Women Still Outnumbered, But Making Bigger Strides in Construction Industry

Like so many other industries, construction continues its efforts for greater gender and racial representation in its workforce.

Construction has long been, and remains, a male-dominated industry. Nationally, women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce. But there has been a recent 15 percent growth of women in the industry, as more and more companies are recruiting women and promoting them to senior roles, according to a report on industry trends in Fora Financial.

Women in construction are even getting documentary film attention. A feature-length documentary is in post-production. Hard Hatted Women follows five female construction workers through their daily life on and off the job where they break down barriers in the blue collar world, according to the filmmakers, who hope to secure enough funding to get screenings on the film festival tour in 2019.

The project has received support from companies like Turner, Dragados USA, SMACNA and Structure Tone, according to a story in enr.com, which adds that if the push of recruiting attention alone isn’t enough to attract more women to the industry, maybe the industry’s growth and opportunity will be.

Don’t have to Google It: Hudson Square Will See Construction Boom

Since Disney announced in July that it is relocating its New York headquarters to 4 Hudson Square, the downtown New York City neighborhood was primed to be a focus of construction and development over the next couple of years.  CIS Project

But when Google stepped in last week and announced that it plans to invest $1 billion on a 1.7 million-square-foot campus in Hudson Square, well, suddenly the spotlight seems set on the area on the lower west side of Manhattan. CIS Project (With maybe a little attention still finding its way to Amazon in Long Island City if Jeff Bezos has anything to say about it.)

The 1.2 million-square-foot Disney project is expected to create thousands of jobs during development and construction. Starting in the coming year, it will involve the demolition of three buildings for the construction of a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified, energy efficient complex with offices, and production spaces complete with the latest technology and the ability to adapt to the coming technological advances. The site–which Disney reportedly spent $650 million for–is a full city block, bordered by Hudson, Varick, Vandam, and Spring streets.

With these work spaces will come residential and retail needs for the thousands of employees who will flood the neighborhood. Multiple high profile residential projects are underway or recently completed, including neighborhood transforming buildings at 570 Broome CIS Project111 Varick St, CIS Project, and 60 Charlton St. CIS Project

The Jackie Robinson Museum is also coming to the area, set to open in the spring of 2019 at the corner of Canal and Varick streets.  

If there wasn’t enough going on, Google made it certain: Hudson Square will be the place for development and construction in the near future. It is set to be the neighborhood to be in the coming years in New York City.

Farm Bill Could Impact Construction Industry

This afternoon, President Trump is set to sign the Farm Bill, which could impact the construction industry with the included Timber Innovation Act.

The Timber Innovation Act, which was not without its detractors, was proposed “to create opportunities to use wood products, including mass timber, in the construction of tall wood buildings,” according to those who introduced the language to the legislation.

According to the American Wood Council, the act aims to:

  • Establish performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the United States.
  • Create federal grants to support state, local, university and private sector education, outreach, research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, that will accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings;
  • Authorize technical assistance for USDA, in cooperation with state foresters and state extension directors (or equivalent state officials), to implement a program of education and technical assistance for mass timber applications; and
  • Incentivize the retrofitting of existing facilities located in areas with high unemployment rates, to spur job creation in rural areas.

Read more about how the act’s proponents hope it creates jobs, expands markets, reduces construction’s environmental footprint, and more.

The legislation made it through to the final bill despite opposition from many organizations, including the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, which cited issues with marketplace fairness (using taxpayer money to promote one type of business over another), as well as a lack of research in the safety and structural viability of tall wooden buildings.

The Mason Contractors Association of America and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association were among other groups that voiced their opposition.

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.

Excitement Grows as State-of-the-Art Comcast Technology Center Nears Completion

The most mentioned feature of the stunning new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia is its height. Whenever anyone talks about the new tech hub and 60-story, skyline-defining building, they will no doubt bring up the 1,121 feet that make it the ninth tallest building in the United States and tallest outside of Chicago or New York.

But developer Liberty Property Trust’s mixed used space at 1800 Arch Street is much more than a gleaming tower that looks down on the rest of the City of Brotherly Love. Designed by Lord Norman Foster of Foster + Partners with Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc as the Architect of Record and L.F. Driscoll Co as the general contractor, BOSS Magazine named the building one of the most interesting construction projects of 2019.

The state of the art steel and concrete building with glass façade has a “split core” that allows for as much light as possible inside during the day. A chilled beam system will keep the interior cool and the structure is designed to shelter the outdoor spaces and plaza from Philly winters. The building was designed to attain LEED Platinum certification.

The $1.5 billion building has 1.8 million square feet—1.3 designated for “office space” (designed as much more open than typical office according to those who have toured Comcast’s already open offices in the building), 200,000 square feet for a 200+ room Four Seasons luxury hotel and 3,770 of retail space. It will house the local NBC and Telemundo studios as well. There is an “accelerator space” for tech start-ups and a commuter concourse underground to connect to the sister Comcast building as well as mass transit. The top floor will have a world-class restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The building’s lobby, complete with gardens, artwork, and coffee bar, opened to the public in October. Comcast employees are working in some of the office space as the construction continues on other floors. The project is expected to be completed spring 2019.

 

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.

 

NJ Gas Tax – Take 2

Another NJ Gas Tax Increase Starts Today.   How Much Revenue Will Be Generated and Where Will That Money Go?

It has been almost two years since then governor Chris Christie increased New Jersey’s gas tax by nearly 23 cents per gallon in an effort to refill the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) which finances road, bridge and mass transit projects throughout the state. The controversial deal allowed the governor to end his freeze on construction projects. Today the state’s gas tax was automatically increased another 4.3 cents, because the revenue from that 2016 tax increase did not meet projections, therefore construction projects could not go on as needed.

The tax just didn’t have the economic impact proponents said that it would. Even if the $2 billion projected revenue was unrealistic, as many suggest, there was a decline in fuel consumption that would have kept it from meeting even more modest goals. According to an analysis by AAA, after the 2016 tax increase, drivers bought less fuel in NJ. The group also found that gas consumption rose in Pennsylvania and Delaware during the same period. Gas stations near the Delaware border, where the price of gas is now less than NJ, watched as cars passed by, no longer making that once automatic stop to fill the tank  before crossing into another state.

Throw in more fuel efficient cars and the increase in purchase of electric models, and the pump has panned out to be the place to fill the TTF piggy bank after all.

The lower than expected sales contributed to the tax revenue missing the $2 billion projection by nearly $43 million in the 2016 fiscal year and more than $125 million in 2017. In 2018, it will miss projected revenues again. Because of the way that 2016 legislation was written, the automatic 4.3 cent increase per gallon kicked in today to help pay for the state’s $2 billion in transportation projects, some of which are urgently needed.

Taking a look at just one part of the crumbling infrastructure—the state’s bridges—shows the dire need to get projects underway. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) 2017 bridge report shows 8.8 percent of the state’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” That’s 596 bridges (down from 609 a year earlier). The money generated from this gas tax increase will try to address some of those issues.

In June, an agreement was reached on the state’s part of the financing for one of the biggest of those bridge projects—the new Portal Bridge in Kearny will receive $600 million in bonds from the TTF to be repaid over a 30-year term. The Portal Bridge is part of the Gateway Project that includes two new Hudson River tunnels.

The gas tax helped increase funding for smaller, local bridge projects. The Local Bridges, Future Needs program just awarded $47.3 million in grants for county bridges. It was the largest amount of money given toward bridge grants ever, according to the NJ Department of Transportation. The gas tax increase allowed the grants to nearly double, from the $25 million in prior years. Each of New Jersey’s 21 counties will receive at least $1 million through the grants. Money will be used for railing recoating, realignment, and replacement. The biggest award went to Monmouth County, getting $6 million to go toward four bridge reconstruction projects. Union County was granted $2.2 million to replace four bridges, as well.

While revenue from the tax is being used on expansion and new projects, there is debate about the fairness of how the funds are distributed. In South Jersey, for example, complaints site fewer projects in the area. Others have been disappointed that the types of projects receiving the funds do not benefit state contractors, but instead lend themselves to bids from very large, sometimes foreign-owned, companies.

Questions still remain.  Will this new increase further reduce consumption, negatively impacting projects?  Will it be enough to keep the TTF fully funded?

By Chris Colabella and Kara Yorio