Tag Archive for 'building'

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ABC Reports: Construction Backlog Bounces Back In Second Quarter Of 2012

Nonresidential Construction Activity Poised To Accelerate

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today reports its Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) rose 4.3 percent in the second quarter of 2012 after declining the two previous quarters. Despite the quarterly expansion, CBI is 0.3 months, or 4.2 percent below the second quarter of 2011. CBI is a forward-looking economic indicator that measures the amount of construction work under contract to be completed in the future.

“The CBI accurately predicted both the broader economic softness experienced during the first half of 2012, as well as a flattening of the nation’s nonresidential construction recovery,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The latest CBI data is now projecting gradual acceleration in nonresidential construction spending, and perhaps a slight increase in the overall pace of construction activity going forward.

“Unfortunately, any improvement in nonresidential construction activity is likely to remain modest given the ongoing uncertainty regarding America’s fiscal cliff—a number of tax increases and spending cuts that take effect at the end of the year—as well as European sovereign debt issues and increasingly volatile energy prices,” Basu said. “While there is pent-up demand for new construction in the power, manufacturing and infrastructure segments, the level of economic and political uncertainty remains far too elevated to permit more aggressive nonresidential construction spending recovery in the near term.”

Regional Highlights

  • During the second quarter of 2012, construction backlog expanded in three of the four regions of the country compared to the first quarter, with the exception of the South. Despite its quarterly decline, the South continues to report the lengthiest backlog at 8.75 months.
  • The West registered the largest quarterly gain among the four regions, with construction backlog rising from 6.6 months to 7.5 months.
  • The Northeast had the smallest gain in construction backlog at .05 months for the quarter, and is now at 7.28 months.
  • Construction backlog in the Middle States dropped .21 months from one year ago and is the shortest in length at 6.73 months.


“The South continues to lead the way in construction backlog, due to commodity related production, including food processing, oil and natural gas, as well as substantial investment in manufacturing plants and equipment,” said Basu. “However, average backlog has declined for three consecutive quarters in the South, which may be due to a bit of a slowdown in energy-related investment because of the low price of natural gas.

“In contrast, the West has experienced increasing backlog for two consecutive quarters and arguably enjoys more forward momentum than any of the four regions monitored by ABC,” Basu said. “California’s innovation economy, Washington’s active aerospace and technology industries and Arizona’s overall economic improvement are creating new opportunities for contractors, both directly and indirectly.”

For Regional trend data, go here.

CBI Map of Regions and Backlog Months: Q1 2012 v. Q2 2012

Industry Highlights

  • During the second quarter of 2012, average construction backlog rose for all monitored industry segments after declining the two previous quarters.
  • The infrastructure segment registered the largest quarter-to-quarter construction backlog increase, up 1.4 months to more than 10 months—the first time infrastructure backlog has been above 10 months since the second quarter of 2010.
  • Construction backlog in the heavy industrial category is at its highest level since the first quarter of 2011, but at the lowest level of all the industry segments at 5.92 months.
  • Construction backlog in the commercial and institutional segment is 0.85 months lower than one year ago, and now stands at 7.78 months.


“Both the infrastructure and the heavy industrial categories experienced meaningful and significant increases in construction backlog during the second quarter,” said Basu. “From a macroeconomic perspective, there is significant demand for more competitive infrastructure and for American alternatives to foreign-manufactured goods. The re-shoring of production to the United States appears to be creating new opportunities for construction workers, particularly in the South.

“Progress in the commercial and institutional category may be a bit slower in the near future,” Basu said. “Spending continues to be hamstrung by a combination of weak investment returns and cautious financiers; however the CBI data indicates gradual increases in construction spending in this sector in the coming months.”

For Industry trend data, go here.

Highlights by Company Size

  • Construction backlog for the largest construction firms expanded during the second quarter to nearly 10 months. This includes firms with annual revenue in the $50 million to $100 million category and the $100 million or more category.
  • Firms with annual revenues in the $30 million to $50 million category saw a slight decrease in construction backlog from the first quarter, but remain above 9 months for a second consecutive quarter.
  • Construction backlog among firms with less than $30 million in annual revenue was below 7 months for the second consecutive quarter.


“For several quarters, much of the improvement in backlog had been among smaller firms,” said Basu. “However, much of the expansion in the second quarter occurred among larger firms as a result of improved construction spending dynamics in the infrastructure and heavy industry categories.

“Smaller firms have tended to benefit disproportionately from improvements in commercial construction and construction related to lodging,” Basu said. “Consumer spending growth has become more erratic of late, implying that the pace of improvement in commercial construction and other forms of construction dependent upon consumer spending may not be as rapid going forward. Correspondingly, backlog among the smallest contractors, those with less than $30 million in annual revenue, has not improved significantly during recent quarters.”

For Company Size trend data, go here.

To read more about CBI click here.

Building Construction Often Involves Cranes

By Greg Sitek

Cranes are usually an important piece of equipment on building construction projects.

On a construction job site there is always something to lift and place. Innovations in the art of construction have fostered the extended use of lifting devices…cranes, telehandlers, excavators with lifting hooks and the traditional jobsite strongman. Picking and placing concrete panels, floors, girders, roof trusses, pillars, pilings, pipe, heating and air condition units—you name it. Simply put, there is always something that has to be moved from “here” to “there.”

Usually there’s a rush to get the move over with and out of the way. “Move that panel or whatever, you’re holding up the job” is a common superintendent’s war cry on many construction projects. Often the results can be less than satisfactory. When lifting, use a crane that has the capacity and capability to handle the job. And have a skilled operator behind the controls. Once a pick is in the air…

Following are some of the main crane categories:

Truck Mounted Cranes

Truck mounted cranes sit on a commercial truck chassis. The truck engine is used to power the crane operation.  There are telescopic boom models available.

These cranes may come with fixed operator control stations and cost less than an all terrain crane or truck crane.  There are models where the cab swings with the crane.  Another variation is an articulating boom unit. Usually these are specialized horizontal boom units designed to load/unload the truck’s payload. They are normally not used as general-purpose cranes.

Truck cranes can travel safely at highway speeds. They use purpose built carriers with separate cabs for the carrier and crane operations.  The hydraulic boom units are designed for quick set up. The smaller and mid-range models generally carry boom, jib and counterweight on board.  Some of the larger units may require separate transport arrangements to carry any additional counterweights or boom extensions.

Lattice boom truck crane models offer high lifting capacities and hook heights and are designed to handle the big lifting jobs.  By their nature, lattice boom cranes require more set up time than hydraulic boom models.

Rough Terrain Cranes

Rough Terrain cranes still king of the jobsite. They handle tough off-road conditions with four-wheel drive and with various types of steering for maneuverability.  They are simple—two-axle configuration and have only one cab from which the operator controls all functions.

They are relatively inexpensive in comparison to other types of cranes. Since they don’t have to travel at highway speeds they don’t require the horsepower or drive train components. The two-axle configuration is another major cost saver.

Their biggest negative comes from the fact that they have to be transported between jobs. Once on the job, they excel at pick and carry operations.

All Terrain Cranes 

All Terrain cranes have gained contractor acceptance in a relatively short time because they travel at highway speeds and navigate the rough terrain of a typical jobsite.  Multiple axles – steer, drive and tag — distribute the load, provide traction to handle tough job site conditions and give them added maneuverability. Suspension options can give you additional off-road clearance and SUV-like driving characteristics.

Lattice Boom Cranes

Lattice boom cranes are truck-mounted and crawler-mounted.  With truck-mounted cranes, the crane’s upper structure is mounted on a truck-style carrier, which can travel at highway speeds. Major sections of the crane may have to be removed and transported separately on some of the larger units. The advantage over crawler cranes, which must be disassembled, is that the carrier is mobile and erection time is usually faster.

Crawler-mounted cranes are mounted on carbodys and are propelled on tracks. This design yields superior on-site mobility, however, crawler cranes are not easily transported. All modular components of a crawler crane have to be moved by trucks.  Crawler cranes do offer a great deal of versatility, particularly for heavy lifts or long term lifting projects. From “pick-and-carry” capabilities to heavy duty or severe duty applications, such as pile driving and dragline, crawler cranes offer a great deal of application versatility.

Choosing a specific crane is typically based on job requirements.  A lattice crane is typically the best choice when the job requires long, vertical reaches, significantly large lifts, or long-term work.  Both truck and crawler-mounted lattice boom cranes are well adapted for lifting and moving large quantities of steel, constructing large tilt-up concrete panels, and for making very high and far-reaching picks. The design of lattice boom is inherently stronger and more stable at greater distances than telescopic boom cranes, plus lattice boom cranes utilize larger-diameter wire rope, requiring fewer parts of line for faster line speeds.  Typically, a lattice crane yields higher capacity picks at a nominal base capacity unit, making a 100-ton capacity lattice crane outperform a 200-ton capacity telescopic crane.

The Hydraulic-Crawler-Mounted Crane recently entered the market. It’s available as a telescopic or lattice boom crane mounted on a crawler excavator carrier and offers yet more versatility in your choice of lifting device.

Tower cranes

Tower cranes are fixed to the ground on a concrete slab — sometimes attached to the sides of structures as well as erecter on the inside of structure. Tower cranes often give the best combination of height and lifting capacity and are used in the construction of tall buildings. The base is then attached to the mast, which gives the crane its height. The mast is attached to the slewing unit — gear and motor — that allows the crane to rotate. On top of the slewing unit there are three main parts: the long horizontal jib (working arm), shorter counter-jib, and the operators cab.

The long horizontal jib is the part of the crane that carries the load. The counter-jib carries a counterweight, usually of concrete blocks, while the jib suspends the load to and from the center of the crane. The crane operator either sits in a cab at the top of the tower or controls the crane by radio remote control from the ground. In the first case the operator’s cab is most usually located at the top of the tower attached to the turntable, but can be mounted on the jib, or partway down the tower. The lifting hook is operated by the crane operator using electric motors to manipulate wire rope cables through a system of sheaves. The hook is located on the long horizontal arm to lift the load which also contains its motor.

In order to hook and unhook the loads, the operator usually works in conjunction with other personnel. They are most often in radio contact, and always use hand signals to communicate

A tower crane is usually assembled by a mobile crane of greater reach.  Some tower cranes are erected along with the construction of the building. A smaller crane will often be lifted to the roof of the completed tower to dismantle the tower crane. In some building designs the tower crane structure is left as part of the building’s structure.

Thanks to the inventive genius of Hans Liebherr there are also self-assembling, jack-up, or “kangaroo” cranes that lift themselves from the ground or lift an upper, telescoping section using jacks, allowing the next section of the tower to be inserted at ground level or lifted into place by the partially erected crane itself. They can thus be assembled without outside help, and can grow together with the building or structure they are erecting.


We are assuming the crane being used, no matter what type — All Terrain, Rough Terrain, Truck Mounted, Lattice Boom truck, or crawler mounted, etc. — is assembled, ready for operation and has been transported to the lift zone. Let’s face it: If the crane isn’t properly rigged and assembled, you definitely don’t want to be operating it. Many of the larger cranes require some on-site assembly due to transportation size and weight restrictions. This type of assembly needs to be executed with the greatest care and caution to insure not only proper assembly but also to maintain the integrity of the components. A carful inspection of the crane after transport is essential.

All cranes must be leveled according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If the machine is not level, the lifted load will cause side stresses on the boom and the stability and structural integrity of the machine will be adversely affected. Since outriggers provide greater stability than tires, machines with outriggers should have the outrigger beams extended and set for lifting operations; consult with the manufacturer’s instructions for on-rubber operation.

When using outriggers, set the outrigger’s beams to their fully extended position, always extending the beams equally. When using outriggers, be sure all tires are clear of the ground and level the machine in all directions, as specified by the manufacturer.

There is no substitute for experience, especially for a crane operator. You can develop the skill and knowledge that will enable you to handle a wide variety of situations that can and do happen when handling loads through actual in-the-seat experience. There are manuals and video media, and today there are simulators that can provide the information and practice that can help get you get ready to start learning how to be a crane operator. Although simulators, videos and manuals will let you gain knowledge and practice, you don’t start becoming an experienced operator until you make your first pick.

This article appeared in June 2012 issues of the Associated Construction Publication magazines national section.

Benefits of Including Wall Assembly Data with BIM Files

By Mike Murzyn, technical product and marketing manager, ClarkDietrich Building Systems

By now, most contractors and building professionals are familiar with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and the advantages it brings to managing the design and construction process. However, until recently, there’s been little information about incorporating interior framing into BIM models.

A primary advantage to BIM is its ability to bring together all of a building’s components into a singular, searchable database. This allows professionals involved with the design and construction, maintenance and operation of a building to easily make decisions, changes and reduce the time it takes to track down building information as the structure ages. A comprehensive BIM model shows nearly every detail about the construction of a building, including the interior wall system, plumbing, HVAC system, flooring, energy usage, manufacturers’ names and square footage. When changes are made and entered into the BIM software, the file can describe how those changes impact other components within the building. The ability to view the complete integration of all of a building’s components helps eliminate clashes, reduce change orders and keep the project within the assigned budget. Most often, BIM models have concentrated on the efficiency of a building and the lifecycle costs of building materials, without including information about the interior framing.

During the construction process, it is not uncommon for walls and ceilings contractors to be asked to remove or relocate partitions. Partition removal and relocation occur due to design changes by the owner or architect, or to accommodate unanticipated intrusions by other trades such as mechanical, electrical or plumbing. However, through the use of BIM and component-specific add-ons, building professionals can identify these clashes “virtually” and design the necessary changes before the contractor puts labor on the job.

With this in mind, ClarkDietrich Building Systems recently introduced BIM Wall Creator, a comprehensive BIM system tailored specifically for interior wall creation and steel framing. Wall Creator provides building professionals with detailed wall assembly data that includes product information, type of sheathing, overall wall width, UL codes, STC ratings, wall height design, LEED® information and product SubmittalPro/data sheet links. The program is a free add-on to AutoDesk® Revit®, and allows users to seamlessly integrate wall types into existing BIM models.

ClarkDietrich chose to develop a steel-framing specific BIM add-on as a way to help architects and contractors solve complex questions about the many variables associated with designing and installing wall assemblies. For example, it is not uncommon for change orders to be placed for wall assemblies that are in contradiction with a previously specified combination of limiting heights, fire and sound ratings.  These common mistakes easily add additional costs to the project. BIM Wall Creator was designed to help building professionals accurately specify products that meet the STC sound ratings, UL fire ratings and LEED guidelines needed for their project, while still meeting the limiting height requirements.

When including ClarkDietrich BIM Wall Creator into a BIM model, users will be asked common questions such as:

  1. What type of wall is being built? (According to height, STC and UL rating, etc.)
  2. How wide is the wall?
  3. Is insulation or resilient channel required?
  4. What type and how many layers of wall sheathing is needed?

Once answered, the request processes through the program’s three combined systems, which include limiting height tables, UL and STC systems. When a wall type is created, it displays the actual materials and assembly needed for correct installation. Each time the profile is changed, all the corresponding parts will update as well. This amount of detail allows architects or contractors to see exactly how the wall needs to be constructed.

The advantages of including a wall creator addition to a BIM model, are that it can eliminate individual, temporary libraries of different wall types and can quickly adjust to changes. Building professionals no longer need to keep a separate file of wall assemblies that need to be updated piece-by-piece when changes happen. BIM Wall Creator encompasses all the materials and information needed to develop well constructed and effective wall solutions.

By including such a large amount of detail within the BIM model, building professionals can save a significant amount of time locating and identifying systems to meet the requirements of the change order, even before a project is fully underway. For example, framing contractors using the ClarkDietrich BIM Wall Creator can meet with architects to visually discuss the goals of the project, and confirm that what is on the screen aligns with the architect’s vision. This ability to have open, productive conversations where changes can take place in real time, helps the building industry as a whole streamline communication and ease the building process.

BIM models help construction professionals, facility managers and building owners evaluate a building’s envelope, and with the addition of a wall-framing option, users can construct a more complete picture of the building’s overall efficiency and lifecycle.

ClarkDietrich(TM) Introduces Detailed Interior Wall Creation, Steel Framing BIM System

ClarkDietrich’s BIM Wall Creator(TM)Offers Robust Database to Enhance Collaboration and Create Information-Rich Wall Types

ClarkDietrich(TM) Building Systems recently introduced the construction industry’s most comprehensive Building Information Modeling (BIM) system tailored specifically for interior wall creation and steel framing. ClarkDietrich BIM Wall Creator(TM) develops information-rich wall types, with specific details on UL, STC and limiting heights. Professionals using AutoDesk(R) Revit(R) can add the new ClarkDietrich BIM Wall Creator by visiting www.clarkdietrich.com/BIM and downloading the free add-on software.

“The ClarkDietrich BIM Wall Creator is the first design tool that intelligently incorporates detailed information on wall elements and design properties, such as UL assemblies based on fire rating requirements, STC sound ratings and limiting height design,” said Mike Murzyn, Technical Product and Marketing Manager, ClarkDietrich. “This type of interactive platform, in which details have been linked together, is truly unparalleled and gives architects and contractors everything needed to successfully design even the most challenging wall assemblies.”

The system’s intuitive design and integrated data on wall assemblies allows users to seamlessly search and update entire wall designs based on specific input parameters. The wall type is   created to reflect the proper assembly of materials necessary for wall construction, including: manufacturer and product information, types of sheathing, overall wall width, UL and STC data, wall height design, LEED(R) information and product SubmittalPro/data sheet links.

“ClarkDietrich recognized a need among architects and contractors for BIM systems to include more detail on wall assemblies, in order to automate and streamline the building process. The BIM Wall Creator opens the door for architects to pass models onto contractors with the assurance all materials will work together within the overall building design,” said Robert Warr, PE, Director of ClarkDietrich Engineering Services.

In addition to the new BIM system offering, ClarkDietrich Engineering Services (CDES) helps support building projects with customized services for detailed wall framing profiles.

“Over the past few months, our engineering team has developed more than one million square feet of BIM coordinated models for our clients,” added Warr. “Our team can create a full engineering package that includes calculations and shop drawings directly from the BIM model in order to complete required documentation and design. We offer the industry’s most knowledgeable, trusted team of experts to support BIM questions and projects.”

CDES offers BIM coordination and engineering design services for cold-formed steel framing to architects, general contractors and subcontractors. BIM coordination includes assisting with clash avoidance, collaborating with other trades, creating 3D visuals for cold-formed steel framing, providing detailed documentation/shop drawings that include wall elevations, sections and plan views, and other customized BIM services. To contact CDES, email BIMinfo@clarkdietrich.com.

This article appeared in the national section of the Associated Construction Magazines June 2012 issues

ABC Reports: Construction Materials Prices Increase 0.4 Percent In January

“Because oil prices have been edging higher in recent weeks, overall construction materials prices are trending up as well.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

Increased turmoil in the Middle East may be having an effect on U.S. construction materials prices. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Feb. 16 producer price index (PPI), materials prices increased 0.4 percent in January and are 5.4 percent higher than one year ago. Nonresidential construction materials prices were up 0.4 percent for the month and are 4.8 percent higher compared to the same time last year.

Iron and steel prices also increased 1.8 percent in January, and are 7 percent higher than January 2011. Steel mill prices increased 1.3 percent for the month and have increased 9.4 percent during the past twelve months. Prices for plumbing fixtures and fittings increased 0.5 percent compared to December and rose 3.1 percent since last January. Prices for concrete products inched up 0.2 percent for the month and are 1.5 percent higher than one year ago.

In contrast, prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding fell 2.9 percent for the month and are down 1 percent year over year. Nonferrous wire and cable prices dipped 2.5 percent in January and have decreased 5.6 percent during the past twelve months. Prices for fabricated structural metal products decreased 0.8 percent for the month but are still 3.4 percent higher than one year ago. Softwood lumber prices slipped 0.6 percent in January and are 3.2 percent lower compared to the same time last year.

Crude energy prices increased 1.6 percent for the month as crude petroleum prices jumped 5.7 percent. Year over year, crude energy prices are up 2.1 percent.

Overall, the nation’s wholesale prices increased 0.1 percent for the month and are 4.1 percent higher than January 2011.


“Increased tensions between Iran and Israel, along with tensions in other Middle Eastern countries, are having an impact on the U.S. nonresidential construction industry,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Because oil prices have been edging higher in recent weeks, overall construction materials prices are trending up as well.

“If a geopolitical event occurs, oil prices would likely skyrocket, resulting in a meaningful slowdown in the pace of construction,” Basu said.

“Petroleum was not the only construction input to experience a price increase,” Basu said. “Iron and steel prices were up 1.8 percent and steel mill prices were up 1.3 percent. These increases likely are associated with a recent decline in the value of the U.S. dollar.

“With global economic activity continuing to soften largely due to the recessionary conditions plaguing much of Europe, there is no assurance that input prices will continue to rise,” said Basu. “Much will depend on a successful conclusion to the Iranian nuclear standoff, which appears to be impacting materials prices more than the level of industry activity.

“Construction industry activity across the nation has been edging higher, as accurately predicted by ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator,” Basu said. “Still, the gradual recovery in overall nonresidential construction spending volumes may hinge on whether construction materials prices remain relatively stable in the coming months.”

ASCE President Herrmann Testifies Before Joint Economic Committee

ASCE President Andrew Herrmann, P.E., F.ASCE, testified this week before the Joint Economic Committee about the impact of infrastructure on the manufacturing sector. The joint Congressional committee, made up of members of both Houses of Congress, called for the hearing to assess the potential positive impact of infrastructure investment on job creation and economic growth. Other witnesses on the panel included Dr. Veronique de Rugy from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute, and Robert Puentes from the Brookings Institution.

Herrmann outlined the correlation between the nation’s economic competitiveness and the necessity for a strong infrastructure network. Quoting data from ASCE’s recent economic study assessing the impacts of surface transportation investment trends on long term economic growth, Herrmann called for the committee to recommend passage of job creating infrastructure legislation like a surface transportation reauthorization bill and the reauthorization of FAA programs.

According to ASCE’s 

, Failure to Act economic study, deteriorating surface transportation programs will cost the American economy more than 876,000 jobs and suppress the nation’s GDP by $897 billion by 2020 if we simply maintain current surface transportation investment levels. Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), thanked Mr. Herrmann for his compelling testimony and agreed that the time for investment in infrastructure is now. 

To view the hearing or read testimony of the witnesses, please visit the Joint Economic Committee website.