, repair aging infrastructure and cut red tape, it would be hard to see how the industry would continue to add jobs.

“Just because the weather was warmer doesn’t mean the construction market is heating up,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “As much as we hope to see even more construction jobs being created, the market’s momentum just doesn’t appear to be heading in the right direction, yet.”

View construction employment figures by metro area and rank.

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Construction Recession Lingers As Industry Loses Jobs, Spending Drops While Overall Economy Adds Jobs

Construction Spending Sank to 11-Year Low in February; 1,000 Construction Jobs Lost in March, Sector's Unemployment Rate Now 20 Percent, Industry's Troubles Limiting Broader Economic Growth, Officials Say

The construction industry remains mired in recession as sector employment and spending continued to shrink even as the overall economy is showing increased strength, according to an analysis of new federal employment and construction spending data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cited the reports as further evidence of the need for measures to boost private and public construction demand to support broader economic growth.

“The ongoing drop in construction employment in March, combined with the news that construction spending hit an 11-year low in February, is doubly distressing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Despite a few signs of an upturn, the industry as a whole has yet to touch bottom five full years after the peak in employment and spending.”

Simonson pointed out that construction employment edged down by 1,000 jobs in March to a seasonally adjusted total of 5,514,000, the same as six months earlier and 2.2 million, or 29 percent, less than at the high point in April 2006. The industry’s unemployment rate of 20 percent, not seasonally adjusted, was the highest of any industry and more than double the overall rate, he noted. Meanwhile, construction spending tumbled again in February, dropping 1.4 percent for the month and 6.8 percent over the past 12 months to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $761 billion. That was the lowest level since October 1999.

Construction employment rose from February to March in four of the five subsectors used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Simonson noted. He added that only heavy and civil engineering employment—helped by federal stimulus and base realignment projects—had a year-over-year gain. That category increased by 3.1 percent over 12 months (25,000 jobs), while nonresidential specialty trade contractors held nearly steady (-100 jobs), nonresidential building contractors lost 0.3 percent (-1,800 jobs), nonresidential special trades shed 2.7 percent (-40,900 jobs), and nonresidential building contractors dropped by 3.2 percent (-18,600 jobs).

Simonson cautioned that stimulus spending and other one-shot federal programs may have passed their peak, as public construction shrank 1.3 percent in February despite a year-over-year increase of 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, private nonresidential construction rebounded in February with a gain of 0.9 percent, but was still down a steep 13.2 percent from February 2010, while private residential construction plunged 3.7 percent for the month and 8.1 percent year-over-year.

Association officials cautioned that the shrinking totals for construction spending and jobs, along with rising construction materials costs, threaten to limit broader economic growth. They urged elected officials to act on the group’s recently released construction industry recovery plan “Building a Stronger Future.”

“If the construction industry was expanding instead of shrinking, this month's jobs numbers would have been much higher,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Our economic recovery will not reach its full potential until the construction depression comes to an end.”

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American Institute of Architects Announces Guide for Sustainable Projects
AIA Guide for Sustainable Projects to Provide Design and Construction Industry with Roadmap for Working on Sustainable Projects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) today announced that it will release AIA Document D503™-2011, Guide for Sustainable Projects, including Agreement Amendments and Supplementary Conditions(“Guide”), in May 2011. The Guide is free and was developed to assist users of AIA Contract Documents in understanding contractual considerations unique to sustainable design and construction projects. The Guide also provides model language that can be used to amend or supplement key AIA Contract Documents in the A201 Family for use in these types of projects. Developed by the AIA’s Contract Documents Committee, with input from industry stakeholders, theGuide provides AIA Contract Documents users with a valuable tool for creating versions of AIA standard contract documents for sustainable projects.

You can see this press release online here: http://www.aia.org/press/releases/AIAB088661

“The AIA Contract Documents program continues to revise existing documents and develop new documents and guides, as necessary, to remain current with trends and changes in the industry and law,” said Ken Cobleigh, Managing Director and Counsel for AIA Contract Documents content. “The development of theGuide reflects the shifting landscape in the industry and addresses key issues of interest to all parties involved in these types of projects.”

The Guide addresses the current state of sustainable design and construction, discussing issues and concepts including:
  • Certification systems, codes and legislation affecting sustainable design and construction projects,
  • Risks and responsibilities faced by owners, contractors and architects on sustainable design and construction projects, and
  • Recommendations for model language to assist the architect in developing a scope of services and to assist all project participants in appropriately allocating risks and responsibilities.

In addition to providing model language that may be used to amend or supplement documents in the AIA Contract Documents A201 Family for design-bid-build projects, the Guide discusses the applicability of key concepts to other delivery models such as design-build, construction management and integrated project delivery.

Because the AIA believes theGuide is an important resource for the design and construction industry, it will be available in May as a free download at www.aia.org/sustainableprojectsguide.

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. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

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TCA Announces Changes to Twitter Account

The Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) – a non-profit international organization that serves to expand and improve the use of site-cast Tilt-Up as the preferred construction method – has revised their Twitter profile to the name http://twitter.com/TiltUpToday. The previous name was “TCAStaff.”

According to Jim Baty, the change was made to the account to better reflect the information that will be disseminated through the account. TCA will share timely industry information and updates from their membership through Twitter.

TCA’s current social media efforts include:
  • Twitter: follow the TCA through staff updates and important information on events and industry changes, TCA at http://twitter.com/TiltUpToday
  • LinkedIn: TCA has two groups on this social media outlet, the public “Tilt-Up Concrete” with more than 350 members who actively discuss important industry topics and the exclusive and private “TCA Members”, allowing a dedicated discussion network for members of the TCA to discuss peer-related topics protected from the industry at large. Visit www.linkedin.com and search in the groups for Tilt-Up Concrete and TCA Members.
  • YouTube Channel: a great number of videos with a variety of Tilt-Up content are available on TCA’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/TCAEducation.

“We are extremely excited about using these online social media outlets. We have already seen success stories with this medium and we believe there is even more opportunity,” said Baty.

The association recognizes that people go online to find content and information for their questions and TCA wants to ensure that the Association’s vast knowledge and network of resources is available to a wider audience in these mediums. Baty also hopes to attract new membership and raise awareness of the industry.

About TCA
TCA was founded in 1986 to improve the quality and acceptance of site-cast Tilt-Up construction, a method in which concrete wall panels are cast on-site and tilted into place. Tilt-Up construction is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, combining the advantages of reasonable cost with low maintenance, durability, speed of construction and minimal capital investment. At least 10,000 buildings, enclosing more than 650 million square feet, are constructed each year using this construction method. For more information, visit www.tilt-up.org or contact TCA at 319-895-6911.

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BrickStainable Award Winners Honored During Ceremony at National Building Museum
Cambridge Professor Alan Short delivers “world tour” keynote address

Innovative thinkers from across the globe gathered in Washington, DC to recognize the winners of the 2nd Annual BrickStainable International Design Competition.

Competition winners created sustainable architectural designs using brick as the primary material. Potomac Valley Brick hosted the Awards Ceremony at the National Building Museum, an apropos location, given it is constructed with over 15 million bricks. Among nearly 200 guests included representatives from the EPA Energy Star Program, Integrated Environmental Solutions, Enterprise Green Communities, and the Brick Industry Association.


Alan Richardson, president of Potomac Valley Brick & Supply, gives opening remarks to the BrickStainable Awards Program attendees

The night’s festivities included a Keynote Address delivered by one of the industry’s foremost minds on sustainable heavy construction, University of Cambridge Professor of Architecture, Alan Short, MA DipArch RIBA FRSA. Short took the audience on a riveting world tour of buildings his firm, Short & Associations, have designed that maintain a temperate interior atmosphere using minimal or no mechanical systems. They’ve worked in various climates, from the desert of Malta to the fluctuating hot and cold of Chicago.

Video presentation clips from the jury deliberation revealed a little bit about why the four jurors selected each winning entry as the winners were called to the stage to receive with their awards.

The BrickStainable Competition was broken into two categories, integrated building design, where entrants were tasked with creating a sustainable building in an urban Baltimore setting, and technical design, where entrants explored specific aspects and assemblies of a brick. Winners in the two categories include:

Integrated Building Design Grand Prize

  • Jamillah Muhammad, Ronald Moore, Dindo Mabana, Tou Boran Pek, Kathleen Stover, Boryana Fileva, a team from Perkowitz & Ruth in Virginia (USA) for Net Zero in Baltimore

Integrated Building Design Honorable Mentions

  • Robert Kane, a student in San Casciano (Italy) for in BRICK, of BRICK, for BRICK, & by BRICK
  • Heather Santos and Jillian Schroettinger, students at Cal Poly Pomona in California (USA) for MassEnergy Science Center
  • Shane Valentine, a student at University of Texas San Antonio, Texas (USA) for Cultivating Energy

Technical Design Grand Prize

  • Jason Vollen and Kelly Winn, of CASE New York (USA) for EcoCeramic Masonry Systems

Technical Design Honorable Mentions

  • Rizal Muslimin, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Massachusetts (USA) for BrickBead
  • Jason Vollen, Kelly Winn and Ted Ngai, of CASE New York (USA) for Climate Camouflage

Potomac Valley Brick’s President and BrickStainable Founder, Alan Richardson spoke of the global attention the competition has received, citing the 21,000 website visits from 128 countries.

“We set out to achieve greater awareness of the role brick can play in the green movement and with the support of our growing list of sponsors and endorsers it’s starting to happen in a big way. This year total registrations were from 62 countries.”

The Competition also offset carbon emissions through the Enterprise Green Communities, who attended the event and spoke about its efforts to provide affordable green housing through its carbon offset fund. To see all of the winning designs, visit www.BrickStainable.com.

About BrickStainable
BrickStainable is a design competition seeking integrative design solutions that promote the use of clay brick to achieve sustainability goals. The competition explores the potential of brick construction in the creation of energy efficient building and challenges designers to maximize the physical characteristics of brick. The competition was created by Potomac Valley Brick in 2009. It is sponsored by Belden, Boral, Carolina Ceramics, Cloud Ceramics, Continental Brick, Endicott Clay, Essroc Italcementi Group, Genco Masonry, Hanson, Hohmann and Barnard, Hyload, Integrated Environmental Solutions, KaRon Masonry, Lehigh-Heidelberg Cement Group, LF Jennings, Mason Contractors Association of America, Masonry Institute of Maryland, Merritt Construction Services, Mortar Net, Owens-Corning, Pavestone, Palmetto Brick Company, Redland Brick, Riverside Brick, Taylor Clay Products, Triangle Brick, United Masonry, Wells & Associates, and York Building Products. More information is available at www.BrickStainable.com and on Twitter@pvbrick.

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Green Home Building Continues to Flourish; Passes 10,000 LEED-certified Home Milestone
Residential community uses LEED for Homes certification to differentiate as the best in the market

More than 10,000 homes across the U.S. have earned LEED certification through the LEED for Homes program, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED-certified home projects span the residential market, from multi- and single-family, to market rate and affordable housing.

"Reaching this milestone signifies the continued transformation of the home building industry towards high-performing, healthy homes that save home owners money," said Nate Kredich, Vice President of Residential Market Development, U.S. Green Building Council. "Market leaders across the production, multifamily, affordable and custom home segments have recognized that there are green homes, and then there are LEED Homes, and they are acting accordingly."

LEED for Homes is a national voluntary certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that use less energy and water and fewer natural resources; create less waste; and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. Since its launch in 2008, 10,161 homes have certified with over 38,000 additional units in the pipeline.

The 10,000th home to earn LEED certification was Tacoma Housing Authority's 91-unit development, Salishan 7 in Washington. Salishan 7, built by Walsh Construction Company, is the first federally funded HOPE VI Redevelopment project to achieve LEED Platinum. The project was built within an affordable budget, and was designed to be at least 30% more energy efficient than the average home, effectively removing 27 homes from Tacoma Power's electrical grid.

"We are proud to be a part of the community of over 10,000 homes that have committed to excellence through the LEED for Homes program," said Michael Mirra, Executive Director, Tacoma Housing Authority. "Our LEED Platinum housing projects are less expensive to operate and are healthier inside, which means a world of difference to our residents."

Nationally recognized market leaders such as McGuyer Homebuilders, Inc (production homes) in Dallas, Tex., Fore Property (multifamily) and dozens of Habitat for Humanity affiliates (affordable) are just a few of the organizations committing to LEED certification across the country.

Supporting the growth of the LEED for Homes program is the robust and dedicated network of LEED for Homes Providers; a community of nearly 400 LEED AP Homes credential holders, helping meet the need for knowledgeable green home building professionals; and a growing number of LEED for Homes Green Raters. Additionally, the USGBC recently launched its LEED for Homes Scoring Tool for builders to self-evaluate their home construction projects to see how close they are to LEED certification. This simple web-based application makes the program even more accessible to builders and homeowners.


U.S. Green Building Council
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.

With a community comprising 78 local affiliates, nearly 16,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 162,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Over 40,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising nearly 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 117 countries. In addition, nearly 10,000 homes have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with nearly 38,000 more homes registered.

By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

For more information, visit www.usgbc.org.

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