February 2006

New Lead Paint Rule Not a Fix, NAHB Says

The Environmental Protection Agency’s newly proposed rule governing lead-based paint in the remodeling industry does not allay the serious health problem it was designed to help prevent: lead poisoning in young children.

Instead, the new rule will add delays to renovation projects and cost home owners more, according to the National Association of Home Builders. EPA announced the new requirements Dec. 29.

"There is no scientific research that shows that remodeling causes lead poisoning in children,” said Dave Wilson, NAHB president and a custom home builder from Ketchum, Idaho. "Federal efforts should focus on finding the sources of lead exposure—commonly tap water, peeling paint or contaminated soil or dust—and developing ways to mitigate that exposure. Instead, this rule concentrates on expensive restrictions that only affect the cost of remodeling.”

The new EPA rule, which applies to contractors working in homes built before 1978, changes practices regarding training, licensing and insurance, the costs of which will ultimately be passed on to the home owner. Liability issues mean that fewer firms are likely to continue working in pre-1978 homes, thus limiting the availability of certified renovators to homeowners and driving costs even higher. "We know that 90 percent of the homes built between 1960 and 1978 do not contain lead paint and that more than half the typical renovation and remodeling work is done by the homeowner, whom EPA does not regulate,” Wilson said. "Forcing all remodeling firms to comply with onerous new rules even when there is a low likelihood of exposure is a waste of money and time that would be better spent on targeted prevention and eradication efforts,” he said.

"The EPA is headed in the wrong direction with this rule. Remodelers are very aware of how important it is to reduce our clients’ and our employees’ exposure to dust from lead-based paint. We continue to support and encourage education for consumers and for the industry. That is why we worked with EPA on a set of voluntary lead-safe work practices,” he continued.

"The money spent on implementing the EPA rule might be might be better spent to help low-income households reduce their exposure to old lead-based paint, much like Department of Energy grants for low-income homeowners to buy energy-efficient windows and other weatherization features,” Wilson suggested.

Construction Starts Recede 1 Percent in November

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $663.1 billion, new construction starts in November retreated 1 percent from the previous month, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Slower activity was reported for residential building and nonbuilding construction (public works and electric utilities), offsetting a moderate gain for nonresidential building. During the first 11 months of 2005, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $602.6 billion, up 10 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

November’s data produced a reading of 200 for the Dodge Index (1996=100), down slightly from October’s 201, while still above the 195 average for the first 11 months of 2005.

Residential building in November slipped 1 percent to $378.3 billion (annual rate). Single-family housing grew 1 percent in dollar volume, but multifamily housing fell 12 percent relative to October. The current year has seen a surge of large condominium and apartment projects, and such projects were not quite as numerous in November as in recent months. Still, November did include the start of three multifamily projects valued each in excess of $75 million, located in Cherry Hill, N.J. ($135 million), Riviera Beach, Fla. ($100 million), and Baltimore ($85 million).

For single-family housing, the level of construction starts remains very high, although the loss of momentum shown by the home sales statistics at the end of 2005 may well lead to a somewhat less robust pace for construction in 2006. The cost of financing has increased, albeit slightly, as the 30-year fixed mortgage rate moved up from 6.1 percent in October to 6.4 percent by mid-November, before stabilizing at 6.3 percent during December. On a geographical basis, November showed this performance for residential building - the Northeast, up 3 percent; the South Central, up 1 percent; the Midwest and South Atlantic, each down 2 percent; and the West, down 3 percent.

Nonresidential building in November increased 4 percent to $181.0 billion (annual rate), as the institutional structure types provided much of the upward push. Healthcare facilities, rising 31 percent in November, maintained the robust pace witnessed throughout much of 2005. November included the start of two very large hospital projects in California, valued respectively at $242 million and $240 million, plus the start of an $83 million hospital project in Nevada. The transportation terminal category also surged in November, jumping 88 percent, due to the start of the $200 million JetBlue terminal at New York’s JFK International Airport and the start of a $125 million terminal at San Jose International Airport. Other institutional structure types with November gains were public buildings, up 25 percent; amusement-related projects, up 5 percent; and school construction, up 1 percent. The amusement category was able to show a further increase following a strong October, given the November start of a $500 million stadium in Indianapolis.

The commercial and industrial portion of the nonresidential market was mixed in November. Large gains were reported for warehouses, up 25 percent; and hotel construction, up 70 percent, with the boost coming from the start of a $171 million hotel in San Francisco. Store construction in November was unchanged from the previous month, while office construction retreated 7 percent. The manufacturing plant category registered a 70 percent decline for new construction starts in November, reflecting both the comparison to a very strong October as well as the broader hesitation that continues to be shown by manufacturers towards adding new capacity.

The 10 percent increase for total construction during the first 11 months of 2005, relative to 2004, was the result of the following pattern by sector: residential building, up 14 percent; nonbuilding construction, up 8 percent; and nonresidential building, up 3 percent. Continuing the shift seen at the 10-month mark, nonresidential building is now up slightly on a year-to-date basis after trailing the prior year for much of 2005.

By region, total construction during 2005’s January–November period showed 12 percent gains for the South Atlantic and the West, 10 percent gains for the Northeast and the South Central, and a 4 percent gain for the Midwest.

Kemlite Is Now Crane Composites

Kemlite Company, Inc., a Crane Co. company located in Channahon, Ill., has announced that effective Jan. 1, 2006, the company name will change to Crane Composites, Inc. Kemlite, in operation since 1954, manufactures fiberglass reinforced plastic panels. Operation under the Crane Composites name better reflects the addition of the reinforced composites, not just frp products.

Crane Composites will produce Kemlite Thermoset frp Products and Zenicon Thermocomposites. In addition, Kemlite, Filon, Sequentia, Lasco, and Lampro products will continue to be promoted within the Kemlite thermoset product line. A new visual identity will be incorporated throughout the company and in promotional materials.

Crane Co. is a diversified manufacturer of engineered industrial products. Crane Co. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:CR).

Pioneer of Fastening Industry Dies

Frederic Booth Powers Jr., a pioneer in the construction fastening industry and former chairman and president of Powers Fasteners, Inc., New Rochelle, N.Y., died at his home in Larchmont, N.Y., on Dec. 20 at the age of 72.

The announcement was made by Jeffrey R. Powers, who succeeded his father as president in 1997 an now runs the company with his three brothers: Christopher, who is CEO; Stephen, vice president of MIS; and Frederic III, vice president of materials. He said his father felt his most notable achievement was the continued operation and expansion of the business by his four sons.

Powers, who was inducted into the Fastener Hall of Fame by the National Industrial Fastener Association in 1998, started in the industry in 1958 when he joined the Rawlplug Co., a small fastener company founded by his father. Under his direction, the company broadened its product line into a complete offering of mechanical and adhesive anchors, roofing fasteners, gas-firing tools and other powder actuated fastening systems serving professional construction and plant maintenance markets. He also had added manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Indianapolis and Chicago, acquired a Canadian firm, and established 28 regional sales locations in the United States.

In 1995 the business name was changed to Powers Fastener, Inc., with the intended purpose of international expansion, and the company has since added locations around the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South East Asia. Early this year, the company will open its new World Headquarters in Brewster, N.Y.

A native of the Bronx, Powers attended Fordham University and graduated from Iona College in New Rochelle before serving as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corp. He was a philanthropist for many Westchester county charities, having served as a board member and former chairman of the Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, and board member and former president of the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle. He also contributed his tome to many other local business groups and foundations. Powers was awarded Man of the Year by the New Rochelle Boys and Girls Club, awarded Citizen of the Year by the Young Man’s Christian Association, and given the Civic Achievement Award by the Knights of Columbus and the Community Service Award by The Savings and Loan Association.

In addition to his four sons, Powers is survived by his wife of 50 years, his daughters-in-law and 13 grandchildren.

Spacecon Specialty Contractors Acquires Sprehe Interior Construction

Spacecon Specialty Contractors LLC’s previously announced acquisition of assets from Sprehe Interior Construction, Inc. was completed on Dec. 31, 2005. Effective Jan. 1, 2006, all of Sprehe’s construction management employees, including all field operations managers, project managers, estimators, safety managers, superintendents, foremen and warehouse personnel, together with most of Sprehe’s non-construction support staff, are now part of the Spacecon organization.

Spacecon Specialty Contractors is a newly formed subsidiary of Irex Corporation, one of the nation’s 50 largest specialty contracting organizations. Irex currently owns a controlling interest in 10 contracting subsidiaries performing work throughout the United States and Canada.

"We are excited to be part of the Irex organization,” said John Banks, formerly vice president and chief operating officer of Sprehe, and now vice president and chief operating officer of Spacecon Specialty Contractors. "We helped make Sprehe the premier interior contracting firm in Colorado, and now we look forward to achieving our full potential with Irex.”

In addition to Banks as COO, Spacecon’s senior management includes Dennis Gray, president, and Robert Yelinski, vice president, Denver Operations. Gray, located in Salt Lake City, also serves as Irex’s Western Group President. Paul Sprehe, Sprehe Interior Contractor’s owner and president, is retiring from the interior construction business in order to pursue other personal and business interests.

Spacecon Specialty Contractors LLC is a drywall and interiors contractor headquartered in Colorado Springs, with a divisional office in Denver. It has more than 400 salaried and field construction service professionals who specialize in metal stud framing, drywall, fire stop systems, thermal/sound insulation, acoustic ceilings and acoustic wall panels.

National Gypsum Plant Recognized as Top U.S. Facility

Industry Week magazine has selected National Gypsum Company’s wallboard production plant in Apollo Beach, Fla., as one of the 10 Best Plants in North America.

The plant, located 20 miles south of Tampa, was one of 220 facilities nominated for the award between October 2004 and March 2005. The magazine began its Best Plants Award Program 16 years ago as a salute to outstanding manufacturing facilities demonstrating world-class capabilities and a management mindset of continuous improvement.

The Apollo Beach plant produces gypsum wallboard at nearly 500 feet per minute or at a rate of five truckloads an hour. The plant is National Gypsum’s newest and began production in January 2001.

USG Expands Production Capacity at Baltimore Plant

United States Gypsum Company, Chicago, announced that it is adding capacity to manufacture Sheetrock® Brand ready-mixed joint compounds at its Baltimore plant. Construction will start in January 2006, and production is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2007.

The new operation will supply the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia markets, and the new plant will add approximately 34 jobs to the existing 285 positions.

The new manufacturing operation will be housed in the existing warehouse and incorporate the latest computer-controlled technology and automated packaging equipment to produce both conventional and lightweight all purpose joint compounds. The project includes a 40,000-square-foot addition to the warehouse building, expansion of the loading area and improvements to the plant’s rail line, gate and roadways to safely accommodate additional incoming raw materials and outgoing finished products.

The Baltimore plant encompasses more than 300,000 square feet on approximately 38 acres. Its original gypsum board facility was built in 1962. A cement board production line was added in 2002.

People & Companies In the News

Fabcon, a precast concrete wall manufacturer located in Savage, Minn., has appointed Tom Wainscott as director of safety. Wainscott previously served as director of safety at API Construction in St. Paul, Minn. In his new position, Wainscott is responsible for providing the overall direction for Fabcon’s safety program. In his previous role at API, he was responsible for the development and leadership of the company’s safety initiatives for 10 years.

JLG Industries, Inc., McConnellsburg, Pa., is reopening its 130,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Bedford, Pa. This facility will consolidate all manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering and administrative functions of the Company’s Commercial Solutions Group that focuses on the commercial and industrial markets channels for access equipment. The company also announced plans to construct a new 35,000 square foot R&D facility in McConnellsburg.

Also, Joe Dixon has joined the JLG team as president of JLG Service Plus, Inc. JLG Service Plus, Inc., a JLG subsidiary providing repair and maintenance, reconditioning, and training on all JLG manufactured products, has locations in Houston, Texas, and McConnellsburg, Pa., with additional sites planned for the future. Prior to joining JLG, Dixon served for three years as vice president/officer, Pro Business and Equipment Rental for The Home Depot and spent the previous 14 years with Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation where he held a variety of leadership positions and ultimately became the division vice president of operations and sales.

The Performance Contracting Group of Lenexa, Kan., has appointed Scott A. Eagleson as branch manager of their New England Interiors Division. Eagleson brings 25 years of interior construction and business development experience to the branch. For the past 13 years he has been the director of business development/sales for Environmental Interiors, Inc. Performance Contracting Inc., the second largest wall/ceiling contractor in the United States, operates 14 Interiors Division satellite offices throughout the country.

Plastic Components, Inc., Miami, has appointed Herman Guevara to the position of national sales manager. Guevara has held management positions in the United States and Latin America throughout his career. He was most recently the general manager of Efficient Wall Systems, a manufacturer of a patented concrete wall system for commercial and residential construction. He was formerly the general manager of Caribbean Operations for the Hilti Corporation, and the director of sales and marketing for Delta Faucet Company.