Rocky economic times, green infrastructure, lean construction and helping the industry be heard were themes at the Associated General Contractors of America convention in Orlando on March 17-20.
AGC has to be about “the industry, not about the politics,” says AGC’s new president, Ted Aadland, CEO of Aadland Evans Construction Inc., Portland, Ore. “We can’t afford to be a partisan organization. We need to work with elected officials in both parties on the issues.” Aadland said AGC is like “the sleeping giant”—members can “wake up” to influence those who make codes and regulations and reach out to other construction associations to “help the industry speak as one resounding voice.”
Collaborative activities like a coalition with the manufacturing and energy sectors were among the highlights called out by J. Doug Pruitt, chairman and CEO of Sundt Construction, Phoenix, as he looked back at his past year as AGC president. On March 17, AGC signed a partnership agreement with the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, to advocate for alternative pathways to graduation for the nation’s at-risk youth among other efforts. “We have to be loud and vocal,” Pruitt said.
The next generation of employees will expect companies to have environmentally friendly practices, said Jan Berman, president of MechoShade Systems Inc., New York City. In one of several panels addressing green issues, he noted that just as the Americans With Disabilities Act transformed from being an added factor to being integral in design and construction, so will Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
Scott Snelling, a bridge engineer with New York City-based Hardesty and Hanover, noted national efforts under way to create LEED-like rating systems for bridges and roads. Dominique Lueckenhoff, head of the Water Protection Division/Office of Watersheds for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3, told attendees that the global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from $1.37 billion a year to $2.74 billion by 2020.
In the current economic climate, the conference included workshops on how contractors can avoid work stoppage and payment delays with owners and pursue strategies for recovering money if an owner defaults on a project. Because lien laws vary by state, contractors should adopt problem-avoidance strategies in drafting contracts and managing risk, said Holland & Knight’s Stephen Shapiro. Those include careful preparation of payment applications, insisting on proof of owner financing and enforcing contract provisions.
The scramble for work can lead contractors to let their guard down, but they need to be even more vigilant now to assure they will be paid for their work, says Robert Burns, an attorney and partner with Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, Wichita, Kan.
The convention, which drew 2,400 attendees, included the second session of AGC’s newly formed Lean Construction Forum. Chairman Chuck Greco, CEO of Houston-based Linbeck Group, said the multidisciplinary forum is working on a curriculum for teaching lean construction techniques that involves 92 hours of instruction and bronze, silver and gold levels of certification. The forum’s next session will be at the AGC Building Division meeting on June 9-12 in Midway, Utah.