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Construction Trends

ASTM International Adds Certification Capabilities


The ASTM board of directors last October authorized ASTM’s management to develop the capability to offer certification services. Titled the ASTM International Certification Programs, the new initiative is sponsored by ASTM International and offers the opportunity for certification of products (materials, products, services and systems) as well as personnel.



The action by the ASTM board is a response to inquiries, particularly in the areas of new standards development activities, for ASTM to provide certification to meet expressed needs for independent, third party demonstrations of compliance to standards. Similar requests have come to ASTM from those facing regulatory pressures to demonstrate standards compliance.



Potential product benefits of the ASTM Product Certification Program to manufacturers and consumers include: increased confidence; reliable product comparisons; equitable testing and rating; potential liability reduction; and facilitating regulatory compliance.



Requests for an ASTM program may come from ASTM technical committees or directly from industry, purchasers, or government bodies. A product certified through ASTM’s program would be tested, at the direction of ASTM International, by a third-party laboratory to determine the product’s ability to conform to one or more ASTM standards. All program initiatives will be based on the level of interest of the relevant ASTM technical committee as well as the support of industry.



UL and ICC-ES Announce New Dual Evaluation and Certification Program for Building Products


Underwriters Laboratories and ICC Evaluation Service, Inc® have formed a partnership that will provide the building materials industry with a Dual Evaluation and Certification Program for building products. Together, the UL Mark and the ICC-ES Mark will demonstrate to tens of thousands of regulators, building officials, architects and insurers that the building products and systems they inspect, design and insure are compliant with appropriate codes and product safety standards.




The Dual Evaluation and Certification Program simplifies the testing and evaluation process for manufacturers. They now have an easier way of conducting business. Through one point of contact for both UL and ICC-ES, manufacturers can conduct testing to UL safety standards, show code compliance via an ICC-ES Evaluation Report and get simultaneous postings of compliant products in UL’s Online Certifications Directory and Code Correlation Database along with ICC-ES’s online directory of evaluation reports and e-Codes Premium.




“This partnership between UL and ICC-ES brings two industry leaders together to create a one-stop-shop for building materials testing and evaluation needs in the built environment,” says Chris Hasbrook, vice president and general manager, UL Global Building Materials and Life Safety & Security Industries. “The Dual Evaluation and Certification Program will provide manufacturers faster turnaround times and speed to market, while giving their customers two more reasons to trust the quality, safety and efficiency of their products.”




In addition to streamlining testing processes, UL has enhanced the usability of its product certification information. UL’s Code Correlation Database (www.ul.com/regulators/codelink) connects product certifications directly with specific applicable model installation code sections to help code authorities and other industry professionals find ICC-ES code-compliant products. The ease of viewing code sections and manufacturer listings in one location makes it the only database of its kind in the industry.




Research with Building Professionals: What Matters When Selecting Brands?


To the architects, engineers and other building professionals who attended last October’s Continuing Education Unit event at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters’ training facilities in Elk Grove Village, Ill., the event’s educational sessions provided an opportunity to receive high-value training at no cost.




Yet ironically, Accountability Information Management, a business-to-business research and marketing organization that conducted surveys with event attendees, found that price/cost and value rank below other attributes in the product selection process.




During the two-day, inaugural event that covered water efficiency, renewable energy and other “green” subjects, AIM researchers interviewed 86 CEU attendees who also make product selection decisions.




“The event attracted a diverse CEU population,” said James Nowakowski, AIM president.




According to AIM’s research, respondents consider an average of at least two product attributes when evaluating one product brand over another.




“One might think that during this economy, cost/value would outrank other influential attributes,” said Nowakowski, “but that’s not the case. The majority, 48 percent, indicated that their experience, familiarity or reputation of a brand was key when selecting a brand they would purchase.




“Cost/value actually came in third with 32 percent after quality/durability,” Nowakowski continued. “And despite the eco-focus of the CEU event, only 12 percent of respondents named ‘green/enviro friendly’ as an important product feature.”




AIM’s research was designed to find out more about who and what drives the product selection process by talking directly to professionals involved in making product selection. Questions included these:



• Who really pulls the trigger on selecting the brand of product used?



• What are manufacturers doing well or not so well when it comes to product selection?



• Where do you get information on products?



• Why do you select one brand over another?



The 275,000-square-foot Carpenter Training Center is part of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. The CEU program offered professionals a first-hand look at the extensive, thorough, state-of-the-art facilities and on-going training available to Chicago-area union carpenters.



Proposed New Standard on Inspection of Gypsum Board for Air Quality Issues Reviewed at ASTM Committee Meeting


With heightened interest in issues involving corrosive gypsum board, the first draft of a proposed new standard on the subject, ASTM WK26072, Practice for Evaluation of Buildings to Identify Corrosive Gypsum Board, was reviewed and edited at a task group meeting on Nov. 10 in Atlanta.




The proposed new standard is under the jurisdiction of ASTM Subcommittee C11.01 on Specifications and Test Methods for Gypsum Products, part of ASTM Committee C11 on Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems. Development and approval of WK26072 is a priority for Committee C11, which has set a goal of publishing the standard this year.



The task group meeting was attended by more than 25 participants including consultants, home inspectors, representatives of the gypsum industry and government entities. Following a positive question and answer session, the group reviewed the entire draft and agreed that the scope for the proposed standard would be to identify gypsum board capable of producing corrosive gases.




All interested parties are invited to participate in the ongoing development of WK26072. The WK26072 task group is especially seeking the participation of home inspectors in its work. For more information on becoming an ASTM member, visit www.astm.org/JOIN.



Builder Confidence Edges Down in December


Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes receded one point to 16 in December as continued weakness in the economy and job markets weighed on consumers’ potential home buying plans, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released Dec. 15.



From an affordability standpoint, rarely has there been a better time in history to purchase a home, thanks to record low interest rates, attractive prices and of course the recent extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit,” said Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. “However, builders are not seeing the full impact of these conditions on buyer demand, partly because awareness of the latest incentives is still building, and partly because of concerns about job security and other economic woes.”



“As we anticipated, this is shaping up to be a bumpy recovery period for the housing market,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “While some families may be just starting to factor the expanded tax credit into their potential home buying plans, many are hesitating because of the poor economy. At the same time, tight lending conditions for both consumers and home builders continue to pose considerable obstacles on the road to a sustained housing and economic recovery.”



Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 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 sales conditions as good than poor.




The December HMI fell one point to 16, its lowest point since June of this year. Two out of three component indexes also were down, with a one-point decline to 16 registered for current sales conditions and a two-point decline to 26 registered for sales expectations in the next six months. The component gauging traffic of prospective buyers remained unchanged for a third consecutive month, at 13.




Regionally, December’s HMI results were somewhat mixed. The Northeast posted a three-point gain to 23, while the West posted a one-point gain to 19, the South registered no change at 17, and the Midwest posted a two-point decline, to 12.




Fewer Job Losses in November for Nonresidential Construction


In what may be a sign of good news, the nonresidential construction industry lost 600 jobs in November, according to the Dec. 4 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department. Since November of last year, the sector has lost 101,100 jobs or 12.5 percent, and nonresidential construction employment now stands at 705,600.




Heavy and civil engineering construction gained 5,200 jobs in November—the first monthly increase since May 2008. On a year-over-year basis, heavy and civil engineering construction employment is down 109,000 jobs, or 11.6 percent. Meanwhile, nonresidential specialty trade contractors continue to struggle as the sector shed 28,500 jobs for the month and 424,500 jobs, or 17.1 percent, over the past 12 months.




Residential building construction lost 500 jobs in November and has lost 106,200, or 13.6 percent, since the same period one year ago. Total construction employment, which includes both the residential and nonresidential sectors, lost 27,000 jobs for the month and has lost 979,000, or 14.1 percent, since November 2008. This represents the smallest number of construction jobs lost in any given month since November 2007.




The nation’s employment rate in November decreased by only 11,000 jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the previous month’s estimated job losses to 111,000 from the preliminary report of 190,000. Over the past 12 months, total employment in the United States is down by 4,759,000 jobs or 3.5 percent. The nation’s unemployment rate now stands at 10 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October.



“The November jobs report blew away even the most optimistic expectations,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The pace of monthly nonresidential construction job loss over the past 12 months is in excess of 8,400, which is why a loss of only 600 jobs represents good news.



“Overall, job loss in the U.S. has slowed dramatically in recent months, and the markets have responded positively to the unexpectedly good news,” Basu said. “Construction participated more than fully in the improvement and the industry will enter 2010 with momentum.



“However, nonresidential specialty trade contractors are feeling the pain. Today’s numbers leave commercial construction contractors with little to celebrate.



“It is important to remember that economic conditions remain far from perfect from the perspective of the sustainability of expansion. The stabilization of the labor market appears largely related to the impact of federal spending in the economy, which helps explain the improved performance of heavy and civil engineering and residential building construction, the latter of which continues to benefit from available tax credits,” Basu said.



“But, the impact of stimulus dollars is not eternal. Stimulus packages are intended to be temporary fixes, and this one is no exception,” Basu said. “While the next several months are shaping up to be a time of improvement for the U.S. economy and for the nonresidential construction industry, how lengthy the recovery will be remains in doubt.”




ABC Construction Backlog Indicator Up 3.2 Percent


Associated Builders and Contractors reported Nov. 16 that the nation’s Construction Backlog Indicator reached 5.9 months in September 2009, 3.2 percent higher than in August. CBI is a forward-looking measurement of the amount of construction work currently contracted to be completed in the future.



“While the CBI edged higher in September, backlog generally remains uncomfortably small, particularly for firms in the heavy industrial category. With the exception of firms operating in the infrastructure category, overall backlog remains weak,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.



“As with data collected in recent months, September’s figures continue to reflect the impact of the stimulus package signed into law in February. It is expected that the peak of infrastructure-related stimulus spending will occur sometime during the first half of 2010,” said Basu. “Although backlog within the infrastructure category remains elevated, it is no longer rising, which indicates the likelihood that infrastructure-related spending will slow once the stimulus funds have been exhausted. However, a timely new surface transportation bill could alter that expectation.”



ABC’s CBI is an economic indicator focused on the U.S. commercial, institutional, industrial and infrastructure construction industries at this level of detail. The indicator is published bimonthly and data are collected from ABC members on an ongoing basis.



Regionally, the average backlog for September rose in all regions with the exception of the South, where CBI fell slightly by 0.05 months from August to 5.76 months, or roughly 0.9 percent. The West had the largest monthly backlog increase from August to September, up 0.5 months to 6.3 months, or a healthy 8.1 percent. The backlog for the Northeast region rose 6.2 months in September, up 7.3 percent from August. The Middle States registered a modest increase in September of 0.2 months in backlog, or 3.5 percent.



“Although the Middle States category includes economically beleaguered states such as Michigan and Ohio, there is also a group of states that continues to enjoy low unemployment rates and more stable construction activity, including Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, among others,” Basu said. “Despite recent backlog stability, the Middle States continue to report the lowest backlog, followed by the South, which is home to several states that have been among the most dramatically impacted by the broad economic downturn that began in late 2007, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.”



The heavy industrial category is now associated with the shortest backlog. In September, heavy industrial backlog was down to just 4.5 months. This compares to 6.5 months registered in November 2008.



Although the infrastructure category continues to enjoy the lengthiest backlog at 9 months, backlog has now declined for two consecutive months.



Commercial and institutional sectors saw a modest increase as backlog went from 5.35 months in August to 5.58 months in September.



“Privately financed construction continues to be weak, which is reflected in still stagnant backlog within the commercial and institutional, and heavy industrial categories. In terms of heavy industrial, never has backlog been this low for any given month for any industry category,” said Basu. “Despite the length of infrastructure backlog, the steady decrease in this category is worrisome and may be a reflection of the post-stimulus decline in infrastructure spending due to tight private credit.”



Companies with less than $30 million in revenue saw their respective backlogs increase 1.8 percent from August to September to 5.2 months. Backlog for companies with annual revenues of $30 million to $50 million rose even more sharply to 5.3 months, a gain of 13.2 percent. Backlog also rose among companies with $75 million to $100 million in annual revenues. Companies with annual revenues exceeding $100 million continue to experience declining backlog. In September, backlog fell 8.2 percent from August to 6.6 months.



“As was the case during the summer months, momentum appears to be building among smaller firms as activity from larger firms spills over to them. This is a predictable aspect of economic stimulus and has become increasingly apparent in the data,” Basu said. “The sweet spot appears to be in the $50 million to $75 million annual revenue category. The backlog for that group remains around 8 months, the lengthiest backlog among all size categories ABC monitors.”



Price of Construction Materials Rises in November


The price of construction materials and supplies rose 0.6 percent in November, the first increase in two months, according to the producer price index report by the U.S. Labor Department. However, the overall price of construction materials remains 2.3 percent below levels from one year ago.



Nonferrous wire and cable prices were up 1.6 percent last month and are up 12.4 percent from a year ago. Prices of fabricated ferrous wire products are down 12.5 percent on a year-over-year basis. Prices for fabricated structural metal products fell 0.4 percent in November and are down 8.8 percent over the past 12 months.



Softwood lumber prices increased by 1.9 percent last month, but are still down 1.6 percent on an annual basis. Prices of plumbing fixtures and fittings were unchanged last month and are just 0.5 percent higher than they were in November 2008. Prices of asphalt felts and coatings fell 2.5 percent last month and are down 7.4 percent from a year ago.



The jump in energy prices drove the wholesale level higher. The price of natural gas went up 25.5 percent in November, though that price is still 16.3 percent lower on a year-over-year basis. Gasoline prices shot up 14.2 percent in November 2009 and are 35.9 higher compared to November 2008. Crude energy prices went up by 12.2 percent and are up 8.4 percent from November 2008.



Overall, the nation’s wholesale prices rose 1.8 percent on a monthly basis and are up 2.4 percent on a year-over-year basis.



“Increasingly, the producer price index for construction industries has come to reflect the growing economic recovery that has been in place since late summer 2009,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Prices are now rising in general, a reflection of higher asset prices across the world, as well as the demand for materials in stimulus-impacted construction segments in the U.S. and in other nations, including China, India and Brazil.



“To date, increases in construction materials prices have been benign and have not created the chaos in bidding that occurred earlier in the decade when prices were far more volatile, making it difficult to establish firm bids for lengthy construction projects,” said Basu. “However, many industry stakeholders had been hoping that construction materials prices would continue to decline on a monthly basis. That did not occur in November.



“Lower prices would induce more construction projects to move forward, thereby accelerating the recovery of the nonresidential construction sector. Unfortunately, rising materials prices are likely to delay the segment’s ultimate recovery,” Basu said.



October Construction Jumps 12 Percent


The value of new construction starts climbed 12 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $447.6 billion, reports McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. The upward push came from double-digit gains for nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction. At the same time, residential building in October was unchanged from its September pace. Through the first ten months of 2009, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $350.1 billion, down 29 percent from the same period a year ago.



The October statistics lifted the Dodge Index to 95 (2000=100), up from 84 in September, and the highest level so far in 2009. The Dodge Index had fallen to 80 in February 2009, and since then has registered improvement, although the October reading was still 19 percent below the full year 2008 average for the Index at 117.



“After bottoming out in early 2009, there’s been an up-and-down pattern for construction starts, with a gradual upward trend beginning to emerge,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “Single family housing is no longer pulling down the overall level of construction activity, and transportation-related public works has strengthened, helped by the federal stimulus funding. For nonresidential building, much of 2009 has been characterized by a steep loss of momentum, so October’s gain represents a departure from recent experience. It suggests that nonresidential building is beginning to make the transition from steady decline to a more varied pattern, which signifies the trend is shifting to a slower rate of descent going into 2010. On a cautionary note, the nonresidential building market is still looking at several major constraints going forward—rising vacancies, tight bank lending standards and the weakened fiscal health of state and local governments.”



Nonresidential building in October climbed 19 percent to $177.9 billion (annual rate), with stronger rates of contracting being reported for many structure types following a weak September. On the institutional side, the educational building category grew 5 percent, helped by groundbreaking for two large high schools located in Ohio ($104 million) and Massachusetts ($98 million), as well as a large university biotech research building in Colorado ($98 million). Healthcare facilities also showed moderate growth from the prior month, rising 6 percent, lifted by the start of a $300 million hospital tower in Orange County, California. For the smaller institutional categories, amusement-related projects soared 93 percent in October, reflecting the $458 million expansion and renovation of the Javits Convention Center in New York, N.Y. The public buildings category advanced 56 percent, due largely to the start of the $325 million U.S. courthouse in San Diego, a project funded by the federal stimulus bill. Dormitory construction increased 53 percent, helped by the start of a $93 million military housing complex in Fort Lee, Va., and a $75 million college dormitory project in Binghamton, N.Y. Transportation terminal work rose 7 percent, with much of the boost coming from the start of a $90 million project to upgrade five subway stations in the Bronx, N.Y. Of the institutional categories, only church construction posted a decline in October, sliding 9 percent.



For commercial building in October, office construction climbed 24 percent after a very weak September, as several large office projects reached groundbreaking. These included a $367 million corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, a $252 million data center and office complex in Olympia, Wash., and the $123 million renovation to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. Hotel construction jumped 101 percent in October, led by the start of the $303 million Dallas Convention Center Hotel in Dallas. Store construction edged up 4 percent in October, but warehouses showed further weakness, dropping 19 percent. The manufacturing buildings category in October improved 5 percent on top of its elevated September amount, with the lift provided by a $1.1 billion oil refinery expansion in Illinois.



Residential building, at $127.8 billion (annual rate) in October, was essentially unchanged from the prior month. Single-family housing slipped back 2 percent, marking the first decline after six straight months of gains. By region, single-family housing showed diminished activity in the South Atlantic (down 7 percent), the Northeast (down 2 percent) and the South Central (down 1 percent), while the Midwest and West were unchanged. October’s pace for single-family housing, while 49 percent above the extremely depressed amount reported at the start of 2009, was still 11 percent below the monthly average for full year 2008. Multifamily housing in October advanced 20 percent from a very weak September, with October boosted by such projects as an $80 million senior housing development in Chicago, a $63 million apartment building in New York, N.Y, and a $59 million retirement community in Ft. Worth, Texas.



During the first 10 months of 2009, the 29 percent drop for total construction compared to 2008 was due to weaker activity for all three major construction sectors. Residential building continued to show the largest year-to-date decline, falling 36 percent, with single family down 28 percent while multifamily plunged 60 percent.



Nonresidential building was not far behind with a 34 percent reduction, as the result of this year-to-date performance by segment: commercial, down 50 percent; manufacturing, down 67 percent; and institutional, down 16 percent.



Nonbuilding construction in the first 10 months of 2009 retreated 14 percent, with public works slipping 4 percent while electric utilities plummeted 51 percent.



By geography, total construction in the first 10 months of 2009 showed similar weakness across the major U.S. regions: the Midwest and West, each down 28 percent; the South Central, down 29 percent; and the South Atlantic and Northeast, each down 31 percent.



Housing Starts Decline in October
Nationwide housing production fell 10.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 units in October as builders awaited word on whether an important home buyer incentive would be extended, according to data released Nov. 18 by the U.S. Commerce Department.



“As of October, the deadline for starting a home that could be completed in time for purchasers to take advantage of the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit had come and gone, and builders had no clear sign of whether Congress would extend the credit beyond the end of November,” explained Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. “However, now that Congress has wisely moved to extend the tax credit into next year and expand its eligibility to more buyers, we hope and expect that this will have a substantial stimulative effect on home sales and help keep the housing market solidly on the road to recovery.”



“Builders were clearly in a holding pattern in October as the future of the home buyer tax credit hung in the balance,” agreed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “This is not surprising, given the fact that the tax credit had been the primary driver of construction and sales in the summer and early fall. However, the fact that permits for single-family construction remained roughly unchanged in the month is an indication that builders are preparing for the possibility of more favorable housing market conditions in the future. That said, significant challenges continue to confront builders with regard to obtaining financing for viable projects and appropriate appraisal values on newly built homes.”



Single-family housing starts declined 6.8 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 476,000 units, the slowest pace since May of this year. Meanwhile, multifamily housing starts fell by a dramatic 34.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just 53,000 units—the slowest pace on record.



Combined starts activity fell across the board in October, with the Northeast posting an 18.8 percent decline, the Midwest a 10.6 percent decline, the South a 9.6 percent decline and the West an 8.5 percent decline, respectively.



Permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, fell 4 percent overall in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 552,000 units, due primarily to a double-digit drop-off on the multifamily side. While single-family permits held virtually flat at 451,000 units, multifamily permits were down nearly 18 percent to 101,000 units.



Regionally, permit activity was mixed, with the Northeast posting no change for the month, the Midwest registering a 2 percent gain, the South posting a 5.8 percent decline and the West posting a 6.7 percent decline, respectively.



Architecture Billings Index Delivers Good News


The Architecture Billings Index, a monthly business indicator produced by the American Institute of Architects, Washington, reached its highest mark since August 2008 in October, just before the serious credit problems emerged in the U.S. economy. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The October ABI rating was 46.1, up sharply from 43.1 in September. This score, however, indicates a continued decline in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new-projects inquiry score was 58.5, following the 59.1 mark in September.



“This news could prove to be an early signal toward a recovery for the design and construction industry,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. “On the other hand, because we continue to get reports of architecture firms struggling in a competitive marketplace with a continued decline in commercial property values, it is far too early to think we are out of the woods.”



By region, here are the averages: South, 46.1; Northeast, 44.3; Midwest, 43.0; West, 42.8. Ad here is the breakdown by sector: institutional, 48.7; multifamily residential, 45.4; commercial/industrial, 41.7; mixed practice, 39.1.



ASA Applauds Obama Administration for Including Business-Friendly Tax Reforms and Infrastructure Investment in Jobs Recovery Plan
The American Subcontractors Association, Alexandria, Va., applauded President Obama for including several priority programs recommended by ASA in the administration’s job recovery plan announced on Dec. 8, 2009.



“ASA knows that there are limits to what government can and should do in these difficult economic times,” said ASA Executive President E. Colette Nelson. “ASA applauds President Obama for including in the jobs recovery plan responsible steps that will help speed the recovery of the construction industry, which has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past two years. A healthy construction industry is critical to the nation’s economic recovery.”



ASA delivered a letter to the White House on Dec. 2, the day before the national jobs summit, urging the administration to help rejuvenate commercial construction markets with policies that will “responsibly encourage and accelerate the creation of jobs in the construction industry.” ASA’s recommendations included the following:



Make permanent small business expensing. While short of ASA’s goal of permanent, heightened small business expensing, the president’s proposal to extend this tax deduction would allow subcontractors to immediately write off up to $250,000 of qualified investments such as construction equipment, through 2010.



Extend bonus deprecation through 2011. The president called for an extension of this tax provision that accelerates the rate at which businesses can deduct the cost of capital expenditures such as leasehold improvements. ASA urged an extension of this program through 2011.



Increase infrastructure investment. The president proposed new investments in infrastructure projects that include water, aviation, highway, transit and rail. ASA also recommended investments to expedite the repair and maintenance of federal government buildings.



Increase energy-efficiency tax deduction. The president supports expanding the tax incentives for investing in renewable manufacturing facilities. ASA also recommended an increase from $1.80 to $3 per square foot in the current tax deduction for installing energy-efficient systems in commercial buildings.



Extend the term asset backed securities loan facility program. The president called for “continued Treasury efforts to use the Troubled Asset Relief Program to support small business lending.” Extending TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility) would provide financing to encourage investors to re-enter the commercial construction market.



As Congress debates the president’s jobs recovery plan, ASA will urge legislators to adopt these and other reforms recommended by ASA, such as making permanent the federal Build America Bonds program and the Qualified School Construction Bonds program.



U.S. Department of Labor Unveils New “Open Government” Efforts
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Dec. 15 a broad array of efforts designed to improve the public’s accessibility to its agencies and ensure the department can function more effectively. The work is part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to improved accountability, transparency and service to the American public.



“True progress is not something that happens to people. It happens because of them. And, it all begins with information that can be shared in a timely and effective manner,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “People deserve to know what their government is doing on their behalf, and what they can do to participate actively in that work. I am proud of the steps we are taking to make that possible, and I look forward to broadening our efforts further.”



Previously, only the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration posted worker fatality data on its Web site. Now, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also systematically publishing employer-specific information about occupational fatalities online and making these data available for easy download. Comprehensive, weekly reports on this topic are now available at www.osha.gov/dep/fatcat/dep_fatcat.html. Employers with reported fatalities will have an incentive to take steps to improve safety and prevent future accidents. In addition, responsible employers will be able to use the database to identify dangerous conditions and take precautions.



Other agencies at the department are also making additional information available to the public. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is contributing a vast array of new information to www.data.gov, enhancing its searchable databases. The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, meanwhile, recently launched a Web-based competition at www.dol.gov/challenge. It enlists entrepreneurs and technology firms, workforce professionals and the public to help identify the best online tools to enable America’s job seekers to quickly and easily connect with jobs.



The department’s commitment to enhance participation also extends to the regulatory arena. On Dec. 7, the department rolled out its regulatory agenda entirely online. All of the information, including more than eight hours of Web chats with the secretary of labor and other Department of Labor officials, can be viewed at www.dol.gov/regulations. The Web page also contains links to resources and testimonials, and it even helps visitors submit comments to specific regulations.



People & Companies in the News


To expand their services to the burgeoning Canadian market, the ALL Family of Companies announces the expansion of ALL Canada Cranes & Aerials with the addition of two new facilities—one in Newfoundland and Labrador and a second location in Ontario.



ALL Canada Cranes & Aerials consists of the ALL Canada Crane Rental Corp. and ALL Aerials Ltd. The two companies operate independently under one roof, currently headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, with each having its own staff and fleet of equipment. The new branches will operate the same way and will be located in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Sudbury, Ontario.



Jeff Boscamp, former owner, estimator and director of field operations of Palo Verde Drywall Inc., and Steve Brown, president and CEO of the Gypsum Drywall group of companies, have partnered to form Frontier Drywall in Chandler, Ariz. Joining Frontier Drywall as the director of field operations is Bill Shaffstall, Vince Boscamp as field superintendent and Michelle Boscamp as office manager.



The Green Glue Company, Granville, N.Y., has entered into an agreement with CertainTeed Gypsum to become the exclusive sales representative to independent professional channels in the United States for Green Glue noiseproofing products.



For the fifth straight year, the corporate research team at Selling Power magazine identified Hilti as one of the best manufacturing companies to sell for. Hilti, located in Tulsa, Okla., finished eighth—just two points away from first place—in the magazine’s annual “50 Best Companies to Sell For,” a comparison and evaluation of the largest U.S. sales forces.



Products in the News


ICC Evaluation Services (ICC-ES) has issued an evaluation report confirming an engineered header system meets the requirements of the 2006 International Building Code (IBC) and 2007 California Building Code. The recently issued ICC-ES Evaluation Report ESR-1765 applies to the Pro X Header by Brady Construction Innovations, Los Angeles.



ParexLahabra, Anaheim, Calif., has a new look and branding strategy for Merkrete, which provides waterproofing for ceramic tile and stone installation systems. As part of its new identity initiative a new logo was created to reflect their re-tooled business strategy. The new Merkrete strives to be a forward-looking, progressive, dynamic, evolving and proactive brand.



New on the ‘Net


Hilti’s newly renovated Hilti Online features a fresh, user-friendly design, bringing modern, faster and easier online shopping to construction professionals. Following nearly two years of development, with input from 20,000 customers worldwide, the new Hilti Online went live for the Hilti US (www.us.hilti.com) and Canada (www.ca.hilti.com) markets on Dec. 14, 2009.



The new Hilti Online will continue to roll out to all Hilti market organizations worldwide, with a completion date of April 2010.



ParexLahabra, Anaheim, Calif., launched of the new Parex.com Web site on Dec. 15.



The new Web site features expanded content, incorporates colors and graphics and completely new navigational tools. The redesigned site aims to provide users with a clean uncluttered environment allowing users quicker access to the key information they seek.

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The Dodge Momentum Index, issued by Dodge Construction Network, rose 3% in December to 186.6 (2000=100) from the revised November reading of 181.5. Over the month, commercial planning grew 1.0%

The construction sector added 17,000 employees in December and continued to raise wages at a faster clip than other industries, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis