Posted by: nedpelger | April 3, 2010

Construction Industry Updates

I found a few tidbits in this week’s ENR that I thought you might enjoy.

You are probably sick of reading about the new health care law, regardless of which side you’re on. Did you know that the construction industry has a special status in the new law? For every company in America, except construction companies, 50 full time workers tips the firm into the requirement to provide health care to employees. The law currently states that construction companies must provide health care with 5 employees or $250,000 in payroll. The penalty is $750 per employee per year.

Supposedly, the Reconciliation package will eliminate this special treatment of the construction industry. As you’d expect, vocal proponents are politicking on either side of the issue. Construction business groups wonder about the hardest hit industry of the Great Recession taking another shot. Union leaders want the 5 employee rule to stand.

The unemployment rate in construction dropped from 27% to 25%, which I guess is good news. Though an industry with a 1 out of 4 people out of work really can’t celebrate. Firms I’m talking with are starting to see some work moving in mid-2010, though most don’t see much improvement till 2011. The forecast seems to vary widely depending on the types of buildings.

Most of my work seems to be designing and constructing apartment buildings, churches and solar farms. A decade or two ago, it was factories and office buildings. I’m not sure what that says about America, but I’m thinking it isn’t so good.

Something that is good, though, is the cover story in ENR about an innovative apartment building now being constructed in Manhattan. Designed by architect Frank Gehry (think the curvy metal of the Disney Theater in LA or the Guggenheim Museum in Spain), this 70 story building is on time and budget. Nadine Post writes yet another wonderful article outlining how the various players work together to design and build this complex project. She also makes the astute observation that the cooperative design-build team kept much of the project simple (to control cost) and only added the curves and complexity where it showed.

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