SBE News

Capitol Update 5/29/2024

Architecture billings register another decline in April

The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index eased to 48.3 in April, marking an improvement on the March index of 43.6 as interest rates remained stubbornly high. The rate situation makes it “difficult for some projects to move forward, but there is ongoing interest in pursuing these projects once conditions improve,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. Full Story: The Architect’s Newspaper

Q&A explains how to use the Architecture Billings Index

A Q&A from the American Institute of Architects helps clarify how to make the best use of the AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index, a key economic indicator since its inception in 2012. Among other topics covered are how the index is compiled and the meaning of its numbers, including the dividing line of 50.Full Story: Archinect

Fed’s Waller: More evidence needed to lower rates

Additional interest-rate hikes will probably not be needed to control inflation, but Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said that he would “need to see several more months of good inflation data before I would be comfortable supporting an easing in the stance of monetary policy.” Waller referred to the most recent consumer price index as “a welcome relief” but not sufficient evidence that rate cuts are justified. Full Story: CNBC   MarketWatch (tiered subscription model)  Bloomberg  

How the US has so far avoided a wage-price spiral

The US and some other developed economies have been successful in averting a damaging wage inflation spiral without increasing unemployment due to rising productivity and falling inflation, say former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and ex-IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard. However, they caution that “much remains uncertain,” noting that, unlike the 1970s wage spirals, “there is little evidence” of such a phenomenon now, making inflation control easier this time around. Full Story: Reuters

7 companies sign Million Women in Construction pledge

Baker Construction, Gilbane Building Co., McKissack & McKissack, Mortenson, Power Design, Suffolk and Shawmut Design and Construction are the initial signatories of the Commerce Department’s new Million Women in Construction Community Pledge. The initiative is aimed at helping to fill growing demand for skilled labor in the industry, where women now account for “less than 11% of jobs in construction and only 4% in skilled trades,” says Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Full Story: United Press International

EPA: $630B needed for water infrastructure in next 20 years

The Environmental Protection Agency has told Congress maintenance or modernization of publicly owned water and wastewater infrastructure requires $630 billion or more during the next two decades. “Protecting our nation’s waterways is vital for healthy communities,” says EPA acting Assistant Administrator Bruno Pigott, who notes that the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey “is an important estimate of needs that is based on information collected from the communities themselves.” Full Story: Concrete Products

OSHA issued legal challenge on walkaround rule

The US Chamber of Commerce and 11 other business groups have filed a lawsuit challenging OSHA’s new walkaround rule, which allows employees to designate a non-employee as their representative to accompany OSHA inspectors during walkaround inspections. The coalition maintains the regulation opens the door for unions and other third parties to access private employer worksites, including nonunionized ones, under the pretext of helping OSHA inspectors. Full Story: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Steel groups challenge federal mass timber push

The proposed Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act has generated opposition from the American Institute of Steel Construction, the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Steel Manufacturers Association who complain that the act unfairly favors the use of mass timber in federal projects. A letter to congressional leaders says that while the organizations support exploration of new building materials, the bill under consideration “disrupts the competitive bidding process” and could interfere with supply chains.

Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)  

AGC survey underscores need for action on work zone safety

Sixty-four percent of highway contractors report that motor vehicles had crashed into their construction work zones during the past year, according to a highway work zone survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and HCSS. AGC is calling on Congress to require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to collect comprehensive data on work zone crashes, including who is killed or injured, and mandate states to develop plans to curtail crashes. Full Story: Equipment World  WRAL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.)  KVLY-TV/KXJB-TV (Fargo/Grand Forks, N.D.)  WNCN-TV (Raleigh, N.C.)

Turner pursuing sustainability on several fronts

Equipment electrification and other steps are being taken by New York City-based Turner Construction in its sustainability drive, the builder announced. The objective is net-zero emissions by 2040, with an interim goal of electric power for all the company’s vehicles in the next four years while experimenting with electric and hybrid heavy equipment and zero-carbon cement. Full Story: Construction Dive

Mobile chargers further enable job site electrification

The goal of full job site electrification marked further progress with the unveiling of two mobile charging solutions from Volvo CE and Penta. Jo Borras examines the new offerings, a DC model that can fully recharge an excavator three times before itself needing to be recharged and the other an AC model intended for smaller equipment. Full Story: Electrek 

30-mile power line project set in Southern Calif.

Southern California Edison and Lotus Infrastructure Partners will team to build and operate 30 miles of transmission infrastructure between a substation in northern Orange County and the retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The project including a 500-kilovolt overhead transmission line is designed to deliver energy from renewable sources. Full Story: T&D World  

New link for Calif. high-speed rail to be reviewed

The board of the California High Speed Rail Authority has cleared a proposed 33-mile rail link between Anaheim and Los Angeles for environmental review. The review is expected to take more than a year. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)

Inflation pushes Calif. water tunnel cost to $20B

The cost of California’s Delta Conveyance Project has risen to $20.1 billion compared to a 2020 estimate of $16 billion, says the state Department of Water Resources, which blamed inflation. The project will send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the north to areas farther south and relieve stress on existing water infrastructure. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet