April Construction Starts Slip, Down 5% From 2012's Figures

New construction starts slipped 1% in April, settling back to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $475 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction's latest Dodge starts data. Through the first four months of 2013, construction starts were down 5% overall from 2012, including a 33% drop in new starts for non-building construction and an 8% decline in non-residential building starts.

N.J. Engineer Birdsall's Assets Are Set for Auction on June 5

An auction is set for June 5 in New Jersey for the remaining assets of Birdsall Services Group, the Eatontown, N.J., engineering firm now in bankruptcy proceedings following the March indictments of seven former executives on charges related to illegal political contributions, officials have confirmed. A $5.6-million offer for the municipal engineer, made last month by California-based Partner Engineering and Science Inc. and its parent firm, will be the stalking-horse bid, a Birdsall spokesman confirms. He says Bowman Consulting withdrew a previous bid.

Terracon Consultants Inc. also showed interest, says a source close to Birdsall. He says Birdsall has seen its workforce drop to about 100 from 330, with a number of employees hired by design firm T&M Associates, Middletown, N.J. That firm has been hired by the city of Englewood, N.J., to replace Birdsall on some projects, says a published report. Separately, the indicted Birdsall executives on May 20 declined plea-bargain offers from the state attorney general, pleading not guilty in state superior court. A spokesman for the attorney general said the defendants are set to appear in court on Aug. 5 for a "status conference" with Judge Wendel E. Daniels. Then, the judge will decide the next deadline for entering pleas or set possible trial dates.

Group Seeks More Funds To Study Cost of Green Building

The International Living Future Institute is kicking off research to develop a financial model for advanced green building and infrastructure projects. Though it has $135,000 in seed money from several sources, ILFI is looking for $1.4 million to complete the work, which it hopes to finish by the end of 2014. The aim of the Economics of Change project is to remove "artificial financial disincentives for deep green buildings" put in place by current financial structures that create unnecessary cost barriers. Led by Jason Twill, ILFI's board chairman, the research involves a team of real estate valuation professionals, economists and developers as well as experts in ecosystems and sustainable design. More information is available at living-future.org.

New Nominee To Head DOT Makes Good First Impression

Anthony Foxx, President Obama's choice to lead the Dept. of Transportation, delivered a solid performance during his Senate confirmation hearing. In his May 22 appearance before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Foxx, the Charlotte, N.C., mayor, showed his familiarity with a wide range of issues, says the committee's chairman.