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Commercial Construction Index Reveals Continued Optimism Among Contractors

Commercial Construction Index Reveals Continued Optimism Among Contractors 

Q4 Report Shows Increased Hiring Expectations Despite Finding Labor Productivity the No. 1 Issue Impacting Jobsite Efficiency

USG Corporation released their Q4 Commercial Construction Index (CCI), on 12-11-2017. The CCI provides truly unique insights into the outlook for and confidence in the future direction of the industry, which is a vital driver of the U.S. economy. 
Confidence in the commercial construction industry is strong, despite significant concerns around job site efficiency and labor productivity, according to the Q4 2017 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (Index). Released today, the Index shows that optimism remains high in the commercial construction industry, with 57 percent of contractors expecting to hire in the next six months and a large majority reporting stable or increased revenue expectations in the next year. The Q4 composite score is 74, up one point from Q3.

The report found nearly 90 percent of contractors do not consider job sites to be very efficient. Forty-four percent of contractors identified labor productivity as the key means to achieve job site efficiency, followed by job site logistics and project management. Forty percent of contractors reported the use of prefabricated building components to be the top means of improving labor productivity.

“Commercial contractors remain optimistic about the industry outlook, although labor productivity and costs are hindering job site efficiency,” said Jennifer Scanlon, president, and CEO of USG Corporation. “There is an urgent need for innovations in building materials and workforce development programs.”

More than half of contractors expect to hire workers in the next six months, yet concerns about the cost of skilled labor and the adequacy of worker skills have remained steady throughout all four quarters of 2017. Forty-two percent of contractors predict finding skilled workers will worsen in the next six months, and 92 percent note they are at least moderately concerned about the skill level of the workforce, with heightened demand particularly in the plaster and drywall trades. The research was developed with Dodge Data & Analytics (DD&A), the leading provider of insights and data for the construction industry, by surveying commercial and institutional contractors.

“The commercial construction industry is essential to the U.S. economy – when America is building or re-building, America is growing. It’s great news that the majority of these companies are ready to hire,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president, and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “As worker shortages persist across industries, sectors like commercial construction will have to find solutions through new innovations, technology, and training to continue growing and moving the broader U.S. economy forward.”

The Index looks at the results of three leading indicators to gauge confidence in the commercial construction industry – backlog levels, new business opportunities, and revenue forecasts – generating a composite index on a scale of 0 to 100 that serves as an indicator of health for the contractor segment on a quarterly basis. The Q4 2017 composite score was 74, up one point from Q3, representing a consistent sentiment of health in the sector.

The Q4 results from the three key drivers were:

  • Backlog: On average, contractors currently hold 9.4 months of backlog, relatively close to the average ideal amount of 12.5 months, continuing the stability of the market, although there is still room for growth. Down two points from Q3, this represents 75 percent of their ideal backlog levels.
  • New Business: Nearly all (99 percent) contractors report high or moderate confidence in the demand for commercial construction. Approximately one-third (34 percent) believe the market will continue to provide strong opportunities for the next 24 months.
  • Revenues: Nearly half (47 percent) of contractors expect to see an increase in revenue in the next year. This percentage has increased over the last two quarters from 41 percent in Q3 and 40 percent in Q2.

About the Index

The USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index is a quarterly economic index designed to gauge the outlook for, and resulting confidence in, the commercial construction industry. USG Corporation and the U.S. Chamber produce this Index, along with Dodge Data & Analytics (DD&A). Each quarter, researchers from DD&A source responses from their Contractor Panel of more than 2,700 commercial construction decision-makers in order to better understand their levels of confidence in the industry and other key trends. This panel allows DD&A to provide findings that are representative of the entire U.S. construction industry by geography, size, and type of company. The majority of data represented in this quarter’s Index is from the Q4 2017 survey conducted online from September 22 to October 2, 2017.

Click here to see the full report, methodology, and graphics.

Please note the Commercial Construction Index report is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to support an investment decision with respect to USG Corporation, nor is it intended to be used for marketing purposes to any existing or prospective investor of USG. This report is not a forecast of future results for USG and actual results of USG may differ materially from those of the commercial construction industry.

Where the Index is Available

Each quarterly Index published is available on the USG Corporation website at www.usg.com/news as well as on the website www.CommercialConstructionIndex.com

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. For more information, visit www.uschamber.com.

About USG Corporation

USG Corporation is an industry-leading manufacturer of building products and innovative solutions. Headquartered in Chicago, USG serves construction markets around the world through its United States Gypsum Company and USG Interiors, LLC subsidiaries and its international subsidiaries, including its USG Boral Building Products joint venture. Its wall, ceiling, flooring, sheathing and roofing products provide the solutions that enable customers to build the outstanding spaces where people live, work and play. Its USG Boral Building Products joint venture is a leading plasterboard and ceilings producer across Asia, Australasia, and the Middle East. For additional information, visit www.usg.com.

Emerging Practice of Prevention through Design and Technology Advances Poised to Help Improve Construction Safety  Latest Dodge study reveals a new arsenal of tools to help increase construction safety onsite.

Note:  Dodge has just released its newest SmartMarketReport on Safety Management in the Construction Industry, produced in partnership with The Center for Construction Research and Training and United Rentals. The study reveals the engagement with and impact of two critical trends for improving construction safety: technologies used on job sites and the practice of Prevention through Design (PtD).

A new study  reveals the engagement with and impact of two critical trends for improving construction safety—technologies used on jobsites, and the practice of Prevention through Design (PtD). The study, conducted in partnership with the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and United Rentals and published in the Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017 SmartMarket Report, is the third in a series of studies that demonstrate the financial and project benefits that contractors reap from their safety investments. It also shows the impact that new technologies being deployed onsite, from building information modeling (BIM) to drones to wearable devices, have on improving safety. Finally, it suggests that active consideration of safety during building design, known formally as Prevention through Design (PtD) is still an emerging practice, but one well-positioned for wider acceptance in the design and construction industry. The full report is available for free download here.

The findings from the study on the benefits of safety investments, along with previous studies conducted in 2012 and 2015, show that investment in safety has a positive impact on project budgets, schedules, quality, and on business factors such as a contractor’s standing in the industry or ability to contract new work. And these impacts can be substantial: contractors reporting positive impacts on average see a nearly 5 percent reduction in the project schedule and a 4 percent reduction in project costs.

“Consistently, contractors have reported that they receive project and business benefits from safety, even across dramatically different construction markets, such as the ones in 2012 and 2017,” says Steve Jones, senior director, industry insights research at Dodge Data & Analytics. “Safety investments clearly pay off in measurable ways and in ways that are harder to quantify, but that still have a major impact on a contractor’s business.”

The study followed up on the 2012 and 2015 findings on leading indicators of a positive safety culture and climate on job sites. For instance, safety & health training for supervisors and workers, one of the eight indicators, is up from 2015, while recognizing the importance of good communication, another of the indicators, is down.  “This survey helps us track what is happening in the industry relative to each leading indicator.  These findings are extremely useful in identifying needs and opportunities for improvement,” says Chris Cain, executive director, CPWR.

The study examined the degree to which contractors are deploying technologies that can help improve job site safety, a concept that was also examined in 2012. Different technologies were explored, including BIM, mobile tools and emerging technologies like drones and wearable devices. The findings reveal the ways in which technology is already helping to improve safety and how it is likely to do so in the future.  

  • Over two-thirds of contractors who use BIM (69 percent) state that it has a positive impact on project safety, a 27-point increase over those who reported that in 2012.
  • Over half of those reporting that positive impact attributes it to using BIM to identify potential site hazards before construction begins, to conduct clash detection, to support prefabrication and to create 3D images.
  • Smartphone use is nearly ubiquitous onsite, and tablet use is widespread and growing. This allows for use of mobile tools like cameras to be used by 85 percent of all contractors on site. The documentation of site condition and work progress is fundamental to many safety efforts.
  • Nearly half of contractors (42 percent) also employ safety inspection checklist apps, but the use of mobile tools for safety training (35 percent) and to access safety and health websites (28 percent) is less common.
  • Almost one-quarter of contractors (21 percent) use drones to promote safety onsite for functions such as reality capture that allow for digital analysis of existing conditions, and almost three-quarters of them (70 percent) believe that these have a positive impact on safety.
  • While wearable devices like badges with coded electronic information and smart helmets are only being used by 13 percent of contractors currently, 82 percent of those who use them report a positive impact on safety. This suggests that as these technologies become more widely known and more affordable, their potential for improving job site safety increases. 

“Technology is drastically improving job site safety, providing tangible results in protecting workers and firms alike,” says Jim Dorris, United Rentals’ vice president of environmental, health and safety. “Evolving data platforms, tools, and service capabilities will deliver innovative new safety solutions, and United Rentals is excited about the emerging roadmap to safer projects of all types.”

Another emerging trend explored in the study is PtD: the effort to help improve construction safety by actively considering safety issues during design, from the schematic stage forward. The study included an architect survey on this issue, which found that while few architects were aware of the formal name for this process before taking the survey, the use of key PtD practices occurred at least to some degree.

  • Most architects (83 percent) report that they have worked with GCs and key trades before the completion of schematic design to identify opportunities for prefabrication.
  • Roughly two-thirds are either reviewing the design during schematic for safety during building operations/maintenance (68 percent) or use a lifecycle safety approach to improve safety during building operations (66 percent).
  • However, only about half of architects (51 percent) do similar reviews to optimize construction safety.

The biggest barrier to wider use of PtD among architects is concern about taking on construction liability, reported by 79 percent, followed by lack of client interest at 63 percent. Correspondingly, most architects (81 percent) would be influenced by requests from their clients to take this approach, and over two thirds (68 percent) would be influenced by insurance incentives. With global studies linking between 22 percent and 63 percent of workplace fatalities to design-related factors, getting owners on board with demanding this approach, providing liability coverage for architects seeking to practice it and getting insurance companies to reward them appear to be powerful ways to enhance the safety records of buildings.

“The survey findings confirm two things we have been hearing for years,” says Cain. “Owners drive construction safety and health, and architects are reluctant to implement PtD solutions without client pressure. By ensuring the entire team, starting with the owner/client, focuses on preventing job site hazards, we will continue to see improvements in worker injuries, illnesses, and fatality rates.”

About Dodge Data & Analytics: Dodge Data & Analytics is North America’s leading provider of analytics and software-based workflow integration solutions for the construction industry. Building product manufacturers, architects, engineers, contractors, and service providers leverage Dodge to identify and pursue unseen growth opportunities and execute those opportunities for enhanced business performance. Whether it’s on a local, regional or national level, we make the hidden obvious, empowering our clients to better understand their markets, uncover key relationships, size growth opportunities, and pursue those opportunities with success. Our construction project information is the most comprehensive and verified in the industry. We are leveraging our 100-year-old legacy of continuous innovation to help the industry meet the building challenges of the future. To learn more, visit www.construction.com.

About CPWR: The Center for Construction Research and Training [CPWR] is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the construction industry through research, training, and service programs, and currently serves as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) National Construction Center and the research and training arm of NABTU.  In this capacity, CPWR works to reduce or eliminate occupational safety and health hazards faced by construction workers through safety and health research and the development of a broad array of training programs. For more information please go to www.cpwr.com.

 About United Rentals: United Rentals, Inc. is the largest equipment rental company in the world. The company has an integrated network of 1,019 rental locations in 49 states and every Canadian province. The company’s approximately 15,000 employees serve construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, homeowners, and others. The company offers approximately 3,300 classes of equipment for rent with a total original cost of $11.6 billion. United Rentals is a member of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the Barron’s 400 Index and the Russell 3000 Index® and is headquartered in Stamford, Conn. Additional information about United Rentals is available at www.unitedrentals.com.

 

ARTBA Foundation Announces Key 2018 Scholarship, Awards & Recognition Program Deadline

 
 The American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) has announced key deadlines for its 2018 scholarship, awards and recognition programs. They include:

Lanford Family Highway Worker Memorial Scholarship Program
Established in 1999, this first-of-its-kind scholarship fund provides post-high school financial assistance to the children of highway workers killed or permanently disabled on the job. More than 125 scholarships have been awarded to worthy students.

Application deadline: April 6.

Helping Hand Awards
The awards recognize businesses with extraordinary programs—outside the scope of normal business operations—that demonstrably benefit and help improve the quality of life in the community where they are based or conduct business.

Nomination deadline: April 10.

Transportation Development Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals or families from the public and private sectors who have made extraordinary contributions to U.S. transportation development over their lifetime and demonstrated exceptional leadership.  Nominations are considered in two categories:

  • Transportation Design & Construction Industry Innovators: Honors the men and women who discovered or created a “game-changing” product or process that significantly advanced transportation design, construction and/or safety.
  • Transportation Design & Construction Industry Leaders (Individuals or Families): Honors men, women and families who have made significant contributions—beyond just having successful businesses or careers—that have notably helped advance the interests and image of the transportation design, construction and safety industry.

Nomination deadline: April 20.

Application and nomination forms can be found at www.artbatdf.org. Please contact ARTBA’s Eileen Houlihan with questions: ehoulihan@artba.org.

Established in 1985, the ARTBA Foundation is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt entity designed to “promote research, education and public awareness” about the impacts of transportation investment. The Foundation supports an array of initiatives, including educational scholarships, awards, professional development academies, a transportation project safety certification program, roadway work zone safety and training, special economic reports and an exhibition on transportation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.