Reshaping the Construction Industry

Occasionally we take a look out to the horizon to satisfy our curiosity about what might be headed our way and what might be a major disruptor to the construction business as we do it today.  We have introduced you to BIM, robots on the job, driverless dump trucks, driverless cars, driverless concrete trucks, drones of all kinds and more recently 3D printing.

Today we show you some conceptual thinking about the use of some of those tools in the military of the next 30 years as seen through the eyes of the scientists, engineers and designers at BAE Systems, the large UK aviation company with operations in Virginia, Houston, Austin and other cities in the United States.   Read more » about Signpost for the Future of Construction [VIDEO]

39 states add jobs in July; housing starts and permits, MHC, ABI show big gains

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

View July state employment tables by state and rank here. Please note the next Data DIGest will be sent the week of Sept.2.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment increased in 39 states from July 2013 to July 2014 and decreased in 11 states and the District of Columbia, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released last Monday showed. The largest percentage gains were in Nevada (13%, 7,500 jobs), Delaware (13%, 2,600) and Florida (11%, 41,700). Florida again added the most jobs, followed by Texas (23,600, 3.8%) and California (22,600, 3.6%). The steepest 12-month percentage losses again occurred in New Jersey (-6.5%, -8,900), followed by West Virginia (-5.8%, -2,000), Mississippi (-5.6%, -2,900) and Arizona (-4.8%, -5,900). New Jersey also had the highest number of lost jobs, followed by Arizona, Mississippi and West Virginia.   Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: August 18-22, 2014

The following article by Vince Bailey, an estimator at E&K of Phoenix, was originally published in Construction Dimensions, a monthly publication by the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.  Reprinted with permission.

They’re back.  Activity in the commercial construction industry has been on the upswing for a couple of years now for most of us, and the reemergence of an unwelcome element in our midst was inevitable.  It is an unfortunate but predictable phenomenon that when prosperity flourishes, the parasites appear, and so we should not be taken by surprise when an attack comes from below.  The only trouble is, whether surprised or not, there is often very little that can be done to retaliate when a low-baller comes out of nowhere and bombs an otherwise righteous bid opportunity, shattering the prospects of valid and qualified bidders.  The best we can usually expect to do is shrug our broad shoulders and wait for the bottom-feeders to self-destruct.  But in the meantime, there is no question that they drag the level of the field down to a lower tier.  Still, a general awareness (or, the dirty low-down) on the nature and development of these subcontracting scoundrels can be useful.

For the record, I’m not talking about qualified competitors who wind up on the low end of the number cluster on several successive bids.   Read more » about Dirty Low Down

One of the smartest people I know is a Master Plumber who owns a small plumbing company, Two Twigs Enterprises, here in Atlanta.  Cary Mandeville is his name.  He did some apprenticeship training for our organization early on, and he warned me.  He said, “This labor issue is a big boulder that we are going to have to chip away at, piece by piece.  The solution will not come quickly.”

For a long time, I stubbornly viewed the skilled labor shortage as a boulder that, with the right leverage, could be pushed, rolled or at least moved within a few years.  Eighteen years later, I realize that my plumber friend was right.   Read more » about Celebrate the Small Victories

The following article was originally published in the Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.

Trade is at the very heart of economic success in Texas.  Every year, Texas companies export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services to foreign markets.  In fact, Texas has ranked as the nation's number one exporting state for 12 years in a row.  Trade funnels hundreds of billions of dollars back home to support Texas jobs, families, and our state's much-envied economic might.  But for all of our exporting success in Texas, federal trade policies are holding the whole country back from its economic potential.  It's critical that Congress act quickly to expand our foreign trade if we hope to get our national economy back on track again.

The positive economic impact of trade is undeniable, for Texas and for the United States.  Here in Texas, of our total annual $1.4 trillion Gross State Product, or GSP, more than $250 billion comes from exports.   Read more » about Expand Trade, Expand the Economy

Texas has to grapple with an ever-changing job landscape in ways that its leadership has not previously considered, State Comptroller Susan Combs said in a new report titled Workforce – Capitalizing on our Human Assets.  “Before the skills gap gets to a breaking point, it is important that we realize today’s best jobs require ever-increasing levels of specialized knowledge and technical expertise,” Combs said.

The retiring comptroller, who opted not to seek reelection, says lawmakers need to tackle several issues including increased funding for adult education programs, multimedia information campaigns to promote industry-based certification, and economic incentives for companies to create apprenticeship programs.

In her report, Combs said that “unskilled” jobs are becoming a thing of the past, and the workers of today need to be able to be adaptable to the point that they are lifelong learners.   Read more » about Texas Comptroller Pushes for More Job Training Programs

Construction spending skids in June; jobs rise in July; wage gains vary by sector, state

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

The producer price index (PPI) for final demand increased 0.1%, not seasonally adjusted (and seasonally adjusted), in July and 1.7% over 12 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Wednesday. AGC posted an explanation and tables focusing on construction prices and costs. Final demand includes goods, services and five types of nonresidential buildings that BLS says make up 34% of total construction. There are no indexes yet for other building types, residential or nonbuilding construction. The PPI for final demand construction, not seasonally adjusted, rose 0.5% in July and 3.3% over 12 months. The overall PPI for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price contractors say they would charge to build a fixed set of five categories of buildings—rose 0.4% for the month and 3.2% since July 2013.   Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: August 8-15, 2014

The Construction Career Collaborative (C3) continues to build momentum as evidenced by two recent occurrences, starting with the announcement that Texas Children’s Hospital has specified that its new TCH-The Woodlands Campus and TCH-Feigin Center 18th Floor OB/GYN Renovation will be C3 projects.  This means that all contractors working on them – every General Contractor and every Specialty Contractor – must be an Accredited C3 Employer or have received C3 Project Status designation (formerly called Conditional Status).  Not only is this a big win for craft workers, C3, and a sustainable construction workforce, but contractors have also told me that it is a win for them as well because it ensures a level playing field for all when competing for work.   Read more » about Gathering C3 Momentum

After successfully pushing for them in Austin, the Workers Defense Project is asking the City of Dallas to adopt an ordinance that would require contractors to give water breaks to construction workers.  It sounds like something that everyone should simply agree with but, as is often the case, the details are where the devil may reside.  Certainly no one would argue that workers should be denied water breaks.  Industry observers, however, have said that the enactment of an ordinance can open up the possibility that well-meaning businesses may be easily harassed by way of false reports.

Fox television in Dallas reports Workers Defense wants Big D to follow the lead of Austin and several other cities that have done something similar:   Read more » about A Push for Mandatory Water Breaks for Construction Workers in Dallas

Why are residential drywall companies like comedian Rodney Dangerfield? Because sometimes we get “no respect at all”. I have often wondered why it is that many homebuilders seem to think that almost anybody can do residential drywall. Over the years, I have seen several people go into the drywall business. They usually don’t have much money, credit, references, or business experience. Despite this, many homebuilders give work to these new start-ups without hesitation. I doubt they would do the same thing with their electrician or plumber. But we are not a licensed trade, at least in Texas, and there are very few entry barriers, so almost anyone can go into the drywall business. Why aren’t builders more afraid of these new guys? Is it just because they are cheaper?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that homebuilders use less qualified contractors and don’t suffer negative consequences, at least not immediately. It’s not that hard to close a house with inferior drywall work. Many drywall problems are not noticed, or do not show up, until after the buyer has already moved into their new home. After buying a new home, it took me more than 2 months to notice serious flaws in the drywall job, and I’m in the business. It may take a while to notice these problems, but once the homeowner begins to see visible joints, fastener dimples, and mismatched repairs, he will continue to see them every time he walks into the room.   Read more » about No Respect


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