Construction Trends

October 2009

Federal Contractors Now Required to Use E-Verify

Federal contractors, as of Sept. 8, 2009, are required to use the E-Verify system to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States if their contract includes the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify Clause. In July, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano strengthened employment eligibility verification by announcing the administration’s support for the regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization.

E-Verify, which compares information from the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) against federal government databases to verify workers’ employment eligibility, is a free Web-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration. The system facilitates compliance with federal immigration laws and helps to deter unauthorized individuals from attempting to work and also helps employers avoid employing unauthorized aliens.

The Federal Acquisition Rule extends use of the E-Verify system to covered federal contractors and subcontractors, including those who receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Applicable federal contracts awarded and solicitations issued after Sept. 8 will include a clause committing government contractors to use E-Verify.

Companies awarded a contract with the E-Verify clause after Sept. 8 will be required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the contract award date. E-Verify must be used to confirm that all new hires, whether employed on a federal contract or not, and existing employees directly working on these contracts are legally authorized to work in the United States.

More than 145,000 participating employers at nearly 550,000 worksites nationwide currently use E-Verify to electronically verify their workers’ employment eligibility. Since Oct. 1, 2008, more than 7.6 million employment verification queries have been run through the system and approximately 97 percent of all queries are now automatically confirmed as work-authorized within 24 hours or less.

More information on the program is available at www.dhs.gov/e-verify. E-Verify customer support is also available by calling toll free (888) 464-4218.

Demand for Gypsum Products in North America to Exceed 47 Million Metric Tons in 2013
Demand for gypsum products in North America is projected to increase 2.7 percent annually through 2013 to 47.7 million metric tons, valued at $5.3 billion. Gypsum board is the largest gypsum product segment by a wide margin, accounting for about 70 percent of demand. Demand for gypsum board is projected to rise 3.2 percent annually through 2013. Gains in demand for gypsum products will derive primarily from the recovery of the U.S. new housing sector, the leading consumer of gypsum. These and other trends are presented in Gypsum in North America, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

In the United States, demand for gypsum and gypsum products declined sharply in 2007 and 2008 as new housing construction collapsed in the wake of upheaval in the banking and credit industries and with the onset of a general economic recession. Going forward, the recovery of the U.S. new housing sector from its depressed 2008 levels will lead the industry back to positive growth.

Demand for gypsum and gypsum products in Canada and Mexico will also show growth through 2013. In Mexico, demand will increase 2.1 percent annually through 2013, representing a deceleration from the gains posted in the 1998–2008 time frame, reflecting slowing growth in both residential and nonresidential construction activity. Better prospects will emerge in nonbuilding markets in Mexico due to expanded infrastructure construction. In Canada, demand for gypsum products will increase only marginally, reflecting a contraction in new housing construction and decelerating growth in residential improvement and repair spending, nonresidential construction and nonbuilding construction.

Synthetic gypsum, which accounted for 24 percent of crude gypsum supply in 2008, will continue to gradually increase its share of crude gypsum production. Synthetic gypsum, which is widely available in the United States and Canada, is produced primarily as a byproduct of the flue gas desulfurization process for reducing emissions at coal-fired power plants.

ABC Launches Construction Employment Web Site
Associated Builders and Contractors has launched Construction Job Network, an online service that connects construction professionals with available job opportunities in the construction industry. The Web-based career center allows employers to submit job postings, and job seekers to post their résumés and, in some cases, apply directly online for jobs. The new site is accessible online at www.ConstructionJobNetwork.com.

Jobseekers can create an account, post an anonymous résumé, search for jobs, set up personal e-mail job alerts, browse a library of career advice and direct questions to employment experts, all without charge. In addition, résumés will be posted on other job boards associated with Construction Job Network.

Employers can view résumés and post jobs under a variety of pricing plans. Further, the new online service offers employers added features that include posting job openings on other job boards associated with Construction Job Network, the option to include a company profile and logo with each job posting, and a pay-per-use résumé bank.

To visit the site, go to www.constructionjobnetwork.com.

FASA-NASBP Study Finds Sharp Differences over Benefits of Subcontractor Default Insurance
A study authored by Dennis Bausman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Construction Science and Management Department at Clemson University, reveals that construction subcontractors and prime contractors have sharply different views over the benefits of subcontractor default insurance. Subcontractor default insurance, or SDI, is a catastrophic insurance policy that provides coverage to a prime contractor for the direct and indirect costs of a subcontractor’s performance default. The only SDI product currently on the market is Subguard®, which is offered by Steadfast Insurance Company, a surplus lines carrier and subsidiary company of Zurich Insurance Company.

In a first-of-its-kind look at SDI since the insurance policies started being written in the 1990s, the study, Subcontractor Default Insurance (SDI): Its Use, Costs, Advantages, Disadvantages and Impact on Project Participants, confirms that SDI is a risk product that is not appropriate for every contractor, but reveals high levels of satisfaction with SDI among prime contractors using the product. Subcontractors exposed to SDI have a different perception, however. Unlike a traditional surety bond, SDI requires prime contractors to institute programs pre-qualifying subcontractors whose potential performance defaults would be covered by the SDI policies. Seventy-three percent of surveyed subcontractors "view the contractor’s prequalification process as invasive” and 83 percent say SDI is an "administrative burden.” Most subcontractors, the study finds, would rather "furnish a bond than be enrolled in SDI.”

The Bausman study also finds that surety prequalification of subcontractors is an advantage of surety bonds. "Bondability is viewed as a worthy indicator of subcontractor capability and is typically a prerequisite for enrollment” in SDI. Users of SDI often require subcontractor bidders to provide "sunshine” or "good guy” letters showing bondability.

"More people need to understand what SDI provides and does not provide, and Professor Bausman’s study is a seminal examination of the use and of the advantages and disadvantages of SDI,” said National Association of Surety Bond Producers President Todd Loehnert, National Surety Practice Group of Wells Fargo Insurance Services, Louisville, Ky.

The study further reveals that subcontractors do not necessarily see sureties as better-qualified than prime contractors to judge the subcontractors’ ability to perform a project. The subcontractors do, however, see some downsides in a prime contractor’s ability, under SDI, to unilaterally declare a subcontractor in default, increasing leverage over subcontractors. SDI also does not provide the payment protections afforded by a traditional payment bond, and cannot be substituted for a bond where a bond is required by statute.

"Subcontractor Default Insurance (SDI): Its Use, Costs, Advantages, Disadvantages and Impact on Project Participants is a truly original and eye-opening piece of research,” said FASA President Richard Wanner, Wanner Metal Worx Inc., Delaware, Ohio. "Since the inception of SDI, little has been known about its use on an industry-wide scale. Dr. Bausman’s report is the most comprehensive research done on the topic to date.”

The report begins with a historical perspective on the surety industry and then examines the quantitative survey data gathered on subcontractor notorious for causing flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

The research paper evaluates the latest studies and scientific papers published on "green” school design and how improved indoor air quality and learning environments affect student and teacher performance, operations and maintenance and overall economics. In particular, it highlights the importance of good indoor air quality and how utilizing the right low-emitting finishes, building products, furniture, school supplies and even cleaning chemicals can drastically improve the quality of air school occupants breathe. Controlling and eliminating the sources of indoor pollutants is described as the most effective approach to achieve healthy indoor environments. GREENGUARD Children & SchoolsSM Certification offers schools an effective, inexpensive way to identify low-emitting products and materials for educational facilities.

Specifying GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified products may help schools meet the requirements outlined in the leading high performance school programs, such as the USGBC's LEED program, CHPS or the Environmental Protection Agency's Tools for Schools, but most importantly it will improve a school’s indoor air quality, creating healthy learning environments. The GREENGUARD Children & Schools Program offers third-party certified products, specifically tested to respond to the sensitive nature of schools and its occupants. To find certified products, please visit www.greenguard.org.

The full research paper "Green, High Performance Schools” is available at www.greenguard.org.

ICFA Announces Organizational Change and New Direction
Murray Snider, president of the board of directors of the Insulating Concrete Form Association, announced administrative and staffing changes effective Oct. 1 as part of the new direction of the association.

"ICFA restructured its board of directors to create more focus and inter‐industry synergies that will exponentially strengthen the association’s primary goal to promote the use of ICFs in the building community. The board changed the organization from a stand‐alone association to a shared management concept by closing its Glenview, Ill., office and joining with two complimentary associations.”

"We have established an initial agreement with the Expanded Polystyrene Molders Association and the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers. The new management structure will allow ICFA to share in operating expenses and staff expertise while keeping costs down during this difficult economic period,” stated Snider, owner of Nudura Corporation.

"ICFA already has tremendous synergies with both EPSMA and AFPR, including complementary purpose, membership and target audiences. The association will enter a co‐housing agreement that will maintain the independent leadership of each organization but will achieve significant efficiency and effectiveness. Staff will be able to provide improved services and enhanced benefits,” Snider concluded.

Elizabeth Steiner, current executive director of EPSMA and AFPR, will serve as executive director of the new ICFA organization. ICFA offices will be in Crofton, Maryland. Steiner said, "Our top priority is to provide maximum value to our members. This new organizational structure will allow us to meet the needs of ICFA members while pursuing new opportunities to promote the importance of ICFs to the built environment.”

"The annual industry conference and Expo will be held Nov. 4–6 in Orlando,” said Steiner, "and we’re expecting it to be an outstanding industry event. Hands‐on presentations, new technology and educational sessions are planned for both the contractor community and ICF manufacturers. Plus it will provide members a chance to learn more about the changes and future direction of ICFA.”

ClarkWestern Building Systems Achieves SSMA Code Compliance for All U.S.-based Facilities
ClarkWestern Building Systems, West Chester, Ohio, has announced that all of its U.S.-based manufacturing facilities have received the Steel Stud Manufacturers Association (SSMA) code compliance certification. This certification provides independent verification that the quality of structural cold-formed steel framing manufactured by ClarkWestern complies with code requirements.

Conducted by Architectural Testing, Inc., in conjunction with SSMA, the third-party verification is supported by random manufacturing facility audits, as well as sampling and testing, of certified products for compliance to the program requirements. Architectural Testing is accredited as an independent inspection agency, meeting the requirements of ISO 17020, and also as an independent testing laboratory in accordance with ISO 17025.

ClarkWestern’s manufacturing facilities are located in Middletown, Ohio; Riverside, Calif.; Baltimore, Md.; Sacramento, Calif.; Pendergrass, Ga.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Dade City, Fla.; Rochelle, Ill.; Dallas, Texas and Bristol, Conn.

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics Facility Awarded ISO 14001:2004 Certification
Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics, Grand Island, N.Y., has announced that the company’s building materials manufacturing center in Tlaxcala, Mexico, has received the ISO 14001:2004 certification, the internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems.

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics plans to secure the ISO:14001:2004 certification for all five of its North American manufacturing facilities by early 2011.

Established by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 14001:2004 is a management tool that enables organizations to identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services, improve its environmental performance continually, and implement a systematic approach for setting and achieving environmental objectives and targets.

The systematic ISO 14001:2004 approach requires organizations to undertake a thorough review of all the areas where its activities have an environmental impact, leading to reduced costs for waste management, reduced consumption of energy and materials, lower distribution costs, improved company image, and the establishment of a framework for continual improvement.

The certification process was conducted by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance, a market leader in the provision of ISO 14001 assessment, certification and training.

CertainTeed Joins the Ranks of National Association of Home Builders’ Green Approved Products
CertainTeed Corporation, Valley Forge, Pa., has achieved Green Approved status from the National Association of Home Builders Research Center for more than 20 of its products.

The Green Approved third-party endorsement provides evidence that building products meet specific green criteria and can automatically contribute to points that align with the NAHB’s National Green Building Standard™. Through the program, points are awarded based on a variety of factors that contribute to the sustainability of a product, including recycled content, ISO 14001 plant certification and the use of durable, termite-resistant materials.

Many of CertainTeed’s products also contribute to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® program for both commercial and residential construction and are ENERGY STAR® and GREENGUARD® certified.

Thermafiber® Launches Redesigned Web Site
Thermafiber, Inc., Wabash, Ind., has launched its redesigned company Web site. The new site features a contemporary appearance with simple and clear navigation, which helps customers quickly find the information they want. The site also provides more details about Thermafiber’s mineral wool insulation products and services.

Reorganized content and new features streamline the user’s experience, providing important information to all customers from specification to installation and beyond. New features of the site include the following:

• Optimized content layout with efficiency in mind so users can get the information they need quickly.

• Enhanced LEED® calculator that enables customers to compute specific LEED contributions of Thermafiber products based on job site location and recycled content.

• Expanded information on LEED credit contributions and other sustainable attributes of Thermafiber’s commercial and residential insulation products.

• Detailed explanations of the unique Thermafiber Insolutions™ technical and customer services.

• New online forms for ordering product literature and samples.

• Expanded technical library with AutoCad® drawings, perimeter fire containment designs and three-part architectural specifications.

Bon Tool Co. Invited to G20 Trade Expo
Bon Tool Co., Gibson, Pa., was invited to participate in a G20 Trade Expo on Sept. 22, 2009, in Pittsburgh. Bon is one of approximately 30 companies from the Pittsburgh region slated to participate in the event.

Participation in the event gave Bon the opportunity to meet representatives from G20 countries and establish ties with countries from around the world in an effort to increase export sales. Bon personnel expected the expo to yield valuable long-term international relationships. Pennsylvania House Representative, Jake Wheatley, Jr., 19th Legislative District and Duquesne University-SBDC sponsored the expo, which was scheduled in conjunction with the 2009 G20 Summit.

The trade expo sponsors have screened all participating companies to get a better understanding of the goods and services each provides, and to best match the interests and potential needs of each country with the businesses’ capabilities. Bon Tool Co. is headquartered in Gibsonia, PA with a western distribution center in Henderson, NV and overseas operations in Chennai, India and Shanghai, China. The decision to participate was driven by the desire for increased foreign exposure and the appeal to be represented in the historic event.

Honorary council members from 19 countries and the European Union who traveled to Pittsburgh for the G20 Summit were expected to attend the expo. During the 2009 G20 Summit the world’s financial representatives and leaders came together to discuss economic policies and address the global financial crisis.

Dow Launches New Construction Chemicals Business Unit
The Dow Chemical Company, Philadelphia, has announced the formation of Dow Construction Chemicals a new business within the Dow Advanced Materials portfolio that combines certain capabilities of legacy Rohm and Haas Company, acquired in April 2009, and legacy Dow Wolff Cellulosics, formed in 2007, to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to manufacturers of building and construction products around the world.

Dow Construction Chemicals offers technology platforms and application know-how in acrylic, redispersible latex powder and cellulosic chemistries. The business is focused on providing additive and formulation solutions to manufacturers of construction products such as elastomeric roof coatings, exterior insulation and finish systems, specialty cements, insulation, caulks and sealants.