Merger and acquisition activity was hot in 2012. Some surveys maintained that M&A numbers fell off this year as global economic trends made buyers more cautious, but others say company consolidation was steady. 

While there were numerous transactions involving small and midsize firms, the year also featured one deal that, if it is completed early next year, will become one of the largest ever in the industry: Woodlands, Texas-based CB&I is set to acquire The Shaw Group, Baton Rouge, in a $3.1-billion megadeal. It is set to expand the global reach of both players in the power and industrial markets.

Shareholders are set to vote on the transaction on Dec. 20.

Company officials are optimistic the firms' can blend their businesses in a mutually beneficial way, but experts caution that  "culture clash" remains the biggest risk in making M&As successful.

Another major merger involved United Rental's acquisition of RSC, a $4.2-billion transaction in the construction-equipment arena.

A merger between two big U.S. utilities in the Southeast hit a big bump this year when one key executive was ousted, partly because of issues over flawed work at one of the combined companies' nuclear facilities.

New Bidding Approaches Attract Risk-Takers, Create Industry Anticipation
Seeking to propel stalled public-works projects, firms boosted participation in public-private partnerships and other funding mechanisms.

While projects such as an Ohio River crossing adopted the P3 approach this year and firms positioned themselves to get ready for a possible market expansion, political and financial constraints left many wondering whether P3 projects will ever gain widespread adoption in the U.S.

The high-profile $5-billion replacement of the Tappan Zee bridge across the Hudson River in New York is perhaps the most closely followed procurement involving private finance this year.

While authorities opted for traditional public procurement, the project was one of the first large procurements to use the state's new design-build contracting authority. But there were gyrations when one of its bidding teams unexpectedly dropped out near the end, stating risk concerns.

The $6-billion program to upgrade and expand Philadelphia's International Airport was also hotly contested. A team led by CH2M Hill was selected as that program's management firm.

Ups and Downs for Industry Players
A team led by Fluor Corp. appears to be the grand-prize winner in the Tappan Zee competition, although the formal announcement of its selection has yet to be made. The firm and its investors were upbeat on project wins in petrochemical markets.

But firm officials were stunned when mediators ruled against it in a contentious fight with utility owners over alleged flaws in the construction of Greater Gabbard, a huge wind project off the coast of Great Britain.

But other complex mega-projects faced their share of controversy this year, including bid protests escalating on a long-awaited federal contract in Antarctica and a $700-million flood-control project in New Orleans.

Seeking to improve efficiency and future prospects, more industry firms focused on "professionalizing" their boards of directors by broadening company representation, enacting tougher scrutiny of executive decisions and reaching for more non-company participation.

Engineering licensing also sparked debate. 

Changes in the C-Suite
Leadership also moved up or moved on
as companies dealt with generational shifts and sought to enter new markets.

Women and minorities—in some cases, for the first time ever—moved to the top ranks of military construction, private-sector C-suites and major associations.

Industry Loses Yesterday's Pioneers and Today's Top Talent
In 2012, the industry bid farewell to early pioneers in the boardroom, such as BE&K's Ted Kennedy and Turner Corp.'s Howard Turner as well as those who made lasting advances in the laboratory and in the field, such as wind engineering innovator Jack E. Cermak and noted performance-based seismic innovator Helmut Krawinker. Engineer Jack Gillum, linked to the 1981 Hyatt Regency hotel walkway collapse in Kansas City, died in July.

But the industry also lost younger executives and associations leaders.

These include Mark Ayers, head of the AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department. Patsy Crisafi and Vinnie Vaccarello, heads of rail-construction consulting firms, died in a private-plane crash. Federal authorities have yet to determine a conclusive cause of the accident.

Read more about the other construction-industry leaders who died in 2012.