SBE News

Capitol Update 4/18/2022

Shipments of construction aggregates up 5% in 2021

Construction aggregate shipments volume rose 5% in 2021 from the previous year, according to the US Geological Survey. Prices for crushed stone and sand and gravel also were up year-to-year, with shipments totaling $19.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively. Full Story: Concrete Products

Diesel price surge fuels construction inflation alert

They say what goes up, must come down. But construction material pricing has been testing that inevitability for over two years, with no discernable end in sight. Economist Ken Simonson issued yet another construction inflation alert last week, spotlighting the inexorable climb of diesel, aluminum mill shapes, copper and plastic construction products. “This period is unique in how broad-based price increases are,” said Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, in an interview. “Previously, we’ve seen just a limited number of items soaring in price. This time, it’s much more extensive in the number and magnitude, long lead times, unexpected shortages and things not showing up in the quantities or times expected.”

New Girl Scout patch aims to introduce youngsters to careers in construction

The Girl Scouts and the National Association of Homebuilders are teaming up to create a new patch and charm program in an effort to spark girls’ early interest in construction and build their self-esteem, according to an NAHB press release. The patch is based on the NAHB Utah Chapter of Professional Women in Building Council’s “The House That She Built” book, which aims to introduce young people to the professionals and skills that go into building a home, such as architects and roofers. It’s based on the real story of more than 100 women from around the U.S. who built a home in Utah, many of whom are former Girl Scouts, according to the release. The program launched at the end of March with Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, but is now available to scouts across the country.

Trump-era Clean Water Act rollback reinstated

The Supreme Court on Wednesday voted 5-4 to restore a Trump-era regulation that limited state and tribal authority to block energy projects under the Clean Water Act. The American Petroleum Institute and other energy interests said the court’s decision will remove unnecessary delays for critical energy projects. Full Story: Reuters

North American crane count increases 4.74%

The number of cranes in North America’s major cities increased 4.74% from Q3 2021 to Q1 2022, recovering from the identical decrease from the previous Rider Levett Bucknall crane index report. A measure of construction health, RLB’s index counted five cities with an increase in the number of cranes, six that held steady and three that saw “significant” decreases — dropping by more than 20%. North American cities added 22 cranes in Q1 2022, more than half of which were in the commercial sector.

Calif. agency sets goal for engaging LGBT contractors

The California Public Utilities Commission has unanimously approved a 2024 procurement goal of 1.5% for the inclusion of LGBT-owned businesses in the competitive contracting process with California-based utilities. The agency’s move is expected to create more than $600 million in annual competitive contract opportunities for LGBT businesses in the state. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

CPI for all items rises 1.2% in March; gasoline, shelter, food indexes rise
In March, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 1.2 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 8.5 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in March (SA); up 6.5 percent over the year (NSA).

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PPI for final demand advances 1.4% in March; goods rise 2.3%, services increase 0.9%
The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 1.4 percent in March. Prices for final demand goods advanced 2.3 percent, and the index for final demand services rose 0.9 percent. Final demand prices moved up 11.2 percent for the 12 months ended in March.

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March jobless rates down in 37 states; payroll jobs up in 10 states

In March, unemployment rates were lower in 37 states and stable in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 10 states and was essentially unchanged in 40 states and the District.

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Trump-era Clean Water Act rollback reinstated

The Supreme Court on Wednesday voted 5-4 to restore a Trump-era regulation that limited state and tribal authority to block energy projects under the Clean Water Act. The American Petroleum Institute and other energy interests said the court’s decision will remove unnecessary delays for critical energy projects. Full Story: Reuters

Urban highway teardowns no guarantee of better results

Economic development and community restoration are the goals behind the movement to tear down highways in urban environments, and it is having some success. But experts note that those goals depend on what replaces the highways, and if busy roads are introduced the benefits sought may not materialize. Full Story: Route Fifty 

Wood taken to new heights in architecture

Wood is increasingly finding its way into supporting structures for ever taller buildings. Eric Niiler explores the example of a 20-story hotel in Sweden that brings nature indoors with floors, ceilings and support beams incorporating mass timber. Full Story: The Wall Street Journal 

How builders are adjusting their office work models

The pandemic model of hybrid work at home and in the office for major builders is expected to carry over, taking advantage of new technology to reframe schedules and hiring. Zachary Phillips explores two models that are emerging, one in which workers go into the office several days a week and the other in which workers are remote but occasionally choose to visit cafe-like work hubs. Full Story: Construction Dive

Major builders plan to keep hybrid work model for office employees

An electrician can’t install wiring from home. A carpenter can’t measure twice and cut once over Zoom. Structures aren’t built with tradesmen who only come in to work a few times a week. It’s no surprise that in-person construction continued through the pandemic. Nevertheless, the pandemic did provide a wake-up call, or at least an opportunity, for contractors to think differently about their offices, project planning and time management. That new mindset is likely to continue in the post-pandemic world, as many U.S. builders have already adapted different schedules, new technology and hiring practices in line with a hybrid work model.In a hybrid model, employees split time between both in-office work and remote work. There are two primary models. First, companies set up and hire around hubs where employees come to the office several days a week. Second, in a remote-first method, employees work remotely but have hubs, or work cafes, where they can choose to go in. Construction, like most other companies, leans more into the first category.

Ideas sought for 2 Carlsbad, Calif., transit stations

An agency responsible for public transportation in northern San Diego County, Calif., is seeking proposals to redevelop two train stations in Carlsbad with mixed-use properties in a bid to generate economic activity. The North County Transit District’s vision to redevelop the stations could dovetail with the state’s desire to improve transit accessibility for nearby residents. Full Story: The Coast News (Encinitas, Calif.)

$545M levee project to protect San Jose, Calif.

Construction is underway on 4 miles of levees designed to shield San Jose, Calif.’s shoreline from winter flooding and rising seas. The $545 million project will replace old berms with 15-foot-high earthen and clay barriers and restore salt evaporation ponds as tidal wetlands. Full Story: San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (tiered subscription model)

California hotel under construction catches fire, sends giant flames near major highway

A Southern California hotel that was under construction caught fire Tuesday, sending massive flames close to a major thoroughfare and a column of smoke over Ventura County, authorities said. Just before 7:30 p.m., the Ventura County Fire Department reported the blaze on the second floor of the four-story hotel just off Highway 101 in Camarillo, roughly 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Minutes later, the department said on Twitter that heavy fire had spread to the building’s upper floors, as well.

2 San Diego museums renovated

A renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla building is now complete after four years of work, adding 30,000 square feet of gallery space while uniting several previously existing structures and providing a new opening to the ocean. Separately, a $55 million renovation of the city’s Mingei International Museum has added 10,000 square feet and made it more welcoming to visitors. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)

Construction begins on LAX hub link to regional rail

Construction has commenced on the Airport Metro Connector station to link Los Angeles International Airport with the regional rail network. The $900 million hub is expected to open in 2024 and will include a bus plaza, customer service center and commercial space. Full Story: Urbanize LA (Los Angeles) 

$120M WIFIA loan advances Calif. water treatment project

A program to recycle water and provide long-term treatment of wastewater is advancing at the Inland Empire Utilities Agency in Chino, Calif., with a $120 million loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The project will include a new facility for solids treatment and offsite pump stations and force mains in upgrades to four wastewater treatment facilities. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet