Construction Forecast: 2014

After a sluggish 2013, the construction industry could see a gradual uptick in total construction starts in 2014, according the McGraw Hill Construction's 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook. Total construction starts next year could rise by 9%, to $555 billion, led by a solid housing market and improved opportunities in commercial building, it forecasts. Non-building sectors, especially electrical utilities, could be a drag on starts in the coming years.

"It's another step along the road to recovery, but on the painful-to-frustrating side at times," says Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs at McGraw Hill Construction. The forecast was announced on Oct. 25, during McGraw Hill Construction's Outlook Executive Conference in Washington, D.C.

The forecast banks on federal budget deliberations proceeding "in a more orderly manner," says Murray. He says recent political uncertainty has been a hindrance to the economy and expects the U.S. economy to grow just 1.6% in 2013, down from 2.8% in 2012.

The largest driver of construction starts next year will continue to be single-family housing, which Murray predicts will grow another 26% in 2014. In commercial building, he predicts "hesitant upper movement" as the sector sees steady but modest improvement, with the market increasing 17% next year. Lagging behind the recovery in these markets is a projected 5% decline in public-works construction in 2014. The Dodge forecast calls for a 33% drop in electric-utility construction next year.

GSA Recommends Two Systems For Third-Party Certifications

The U.S. General Services Administration recommended on Oct. 25 that the U.S. government use the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes 2010 and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED 2009 as the third-party certification systems to gauge performance on construction and renovation projects. GSA says agencies can use whichever of the two systems that best meets their building portfolios. GSA says other certification systems were not recommended because they did not align with government requirements. The recommendation is an outgrowth of an interagency effort co-chaired by the GSA, the Energy Dept. and the Defense Dept.

Appeals Court Nixes Nevada Bid Against Yucca Mountain License

In a one-sentence order on Oct. 28, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., denied the state of Nevada's petition to rehear the court's August decision directing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the licensing proceeding for a proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas. Nevada officials have fought the U.S. Energy Dept.'s plan to site the high-level nuclear-waste repository, arguing the underground facility would be above a major aquifer in an earthquake zone. The state has not yet decided on its next action. Now, its only legal recourse is a U.S. Supreme Court review. NRC suspended its review of the repository licensing in 2011. But the court ordered a process restart, saying the suspension of the congressionally mandated proceeding was illegal.

U.S. Capitol Dome Work Begins

The cast-iron dome of the 150-year-old U.S. Capitol is ailing, and the office of the Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers is relying on a $40.8-million restoration to fix the 1,000-plus cracks and other deficiencies. Turner/Smoot, A Joint Venture, will lead the work, which gets under way this month. The AOC expects the job to take two years, during which the dome's exterior will be shrouded by scaffolding, from the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the dome to the top of the skirt at the dome's base. Inside, a canopy system, shaped like a doughnut with a hole to maintain views of the "Apotheosis of Washington" fresco in the rotunda's eye, will protect the public. Crews will work mostly at night and on weekends to minimize disruptions to Congress, public tours and events. The AOC last overhauled the dome in 1959-60.

Contractor Sued Over Collapse

Citing breach of contract, the board of trustees of Miami Dade College (MDC) filed suit on Oct. 8 in Florida state court, seeking damages from general contractor Ajax Building Corp., its insurer and several subcontractors involved with the $22.5-million parking garage that collapsed while under construction last October, killing four workers. The suit states that "none of the defendants has undertaken to correct or complete the project or to compensate MDC."