Photo by Tudor Van Hampton for ENR
The mood is optimistic in Las Vegas at World of Concrete 2013.

World of Concrete

Concrete contractors and suppliers face a decidedly improved construction market this year as new projects and cash flow back into their business pipelines. "The pent-up demand is huge by any standard," said Portland Cement Association's chief economist, Ed Sullivan, who anticipates an 8.1% growth in U.S. cement consumption in 2013 driven mostly by 950,000 new housing starts.

Sullivan spoke on Feb. 5 at the annual World of Concrete in Las Vegas, where Terex Roadbuilding used a 4,000-sq-ft exhibit space—more than double last year's size—to showcase its updated concrete mixers. A 65-unit order in the fall spurred Terex to reopen in August its Ft. Wayne, Ind., truck-assembly plant and hire back nearly 50 employees who were laid off in late 2011. "It's a setup year for 2014," said Dave Rinas, the manufacturer's director of sales. "We see tremendous demand."

Feds Seek Input Regarding Third-Party Rating Systems

The U.S. General Services Administration is seeking comments until early April about the best use of green-building certification systems to measure design and performance of federal construction and major modernization projects. GSA, which is required to evaluate rating systems every five years, currently is evaluating three: the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED 2009, the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes and the International Living Future Institute's Living Building Challenge.

After evaluating public input, GSA says it will make a recommendation for use of one system, multiple systems or no system to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Currently, GSA uses LEED 2009. That designation has been attacked by industry groups for several reasons, including that it gives USGBC a monopoly and that LEED is not a true consensus standard.

Florida Gives Green Light to I-4

The state of Florida announced on Feb. 1 that it has granted permission to the state transportation department to move forward with the procurement process for a public-private partnership for the $2.1-billion reconstruction of Interstate 4 through Orlando. Dubbed the I-4 Ultimate project, the reconstruction would rebuild 21 miles of I-4 in Orange County and add new toll lanes. Upon completion, the highway would include six general-purpose lanes, four toll lanes and two auxiliary lanes. Further, the project would include the construction of 56 new bridges and 68 replacement bridge structures, modifications to 13 others and the reconstruction of 15 interchanges.

DOE OKs FutureGen Phase Two

The Dept. of Energy on Feb. 4 approved the second phase of the $1.8-billion FutureGen 2.0 carbon-capture and sequestration project in Illinois. The approval allows for preliminary design, pre-construction and engineering to begin on retrofits to turn the aging coal-fired powerplant into a state-of-the-art CCS facility. Babcock & Wilcox is supplying the oxy-coal combustion technology for the project, which is being led by Ameren Energy Resources Co., Springfield, Ill. The U.S. government is providing $1 billion in funding for the project.