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Proposed New ASTM Standard Provides Test for Analysis of Strontium in Gypsum

Several years ago, a housing boom followed by recovery from damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and other storms created a surge in the use of imported drywall in the United States, particularly in the Southeast area of the country. However, since then, there have been a number of complaints concerning corrosion and odors in homes in which some of this drywall was used.

Interim guidance offered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that the analysis of strontium in drywall core can be corroborating evidence in identifying affected drywall board in homes. A proposed new ASTM standard, ASTM WK28941, Test Method for Determination of Strontium Concentration in Gypsum by Field Portable X-Ray Fluorescence, focuses on a means of testing strontium in wallboard. ASTM WK28941 is being developed by Subcommittee C11.01 on Specifications and Test Methods for Gypsum Products, part of ASTM International Committee C11 on Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems.

According to Matthew Kreiner, senior applications engineer, Oxford Instruments, and a C11 member, primary users of the proposed new standard are certified home inspectors and the homeowners, insurance companies and municipalities that hire home inspectors to perform these tests.

ASTM International welcomes and encourages participation in the development of its standards. For more information on becoming an ASTM member, visit

IRS Releases Form for Claiming New Health Care Tax Credit

On Sept. 7, the Internal Revenue Service released a draft version of the form that small businesses and tax-exempt organizations will use to calculate the small business health care tax credit when they file income tax returns next year.

The IRS has posted a draft of Form 8941 on Small businesses will use the form to calculate the credit and then include the amount of the credit as part of the general business credit on its income tax return.

The final version of Form 8941 and its instructions will be available later this year. The small business health care tax credit was included in the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in March and is effective this year. The credit is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

In 2010, the credit is generally available to small employers that contribute an amount equivalent to at least half the cost of single coverage toward buying health insurance for their employees. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses that primarily employ moderate- and lower-income workers.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers. Beginning in 2014, the maximum tax credit will go up to 50 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers for two years. The maximum credit goes to smaller employers––those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees––paying annual average wages of $25,000 or less.

The credit is completely phased out for employers that have 25 FTEs or more or that pay average wages of $50,000 per year or more. Because the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs and not simply the number of employees, businesses that use part-time help may qualify even if they employ more than 25 individuals.

More information about the credit, including a step-by-step guide and answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the Affordable Care Act page on

IGCC Public Hearings Produce Landmark Results

The International Code Council IGCC Public Hearing Committee took action on more than 1,500 comments and nearly 120 hours of testimony on Public Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code during eight days of public hearings in Chicago this summer. The outcome of the hearings will result in Public Version 2.0 of the International Green Construction Code, scheduled for release next month.

Coordinated with the ICC family of codes, the IGCC is designed to go beyond traditional cCode requirements for those communities who are aggressively pursuing a sustainable goal.

The most significant revision made by the committee occurred in the area of energy conservation. References to Total Annual Net Energy Use were replaced with a Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI), requiring buildings to use no more than 51 percent of the energy allowable in the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code. In addition, the committee revisited the formula regarding jurisdictional project electives, now requiring jurisdictions to enforce at least one and up to 14 electives, instead of allowing a jurisdiction to opt out of enforcing any project electives by choosing zero.

Of particular interest to the code enforcement community are the provisions addressing commissioning. Appliance information, radon mitigation and documentation requirements, were added to the commissioning provisions to ensure the health and safety of building occupants.

The committee indicated its focus would be on filling technical or inconsistency gaps found in Version 1.0, and to maintain the enforceability of the code for jurisdictions choosing to adopt or adapt the IGCC. Leading up to the November release of Version 2.0, updates on the IGCC will be posted on the code council’s website at

The IGCC development process now moves to two hearings in 2011. Comments will be solicited for the Code Development Hearings in May, to be held in Dallas. The actions at that hearing will form the basis for Final Action Hearings to be held in Phoenix in October 2011. The 2012 Version of the IGCC will be issued in early 2012.

Fatal Occupational Injuries Decline

Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released Aug. 19 show the lowest number of workplace fatalities since the CFOI program was first conducted in 1992. Workers in construction still incurred the most fatal injuries of any industry in the private sector in 2009, with the largest decline in the specialty trade contractor subsector.

Last year’s preliminary count of 4,340 workplace fatalities is down from the final count of 5,214 in 2008. Economic factors played a major role in this decrease. Total hours worked fell by 6 percent in 2009 following a 1 percent decline in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries, such as construction, experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked.

While workers in construction incurred the most fatal injuries of any industry in the private sector in 2009, the number of fatalities in construction declined 16 percent in 2009 after a decline of 19 percent in 2008. With this decrease, private construction fatalities are down by more than a third since reaching a series high in 2006. Economic conditions may explain much of this decline with total hours worked having declined 17 percent in construction in 2009, after a decline of 10 percent the year before. Fatal injuries involving workers in the construction of buildings were down 27 percent from 2008, with most of the decrease occurring in nonresidential building construction (down 44 percent to 55 cases). Heavy and civil engineering construction was down 12 percent, and the subsector with the largest number of fatal work injuries, specialty trade contractors, had 16 percent fewer fatalities in 2009 than in 2008.

Comparing preliminary figures from 2009 and 2008 shows that workplace fatalities among wage and salary workers declined by about 18 percent from last year, while fatal injuries among self-employed workers, who are not covered by OSHA, remained about the same. According to the BLS, the overall fatality rate was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The fatality rate for Hispanic workers remained higher at 3.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2009.

Builder Confidence Declines in August

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes edged down for a third consecutive month in August, according to the Aug. 16 National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The HMI declined one point to 13, its lowest level since March 2009.

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 from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

Two out of three of the HMI’s component indexes fell in August. The component gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 14, while the component gauging sales expectations for the next six months declined three points to 18. The component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 10.

Meanwhile, three out of four regions posted HMI declines in August. A six-point decline to 18 in the Northeast partially offset a big gain in that region in the previous month, while the South and West each posted one-point declines to 13 and 8, respectively. The HMI for the Midwest held even at 15 in August.

Housing Remains Highly Affordable for Sixth Consecutive Quarter

Bolstered by favorable interest rates and low house prices, housing affordability remained near its highest level nationwide for the sixth consecutive month since the series was first compiled nearly two decades ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index released Aug. 19.

The HOI indicated that 72.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the second quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. The index for the second quarter was slightly more affordable than the previous quarter and almost equaled the record-high 72.5 percent set during the first quarter of 2009.

Until 2009, the HOI rarely topped 67 percent and never reached 70 percent.

Syracuse, N.Y., was the most affordable major housing market in the country, edging out Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., which had held the top ranking for nearly five years. In Syracuse, 97.2 percent of all homes sold were affordable to households earning the area’s median family income of $64,300.

Also near the top of the list of the most affordable major metro housing markets were Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Springfield, Ohio, where 96.6 percent of homes sold during the second quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning a median-income of $56,800. Other smaller housing markets near the top of the index included Mansfield, Ohio; Bay City, Mich.; Monroe, Mich.; and Lansing-East Lansing, Mich., respectively.

New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., continued to lead the nation as its least affordable major housing market during the second quarter of 2010. There, 19.9 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to those earning the New York area’s median income of $65,600. This was the ninth consecutive quarter that the New York metropolitan division has occupied this position.

The other major metro areas near the bottom of the affordability scale included San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; and Honolulu, all metro areas that have lingered among the bottom rankings for several quarters.

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the second quarter. Others near the bottom included Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; Ocean City, N.J; Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.; and Napa, Calif.

Visit for tables, historic data and details.

FMI Releases Nonresidential Construction Index for the Third Quarter 2010

At 51.3 for the third quarter of 2010, the NRCI is in growth territory for the second quarter in a row; however, it retreated somewhat from the more positive outlook of 54.5 last quarter, according to FMI Corporation, management consultants and investment bankers to the engineering and construction industry with headquarters in Raleigh, N.C.

States and municipalities are expected to make significant budget cuts due to lower tax revenues next year, and the federal stimulus support for the market will start to wind down over the next year. The concern now is that banks and private investors are sitting back and waiting for stronger signs of economic improvement until they repair their balance sheets.

Although new construction growth is slow to materialize, we asked if owners were showing more interest in improvements and alterations projects. Fifty-nine percent of panelists said owners were increasing their interest in projects for general modernization, energy improvement, green and sustainable upgrades and other projects. This work will not replace new construction business lost in the recession, but will provide new markets for contractors able to focus on this service-oriented work. In fact, we find some strong signs in panelists’ comments this quarter that contractors are becoming more customer-service oriented to assure that they win over new customers and retain current ones.

As the economy continues to look for traction, there is a sense we are facing what everyone is referring to as the “new normal” where slower growth is the norm along with greater uncertainty, especially in global markets.

July Construction Rebounds 7 Percent

The value of new construction starts in July advanced 7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $411.2 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Nonresidential building continued to see improvement after extremely depressed activity earlier in the year.

Nonresidential building continued to see improvement after extremely depressed activity earlier in the year, and nonbuilding construction also bounced back following its June slide. Both sectors in July were lifted by the start of several massive projects. Meanwhile, residential building lost momentum in July, as the housing recovery paused for an additional month. For the January-July period of 2010, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $238.0 billion, down 4 percent compared to a year ago, according to McGraw-Hill.

The July statistics produced a reading of 87 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), up from a revised 81 for June. “The pace of contracting over the past year has essentially stabilized at a low level, and July showed activity moving back up towards the middle of its recent range, following June’s weak performance,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “Nonresidential building seems to be leveling off after the substantial declines witnessed over the past year, and in a few cases projects that were deferred are now reaching groundbreaking. Still, given the negatives of tight bank lending, sluggish employment and the diminished fiscal position of states and localities, a sustained recovery for nonresidential building remains several quarters away, at least. The housing sector right now is in the midst of a pause from the earlier improvement shown during the latter half of 2009 through the first quarter of 2010. In effect, the volume of total construction starts appears to be in the process of ‘turning the corner’ after the steep decline reported in 2009, but the turn is assuming an extended U-shaped pattern,” Murray said.

Nonresidential building in July increased 3 percent to $160.0 billion (annual rate), moving up for the third straight month after very weak activity in April. July’s pace for nonresidential building was still quite low by recent standards—down 4 percent from the monthly average for 2009, as well as down 33 percent from the monthly average for the peak year 2008. Most of the lift to July’s nonresidential total came from the office category, which soared 130 percent as the result of $1.3 billion related to the resumption of work on World Trade Center Tower 3 in lower Manhattan, N.Y. Support for nonresidential building in July also came from a 3 percent gain for healthcare facilities, according to McGraw-Hill.

Most of the other nonresidential structure types showed flat-to-declining activity in July. On the commercial side, July reductions were registered by stores, down 6 percent; warehouses, down 13 percent; and hotels, down 38 percent. On the institutional side, the educational building category was able to hold steady in July. The public buildings category in July slipped 6 percent, while steeper declines were reported for transportation terminals, down 19 percent; and amusement-related work, down 52 percent. The manufacturing plant category in July retreated a moderate 7 percent after a substantial 57 percent increase in June.

Residential building in July dropped 3 percent to $112.9 billion (annual rate), settling back for the fourth month in a row. This sector had shown steady improvement from April 2009 through March 2010, but since then it has fallen 20 percent. Single-family housing in July slipped 2 percent, a smaller decline than reported in the previous three months. Murray noted, “The recent loss of momentum for single-family housing may be nearing its end. While homebuilding is still being adversely affected by the expiration of the homebuyer tax credits, combined with homebuyer uncertainty as the result of the fragile economy, very low mortgage rates should soon lead to a pickup in homebuyer demand.”

During the first seven months of 2010, single-family housing in dollar terms maintained a 19 percent lead over 2009, as the result of this behavior by major region: the South Atlantic, up 24 percent; the Northeast, up 23 percent; the Midwest, up 21 percent; the West, up 19 percent; and the South Central, up 13 percent. Multifamily housing in July dropped 8 percent, continuing to slip back after the improvement shown earlier in 2010, McGraw-Hill reported.

The 4 percent decline for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis during the first seven months of 2010 was due to a mixed performance by sector. Nonresidential building fell 14 percent year-to-date, as the result of this pattern by segment: commercial building, down 23 percent; manufacturing building, down 43 percent; and institutional building, down 8 percent. Residential building was the one major sector able to show year-to-date growth, rising 15 percent.

By geography, total construction starts during the first seven months of 2010 compared to last year were reported as follows: the Northeast, up 8 percent; the South Central, down 1 percent; the Midwest, down 5 percent; the South Atlantic, down 6 percent; and the West, down 13 percent.

ASA Certificate Recognizes Construction Subcontractors’ and Suppliers’ Commitment to Ethical Business Practices

Since 2008, the American Subcontractors Association, Alexandria, Va., has recognized an elite group of eight construction firms with the ASA Excellence in Ethics Certificate. Through Dec. 17, 2010, construction subcontractors and suppliers seeking to join this select group by demonstrating their commitment to ethical business practices may submit entries for ASA’s 2010 Excellence in Ethics Certificate.

The ASA Excellence in Ethics Certificate recognizes ethical and equitable business practices as described in industry-endorsed documents, such as the ASA Model Code of Ethics for a Construction Subcontractor and the Guidelines for a Successful Construction Project, jointly developed and published by ASA, the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Specialty Contractors.

Successful entries must provide documentation of corporate ethics policies and procedures, construction business practices, and general business practices. Entries must also include sealed letters from a customer, a competitor and a supplier attesting to the applicants’ ethical business practices.

A complete description of the evaluative criteria, submission requirements, and the official entry form are available on the ASA website ( under “Education and Events.”

ASA will recognize certificate recipients in its national membership newsletter and at a ceremony during the ASA Business Forum and Convention 2011, March 3–5, in Naples, Fla. ASA will also provide certificate recipients with resources to help them publicize their accomplishment in their local communities.

AISI Seeks New Members for Its Seismic Design Subcommittee

The American Iron and Steel Institute, Washington, D.C., is seeking experts on seismic design and the analysis of cold-formed steel structural systems to participate on its Seismic Design Subcommittee. Formed in 1995, the Subcommittee was responsible for developing and publishing the first edition of AISI S110, Standard for Seismic Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structural Systems—Special Bolted Moment Frames, in 2008.

The standard addresses the design and construction of cold-formed steel seismic force-resisting systems in buildings and other structures, with a focus on the special bolted moment frame system. Cold-formed steel special bolted moment frames have been widely used in industrial platforms, but the system is suitable for a broad range of construction applications.

New Seismic Design Subcommittee members will be expected to provide input on expanding the standard to address 1) the fundamental behavior of cold-formed steel structures under seismic loads and 2) specific seismic applications of cold-formed steel structures. Seismic Design Subcommittee participation is voluntary, with meetings usually held twice a year.

For more information, contact Helen Chen, Ph.D., P.E., AISI’s manager of construction standards development, at

People in the News

Krista Gesaman, Esq. has joined the EIFS Industry Members Association, Falls Church, Va., as the manager of public affairs. In this position, she will be directing communications and advocacy efforts in Washington for EIMA.

Gesaman previously worked as an attorney for Verizon, and also covered legal news for Newsweek.

Corey Talbot has been tapped to head the marketing department at Hyde Tools, Inc., Southbridge, Mass. As vice president of marketing, he will direct all marketing operations, brand vision and management, as well as advertising and communications. He will also oversee channel sales support and the Hyde Tools customer service department.

Previously director of new product development, Talbot will also continue to drive Hyde’s product innovation.

Elvir Kolak has been named president for United States and Canada operations for Moisture Control Services, a division of Munters AB, to provide overall responsibility for the leadership of the division and its more than 200 employees. MCS’ global division offers services for water and fire damage restoration and remediation, and for temporary climate control in construction, industrial, surface preparation and coating, and preservation applications.

Kolak’s duties will include directing financial performance, operations, sales and marketing, and people management and development. He will be based in Amesbury, Mass., one of Munters’ U.S. corporate offices.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Granville, N.Y., has appointed Cassandra Rhodes to the position of inside sales and service representative, acoustics for the company’s Green Glue Noiseproofing technologies.

Rhodes will be responsible for streamlining customer service initiatives to support Green Glue’s client base. In this position, she will develop a prompt and informative resource center for customer inquiries.

Prior to joining Acoustics, Rhodes was a part of SGPPL’s customer service organization since 2008.

Companies in the News

Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa., has named Winroc/SPI a Certified Ceiling Recycling Program Partner. As a result of its designation as a Certified Program Partner, the firm is now part of a network of distributors and contractors specially trained in implementing the Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program.

Winroc/SPI will facilitate recycling at its 16 ceiling recycling centers across the United States. These locations can also consolidate smaller loads for recycling.

The wall systems business of BASF Corporation, Jacksonville, Fla., and SPEC MIX®, Inc., specializing in factory pre-blended construction products and silo material delivery systems, announced a unique joint marketing agreement on Sept. 10. The program enables contractors to combine BASF’s stucco finishes, water-resistive barriers, reinforcing base coats and PermaLath 1000 fiberglass lath with computer-batched SPEC MIX Fiber Base Coat stucco in systems that are covered by a single source warranty.

BASF will issue warranties for SPEC MIX FBC projects that include key BASF Wall Systems components. The durations of the single source warranties range up to 15 years, depending on the system configuration.

For additional information, visit or call your local distributor.

The Construction Specifications Institute has joined 27 other construction industry associations in support of the ConsensusDOCS Coalition’s mission—to create fair and balanced construction contracts.

Grabber Construction Products has acquired the fasteners division of Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company. Products from HS Fasteners are now sold through Grabber’s international distribution system expanding its services and products to customers in the Carolinas and surrounding areas.

The Green Building Certification Institute, Washington, D.C., has awarded the LEED Green Associate credential to more than 10,000 individuals as of mid-August.

The credential, which was introduced to the market just last year, has secured its status as the preeminent designation for professionals who support the green building industry.

For more information on how to take the LEED Green Associate exam, please visit

Superior Walls® of East Tennessee has expanded its product coverage availability areas into Western Kentucky and central Tennessee. The company now offers its precast concrete panels in 138 counties throughout Tennessee, Northern Alabama, Western Kentucky and Northwest Georgia.

Sto Corp., Atlanta, will soon begin operations in Santiago, Chile.

Sto Corp. has been working in partnership with a group in Santiago since 2006 and has now completed an acquisition of manufacturing and marketing aspects to this growing market. Its target markets for this operation will include both commercial and residential as well as exporting to other Latin American countries.

The operations will manufacture wet materials on-site along with stocking meshes and other materials needed to supply multiple markets.

Products in the News

The ICC Evaluation Service has issued Henry Company an evaluation report (ESR 3024), providing evidence that Henry’s Permax® RT-2045 Series Resins, used in the manufacturing of Permax® 2.0 and 1.8 Sprayed Polyurethane Foam, meet code requirements.

CertainTeed Corporation, Valley Forge, Pa., has received an evaluation report from ICC Evaluation Services, Inc. confirming that T-Roc™ Thermal Laminate Foundation Insulation System is building code compliant. T-Roc enables building professionals to bypass several costly, time-intensive tasks involved with turning foundations into finished walls in a livable basement space.

New on the ‘Net

BASF’s new website for its Neopor® expandable polystyrene is a forward-looking solution to improve insulation in newly built and renovated buildings. The result is a more robust Internet resource that makes it easier for customers to learn about Neopor’s ability to improve a building’s insulation performance.

The new website,, has been especially designed for the North American market.

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