Category Archives: construction

AR and VR Ready to Make an Impact on Construction Industry

As we head into the 2019, a few technologies are primed to change the way we work.

The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)—known together as mixed reality—is still in its relative infancy in construction, but the impact the technologies could have on the industry is far-reaching. AR is the changing of someone’s world around them whereas VR immerses people in a completely different world. Both have useful applications in construction.

According to Code Brew Labs, using the technology that allows architects, engineers, project managers, and construction workers to visualize projects in 3D, “see through walls” and virtually walk through buildings before they are built can not only lead to more sustainable building but also improve safety and training, detect critical design errors and optimize costs. Read the full story to learn more.

Okappy.com adds that AR and VR can also enhance collaboration and Construction Dive included mixed reality on its list of The 7 Most Striking Construction Technology Innovations of 2018.

Economy Brings More Construction Work, Industry Struggles to Find Workers

A strong economy is giving the construction industry so much work it’s having trouble finding enough workers. According to an article on CNBC.com, a boost in spending from consumers and businesses who have more cash on hand for expansions and improvements is exacerbating the industry’s growing inability to fill jobs.

 

In New York City, the coming of Amazon is pushing the industry even harder to fill the existing vacancies, says Bisnow.com. But the Amazon to Long Island City issue is not an isolated case created by the corporate giant.

The Associated General Contractors of America 2018 Workforce Survey revealed that 79 percent of New York firms reported having difficulty finding hourly workers. As part of its recommendations to reduce the labor shortage the AGC of NY suggested that educational reform is part of the process. That includes a proposal to expand federal work-study programs and apprenticeship opportunities, as well as better educate students about employment outcomes, according to a story in the Albany Times Union.

The story continued: The report noted immigration reform as a key issue. With millions of undocumented, able-bodied immigrants who can’t legally work, the AGC says a visa program would alleviate the labor shortage and recommended expanding seasonal worker visas, as well as market-based visas to mitigate the current and future worker shortages.

Amazon’s HQ2 Could Mean Construction Boom in Long Island City

When Amazon announced it chose Long Island City as one of its two, new HQ2 locations, New York officials emphasized the new construction projects and infrastructure improvements that will come with Jeff Bezos’ multi-billion dollar company. According to the press release from NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the pending projects include:

  • Four million square feet of commercial space on Long Island City’s waterfront over the next 10 years, with expansion opportunities for up to eight million square feet over the next 15 years.
  • A 10,000 square-foot on site employment center
  • A new approximately 600-seat intermediate public school
  • A 3.5-acre waterfront esplanade and park

The construction is expected to create an average of 1300 direct construction jobs annually through 2033, according to city officials. Read the complete press release here.

According to Curbed New York, to fund local infrastructure—streets, sidewalks, open space, etc.—Amazon will utilize the city’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program, estimated to be $600 to $650 million over four decades. The details of how those funds will be allocated will be decided upon via community engagement, the ny.curbed.com article said.

Phelps Construction Group Named GC of the Year by NJ Subcontractors Association

Congratulations to CIS client Phelps Construction Group. The Boonton-based company was named General Contractor of the Year by the New Jersey Subcontractors Association.

“Could not be prouder of our team,” Phelps Construction Group president Douglas Phelps wrote on LinkedIn after celebrating the award at a dinner at The Brownstone in Paterson, NJ.

It has been a big year for the company, which has gotten the most attention for its Statue of Liberty Museum project. The 26,000-square-foot museum, which is scheduled to open in May, is being built with its first floor about the 500-year flood level and to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds. It will also house the original Statue of Liberty torch. Phelps Construction Group is moving from its current location in the Statue’s base to the new museum today November 15. The museum website plans to show the torch journey across Liberty Island on top of a remote-controlled transporter.

But the company has been busy beyond Liberty Island, too. It’s 74,000-square-foot NYSCO warehouse in Hawthorne, NY, won an Award of Merit from the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association.

They have been busy with the 132,000 square foot Subaru Distribution Center in Orangeburg, NY, a project that will also include part of the current 150,000-square-foot warehouse being converted into a training center. It aims to complete this project in the first quarter of 2019.

There was also Hanover Crossroads in Cedar Knolls, NJ, and the recently opened the 4,500-square-foot community home, The Smile of Hopatcong in Hopatcong, NJ. And now the company will be working on a new “marquee premium club” at the Prudential Center in Newark. “The Lofts” will be a 14,560-square-foot space with vaulted 30-foot ceilings.

TAP Grants Offer Bike and Pedestrian Projects Throughout NJ

New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has received a record $23 million in federal funding in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grants for local and regional bicycle and pedestrian projects.

The complete list of projects spans the entire state. The largest grant—nearly $8.5 million–went to the Delaware River Heritage Trail for a Route 130 Bypass from Fieldsboro to Florence in Burlington County.

There were 18 projects totaling $18.6 million in TAP grants, and 14 Safe Routes to School grants of $2.3 million. An additional $2.2 million was authorized for Safe Routes to School work administered by Transportation Management Associations (TMAs).

According to the state press release, the TAP program funds a variety of projects including:

  • The design and construction of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation
  • Community improvement activities, such as streetscaping and corridor landscaping
  • Construction of scenic turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas

New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition is particularly happy with this TAP funding. According to a blog post by NJBWC executive director Cyndi Steiner, the organization’s advocacy efforts saved the state $12 million and the new routes will make pedestrians safer. Read more of what Steiner had to say and David Hutter’s story on NJBiz.com about the funding, projects and grant solicitations.

 

NY’s MWBE Program Is Problematic, But What Is the Solution?

The current Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) program in New York State isn’t working as it was intended. It has created obstacles and difficulties for both general contractors and MWBEs. Proponents and critics can often agree on that. There is debate, however, about which part of the program is most problematic and to whom.

Are the 30 percent MWBE goals a burden on general contractors who say they can’t find qualified MWBEs to meet the quota and end up forced to hire a company that ends up too small or inexperienced to properly do the work or must file a waiver and delay the process?

Or is it more onerous on women and minority owned businesses who can’t get certification to qualify, saying the process is too difficult and the state needs to provide assistance to businesses trying to apply?

In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo increased the goal for using MWBE businesses on state contracts from 20 to 30 percent. That is the highest percentage in the nation. Under that current state law, MWBE goals only apply to state-funded contracts issued by state agencies and authorities. Cuomo pushed for expansion for 2019 that would have expanded the program to local contracts or any funded by the state. It also would have provided annual goals for specific minority groups. But those changes were not in the approved budget. As a matter of fact, the MWBE Article 15 program, scheduled to expire at the end of this year, was only extended for one year, instead of the previously expected five. That has some proponents of the program fearing it might be gone altogether soon.

The N.Y. State Senate is holding hearings “to examine the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises program, and consider potential legislative solutions to create a more effective and efficient program to enhance New York’s business climate.”

People from both side of the issues have attended the hearings and testified to the difficulties with the program and proposed their ideas for a solution. Some suggest adjusting the goals by region, pointing out that demographic disparities from one area to another make a statewide mandate impractical.  Or as one person said at the hearing in Watertown, “Brooklyn and Watertown are not the same.”

Another issue creating problems, according to Crain’s New York Business, is that “unlike the largely white-owned incumbent construction firms, MWBEs are rarely unionized though they must pay prevailing wages on state-subsidized work.”

One area contractor says he doesn’t think MWBEs can find or know where to look for the jobs in many cases. He proposes general contractors find a way to help them know about projects out to bid, even if it costs them a little money to do it. Regular events designed to have GCs meet MWBEs rarely result in working relationships, he says.

The New York State Contract System (https://ny.newnycontracts.com/) website has a directory of certified businesses. It also has information to help businesses apply for certification, and on trainings and grant opportunities.

As the debate continues and 30 percent statewide goal remains—at least through the 2019 budget—the state senate will continue to listen to the industry’s issues with the program. The remaining hearings are:

September 26 at 2 p.m. Stage 14, Finger Lakes Community College, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua. For more information, contact Kristin Frank at (518) 455-2366

October 16 at 11 a.m. Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York. For more information, contact Graham Wise at (518) 455-1765 or Anthony Capozzi (607) 773-8771.

Oral testimony is given by invitation only.

By Chris Colabella and Kara Yorio

P3’s Bring Opportunity and Uncertainty

When Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill expanding the opportunities for Private-Public Partnerships (PPP or P3) projects, many expressed great hope that this opportunity—with the private companies assuming the financial risk and long-term maintenance of the project—can be the answer to the state’s infrastructure crisis, as well as a boon for construction jobs.

“We’ve seen many municipalities in New Jersey struggle to repair roads and bridges, build new borough facilities and redevelop their communities,” said Jack Kocsis, CEO of Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey. “This new law now gives them the means to cost-effectively finance much-needed construction projects.”

With the new legislation, a state or local government agency, as well as school districts, can contract with a private company for a project.

“It could be a local library, highway construction, transit-related, the whole raft of infrastructure,” Murphy said when he signed the bill at The College of New Jersey’s Campus Town development, a project built collaboratively with private-sector partners.

Previously New Jersey only allowed P3s with public colleges and universities.

“Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the tremendous benefits that can arise when public officials and private sector partners work together,” Murphy said. “By doing so, we give state, county, and local officials the much-needed flexibility they need to improve their communities while creating good-paying new jobs – in most cases good, union jobs – while leveraging private capital to invest in public infrastructure.”

At its best, a P3 is a win for all, saving municipalities money, getting vitally needed infrastructure upgrades or important community projects done sooner and creating jobs in the construction industry. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly. Not all projects are eligible for P3s and the contracts are complicated. The results have not always been as hoped either.

At least 30 other states had legislation for use of P3s in widespread projects, but many have run into trouble. In Texas, the private company that operated a toll road went bankrupt forcing the state to step in and assist in financing. In Chicago, a deal required taxpayers to reimburse the private company when parking meters didn’t produce expected revenues.

There have also been concerns about a lack of oversight with everything from potential environmental issues to transparency to ensure fair competition in bidding–would large companies, perhaps from out-of-state come in and do all the work, or could the high risk taken on by the private companies keep some from bidding at all?  Another big concern was labor protections. Most of these issues, however, were addressed during the legislative process and are reflected in the law.

“During the legislative hearings, UTCA (Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey) was successful in obtaining important amendments to protect the interests of our industry. The Association has been working with our partners for several years on P3 legislation and thanks to that successful effort, New Jersey has an important new tool for financing infrastructure,” UTCA said in a statement following the bill signing in August.

Kocsis agreed that the key protections are in place.

“In addition, the new law contains strong, time-tested contractor and labor protections ACCNJ has promoted for decades,” he said. “Equally important, this P3 legislation will not replace traditional project delivery, but rather supplement existing procurement and project financing methods.”

It will take time, various projects-and likely some failures-to know how to use P3s most effectively and to the benefit of the public and all parties involved and to decide if the optimism was warranted and this type of partnership is, in fact, the best long-term answer.

By Chris Colabella & Kara Yorio

Coming Soon: Make the Most of Bartering on CISLeads.com

By Bari Faye Siegel

You know what they say about “one man’s trash being another man’s treasure?” Nowhere in business is this more valuable than the practice of bartering – exchanging goods or services, in lieu of cash.

Bartering is the ultimate cost-saving win-win in the construction business because jobs – whether small or multi-billion-dollar projects – often require extremely costly equipment to complete. It’s understandably cost-prohibitive for a company to buy a piece of heavy equipment they will use sparingly. On the other hand, if the company obtains the equipment without having to dip into cash reserves, it can also look for ways to use it more to increase value to GCs.

Besides, there is usually some contractor or supplier somewhere who has what you need and may be willing to trade it for something they want. Cold hard cash doesn’t exchange hands in most cases, but everyone gets what they need to get their work completed.

There are many great things about bartering, the main one being that businesses that engage in trading wares are able to maintain the status quo when it comes to revenue. In other words, if your company is doing well, you can get the job done without risking going over budget when you barter for equipment, supplies or services. Conversely, trading what you have for something you need also maintains your bottom line; you don’t have to cough up cash to get your job moving forward.

CIS’ online information directory currently includes a robust classified section where GCs, subs and material suppliers can buy and sell goods. In the near future, look for a dedicated bartering section on the newly designed CISLeads.com. Many online bartering services charge hefty fees to handle the administrative aspects of bartering. CIS clients will be able to save money by making great use of CIS’ do-it-yourself bartering section – coming soon!

Consider these other ways bartering can boost your business:

Generate New Customers: Cash is king, of course. However, if a company trades you something you need for something they need and the values are equal, you both get what you need and you’ve extended considerable goodwill to your new customer.

Conserve Cash: Look at the opposite side of that same example. You need something and don’t have the funds to buy it. If you can work a trade deal in which you barter something you’ve already paid for you will get the equipment or supplies needed to complete your project without putting out cash.

Empty Your Warehouse: Sometimes, what’s old will never be new again. That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable and useful to someone else. But for now, it’s taking up space on your shelves. You can trade your reserves or overstock to another company that needs it now. You deplete excess inventory in favor of getting something else of value that you need.

Make the Most of Downtime: In the construction business, which is often weather dependent, there are periods of downtime throughout the year. Every day your crew or equipment sits idle is a day without profits. Through bartering, savvy general contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment dealers and professional service companies can trade goods and services to make better use of those extra resources.

One Additional Thought

In order to be successful in the bartering game, you need to connect with others who need what you have. Remember trading baseball cards? You had to make deals and negotiate trades. You talked with others who wanted something from you and, in return, were willing to give you something you wanted back.

In the business world, that’s called networking. Networking always expands a company’s potential customer base. So, at the end of the day, bartering is a win-win-win because today’s efforts get both companies what they need and potentially solidifies the possibility of doing future business together.

CIS is here to help. If we can help you reach more customers, please let us know. Visit cisleads.com or email customer service at Sue@cisleads.com.

Four Corners Millennium Project Will ‘Transform’ Newark; 200+ New Construction Jobs to Be Created

By Chris Colabella

The Four Corners Millennium Project (FCMP) is set to transform Newark’s downtown commercial district into a residential and retail center, breathing new life into a part of the city once considered to be the epicenter of commerce in North Jersey.

Construction for the five-block, multi-use redevelopment project will create more than 200 new construction jobs, according to Tim Lizura, president and chief operating officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). “The Four Corner Millennium Project will add to the significant construction activity already underway in the City of Newark, “ he said.

The redevelopment of the area is being divided into project phases. Work on the first phase, which is expected to begin this summer, will include construction of a hotel and parking spaces. Residential and retail space will be built on the site of the once popular Paramount Theater. The FCMP is near Newark Penn Station, Gateway Center, City Hall and the Prudential Center, as well as the internationally renowned NJPAC.

More than 675 apartments will be built out of vacant and dilapidated office and warehouse space. An additional 220 residential units will be constructed over street-level storefronts. Planners hope the project will create a go-to area at Market and Broad streets where people will be able to live, work and play. In all, the project aims to transform five street blocks and includes 12 retail storefronts ranging in height from two to 16 stories.

The entire FMCP consists of approximately 1.2 million gross square feet, including:

  • 135,000 square feet of retail
  • 70,000 square feet of hotel (130 rooms)
  • 900,000 square feet of residential space (studios, one, two and three bedroom units)
  • 603 structured and below grade parking spaces.

Construction might have gotten started sooner, but RBH Group, owner of the project, was initially turned down when it first applied to the NJEDA for tax credits under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program (UTHTCP). The state agency denied RBH Group’s application last year, confirmed Lizura, because the company wasn’t able to provide commitments for the bulk of the $410 million in capital needed for build-out. However, with those commitments in hand, RBH Group reapplied and was informed in January that the project received one of the very last grants awarded under the UTHTCP. That program is now part of the larger umbrella economic initiative known as the Economic Opportunity Act.

The NJEDA oversees the state’s economic initiatives aimed at incentivizing companies to stay in New Jersey or move here to create jobs and boost the economy. The FCMP will receive $33 million in tax credits and $19.5 million in funding from the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program (ERG).

“The project represents a significant investment in the city’s historic center and will serve to further transform the commercial hub of Downtown Newark,” Lizura added. “From Four Corners to Springfield Avenue, state incentives have been critical to transforming the city’s vacant and blighted sites into areas of economic opportunity and growth.”

Chris Colabella is the president of Construction Information Systems, the only local project lead service serving construction companies in New Jersey. For more information about CISLeads.com or to request a free demonstration of our service, call 800-247-1727.

 

$1.2 Billion Port Authority Initiative to Upgrade Roads, Reduce Traffic by Port Newark is Music to the Ears of New Jersey Heavy Highway Construction Workers

By Chris Colabella

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) announced last December the approval of a $1.2 billion program to pay for upgrades to the roads around Port Newark-Elizabeth. The announcement was welcome news for New Jersey heavy highway construction contractors, many of whom will be tapped to reconstruct several major roads in the region.

In a statement announcing the move, Bill Baroni, deputy director of the PANYNJ, said the capital will fund efforts to modernize infrastructure. The appropriation “will ensure that we bring the era of 1950s roads into modern times so they can handle the volumes of cargo and resulting trucks that we deal with today,” he said.

This program is part of a continuing PANYNJ initiative to make Port Newark-Elizabeth more efficient and environmentally friendly by reducing truck congestion on the port’s aging roads, according to the PANYNJ media relations department. Planners expect that the road improvement project will mean less truck congestion in the region near the port. Further, as an added benefit, the decrease in truck traffic will add up to a whopping reduction in harmful truck emissions — about 281 pounds per year!

A Port Authority representative said improvements, design and reconstruction of five major access roads around New Jersey’s shipping terminals at Port, Corbin, Marlin and Kellogg streets and Doremus Avenue are expected to save $60 million in operating costs in the next 30 years.

The PANJNY was expected to award the contract for engineering services for the Port Newark-Port Street Corridor Improvement Project in late January (after the submission deadline for this article.) The Authority will coordinate and monitor overall design, including environmental design, landscaping design, geotechnical engineering services and civil engineering design. Additional projects are expected to go out to bid in the coming months.

In addition to repaving the five roads near the port, the project also calls for upgrading barriers, improving drainage, replacing traffic signals and signs, as well as realigning portions of the roads. This also includes demolishing and replacing the Corbin Street ramp. The PANJNY media representative said the construction should provide $1.2 million in safety benefits in the same time period. In the past several years, these roads have been the site of numerous traffic accidents.

When the widening of the Panama Canal is completed in 2015, the PANJNY expects that the size of container ships needing to access Port Elizabeth will increase significantly. The current height of the Bayonne Bridge is a problem because officials believe it won’t be able to accommodate the larger vessels. Therefore, one other major infrastructure improvement is included in the $105 million strategy; the PANJNY intends to raise the Bayonne Bridge by sixty-four feet by the time the Panama Canal project is completed.

Baroni has said that making sure cargo is able to flow safely and efficiently through the port is critical to New Jersey’s ability to attract international shippers to do business in the region.

Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler added that the program, along with other initiatives that focus on improving Port Newark-Elizabeth, enables the PANYNJ to provide a safe and efficient network of roads, thereby ensuring that New Jersey’s port remains a “vital cog in the region’s economy for many years to come.”

Chris Colabella is the president of CIS, Inc., New Jersey’s only local construction lead service. For more information, visit http://www.cisleads.comor call 800-247-1727to arrange for a free demo of CIS Leads.