Construction Trends

October 2007

Survey Finds Americans Prefer to Build with Steel in Hurricane-Prone Regions
When asked what construction material they would prefer for framing their house if living in an area that could be affected by hurricanes 71 percent of Southern state residents prefer steel as their material of choice for framing their home after learning that scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center forecast a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal,” predicting three to five major hurricanes for the 2007 season.

This data come from a survey, conducted this past July by the global research firm Harris Interactive and commissioned by the American Iron and Steel Institute. The survey also found that 44 percent of Southern state residents say that steel is the roofing material they would prefer if living in an area that could be affected by hurricanes. These findings indicate that consumers recognize the important role that steel plays in protecting their homes and families against future hurricanes.

"Two years after hurricanes Rita and Katrina, homes in the region are dealing with mold and mildew, which are known to pose health risks, especially to those with asthma and other respiratory ailments. Steel framing does not contribute to the growth of mold and mildew,” said Larry Williams, president of the Steel Framing Alliance. "In addition, steel framing can be designed to withstand hurricane-force winds up to 150 mph and is protected from corrosion by a galvanized coating that can last hundreds of years. These benefits help to protect homeowners and their families in the event of a hurricane.”

Building with steel also helps preserve natural resources and creates less waste, because steel is 100 percent recyclable and can be salvaged from the cleanup debris.

Dept. of Labor Announces Drug-Free Work Week
The U.S. Department of Labor announced that this year’s National Drug-Free Work Week will take place Oct. 14–20. The purpose of Drug-Free Work Week is to educate employers, employees and the general public about the importance of being drug-free as an essential component of a safe and healthful workplace. Now in its second year, the annual campaign is a collaborative effort between the department and members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance; however, all employers and employees are encouraged to participate.

Throughout Drug-Free Work Week, the department and alliance members will conduct various activities to help employers, supervisors and workers understand how to implement effective drug-free workplace programs that focus on detection and deterrence while also offering assistance and support for workers who may have problems with alcohol or drugs.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in Drug-Free Work Week and ways they can promote drug-free workplace messages—during the campaign and throughout the year—by visiting the department’s Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace Program Web site at www.dol.gov/workingpartners.

Demand for Gypsum Products to Reach 54.6 Million Metric Tons in 2011
Demand for gypsum products in North America is forecast to grow 1.6 percent annually through 2011, to 54.6 million metric tons. Gypsum board is the largest gypsum product segment by a large margin, accounting for about three-quarters of demand. Demand for gypsum board is projected to rise 1.4 percent annually to 42 billion square feet in 2011. These and other trends are presented in Gypsum Products in North America, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

Nonresidential building markets will offer the best opportunities for gypsum products over the forecast period, with gains fueled by a rebound in the U.S. market and continued economic expansion in Mexico. Strength in the nonresidential building market will help offset weakness in residential construction, the largest individual market. A sluggish outlook for construction of new single-family housing in the United States and Canada will limit growth for gypsum products in residential construction.

In the Canadian and much larger U.S. markets, demand for gypsum board through 2011 will be tempered by a sharp deceleration in the residential construction market, offset by a sharp acceleration in the nonresidential construction market. As a result, those board types used more intensely in nonresidential construction (type X, sheathing) will experience faster demand growth than gypsum board as a whole. The smaller Mexican market will post the fastest growth of more than 4 percent per annum. Gains in the Mexican market for gypsum board will benefit from government initiatives to relieve the nation’s housing deficit, as well as from further market penetration as construction methods amenable to gypsum board become more widely adopted.

Demand for gypsum as an additive to cement will advance at the rate of 2.6 percent annually through 2011, growing faster than other uncalcined products such as agricultural gypsum and gypsum filler. Synthetic gypsum is expected to continue to supplant mined gypsum for use in calcined gypsum products. Synthetic gypsum accounted for 20 percent of gypsum demand in 2006, a substantial increase from its 7 percent share in 1996. This share is expected to rise to 28 percent by 2011.

Gypsum Products in North America (published 08/2007, 257 pages) is available for $4,500 from The Freedonia Group, Inc. For further details, contact Corinne Gangloff at (440) 684.9600 or e-mail pr@freedoniagroup.com. Information may also be obtained from www.freedoniagroup.com.

CertainTeed Begins Production of Suspended Ceiling Grids in North America
CertainTeed, headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., has opened its first manufacturing facility in North America dedicated to the production of ceiling grid systems.

The addition of metal grid manufacturing builds on CertainTeed’s announcement last January of the formation of CertainTeed Ceilings, which brought together the products of three entities—the wet-felt ceilings business formerly owned by BPB North America, Decoustics and a joint venture, Ecophon CertainTeed—into one CertainTeed-branded offering.

In addition, CertainTeed announces the completion of the acquisition of Ecophon’s remaining interest in Ecophon CertainTeed, which had been a joint venture between CertainTeed and the Swedish subsidiary of CertainTeed’s parent company.

June Construction Climbs 8 Percent
New construction starts in June advanced 8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $662.4 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. The construction start data for June lifted the Dodge Index to 140, up from May’s 129 (2000=100), and marking the highest reading for the Dodge Index over the past 12 months.

Nonresidential building in June was $253.2 billion (annual rate), up a substantial 29 percent from the prior month with the help of a number of very large projects, including five projects valued each in excess of $500 million. By structure type, hotels led June’s nonresidential expansion with an increase of 185 percent. The manufacturing plant category soared 170 percent, office construction grew 7 percent, and store construction rose 6 percent. On the institutional side, the educational building category rose 9 percent, but the healthcare facilities category in June held steady with the prior month’s elevated amount. The smaller institutional structure types showed a mixed performance in June. Amusement-related projects jumped 75 percent, transportation terminal projects advanced 26 percent, public buildings grew 6 percent and churches retreated 1 percent.

During the first half of 2007, nonresidential building was essentially steady with the same period a year ago, which itself had been lifted by an unusual grouping of large projects at the start of 2006. The commercial categories on a year-to-date basis included a 12 percent gain for stores and shopping centers. Also on the positive side was office construction, up 5 percent.

Commercial categories with year-to-date declines were warehouses, down 10 percent; and hotels, down 11 percent. The institutional categories revealed a mixed year-to-date performance, with growth reported for educational buildings, up 5 percent, and the public buildings category, up 20 percent. On the negative side, year-to-date declines were reported for healthcare facilities, down 1 percent; churches, down 12 percent; transportation terminals, down 22 percent; and amusement-related projects, down 32 percent.

Residential building, at $283.4 billion (annual rate) in June, grew 4 percent as multifamily housing shot up 40 percent from a very weak May. Single-family housing in June continued to retreat, slipping 3 percent in dollar volume, and declines have been reported during four of the first six months of 2007.

For the first half of 2007, residential building was down a sharp 26 percent from the same period a year ago. Single-family housing during this time dropped 26 percent.

For total construction, the 14 percent drop reported for the United States in the first half of 2007 was due to this performance by major region: the South Central, down 8 percent; the Midwest, down 10 percent; the Northeast, down 13 percent; the South Atlantic, down 14 percent; and the West, down 19 percent.

Clinton to Keynote Opening Plenary of Greenbuild
The U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C., has announced that former President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote speech of the opening plenary of Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and exposition dedicated to green building, to be held Nov. 7–9, 2007, in Chicago.

Clinton’s keynote will kick off what is expected to be the largest Greenbuild ever. More than 20,000 people from all over the world are expected to take part in the three-day event. Greenbuild’s exhibit hall sold out nearly a year in advance: its 800 booths will display the newest green building technologies, products, and services.

To learn more about the conference, visit http://www.greenbuildexpo.org.
People & Companies in the News
Bonsal American, Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has acquired Amerimix Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of bagged and bulk mortar and stucco mixes for commercial contractors and distributors and a major supplier to Home Depot with bagged mortars, stuccos, portland and masonry cements. Amerimix is based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Amerimix will continue to operate as a separate entity under Bonsal American. Jorge G. Chiappo, president of Amerimix, will remain with Bonsal American after closing and will continue in his current role.

AWCI member contractor J&B Acoustical, Inc., Mansfield, Ohio, celebrated 50 years of teamwork on Sept. 8 with a picnic and barbecue for the J&B staff. The family of J&B businesses also includes J&B Classical Glass and J&B Equipment & Supply.

USG Interiors, Inc., a subsidiary of USG Corporation, has announced that its plant in Red Wing, Minn., has earned the prestigious VPP Star award for its outstanding safety performance and processes. As the highest honor given by the VPP, the Star award is reserved for participants that exceed OSHA standards, thereby making them models for their specific industries.

USG Corporation’s L&W Supply subsidiary received the coveted "Partners of Choice Award” from David Weekley Homes, the third largest privately held home builder in the U.S. based in Houston. Specifically, Seacoast Supply received an "A” rating in Quality for four consecutive quarters. These awards are based on the National Trading Partners Survey, a quarterly review of approximately 150 suppliers rated by 1,000 Weekley team members from every market and every level within the company.

Scott Langbein of Batavia, Ohio, has rejoined Topcon Positioning Systems, Livermore, Calif., as product marketing manager for optical, scanning and imaging products. For more than 10 years, Langbein has worked in the positioning technology business, where most recently he was with an independent survey software provider managing the integration of software and hardware.

All-Wall Equipment Company, Inc., Kirkland, Wash., has acquired Nevada drywall tool and supply company R.J. Tool Company, a.k.a. TapingTools.com, in an all-cash transaction.

All-Wall also has opened its newest retail store, the All-Wall Superstore, in Las Vegas. This is All-Wall’s most elaborate yet, featuring more than 13,000 square feet of showroom, distribution center and service shop.