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April 2014   

New ASTM Standard Provides Method for Recording Occupational Injuries and Illnesses


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A new ASTM International standard will be used to provide a uniform international method for recording occupational injuries and illnesses, in order to make global performance comparisons of companies in keeping workers safe. ASTM E2920, Guide for Recording Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, was developed by Subcommittee E34.80 on Industrial Health, part of ASTM International Committee E34 on Occupational Health and Safety.

"In a global economy it is important to have performance metrics that apply internationally,” says Thomas J. Slavin, consulting industrial hygienist, Cardno ChemRisk, and chairman of E34. "For occupational injury and illness rates, there were no international criteria. Several countries have established rules for recording work-related injuries and illnesses that vary widely and are not comparable.”

According to Steve Newell, principal consultant with ORCHSE Strategies LLC, and E34.80 chairman, ASTM E2920 will establish a common denominator system that includes injuries most countries already record. Because of this approach, no new system will need to be developed and existing records can be used to establish historical trends by identifying those cases that qualify under the new criteria.

ASTM E2920 will be especially helpful to multinational companies by leveling the playing field by its use, regardless of company or country, and enabling globally consistent safety performance evaluation.

Slavin says that ASTM E2920 can be used in the following ways: • Global companies can use ASTM E2920 for comparison of operations across countries on a unified scale.

• Sustainability researchers can use the standard for the safety aspects of their evaluations.

• Regulatory and research organizations will be able to make informed comparisons of country-to-country safety and health programs.

In addition to the guidelines in the body of the standard, ASTM E2920 contains an appendix that uses specific cases and questions to allow users to build a library of interpretations and clarifications. Users may also submit information for specific situations that may require interpretation to the subcommittee so that the ASTM E2920 appendix addressing such issues can be expanded in future revisions of ASTM E2920.

Learn more at www.astm.org.

Construction Industry Pledges to Hire More Than 100,000 Veterans

In an announcement made Feb. 10 at "A National Symposium: Veterans’ Employment in Construction,” hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor and Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez celebrated a broad coalition of construction employers and associations that have collectively pledged to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years.

Also at the announcement were representatives of the construction companies making these hiring commitments, veterans who have completed apprenticeships in the construction industry and other leaders in the field.

The construction industry is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years—outpacing the steady growth of the economy as a whole and helping to strengthen local communities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation, with job growth of more than 1.5 million jobs between now and 2022—an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent.

Construction companies large and small are stepping up to ensure their industry welcomes home the nation’s heroes with good-paying jobs. More than 80 companies are committing their existing training and employment programs to fill new construction jobs with veterans.

White Paper: Downgrade of Design Values for Southern Yellow Pine Increases Costs

The Steel Framing Industry Association has released a new detailed analysis of the impact in the construction industry of the recent reduction of structural values for Southern Yellow Pine, one of the most commonly used species of wood used for framing.

The white paper takes a close-up look at what the downgrading means in real terms for the wood industry, builders and for cold-formed steel in particular. Go to www.steelframingassociation.org to download the full report.

"The SFIA’s analysis examines a very significant 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in the structural values of Southern Pine,” said Larry Williams, SFIA executive director. "This downgrading of the structural properties of visually graded Southern Pine clearly provides a substantial boost for the competitiveness of cold-formed steel framing-particularly at time when the construction market appears poised for a rebound.”

The changes, voted into effect by the American Lumber Standard Committee Board of Review in January 2013, and implemented in June, help to highlight the limitations and variability of wood compared to the stability and uniformity of steel, Williams said.

"We anticipate that state and model codes will be revised to reflect these changes,” Williams said. "As production builders begin to redesign plans based on the new design values or span tables, there will be higher costs associated with moving to deeper members or higher grades of Southern Pine, which accounts for 36 percent of framing timber nationally. According SFIA research, these changes will drive up costs for wood framing by 5 percent or more.”

Leading Markets Index Shows 59 Metros At or Above Normal Levels in March

Markets in 59 out of the approximately 350 U.S. metro areas returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index, released March 6. This represents a net gain of one from the previous month.

The index’s nationwide score held steady at .87. This means that based on current permits, prices and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 87 percent of normal economic and housing activity.

Meanwhile, 32 percent of metro areas saw their score rise this month and 84 percent have shown an improvement over the past year.

"Despite the cold weather that has constrained economic and housing activity across much of the nation this winter, markets are returning to normal levels,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. "As the job and housing markets continue to mend and the onset of spring releases the pent-up demand for new homes, this will bode well for the remainder of 2014.”

"The strong energy sector is at the forefront of the recovery and centered in many small and mid-sized markets in Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota and Wyoming,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "In fact, these four states account for eight of the top 10 markets on the LMI and 45 percent of the markets that are at or above normal.”

"The number of markets on this month’s LMI at or above 90 percent of previous norms has climbed to 130—a positive trend to watch as the year progresses,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Co., which co-sponsors the LMI report.

Baton Rouge, La., tops the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.41—or 41 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as Harrisburg, Pa. and Pittsburgh—all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now exceeds previous norms.

Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Casper, Wyo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Grand Forks, N.D., respectively.

For historical information and charts, go to nahb.org/lmi.

Slight Rebound for Architectural Billing Index

After consecutive months of contracting demand for design services, there was a modest uptick in the Architecture Billings Index. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects reported Feb. 19 that the January ABI score was 50.4, up from a mark of 48.5 in December. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.5, down a bit from the reading of 59.2 the previous month.

After consecutive months of contracting demand for design services, there was a modest uptick in the Architecture Billings Index. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects reported the January ABI score was 50.4, up from a mark of 48.5 in December. This score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 58.5, down a bit from the reading of 59.2 the previous month.

Key January ABI highlights include the following:

• Regional averages: South (53.5), West (51.1), Midwest (46.5), Northeast (43.6).

• Sector index breakdown: multifamily residential (51.8), commercial/industrial (50.9), mixed practice (48.4), institutional (46.5).

• Project inquiries index: 58.5.



Builder Confidence Treads Water in March

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes rose one point to 47 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released March 17.

"The March HMI mirrors [February]’s sentiment, as builders continued to be affected by poor weather and difficulties in finding lots and labor,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del.

"A number of factors are raising builder concerns over meeting demand for the spring buying season,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "These include a shortage of buildable lots and skilled workers, rising materials prices and an extremely low inventory of new homes for sale.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good,” "fair” or "poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high,” "average” or "low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

The index’s components were mixed in March. The component gauging current sales conditions rose one point to 52 and the component measuring buyer traffic increased two points to 33. The component gauging sales expectations in the next six months fell one point to 53.

The three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores all fell in March. The Northeast dropped three points to 35, the Midwest fell three points to 53, the South posted a four-point decline to 49 and the West registered a two-point drop to 61.

Construction Backlog Indicator Hits Post-Recession High

Associated Builders and Contractors’ Construction Backlog Indicator hit a post-recession high in the fourth quarter of 2013, growing from 8.2 months to 8.3 months (1.3 percent). Compared to a year ago, the CBI is 3.9 percent higher—up from 8 months at the end of 2012, ABC reported Feb. 25.

"CBI indicates the final three quarters of 2013 were a period of progress for nonresidential construction,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. "Although other indicators have not been quite as positive—nonresidential construction spending has risen only sporadically in recent months—the first quarter’s bitter weather likely means some construction activity has been put off, which means the positive trend reflected in this CBI will likely continue.

"Although CBI’s pace of expansion should be enough to keep the nonresidential construction recovery going, there are significant headwinds for the industry,” Basu said. "The December and January job reports show the economic recovery is sporadic and uncertainties surrounding the health care law also are likely to slow full-time job creation for several reasons, some of which were highlighted in a recently released CBO report. Sequestration, though recently relaxed, still constrains federal spending growth and many state and local governments continue to wrestle with burgeoning health care costs and underfunded pension liabilities.

"Expansion in segments such as energy production, industrial production, social media, robotics, international trade and online retail along with strong expansion in states like California, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Utah and Washington should lead to greater opportunity for contractors in 2014,” Basu said.

Highlights of the report include the following:

A Positive Outlook. The fourth quarter 2013 CBI of 8.3 months is a post-recession high and is the highest average backlog since ABC began measuring CBI in the first quarter of 2009.

Regional Discrepancies. Throughout last year, average backlog expanded in the Northeast, South and West but dropped in the Middle States. Backlog growth ranged from an increase of 0.74 months in the South to a decrease of 0.21 months in the Middle States.

Large and Smallest Firms See Largest Expansion. Large firms between $50 and $100 million in annual revenue increased their backlogs the most—nearly two months over the last year—while firms with less than $30 million in revenue increased their backlog by 0.8 months. Firms with revenue between $30 and $50 million lost an average of 2.5 months of backlog.

Commercial and Institutional Leads Industry Segments in Growth. While backlog based on industry segments stayed fairly steady on a quarterly basis, commercial and industrial construction has the longest backlog at 8.91 months. Backlog in infrastructure has been slipping since the stimulus package effectively ended.

While the fourth quarter 2013 CBI is a post-recession high, nonresidential construction spending volumes are still down by one-fifth since the fall of 2008.

GDP Forecast Remains Unchanged. ABC’s forecast that GDP will expand in the range of 2.4 percent to 2.6 percent in 2014 remains unchanged.

January Construction Starts Stumble

Reed Construction Data announced Feb. 27, 2014, that the value of January construction starts, excluding residential contracts, fell 15.3 percent after also declining 13.3 percent in December. This year’s kick-off dollar volume, $18.6 billion, was the lowest since February 2013’s $16.4 billion.

"Abnormal amounts of snow and ice and continuing hesitancy in the overall economy have held back spending plans early in 2014,” said Alex Carrick, chief economist for Reed Construction Data Canada. "Companies have been making good profits, as reflected in stock market valuations, but decision-makers have been waiting for more stability in Washington and signs of a better global economy before committing to construction projects. The first has been achieved to a significant degree; the second will be a matter of more time.”

In the five years prior to the latest reading, the average January versus December percentage change was –2.0 percent, ranging from +17.0 percent in 2010 to –11.3 percent in 2013. Starts this January were down –6.4 percent versus the opening month of last year.

Difficult winter weather so far this year has held back starts in many regions. Also, many of the latest statistics on the U.S. economy—including housing starts—have suffered setbacks. Recent month-over-month total employment gains have been less than hoped for, although the number of on-site construction workers in January jumped by 48,000. The jobless rate in the sector, however, remains uncomfortably high at 12.3 percent.

Among the four major type-of-structure categories, commercial starts performed best month to month (+1.9 percent) in January. The two largest subcategories within commercial both recorded increases in the latest month versus December of last year, with retail +9.6 percent and private office buildings +11.2 percent. Compared with January 2013, the percentage changes are not as favorable, except for private office buildings, which were +184.1 percent, or nearly three times as great. Retail starts in January 2014 over January 2013 were –65.1 percent, and the total commercial grouping was –16.8 percent.

Manufacturing starts this January were –72.7 percent versus the final month of 2013 and were –41.9 percent when compared with January of last year. In dollar volume, December was the strongest month last year for this construction category, with October a close runner-up. The other 10 months of 2013 averaged about the same as January of this year.

Institutional starts, which were –15.1 percent month to month in January, were pulled down by their largest subcategory—i.e., more than 50 percent of the total—schools and colleges at –22.1 percent, with retail at +9.6 percent and private office buildings at +11.2 percent. Compared to January 2013, the percentage changes are not as favorable, with the exception of private offices. That helped counter-balance a 29.0 percent year-over-year decline in school work, so that the year-over-year decline in total institutional was a relatively modest –4.0 percent.

New ConsensusDocs CM Agency Contract Clarifies Fees & Costs to Help Avoid Disputes

The ConsensusDocs Coalition is publishing a new Construction Management Agency standard agreement. The ConsensusDocs 831 Agreement Between Owner and Construction Manager (CM Does Not Provide General Conditions) provides an alternative to the recently released ConsensusDocs 830 Agreement, in which the CM provides General Conditions.

The new agreement was created to provide greater clarity in defining costs, fees and profit to avoid potential claims. Current standard contracts vary greatly in defining fees, profit and overhead on general conditions items. This agreement was structured to minimize those disputes.

For more information and to order a sub­scription, visit www.consensusdocs.org.

USGBC Certifies 50,000th Green Housing Unit Under LEED for Homes
The U.S. Green Building Council announced Jan. 23 the 50,000th LEED-certified green housing unit.

Since the launch of the LEED for Homes rating system in 2007, the growth trajectory of the world’s most widely used residential green building program has been dramatic. From 392 housing units LEED-certified in 2007, the figure jumped to nearly 900 units certified within the year 2008 and nearly 3,000 certified within 2009. In 2012 and 2013 alone, USGBC certified more than 15,000 and 17,000 housing units, respectively.

Of the 50,000-plus certified units, 74 percent are within multifamily buildings, while 44 percent are classified as affordable housing. In addition, nearly 65 percent of the total units were certified in the past two years, a strong indicator of the continued momentum of the rating system.

There are also more than 82,000 units under construction and in the pipeline for LEED certification.

In December 2013, USGBC also announced the LEED certification of its 20,000th commercial project.

For more information on the LEED for Homes rating system, visit usgbc.org/homes.

People in the News
Members of the American Subcontractors Association elected Brian Johnson, president, Soil Consultants, Inc., a geotechnical engineering and soil testing firm based in Charleston, S.C., to serve as their 2014–2015 national president, ASA announced during its annual business meeting last month in New Orleans. Johnson will take office July 1, 2014.

Johnson currently serves as the 2013–2014 ASA vice president and is a member of the ASA Executive Committee, Finance Committee and the Task Force on Meetings. He was first elected to the ASA board of directors in 2008. Johnson has more than a decade of service with ASA of the Carolinas, including serving as president in 2007-08, and currently serves on the ASAC Board of Directors.

Johnson succeeds 2013–2014 ASA President Jack Austhof, Sobie Company Inc., Dutton, Mich.

Letitia Haley Barker, Haley-Greer, Inc., Dallas, Texas, will serve as 2014–2015 ASA vice president; Robert Abney, F.L. Crane & Sons, Inc., Southaven, Miss., will serve as 2014–2015 ASA treasurer; and Jeff Banker, Banker Insulation, Chandler, Ariz., will serve as 2014–2015 ASA secretary.

ASA members elected two national directors to three-year terms beginning July 1, 2014: Shannon MacArthur, Memco, Inc., Spring, Texas; and Vince Irwin, Irwin Products, St. Louis, Mo.

Nisha George has been named marketing and communications manager at Atlas Roofing Corp.’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta. She is in charge of creating and implementing marketing and communications plans for all four Atlas residential and commercial divisions.



Members of the National Association of Home Builders elected four senior officers to top leadership positions within the federation.

Taking the helm as NAHB’s chairman of the board this year is Kevin Kelly, a Delaware builder and developer with more than 30 years of experience in the housing industry. Kelly is president of Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc. and is a successful builder and developer with several decades of experience in land development, multifamily and single-family home building and property management.

Also moving up on the association’s leadership ladder is Tom Woods, a Blue Springs, Mo.–based home builder with more than 40 years of experience in the home building industry. He was elected as the 2014 first vice chairman of the board. Woods is president of Woods Custom Homes. He has developed scores of communities and more than 1,000 homes in the Greater Kansas City area.

Ed Brady, a Bloomington, Ill.–based home builder, was elected as the 2014 second vice chairman of the board. Brady is president of Brady Homes, a company founded in 1964 by his father, William Brady Sr. One of the largest home building firms in central Illinois, Brady Homes has developed 20 residential communities throughout the state.

Granger MacDonald, a Kerrville, Texas–based builder and developer with 40 years of experience in the home building industry, joined the NAHB leadership ladder with his election as the third vice chairman of the board. MacDonald is president of the MacDonald Companies, a diverse development, construction, and management enterprise with more than 35 neighborhoods completed throughout Texas.

2013 NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, from Charlotte, N.C., remains on the leadership ladder as immediate past chairman. Judson is the owner of Evergreen Development Group in Charlotte, and is a successful builder and developer with several decades of experience in land development and construction of single-family, multifamily and commercial projects.



National Gypsum welcomes Rod Lopez as the new market development representative for the PermaBase® BRAND cement board product line in the company’s Midwest and Central areas. Lopez is based out of Chicago, where he has been in the construction business for more than 18 years.

Simpson Strong-Tie announced that Roger Dankel will be the president of North America sales, and Ricardo Arevalo will be chief operating officer effective July 1, 2014.

These two new roles will replace Phillip "Terry” Kingsfather’s current position as president and CEO of Simpson Strong-Tie. Kingsfather, who announced his retirement, will remain at Simpson Strong-Tie through the end of June to ensure a smooth transition.

Dankel will be responsible for the strategic leadership of the company’s sales, customer support and distribution. Arevalo will be responsible for the operational leadership of the company’s product lines and related support functions.

Companies in the News
The Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program has been honored with a 2014 Environmental Excellence Award by the National Demolition Association.

The award, which recognizes NDA members who have made an outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, pays tribute to the significant contribution Armstrong has made to the environment through its Ceiling Recycling Program. The award was presented during NDA’s annual convention in Las Vegas in February.

The Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program is the first and longest-running program of its kind. The program enables commercial building owners and contractors to ship used ceiling tiles from demolition and renovation projects to the nearest Armstrong plant as an alternative to landfill disposal. The ceiling tiles are used to manufacture new ceilings through a closed-loop recycling process.

Since launching its Ceiling Recycling Program in 1999, Armstrong has recycled more than 155 million square feet of used ceiling tiles from renovation and demolition sites. By recycling the old ceilings, Armstrong prevented the equivalent of more than 77,500 tons or roughly 22,175 Dumpsters full of construction waste from being deposited in landfills.

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