Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The latest in a series of vehicle efficiency rules have come from the EPA seeking to institute the largest fuel economy goals ever attempted in the decade. If you own any type of truck ranging from a large pickup to an 18-wheeler the government seeks to boost fuel efficiency by 24% in the next 10 years and slice a billion tons of carbon dioxide from the environment as a result. The EPA also claims fuel consumption will improve by 10% under this mandatory ruling, though many believe that will come as more vehicles are transferred from diesel and gasoline to natural gas power.
A 2% drop in construction starts between June and July ended at a seasonally adjusted rate of 586.3 billion and caused the Dodge Data Index to drop from 126 to 124. The dip is a result of a 56% reduction in electric utility and gas plant starts while highway construction was off 8%, sewer construction down a whopping 86% and water supply projects down 48%.
Dodge Index says a 20% jump in office project starts, 3% in stores and 89% in manufacturing caused the nonresidential commercial sector to show an overall 3% bump.
Single family starts in July were up a meager 1% while multifamily construction jumped 9%.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reports new home sales were booming in July jumping over 12% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 654,000 units, the highest level since October 2007. The agency said single family demand has eclipsed the pace of construction. Also running high is an 8.3% acceleration of multifamily construction nationwide. The northeast sector saw construction jump over 15% followed by the midwest and south.
Bolstered by a presidential executive order signed 18 months ago, FEMA is now ordering that any construction in flood prone areas using federal funds will have to be built at least two feet higher than at present without exception. The order is being looked on as the most stringent flood protection edict since the 70s. It has a comment period that runs through October 21 but is certain to heavily impact those areas of the country that have seen significant flooding this year and will dwell on construction in future years as well.
Just 23 states and the District of Columbia saw construction jobs improve in July, the latest month for statistics, according to AGC, although the year-for-year industry jobs available increased in 39 states. A pretty accurate picture of the market in which the industry is forced to operate as the number of available skilled employees continues to deteriorate. The trend emphasizes that construction is more than one labor market because where demand is strong labor is tight and where demand is weak labor conditions are better.
After reporting out for six consecutive months, the Architecture Billings Index continues on a positive track as 10 of the last 12 months show continued demand for all types of projects. Softening appears in the area of presidential politics as AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker contends the uncertainty surrounding the election is causing some funding decisions to be put off for the time being.
New wide ranging regulatory rules from the Federal Highway Administration has state officials warning of major compliance costs as they will have to report on million of more data reporting points. Brought on by MAP 21 requirements, the Fed wants states and metro planning organizations to begin measuring performance levels at much higher rates, which ASHTO says flies in the face of efficiency without delivering any significant improvements.
Still deeply in the middle of a political fight over a potential hike in the state gas tax, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed an executive order to pay for some essential highway improvement projects while the drama plays out. Christie told the state DOT to use general fund money as sup;mental dollars on only those projects that require federal matching funds or are critical to safety. Since work has halted in early July on over $3 billion in projects underway, contractors and workers have been shut out of jobs.
It's that time of year again when contractors have to consider the impact of the hurricane season. And, as many have experienced, it's not just the Gulf Coast that needs to pay particular attention. All of the eastern seaboard needs to take stock making sure sites are secure. Associations have developed disaster assistance programs to help members with the following:
- Develop a preparation plan
- Work with local officials on their needs
- Secure jobsite materials
- Develop water removal plans
- Secure hazardous materials
- Ensure structure security
Just some of the many ways to make it easier and quicker to recover in the event this becomes your year to experience a tropical storm or hurricane.
Finally, keep your head and your heart going in the right direction and you will not have to worry about your feet.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place. Presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.