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The Future of Transportation Infrastructure Investments: Determining Best Practices for States’ Funding and Financing Mechanisms

March 18, 2014 Comments off

The Future of Transportation Infrastructure Investments: Determining Best Practices for States’ Funding and Financing Mechanisms (PDF)
Source: Associated Equipment Distributors (by Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, College of William & Mary)
From press release:

Policymakers working to fix America’s crumbling transportation network have an important new tool. A study by researchers at the College of William & Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy (TJPPP) released Jan. 31 examines the vast array of funding and financing mechanisms states are using to pay for roads and bridges. The report, which was sponsored by Associated Equipment Distributors, a trade association representing construction equipment dealers, includes a chart to allow quick comparison between state programs. The study comes as the federal highway program faces unprecedented challenges. The Congressional Budget Office reported in July 2013 that due to inadequate Highway Trust Fund (HTF) resources, Congress would need to reduce the authority to obligate funds in FY 2015 to zero for both highways and transit.

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Fatal occupational injuries involving contractors, 2011

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Fatal occupational injuries involving contractors, 2011
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Before 2011, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries captured data only on the firm that directly employed the decedent. While this is useful information, the firm directly employing the decedent is not always the firm at which the decedent was working at the time of the incident, such as when the person killed was a contractor. This visual essay looks at new data on contractors, highlighting some interesting similarities and differences between these workers and those who are not contractors.

The Driving Force behind the Boom and Bust in Construction in Europe

August 21, 2013 Comments off

The Driving Force behind the Boom and Bust in Construction in Europe
Source: International Monetary Fund

This paper studies the factors behind pro-cyclical but widely varying construction shares (as a percent of GDP) across countries, with a strong focus on European countries. Using a dataset covering 48 countries (including advanced and emerging economies within and outside Europe) for 1990-2011, we find that country’s geography, demographics, and economic conditions are the key determinants of a norm around which actual construction shares revolve in a simple AR(1) and error-correction process. The empirical results show that in many European countries, construction shares overshoot relative to their norms before the recent global crisis, but they have fallen significantly since the crisis. Nevertheless, there is still room for further adjustment in construction shares in some countries which may weigh on economic recovery.

Housing trends and impact on wood manufacturing

August 13, 2013 Comments off

Housing trends and impact on wood manufacturing
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Demand from housing and other construction-related sectors continues to be an important issue for the secondary wood products industry. Conducted in early 2013, this fourth annual survey provides updated information on the status and actions of U.S. manufacturers affected by these industries. The study is a joint effort by Virginia Tech, the USDA Forest Service, and Wood Products.

Bulletin of hardwood market statistics: 2012

August 13, 2013 Comments off

Bulletin of hardwood market statistics: 2012
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Provides current and historical information on primary and secondary hardwood products, production, prices, international trade, and employment.

DOD OIG — Compliance with Electrical and Fire Protection Standards of U.S. Controlled and Occupied Facilities in Afghanistan

July 23, 2013 Comments off

Compliance with Electrical and Fire Protection Standards of U.S. Controlled and Occupied Facilities in Afghanistan
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective

At selected U.S. controlled and occupied facilities in Kandahar Air Field (KAF) and Bagram Air Field (BAF), Afghanistan, we inspected for:

  • Compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC)
  • Compliance with the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, and
  • Corrective actions for previous DoD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) electrical and fire protection findings (Report Nos. SPO-2009-005, D2010-D000JB-0078, and DODIG-2012-089).

Findings

  • Hazardous conditions due to a lack of consistent adherence to minimum NEC and NFPA standards as evidenced by 1,089 findings; 440 findings violate NEC electrical standards and 649 findings violate UFC and/or NFPA fire protection standards.
  • Fire protection systems were not maintained and/or repaired.
  • Garrison commands lacked qualified Government or dedicated contractor electricians, fire alarm, or fire suppression technicians on their staffs to perform inspection, testing, and maintenance.
  • Inadequate Government oversight and inspection of facilities.
  • Lack of independent technical support for the Government Contracting Office resulted in overreliance on facility construction and maintenance contractors.
  • The Base Camp Master Plans (BCMPs) lacked a comprehensive fire protection plan.
  • Corrective actions for previous DoD OIG audits and inspections were incomplete and ineffective for many findings.

Recommendations

  • We recommend that a priority be given to correcting the 71critical findings tallied in Table 2 of this report.
  • We recommend that all 1,089 findings which include the 71 critical findings (440 electrical and 649 fire protection findings) be addressed and prioritized according to a robust risk management plan. Furthermore this plan should be approved and coordinated with AT&L (I&E).
  • We recommend that U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) review the government oversight and inspection requirements for electrical and fire protection systems and ensure that sufficient qualified resources are available and deployed to meet requirements throughout the USFOR-A area of responsibility.
  • We recommend that provisions be made for regular inspection and maintenance of electrical and fire protection systems.
  • We recommend that the Base Camp Master Plans (BCMP) include a comprehensive fire protection plan.
  • We recommend that the Commander, CENTCOM Joint Theater Support Contracting Command, review applicable contracts to determine if contractual remedies, including financial recovery, are appropriate in those cases where contract requirements for electrical or fire protection construction, maintenance, or repair services were not satisfied.

Bird-Friendly Building Design

May 16, 2013 Comments off

Bird-Friendly Building Design (PDF)
Source: American Bird Conservancy

A unique publication that provides planners, architects designers, bird advocates, local authorities, and the general public with a clear understanding of the nature and magnitude of the threat glass poses to birds and solutions to eliminate the threat. This edition includes a review of the science behind bird collisions, real-world examples of solutions in action, and an investigation into what information is still needed.

Center for Green Schools at USGBC and McGraw-Hill Research Foundation Release New Report Examining Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance

March 5, 2012 Comments off

Center for Green Schools at USGBC and McGraw-Hill Research Foundation Release New Report Examining Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance (PDF)
Source: U.S. Green Building Council

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation today released a new white paper titled, The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Learning: A Call for Research, at the second annual Green Schools National Conference in Denver, Colo., a conference dedicated to growing green schools across the nation.

The new white paper, co-authored by Lindsay Baker, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at University of California, Berkeley (on behalf of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC) and Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights & Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction, part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, sheds light on the critical need for research around how the school building—through design, maintenance and operations—impacts the health and performance of the students in those buildings.

“We looked at what students experience in their classroom environments and linked that to six types of experiences—how students hear, breathe, see, feel, move, think and learn” said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights & Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction. “There are ways that we can design new schools, and invest in improving existing ones, to help improve a child’s experience and enable that child to learn, and feel better.”

The paper explored research from two perspectives: how the built environment can impact a child’s experience in the classroom, and how different stakeholders could play an important role in bringing more research on green schools to light.

+ Full Document (PDF)

News from EPI: A plan to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work now: “FAST!” Fix America’s Schools Today

August 17, 2011 Comments off

News from EPI: A plan to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work now: “FAST!” Fix America’s Schools Today
Source: Economic Policy Institute

A national infrastructure project designed to improve public schools and facilities would benefit students and teachers and put hundreds of thousands of people back to work. In a new proposal released today, Mary Filardo of the 21st Century School Fund, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute propose the enactment of a new program, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST!, designed to fund the maintenance and repair of public schools in the United States.

The current backlogs of school maintenance and repair projects are worth between $270 billion and $500 billion—at a time when state and local governments and school districts are facing unprecedented budget crunches. At the same time, the U.S. is facing an unemployment crisis; within the construction industry alone, 1.5 million workers are unemployed. Maintenance and repair of school buildings and facilities would provide students with an educational environment both safer and more conducive to learning and enable school districts to attract and retain quality teachers while simultaneously enabling hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers to find good-quality jobs in their communities.

+ Full Document

CBO — Federal Loan Guarantees for the Construction of Nuclear Power Plants

August 8, 2011 Comments off

Federal Loan Guarantees for the Construction of Nuclear Power Plants
Source: Congressional Budget Office

CBO’s analysis examines the main factors that influence the cost to the federal government of providing loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear power plants. It includes illustrative cost estimates using the methodology specified by the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, which determines the budgetary cost of the program, and also estimates prepared on a fair-value basis, which provide a more comprehensive measure of cost. CBO found that the expected cost to the federal government of guaranteeing a nuclear construction loan varies greatly depending on a project’s characteristics. Budgetary estimates of guarantee costs are significantly lower than the corresponding fair-value estimates. However, because of the high degree of uncertainty involved, it may not be possible to charge borrowers the full cost of a loan guarantee, either under credit reform or on a fair-value basis.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Wood supply and demand

July 23, 2011 Comments off

Wood supply and demand
Source: U.S. Forest Service

At times in history, there have been concerns that demand for wood (timber) would be greater than the ability to supply it, but that concern has recently dissipated. The wood supply and demand situation has changed because of market transitions, economic downturns, and continued forest growth. This article provides a concise overview of this change as it relates to the United States, looking at nationwide trends in the pulp and paper sector and the solid wood and composite wood product sectors (lumber and wood panels) and also nationwide trends in timber growth, timber removals, and real prices for timber.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

CRS — Military Construction: Analysis of the FY2012 Appropriation and Authorization

July 19, 2011 Comments off

Military Construction: Analysis of the FY2012 Appropriation and Authorization (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report focuses on those government activities funded under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 military construction appropriation, examines trends in military construction funding, and outlines military construction issues extant in each of the major regions of U.S. military activity. President Barack Obama submitted his FY2012 appropriations request to Congress on February 14, 2011. His military construction appropriations request for $14.7 billion in new budget authority fell approximately $9.9 billion below the amount enacted for FY2010 and $3.0 billion below that enacted for FY2011. Much of that reduction came from military base closure accounts.

Initiated in late 2005, the current base realignment and closure (BRAC) round is expected to conclude in September 2011. Funding needed in FY2010 and FY2011 for construction and movement of organizations will not be needed in FY2012 and subsequent years. In addition, the President requested less regular military construction for FY2012 than in earlier years. Finally, funding for construction supporting Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, or active military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan), appropriations for which totaled $1.4 billion in FY2010 and $1.3 billion in FY2011, has been virtually eliminated, with only $217 million in the regular FY2012 appropriation requested for construction within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

The first military construction bill (H.R. 2055) was passed by the House on June 14, 2011. Construction issues within the United States center on relocations associated with the BRAC movements, the proposed transfer of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from Norfolk, VA, to Mayport, FL, the potential to move detainees from Naval Station Guantanamo, and the possible expansion of the Army’s Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

In the Pacific region, topics of major interest include planned relocations of U.S. Marine forces within the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa and from Okinawa to the U.S. Territory of Guam, movement of U.S. garrisons in the Republic of Korea, and normalization of duty there, which will lengthen tours and bring many more military families to Korea.

Troops are also moving within Europe and redeploying to the United States. Active duty military personnel stationed in Europe now number only one-quarter of the force present in 1980, and garrisons in Germany are being concentrated into two large military communities near Landstuhl and Vilseck. At least one major combat formation scheduled to move to the United States during the past few years has been retained at its garrison in Germany pending a military basing review. Military responsibility for much of Africa is now exercised by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Though headquartered in Germany, AFRICOM has one enduring military garrison site on the continent, at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. Press accounts have indicated that a new permanent home for AFRICOM headquarters might be located in southeastern Virginia.

Southwest Asia, the area of responsibility for CENTCOM, has seen ongoing military operations for almost a decade. Since FY2004, Congress has given DOD special authority to use some operations and maintenance funds for military construction outside of the normal appropriations process. H.R. 1540, the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, would extend that authority into FY2012. Funds for military construction had been provided through special emergency supplemental appropriations, but beginning in FY2010, these funds were folded into the base budget—though still categorized separately from normal construction requests. CENTCOM construction has fallen with the FY2012 request.

Key Transportation Indicators: National Highway Construction Cost Index Added

July 15, 2011 Comments off

Key Transportation Indicators: National Highway Construction Cost Index Added
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) today expanded its Key Transportation Indicators with the addition of the National Highway Construction Cost Index, a measure of highway construction cost changes since 2003. According to the Federal Highway Administration index, prices related to highway expenditures in the eight-year period from 2003 to 2010 peaked in 2006 before declining, with prices in 2010 slightly above the 2003 level. The new tables bring the total number of transportation indicators tracked by BTS to 23. Indicators are drawn from BTS and other sources to provide timely, easily accessible information for the transportation community. BTS also updated tables that contain information on transportation and the economy, fuel prices, passenger and freight traffic, transportation costs to users, and system performance. Key Transportation Indicators are available at:http://www.bts.gov/publications/key_transportation_indicators/.

Green Jobs: Careers in Green Construction

July 9, 2011 Comments off

Green Jobs: Careers in Green Construction (PDF)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Buildings constructed today are very different from those built 100 years ago. As interest in protecting the environment grows, “green,” or sustainable, buildings have become more commonplace. At first glance, these buildings might not appear very different from their predecessors, but they feature specialized designs and materials to limit their environmental impact. Creating these new buildings requires skilled workers—such as architects, construction managers, and carpenters—with knowledge of new design and construction techniques.

Green construction is the practice of erecting buildings and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource efficient. Green buildings limit their environmental impact by conserving as much energy and water as possible and are constructed of recycled or renewable materials in order to achieve maximum resource efficiency.

Green construction has grown dramatically over the past few years. McGraw-Hill Construction estimated the value of green nonresidential building construction in the United States to be $3 billion in 2005. In 2010, McGraw-Hill placed the value between $43 billion and $54 billion, more than 14 times the value just 5 years earlier. The value grew despite a slump—the recession of 2007–09—in the overall construction market. McGraw-Hill estimates that by 2015 the green nonresidential building market will be worth between $120 billion and $145 billion. The construction of new, large projects, such as hospitals, office complexes, and federal buildings—increasingly built to green standards—will continue the growth of green construction.

As the size of the industry grows, so will its workforce. According to a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Booz Allen Hamilton study, green construction supported more than 1 million workers in the green construction industry between 2000 and 2008. USGBC projects this figure to rise to 3.3 million between 2009 and 2013 — and these estimates of the green construction workforce do not include employment for suppliers of green building materials and products, an industry that should also experience increased growth as demand for their goods rises.

Real Cost News: New Research Highlights Ways to Maximize Infrastructure Investment

June 24, 2011 Comments off

Real Cost News: New Research Highlights Ways to Maximize Infrastructure Investment
Source: Portland Cement Association

The campaign to implement life-cycle budgeting at the federal, state, and local levels announced today the findings of a new white paper, “Delivering Taxpayer Value: Three Tools That Can Help Ensure a More Efficient Cost-Effective Infrastructure.”

Written by John W. Fischer, a transportation policy consultant who spent over three decades with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the white paper examines performance management techniques – life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA), alternate design/alternate bid (ADAB), and mechanistic-empirical pavement design guide (MEPDG) – used by state Departments of Transportation (DOT) and the construction industry to maximize taxpayer investment, efficiency, and transparency.

The paper is particularly timely, given the ongoing debate to reauthorize and reform federal surface transportation programs.

“In this time of constrained state and federal budgets, all potential sources of cost savings are important, primarily because monies unnecessarily spent on one project are, obviously, unavailable for other very necessary projects,” said Fischer.

Fischer takes the pulse of current state DOT practices in designing, planning, and building roads and highways and highlights best practices techniques – LCCA, ADAB, and MEPDG – which could help increase the effectiveness of infrastructure projects.

The study finds that these three steps, when taken together, can help to ensure that available transportation infrastructure funds are invested wisely and that roads are constructed using the highest quality materials in the most efficient way.

+ Full Report (PDF)

OSHA document describes methods to help prevent injuries, deaths among residential construction workers

April 12, 2011 Comments off

OSHA document describes methods to help prevent injuries, deaths among residential construction workers
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USDoL)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued guidance on Fall Protection in Residential Construction* to help employers prevent fall-related injuries and deaths among residential construction workers. Data shows that falls are the leading cause of death for workers involved in residential construction.

OSHA issued the Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction in December 2010 to require that residential construction employers provide workers with fall protection according to OSHA’s Fall Protection in Construction standard. This new document demonstrates work methods employers may use to comply with the standard’s requirements.

Directed primarily to those working on new construction, the document describes safety methods employers can implement during stages of construction. Methods for preventing fall-related injuries and deaths include using anchors for personal fall arrest systems and fall restraints, safety net systems, guardrails, ladders, and scaffolds for activities such as installing roof sheathing, weatherproofing a roof, and installing walls and subfloors, among others.

+ Residential Fall Protection
+ Fall Protection – Construction

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