First Quarter Construction Starts Down 2% From a Year Ago

The dollar value of total construction starts during 2014's first quarter was $107.4 billion, or 2% less than a year ago, according to McGraw Hill Construction Dodge. After making double-digit gains last year, the residential construction market is up just 3% over 2013's first quarter. That increase was offset by a 4% decline in nonresidential building starts and an 8% drop in the value of non-building construction. "The slow start for construction activity in early 2014 can be attributed to tough winter weather ... and the hesitant upturn over the past two years," says Robert Murray, MHC chief economist.

Balfour Beatty Eyes PB Sale

London-based Balfour Beatty plc is considering selling Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. some six years after buying the New York City-based design and management firm for the equivalent of $626 million. "A sale of Parsons Brinckerhoff could deliver attractive shareholder value and make Balfour Beatty a simpler and more focused group," Chairman Steve Marshall said in a May 6 announcement, which included downgraded profit expectations for this year. Balfour Beatty CEO Andrew McNaughton also announced he is leaving the firm, effective immediately. A long-standing executive, McNaughton replaced former CEO Ian Tyler in January 2013 and helped execute PB's acquisition, in 2009. Marshall will run the firm until a successor to McNaughton is found.

Draft of Reorganized Concrete Code Is Available for Comment

A draft of the revamped Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete and Commentary is out for public review and comment until June 17. The American Concrete Institute's ACI 318-14 committee has been working to improve the document for over a decade, says ACI. One big change is that design requirements are addressed for specific member types, such as beams, columns, walls and diaphragms. Also, all design provisions for a specific member type are within a single chapter, making the document easier to use, says ACI. Interested parties can download the draft at The new standard is scheduled for publication this fall.

Fed Proposes $1.9-Billion Plan For Everglades Restoration Job

Federal approval of a plan for $1.9 billion in restoration projects in the central Everglades is expected by the end of June, following presentation of the plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board by the Corps' Jacksonville, Fla., district. The South Florida Water Management District has signed on to be the local sponsor of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), clearing the way for the Corps to seek approval from Congress. It will be incorporated in the "Final Chief's Report to Congress" for inclusion in the Water Resources Development Act. CEPP comprises a suite of ecosystem restoration projects, including storage reservoirs, water conservation areas, levee seepage management and sheet-flow restoration.