Although total construction starts increased 6 percent from May to June of this year at a seasonably adjusted annual rate, the real gain was in the non-building sector, according to a new survey conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics.
That sector, which includes engineering and architectural firms, as well as joint venture contractors, saw a 27 percent gain early this summer with a total dollar value of $191 billion.
Meanwhile, says Dodge of the overall increase in construction projects: “This marks the second consecutive monthly gain in construction starts following the Covid-19 induced decline in March and April.”
But while those starts are on the upside, they were still off by 14 percent from the first six months of 2019.
Construction starts are regarded as a key economic indicator and represent the number of new projects begun during a given month.
The pattern of the starts early this summer varied greatly depending upon the industry. Highway and bridge construction starts were up by 8 percent, while environmental and the miscellaneous non-building sectors were each off by 20 percent.
Also down: utilities and gas plant projects by 40 percent, institutional building by 15 percent, and manufacturing starts by 38 percent.
Looking at all of the numbers, Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge, said, “Construction starts activity remains significantly weaker than year-ago levels, even though it has been slowly increasing since its nadir in April.”
The economist also pointed out that while gains in May were fueled by a handful of very large projects, the gains in June appear to be “much more organic in nature.”
Continued Branch: “Construction starts should continue to post modest gains in the months to come as the economy continues to recover from the shortest and steepest recession in U.S. history.”
But Branch also warned that an acceleration in new Covid-19 cases still presents a “significant downside risk to the economy and the construction industry’s growth trajectory.”
By Garry Boulard
Up to $6 million in federal funding may soon be available for the building of a facility dedicated to advancing innovative manufacturing solutions while also working with a variety of government agencies.
Funding for the project has been included in the new fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. That $740 billion legislation has just been approved by the U.S. Senate on an 86 to 14 vote.
Advanced by New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, the Small Satellite Manufacturing and Innovation Center, as envisioned, will be easily accessed by both government agencies as well as approved industry partners.
In a press release from Heinrich’s office, it was additionally noted that the new center will create “a manufacturing environment that encourages maximum collaboration between industry, academia, and the government.”
The center will house a “satellite prototyping and software laboratory that enables access to capital equipment, industry, academia, and government with classified meeting capabilities.”
Funding for the preliminary design of the planned center was approved in last year’s defense authorization legislation.
The new defense bill has also been approved in the House, with lawmakers currently involved in reconciling the two versions of the legislation for a final vote.
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced for the construction of a high-technology center designed to serve the needs of the U.S. Space Command in the growing Colorado Springs Airport Business Park.
The building will belong to the El Segundo, California-based Aerospace Corporation, the nationally-known nonprofit organization that conducts a variety of federally-funded research at four centers, three of which are located in the West.
In a statement, Steve Isakowitz, chief executive officer with Aerospace, said the new center will further the company’s “commitment to supporting our many partners in the Colorado Springs region in advancing our nation’s security in space.”
The new structure, with at least 90,000 square feet of workspace, will go up adjacent to Aerospace’s current location at 7250 Getting Heights, and will be especially designed to support procedures, tactics development, and both testing and evaluation.
Aerospace opened its Getting Heights facility in 2007.
The enhanced operations of the Colorado Springs location, added Isakowitz, “will be critical in helping our government partners tackle critical problems and shape future concepts for space warfighting.”
Work on the new center, which will nearly double Aerospace’s facility footprint in Colorado Springs, is expected to begin this summer with a spring 2022 completion date.
The Aerospace Corporation was founded in 1960 and regularly provides input, guidance, and advice to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center and the National Reconnaissance Office, among other federal agencies.
Aerospace’s other major research facilities are located in El Segundo and Chantilly, Virginia.
By Garry Boulard
Expect to see larger community spaces and built-in infection control measures in both new and existing senior residential facilities as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, several studies say.
“New communities are opening with increasingly sophisticated infection control measures built in,” reports the Senior Housing News of a trend that has gathered steam in the months since the spread of the pandemic.
Such facilities are also additionally seeing the construction of outdoor living rooms bordered with plexiglass, allowing for safe visitation events.
Other features include the use of electrostatic foggers used for surface and air cleaning, as well as dedicated Skype and quarantine rooms.
While still maintaining the aura of residential living, many senior facilities currently in the planning stage are also incorporating more hospital-oriented features in their design.
A new report, Strategies for Safer Senior Living Communities, issued by the American Institute of Architects, additionally suggests touchless access at common doors, adding: “Other common equipment and accessories, such as toilets paper towel and soap dispensers, and sanitizing stations, can be made touchless.”
The AIA report additionally recommends that while senior facility managers should always have an abundance of masks and hand sanitizing wipes on hand, they should also regularly evaluate heating, cooling, and air exchange and filtration systems, “particularly in common area, versus individual systems in apartment/dwelling units.”
An example of the emphasis on air quality is seen in the design of a new 83-unit senior living community in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
The $24 million complex, to be built by the Koru Health group, is expected to be completed later this year and will include the same kind of hospital-grade air purification systems increasingly used in medical centers and clinics.
By Garry Boulard
Opened in the spring of 1942, the El Paso County Coliseum at 4100 East Paisano Street, is a local landmark that has hosted everything from rodeos and music concerts to dog shows and political rallies.
In recent years, county officials have talked about either replacing the 6,500-seat stadium, which was built at a cost of $321,00 and advertised as being the largest such facility of its kind in the West, or simply expanding it.
A Request for Proposals was earlier released by the county asking for consultants to put together a feasibility study looking into the future of the facility.
Consultants for the study will also be tasked with looking into a separate project that would see the construction of a new amphitheater.
The dimensions of the possible amphitheater have also not been detailed, although, according to the released RFP, the study “should result in recommendations for the county as to the appropriate size and scale of any event facility that maintains regional competitiveness and the needs of the community.”
While it is also not yet known when the feasibility study will begin, it is thought that it should take up to 18 months to complete, after which the county may decide to expand the existing coliseum, build a new amphitheater, or do nothing at all.
By Garry Boulard
That corridor, running along the city’s Coffman Street, and extending from 1st Avenue at the south end and 9th Avenue on the north, will see the creation of not just a transit line, with two transfer stations, but also a bicycle route and increased parking space.
A route lined with trees and historic one and two-story residences and commercial structures, Coffman Street has long been seen by Longmont officials as the perfect space for the city’s first multimodal corridor.
The outlines of the corridor were initially presented in a document called Envision Longmont, a comprehensive multimodal master plan that was subsequently adopted by the Longmont City Council in 2016.
In looking for a consulting team to develop the final design for Coffman Street Busway corridor, the city hopes to see that design phase completed by the end of next year, with work on the nearly $7 million project beginning shortly afterwards.
By Garry Boulard
Lumber, plywood, and fabricated steel have all seen price increases in the last month, according to the most recent Producer Price Index.
That index, as compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, measures the average national change in the price of basic goods and services on a monthly basis.
Overall, looking at all goods and services, the PPI decreased by 0.2 percent in June. This follows a 0.4 percent increase in May.
Compared with where things stood a year ago, the PPI is down by 0.8 percent.
In a statement, the Bureau said the “decrease in the final demand index is attributable to a 0.3 percent decline in prices for final demand services.”
The statement adds: “Prices for final demand, less foods, energy, and trade services, advanced 0.3 percent in June, the largest increase since a 0.3 percent rise in January.”
The PPI for new building construction, looking at the prices that contractors charge, declined by 0.3 percent in June, after a 0.1 percent drop the month before.
This compares with a 5.5 percent rise from June of last year and represents the smallest increase seen since the early summer of 2017.
Increases in the PPI for new repair and maintenance work done by subcontractors on nonresidential buildings saw a 1.9 percent increase over this same time last year. In this category, plumbing contract work was up by 2.1 percent, while electrical contractors saw a 3.2 percent increase.
One of the largest increases was seen in the roofing contractor sector with a 3.7 percent price jump.
“The slowing in the general economy caused by the pandemic has lowered construction activity levels,” notes the Journal of Commerce in looking at the newest PPI figures. “In recent months, the pressure on prices has mostly been easing, rather than percolating more heatedly.”
It is expected that the final demand construction index, soft at around 2.2 percent over the year, will stay that way for the time being as contractors try to secure a smaller number of available projects.
The construction industry is also coping with a 27 percent rise in diesel fuel, as well as a jump in fabricated structural steel at 12 percent.
Lumber and plywood prices, at the same time, continue to post gains, rising by 5.7 percent in the last month. That’s 6.6 percent higher than where those prices stood exactly a year ago.
Industry analysts say the lumber and plywood price increase is the result of a production decline during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, and a subsequent increase in demand due to increased home building, among other factors.
By Garry Boulard
Plans continue to advance in Las Cruces for the nearly $8 million construction of a long-anticipated recreation complex that, upon completion, will be run by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Approved by city voters in 2018, a general obligation bond to build the East Mesa Public Recreational Complex has been the subject of countless public input meetings between city officials and residents.
As earlier announced, the complex will be built on 364 acres of land at the intersection of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard and Camino Coyote Lane.
Although several design options were presented for public input, the one that received the most support calls for a combination of football, soccer, and multi-use sports fields, along with a 10-acre park and both trails and walkways.
The preferred option would also see the construction of concession areas, as well as a maintenance yard with a shed.
That option additionally specifies that, in laying out the parameters of the new complex, space will be set aside for the building of additional sports fields at a future date, once funds for such expansion are secured.
The project is now entering the schematic design phase, with bidding to actually build the complex expected to formally begin later this year.
Bu Garry Boulard
An effort is underway to replace a 3 million-gallon water tank that has served the City of Montrose for some six decades.
That below-ground facility is located roughly two miles to the south of downtown Montrose and just to the southeast of the Sunset Mesa Sports Complex.
According to Montrose documents, because the tank is hydraulically submerged, it has “historically created pressure and operational issues” for the city.
A condition assessment done on the facility in 2014 determined that portions of the tank have become structurally compromised and are in need of repairs that could cost as much as $2 million.
Because of its condition, the tank has been isolated from the city’s larger water distribution system and is now used primarily for irrigating the sports complex’s field.
Two years ago the city hired the engineering and architectural Farnsworth Group firm, which has offices in Colorado Springs, to look at how to best replace the facility, before deciding to go with twin 1.5 million-gallon tanks, both of which will be around 130 feet in height.
Now, Montrose has issued a Request for Proposals, with an August 5 submission deadline, to build the tanks, as well as a companion booster station, and associated piping.
The new tank will be built on spacious land adjacent to the existing tank, with work that will also include the building of a foundation and installation of instrumentation and controls.
By Garry Boulard
Members of both the House and Senate may soon be voting on legislation containing new stimulus spending that will eventually make its way in the form of a check to most Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who initially opposed another stimulus check, has said that legislators want “another round of direct payments to help American families keep driving our national comeback.”
Although not all of the details have yet been worked out, it is possible that a new round of stimulus payments would be more targeted at people whose pre-COVID-19 economic shutdown income was at $40,000 or less.
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year received the first $1,200 checks. Smaller one-time checks, reduced incrementally, were capped for individuals at the $99,000 level.
A second $1,200 stimulus check may be a part of a larger overall $1 trillion coronavirus recovery package that will also include additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as up to $105 billion to help in the reopening of the nation’s schools, and $15 billion to help child care centers create safe environments.
McConnell, however, has also indicated that he would be supportive of a single stimulus bill, rather than combining that legislation with other recovery initiatives.
Congressional analysts say that both Democrat and Republican lawmakers are now generally in favor of a second stimulus check, otherwise known as an Economic Impact Payment.
In comments published in The Hill website, South Dakota Senator John Thune said, “There is considerable support for stimulus checks if we’re going to do something on an individual, personal level.”
By Garry Boulard
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