SBE News

Capitol Update 6.7.24

Dodge: Groundbreakings pick up in April

After declines in February and March, construction project groundbreakings rose 6% in April to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.06 trillion, Dodge Construction Network reports. Dodge lists the month’s nine largest projects, topped by the $3.7 billion UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif.

Full Story: Construction Dive  

Payroll employment increases by 272,000 in May; unemployment rate changes little at 4.0%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 272,000 in May, and the unemployment rate changed little at 4.0 percent. Employment continued to trend up in several industries, led by health care; government; leisure and hospitality; and professional, scientific, and technical services.

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Inflation still a problem for Americans, says Yellen

Prices for housing and everyday goods are still challengingly high for many in the US, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, despite falls in inflation and strong wage growth. Consumers “see it when they shop for food. They see it in terms of rentals. With higher mortgage rates, it’s tough for young people who would like to buy a house to enter the market. … Although wages have gone up significantly, and, at least on average, more than prices have gone up, there are substantial increases in prices that are important to people — and it’s substantial increases in a relatively short period of time that are very noticeable to people,” Yellen said.

Full Story: Financial Times

Strong US dollar mirrors 1980s highs

The US dollar remains historically high, reminiscent of its strength in the 1980s, despite not reaching its 2022 peak, with inflation-adjusted values nearing those seen when the US ended gold convertibility in 1971. Economic growth outside the US and potential policy changes following the presidential election later this year could change the dynamics, mimicking past cycles of depreciation, which could be beneficial for global markets.

Full Story: The Wall Street Journal

High stakes: Navigating cannabis in the workplace

How are you navigating the changing laws on cannabis? There’s still time to join AGC’s three-part webinar series High Stakes: Navigating Cannabis in the Workplace, covering important on-the-job safety concerns of marijuana use. This series will help you prepare your firm with important tips and strategies before a crisis arises. Missed the first webinar? Don’t worry, if you register you will receive a recording of all three sessions. Register today

38% of infrastructure funds announced at halfway mark

Halfway through the bipartisan infrastructure law’s five years, 38% of its $1.2 billion has been made available, boosted by a rise this year in the pace of funding. In all, more than 56,000 projects and awards are underway or have been announced.

Full Story: Construction Dive

Which fuels will power construction fleets?

New types of fuel for construction fleets are generating attention as builders look for sustainable solutions. Merina Shriver examines options explored at a recent Gladstein Neandross & Associates seminar, including renewable diesel, hydrogen and batteries, as well as the issue of driver acceptance.

Full Story: For Construction Pros

Calif. considers licensing for stone cutting

A surge in cases of incurable silicosis has prompted lawmakers in California to consider licensing to narrow the types of businesses that are permitted to perform such work. The spread of the lung disease is attributed to growing demand for countertops made from engineered stone, whose cutting generates far more silica dust than natural stone.

Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)  

Study: Craft prefabrication expected to increase

Prefabrication is expected to increase over the next five years and account for 34% of craft labor hours, according to a study by FMI. The study also shows about 75% of concrete contractors prefabricate at the worksite.

Full Story: Building Design+Construction

FHWA researcher warns builders to prepare for climate

Resilience against the challenges posed by a changing climate is an increasingly vital issue for road builders, according to Amir Golalipour, a highway research engineer in the Federal Highway Administration. Speaking at the recent National Institute of Building Sciences’ Building Innovation Conference in Washington, D.C., Golalipour examined the threats posed to roadways by increased flooding and more numerous wildfires and the upfront cost advantages of building resiliently.

Full Story: Construction Dive

Building to code might be insufficient to curtail risk

Many building codes across the US are failing to keep up with climate change, and simply building to code may no longer suffice to keep contractors free from lawsuit challenges, according to legal experts at the recent National Institute of Building Sciences’ Building Innovation Conference. “Good engineering practices include consideration of foreseeable severe weather events, including any caused by alleged climate change,” says Yvonne Castillo, director of risk management at Victor, a Maryland-based general underwriter.

Full Story: Construction Dive  

How to tamp down cost escalation

A volatile market always makes it hard to anticipate and minimize cost increases in construction projects. Thad Berkes, chief cost estimator for Design Collaborative, reviews three basic steps that can help: Placing orders early, engaging a construction manager during the design process and committing to continuously perform cost analysis.

Full Story: Building Design+Construction 

How builders in Asia are approaching AI

Adoption of technological solutions, specifically including artificial intelligence, is one important way that the construction industry across the Asia-Pacific region is responding to ongoing challenges, according to a six-market survey by Deloitte. The example of John Holland, a builder in Australia and New Zealand, shows how tech can best be integrated into operations, beginning with pilot projects and building toward development of a digital ecosystem to prepare for AI.

Full Story: Design & Make With Autodesk  

Experts say look before leaping into construction AI

Now is a good time to begin getting into artificial intelligence in construction, but caution should be exercised, according to speakers at the recent National Institute of Building Sciences Building Innovation Conference in Washington, D.C. AI offers great potential to address labor scarcity by tackling repetitive tasks, but users are advised to test these solutions before applying them to real problems.

Full Story: Construction Dive  

DOE aims to clarify what makes a zero-emission building

The Department of Energy is looking to clarify what meets the criteria of a zero-emissions building by releasing a national definition. Key criteria include energy efficiency performance, lack of onsite emissions and reliance on clean energy. Future updates may offer more specificity about embodied carbon emissions.

Full Story: Department of Energy 

3 big accomplishments in concrete 3D printing

Icon has used five of its Vulcan 3D printers to build 95 of 100 concrete homes in a Texas subdivision. Elsewhere, Luyten 3D has used its Platypus X12 3D printer to build the southern hemisphere’s first two-story building in Australia. And Holcim has used Cobod’s Bod2 3D printer to build a showroom as the first 3D-printed building in Switzerland.

Full Story: Construction Briefing   AZoBuild   3D Printing Industry (UK) 

EPA provides $3B more to replace lead pipes

Projects across the US to replace lead water pipes will benefit from $3 billion newly distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The funding under the bipartisan infrastructure law comes in the form of grants and forgivable loans and builds on the $6 billion previously distributed for this purpose.

Full Story: Equipment World

Court ruling favors $10B N.M.-to-Calif. power line

The $10 billion SunZia transmission line to convey wind-generated power from New Mexico as far as California is advancing a step with a court’s rejection of claims to block it. The ruling by a US district judge against Native American tribes and environmentalists found that they were too late challenging the project and that historic and cultural preservation was sufficient to allow the project to proceed over its 550-mile course.

Full Story: The Associated Press