Construction Trends

November 2006

Revised Prescriptive Method Approved as National Standard
The American Iron and Steel Institute announced Sept. 25 that the revised Standard for Cold-Formed Steel Framing—Prescriptive Method for One and Two Family Dwellings, 2001 Edition With Supplement 2 is now approved as an American National Standard by the American National Standards Institute. In response to the need for increased performance by building materials in hostile weather conditions, AISI’s revised Prescriptive Method has increased the wind load requirement for residential framing up to 150 mph. This change has made steel more competitive in high-wind regions such as South Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Larry Williams, president of the Steel Framing Alliance, said: "As an American National Standard, the revised Prescriptive Method raises the bar for high-performance construction in areas that bear the brunt of these violent high-wind storms. We expect that ANSI’s approval will provide the means for adoption in South Florida and the Gulf Coast region, resulting in homes that are stronger and more durable in high-wind events.”

Williams said that additional benefits of building homes with steel include steel’s resistance to termites, rot, mildew, mold, hail and fire.

Robert Wills, P.E., who heads AISI’s codes and standards initiatives as director of construction codes and standards for the AISI, said: "When the Prescriptive Method was first developed, the provisions were limited to 130 mph exposure C wind, which excluded it from parts of South Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Since then, an International Code Council Committee on Hurricane Resistant Construction was formed and work began on a standard for residential construction in high wind regions.”

Wills, who represents AISI on the ICC’s Committee on Hurricane Resistant Construction, said that the committee decided to establish prescriptive provisions for areas up to 150 mph exposure C wind, which includes a portion of the coastal region affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

To meet this objective, the Steel Framing Alliance initiated and funded a project at the National Association of Home Builders Research Center to perform the necessary analysis to expand the Prescriptive Method to address 140 mph and 150 mph wind loads. Changes to the standard were proposed by the NAHB Research Center and balloted through the AISI Committee on Framing Standards. A public review of the final document was provided in accordance with ANSI procedures, and was approved by ANSI as an American National Standard on Sept. 8, 2006. It is anticipated that the standard will be adopted by reference in the new ICC standard for residential construction in high wind regions. The draft ICC standard containing the AISI reference is scheduled for release as part of the ANSI public balloting process in the near future. ICC anticipates that the document will be available by June 2007.

The revised Prescriptive Method was published on Sept. 27, 2006, and is available for purchase at the Steel Framing Alliance online store at www.steelframing.org.

OMNOVA Solutions Sells Its GenFlex Building Products Business to Firestone
Omnova Solutions, headquartered in Maumee, Ohio, has sold its GenFlex Building Products business to Firestone Building Products Company, a division of BFS Diversified Products, LLC.

Total cash to be realized approximates $40 million, which includes $29 million in cash from the sale of the business and retention by OMNOVA of $10.5 million of existing GenFlex trade accounts receivable. Cash from the sale is subject to a final working capital adjustment. The agreement was signed Sept. 25, 2006, and the transaction closed Sept. 29, 2006.

As a result of the acquisition, Firestone will offer a second brand of roofing products marketed under the GenFlex brand name. The transaction includes all of Omnova’s commercial roofing assets, including its thermoplastic membrane manufacturing plant in Muscle Shoals/Tuscumbia, Ala., an office in Maumee, Ohio, and a product distribution center in Columbus, Ohio. GenFlex Building Products will operate as an independent business unit to be called GenFlex Roofing Systems. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

In the 12 months ended August 31, 2006, GenFlex Building Products had sales and EBITDA of $114.4 million and $1.9 million, respectively, with a workforce of approximately 100 employees. The GenFlex roofing business has been in operation since 1980.

Oshkosk Truck to Acquire JLG
Oshkosh Truck Corporation, headquartered in Oshkosh, Wis., announced Oct. 16 it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire JLG Industries, Inc., headquartered in McConnellsburg, Pa. Oshkosh will acquire all outstanding shares of JLG for $28 per share. Total consideration, including transaction costs and assumed debt, is $3.2 billion in cash on a fully diluted basis. This transaction will create a $6 billion global specialty vehicle manufacturer.

The transaction is expected to be completed within 90 days.

Upon completion of the transaction, JLG will become the largest of four business segments of Oshkosh. In fiscal 2008, the first full fiscal year of Oshkosh’s expected ownership of JLG, Oshkosh estimates that JLG will represent approximately 40 percent of its consolidated sales and operating income.

National Gypsum Plant Recognized as Top U.S. Facility
IndustryWeek magazine has selected National Gypsum Company’s wallboard production plant in Wilmington, N.C., as one of the 10 Best Plants in North America.

National Gypsum’s Wilmington Plant was one of nearly 200 facilities nominated for the award. The magazine began its Best Plants Award Program 17 years ago as a salute to outstanding manufacturing facilities demonstrating world-class capabilities and a management mindset of continuous improvement.

The Wilmington Plant produces gypsum wallboard from rock mined at National Gypsum’s Halifax, Nova Scotia, quarry. The rock is shipped by ocean carrier to the plant’s dock. It is crushed and the resulting stucco is combined with other additives and water and placed on a continuous sheet of paper. A second sheet of paper placed on top sandwiches the stucco to form the wallboard.

To compete for the IndustryWeek award, the plant completed a comprehensive entry covering management practices, quality, employment practices, safety, customer service, innovation, logistics, technology investment, manufacturing flexibility, maintenance, inventory management, environmental stewardship and competitiveness.

Construction Climbs 3 percent in August
At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $630.7 billion, new construction starts in August increased 3 percent compared to the previous month, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Nonresidential building rebounded from a sluggish July, regaining some of the upward momentum shown earlier in the year, and moderate growth was also reported for public works construction. Residential building in August was stable, following the declines of the prior three months that lowered the dollar amount for this sector more than 20 percent from its pace in early spring. Over the first eight months of 2006, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $460.6 billion, a 3 percent gain relative to the same period a year ago.

The August statistics produced a reading of 133 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), up from a revised 130 for July. The Dodge Index had reached its most recent peak in April at 153, and then fell back through July. "This year total construction has been dampened by the downturn for single family housing, but it’s also been supported by greater activity for nonresidential building and public works,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "It remains to be seen whether the decline for single-family housing will moderate as 2006 draws to a close. At the same time, both nonresidential building and public works are on track this year to register their largest percentage growth since the late 1990s, as improved market fundamentals and more government financing have outweighed the constraint of higher materials prices.”

Residential building in August advanced 7 percent to $192.6 billion (annual rate). New construction starts for hotels rebounded 73 percent, following a brief pause in July, as this structure type continues to have a banner year. For the first eight months of 2006, hotel construction was up a substantial 119 percent compared to last year, led in particular by a number of very large hotel/casino projects in the Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J., markets.

August also showed a sharp increase for warehouse construction, which climbed 84 percent compared to a very weak July. Amusement-related projects in August jumped 55 percent, helped by the start of a $100 million performing arts facility in Dallas. Church construction showed 17 percent growth in August, while healthcare facilities registered an 8 percent gain, lifted by groundbreaking for four major hospital projects located in Tennessee ($120 million), Colorado ($119 million), Indiana ($105 million), and New York ($100 million).

School construction, the largest nonresidential category by dollar volume, slipped 2 percent, although its August pace was still 13 percent above the monthly average for the previous year. Also posting 2 percent declines in August were store construction and offices. The public building category fell 8 percent in August, despite the start of large detention facility projects in Texas ($60 million), Georgia ($55 million), and Illinois ($50 million). Additional August declines were reported for transportation terminals (down 19 percent) and manufacturing plants (down 23 percent).

Residential building in August was reported at $309.2 billion (annual rate), essentially unchanged from July. Single-family housing retreated 2 percent, marking the seventh decline in a row for this structure type. The 2 percent drop was not as steep as the 8 percent slide in July, but it still left the dollar amount for new single-family construction 22 percent below the pace at the outset of 2006. For the first eight months of 2006, single-family housing for the United States was down 6 percent from its dollar amount for the same period of 2005.

By region, year-to-date declines were reported in the Midwest, down 16 percent; the West, down 13 percent; the Northeast, down 9 percent; and the South Atlantic, down 3 percent. Running counter to the weaker activity was the South Central, which posted a 3 percent gain during the first eight months of 2006.

Multifamily housing in August grew 10 percent, as this category continues to see numerous large projects reach groundbreaking even as concerns have mounted about the growing volume of unsold units. August included the start of eight multifamily projects valued each in excess of $75 million, with the three largest located in New Rochelle, N.Y. ($171 million), Miami ($140 million), and New York, N.Y. ($106 million).

The 3 percent increase for total construction during the first eight months of 2006, compared to last year, was the result of this performance by major sector: nonbuilding construction, up 14 percent; nonresidential building, up 13 percent; and residential building, down 5 percent.

By geography, total construction in the January–August period of 2006 was as follows: the South Central, up 10 percent; the West, up 4 percent; the Northeast, up 3 percent; the Midwest, up 2 percent; and the South Atlantic, down 1 percent.

People & Companies in the News
Alicia Wieder has been named general manager of ITW Buildex, an Illinois Tool Works Construction Products company based in Itasca, Ill. Weider joined Buildex in 1986 as senior engineer. During this time, she was instrumental in the start up of the current Buildex Roselle manufacturing location along with several other key manufacturing and engineering projects. In 2002, Alicia was promoted to industrial unit manager, Staples and Finish Nails for ITW Paslode and in 2005 was promoted to general manager, Paslode Industrial.

Patrick R. Cruz, a 20-year veteran in the research, development and marketing of products for the industrial and hand-tool industries, has joined Hyde Tools, Inc. as merchandising manager. As such, he has primary responsibility for building and measuring sales through advanced merchandising techniques and point-of-purchase sales support.

In Memoriam
Harold K. Forbes, the 15th president of the Scaffold Industry Association, died Sept. 14 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Forbes was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He served for 33 years in the Canadian Armed Forces Militia Unit, the Governor Generals House Guards retiring as commanding officer in 1973. He then went on to become a member of the board of trustees. Forbes was also past president of BCAA-University of Toronto, staff commander of the Canadian Power Squadron, past president of the Royal Canadian Armored Corps., and knighted by the "Order of St. John’s” and the "Order of St. Lazarus.” In addition, Forbes held many other positions, too numerous to mention.

For the past 16 years, Forbes taught boating safety to more than 630 adults and children on his beloved Chandas Lake.

As SIA president from 2000 to 2002, Forbes led the association through some of its most turbulent times. His long and distinguished SIA career saw him rewarded many times with awards such as the Founders award in 1988, 1993 and 1994, the Coupling Pin award in 1986, the Unsung Hero award in 2005, the Hall of Fame award in 1995, the President’s award in 2003 and the D. Victor Saleeby award in 2002. In addition, Forbes spearheaded the SIA’s entry into the training arena by co-authoring the highly successful Suspended Scaffolds Training Program and overseeing the development of the Supported Scaffolds Training Program. In recognition of his active involvement and promotion of scaffold safety, training and education, the SIA recently renamed the Accredited Training Institute of the Year award after him.

He will be profoundly missed and lovingly remembered by his wife, Florence, whom after meeting as teenage sweethearts, shared 55 years of marriage.