Lancaster, PA Electrician Directory

Find licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA for Residential, Commercial & Industrial projects here!

Homeowners need electricians to install new modern circuit breaker electrical service panels replacing antiquated fuse panels. You may need extra outlets installed in an older home that didn't have electrical receptacles installed in every corner of the home. Perhaps you're installing ceiling fans and need them wired to switch panels on the walls. Or, you want to add a hot tub to your backyard and need electrical service installed. You'll find electricians available for all of these services and more here on lancaster electrical .com.

Need an industrial or commercial electrician here in Lancaster County? Whether you need high bay lighting installed or a new three phase feed for that new high powered machine your adding commercial and industrial electricians have the skill set to make every installation and upgrade run smoothly.

 



Read the latest news for licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA.

OSHA May Use Drones for Inspection
OSHA May Use Drones for Inspection tjohnson Thu, 01/17/2019 - 10:15

OSHA May Use Drones for Inspection

According to a memo that Bloomberg uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is considering taking to the air with camera-equipped drones as a way to gather more information on some of its safety inspections. However, there are some concerns about the practice.

The memo states OSHA would use drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to collect evidence during inspections. The memo specifies the areas these UAS would investigate would include inaccessible or hazardous locations.

OSHA cites justification in two legal frameworks under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. Specifically, OSHA could qualify as a public aircraft operator or civil aircraft operator. The memo adds that, until OSHA determines which kind of operator it plans to become, interim guidance will be available for workplace inspections involving UAS, which is outlined in the memo.

The memo notes that, "OSHA will obtain express consent from the employer prior to using UAS on any inspection. To ensure the safety and cooperation of individuals that may be affected by the aerial inspection, personnel on-site must be notified of the aerial inspection prior to launching a UAS."

According to the memo, OSHA will determine if the use of a drone for inspection is appropriate and will take responsibility of operating the equipment. OSHA representatives will also be responsible for filing reports with the area director and the UAS program manager within one business day of the flight. The flight report will detail the mission, relevant information about the drone's operation and procedures, as well as a brief description of the information gathered during the flight.

Currently, there is some concern over this memo, such as how the rights of employers to protest this scope of inspection will evolve. Another concern is how this new practice will impact multi-employer worksites, such as how a general contractor's authorization for OSHA to use drones will affect the rights of subcontractors also working on that site.

"Drones raise some interesting privacy concerns, especially on multi-employer jobsites," said Tom O'Connor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's Safety columnist. "It is in the best interest of the employer to try to limit OSHA's use of drones strictly to areas identified in a complaint."

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Off-Site Construction Gaining Popularity
Off-Site Construction Gaining Popularity tjohnson Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:33

Off-Site Construction Gaining Popularity

Increasingly, electrical contractors who are involved in new construction work may find where they are expected to show up to work, and what they are expected to do, will change significantly.

A new report, "Report of the Results of the 2018 Off-Site Construction Industry Survey," from the Off-Site Construction Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences, surveyed over 200 construction managers, general contractors, trade contractors, architects, and owners/developers to find out how popular off-site construction activities are becoming.

According to the report, 87 percent of respondents have used off-site construction during the past 12 months.

The five most common project types for off-site construction activities are: commercial (with 53.9 percent of respondents having used off-site construction for this type of project); multi-family housing (38.5 percent), industrial (33.3 percent), healthcare (31.3 percent), and education (30.3 percent).

In terms of the specific type of off-site work done, the five most popular were: precast concrete structure (with respondents reporting using this in a total of 95 projects); curtainwall assemblies (94 projects); HVAC, plumbing, and electrical racks, risers, and other assemblies (82 projects); pre-engineered metal building systems (81 projects); and prefabricated exterior wall assemblies (71 projects).

In terms of who was responsible for making the decisions to use off-site construction, the top results were requested or required by construction manager or general contractor (47.7 percent), specified by architect (45.6 percent) and requested by client (42.0 percent). In only 16.1 percent of the cases did subcontractors request off-site construction.

The reason for the growing popularity of off-site construction can be seen in the benefits cited by respondents: schedule advantage and speed to market (71.4 percent of respondents citing this as a key benefit), quality (46.4 percent) and cost-effectiveness (42.9 percent). Other cited benefits included weather conditions, safety, client satisfaction and productivity.

Over the next 12 months, 52.6 percent of respondents reported that their use of off-site construction will remain the same, 29.1 percent reported plans for more off-site construction, 8.7 percent reported plans for less use, and 9.7 percent reported not planning to use it at all.

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DOE Investing in Next-Gen Nuclear Reactors
DOE Investing in Next-Gen Nuclear Reactors tjohnson Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:22

DOE Investing in Next-Gen Nuclear Reactors

Next-gen nuclear reactors are coming. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this month said that it intends to contract with American Centrifuge Operating LLC, subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp., for the demonstration of high assay low enriched uranium production—the fuel source for advanced nuclear reactors.

The project entails deploying a 16 machine AC-100M HALEU cascade producing a 19.7 percent U-235 enriched product by October 2020, to be used for the Energy Department’s research and development of nuclear energy.

“The AC-100M enrichment technology is the only existing U.S.-origin uranium enrichment technology, and, further, has the potential to be deployed at a commercial-scale serving the broadest market need,” the agency stated.

The Energy Department’s $115 million investment to build the cascade of 16 centrifuges at the former American Centrifuge in Piketon, Ohio will create 60 jobs initially, said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The demonstration program—known as the American Centrifuge Plant—operated at Piketon until it was disbanded in 2016 by the Obama administration, Portman said. In 2017 Energy Secretary Rick Perry committed to re-evaluating the Obama administration’s decision to end the domestic uranium enrichment demonstration program “because having domestic enrichment capabilities would provide stability and security to our country.”

A number of companies are developing smaller advanced nuclear reactors called “micro reactors” that require HALEU fuel, which is enriched to a 5 to 20 percent uranium-235 content, compared with the 3 to 5 percent U-235 used in existing commercial reactors, according to Utility Dive.

According to Utility Dive one of HALEU fuel's benefits is its refueling cycle, which can be as long as 10 year due to its higher energy concentration.

A micro reactor could possibly come online in the 2025–2027 time frame, with Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska as a prospective location for the first deployment, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“From an industry perspective, it is very important to have a source of high assay HALEU fuel,” Everett Redmond II, senior technical advisor at NEI, told Utility Dive. “We don’t want reactors designed that need a fuel we don’t have.”

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Federal Government Partial Shutdown: What Contractors Need to Know
Federal Government Partial Shutdown: What Contractors Need to Know tjohnson Fri, 01/11/2019 - 13:31

Federal Government Partial Shutdown: What Contractors Need to Know

(Editor's note: As part of its duties in service to NECA, the association's government affairs team created a resource for contractors who may be looking for guidance during the federal government's partial shutdown. It is published here with permission.)

Now in its fourth week, the partial shutdown of the federal government has left many contractors unsure of how to proceed and, once the shutdown ends, what remedies, if any, they will have for time lost and costs incurred. NECA has partnered with the law firm of Smith, Currie & Hancock to provide greater and more detailed information for electrical contractors on what they need to know about the partial shutdown.

What Contractors Need to Know

The partial shutdown has left the Department of Defense unaffected. Other agencies, however, have been subject to varying degrees of closure or reduction in services.

The Department of Agriculture has published contingency plans for its various agencies and offices. The Forest Service will continue to operate existing timber harvesting contracts until 21 days after the shutdown (January 12, 2019), at which time further action will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The Forest Service contingency plan is available here.

The Department of Homeland Security is largely on the job, although its significant numbers of “essential” employees are working unpaid. Its contingency plan is available here. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has published guidance for contractors regarding the shutdown. The guidance states that affected contractors should receive instructions from their contracting officers.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, largely considered “non-essential,” has only a skeleton crew on the job. Public housing authorities and tribal housing authorities, while not required to shut down, may suffer service reductions since some of their funding may come from federal sources. Information related to contracting begins on page 38 of HUD’s contingency plan.

The Department of the Interior has published contingency plans for its various agencies and offices.

The Department of Transportation has furloughed a little less than half of its employees. The Federal Aviation Administration is still providing air traffic control services and other life and safety services.

The Federal Highway Administration is still on the job using funding from other sources. The DOT contingency plan is available here.

Contractors should expect that certain government actions will be delayed due to staff shortages, regardless of the agency. Contractors should notify their contracting officers (CO) in writing of any such delays and conduct all other communications with the CO in writing as well. If a contractor receives instructions from someone other than the CO, it should confirm the instructions with the CO in writing before proceeding, since only the CO has the authority to bind the government.

When the shutdown ends, contractors may be entitled to extra costs and/or time. Contractors should keep detailed records of costs incurred and extra time required as a result of the shutdown, such as demobilization (and later remobilization) costs and delayed worksite access. If a CO instructs a contractor to continue work without pay, the standard disputes provision in most contracts (FAR 52.233-1) requires the contractor to continue performance while the dispute is resolved.

The government is likely to deny requests for equitable adjustment and certified claims for costs by asserting the Sovereign Acts doctrine, which relieves the government of liability for interference with a contract when the interference was the result of a government action taken in the national interest and with a general and public application. A shutdown such as this one usually will qualify as a sovereign act. There is some case law suggesting that the government can choose to accept liability for increased costs caused by a shutdown if the CO issues a suspension of work or stop work order. In any event, contractors should be entitled to additional time.

For any contractor in active litigation against the government, we recommend that they continue to meet all filing deadlines. Many deadlines, such as for filing an appeal of a contracting officer’s final decision, filing a bid protest, and filing a small business size or status protest, are jurisdictional; they will not be waived as a result of the shutdown. Failure to meet those deadlines will result in the case being dismissed as untimely.

Other filings are not jurisdictional, but we recommend that contractors continue to comply with any existing scheduling orders and filing deadlines to the extent possible in light of any limited access to the various tribunals. Based on available information, following is the current status of relevant courts, boards, and other tribunals:

Federal Courts (Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Court of Federal Claims, U.S. District Courts): The Judiciary expects to remain open through January 18, 2019 using court fee balances and other no-year funds. In cases involving Executive Branch attorneys, hearing and filing dates may be modified.

Civilian Board of Contract Appeals: Open to accept electronic filings only. Each judge has the discretion to modify non-statutory deadlines.

Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals: Open and fully operational.

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Open and fully funded through 2019. Filing deadlines for private parties will not be waived.

Small Business Administration Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA): The shutdown is being treated as an extended federal holiday for purposes of filing. Any OHA filing due during the shutdown will be due on the first day of normal operations after the shutdown. SBA’s contingency plan states that there will be no employees staffing OHA during a shutdown.

SBA Office of Government Contracting and Business Development (this office decides certain size and status protests): SBA’s contingency plan shows one employee out of 168 total employees continuing to work during a shutdown. Attempts to contact the office for additional information have been unsuccessful.

This is only a portion of the agencies and tribunals a contractor may interact with. For more information, contact Gene Heady at 404-582-8055 or gjheady@smithcurrie.com or Jake Scott at 202-452-2140 or jwscott@smithcurrie.com.

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Coal Consumption Could Reach a 40-Year Low
Coal Consumption Could Reach a 40-Year Low tjohnson Fri, 01/11/2019 - 09:11

Coal Consumption Could Reach a 40-Year Low

Despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to prolong the life of coal in the United States, the industry seems to be on an inevitable decline.

According to statistics released recently by the U.S. Environmental Information Administration (EIA), coal consumption in the United States is on track to reach its lowest level in almost 40 years.

The EIA’s 2018 October Monthly Energy Review, the most recent for which data is available, projects total 2018 coal consumption to reach 691 million short tons. That would be a 4 percent drop from last year and the lowest level since 1971. It would be a whopping 44 percent drop from the peak of consumption reached in 2007.

A number of factors have contributed to coal's decline. Environmental regulations and the growth of renewable energy have increased pressure on the industry. Perhaps the greatest threat to coal has been the falling cost and increased production of natural gas.

The Trump Administration has attempted to shield and resurrect the industry by reversing some of the environmental restrictions imposed during the Obama Administration, but these policy changes do not look like they will be enough to reverse the trend.

The industry has responded to the changing energy market by retiring many of its plants. According to the same EIA report, plant retirements representing 11 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity occurred in the first three quarters of 2018, and another 3 GW of capacity were expected to be retired by the end of the year. This would mean 2018 have seen the second most coal plant retirements in history behind 2015, which saw 15 GW of capacity retired. The retirements began in earnest about six years ago. More than 10 GW of capacity were retired in 2012. Another 4 GW of capacity are expected to be retired in 2019.

The electric power sector is the nation’s largest consumer of coal, accounting for 93 percent of total U.S. coal consumption between 2007 and 2018. However, coal now accounts for just under 30 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. Historically, it has been the primary source at over 50 percent.

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Survey Finds Electrical Craft Wages in Flux
Survey Finds Electrical Craft Wages in Flux tjohnson Thu, 01/10/2019 - 14:43

Survey Finds Electrical Craft Wages in Flux

In October 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average hourly wage for construction workers increased to $30.18 in September, up from $30.00 in August, and 3.1 percent higher than September 2017. According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), this was the first time ever that average wages for construction workers surpassed $30 an hour.

Wages for construction workers in general, as well as those for related trades and professionals, have, for the most part, been increasing in recent months and years. Difficulty in getting qualified help has been the major driving force. According to the "2018 Workforce Survey Results," published jointly by AGC and Autodesk, 80 percent of construction firms reported that they are having a difficult time filling all or some craft positions.

Compared to one year ago, 72 percent of firms reported difficulty hiring pipelayers (the most difficult position to fill, according to the survey), while 47 percent reported difficulty hiring traffic control personnel (the least difficult position to fill, according to the survey). Electricians were in between at 60 percent.

As a way to increase workforce levels, 62 percent of construction employers responding to the survey reported that their firms had increased base pay rates.

So how have wages for workers in the electrical profession in specific fared in recent years? A survey of companies across the U.S. representing over 350,000 craft employees, conducted by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), a nonprofit that promotes careers in construction, found the following in terms of average 2018 annual wages:

  • Industrial Electrician: $67,269 (up from $58,537 in 2015, the last time the survey was conducted)
  • Electronic Systems Technician: $63,093 (up from $61,265 in 2015)
  • Commercial Electrician: $61,139 (up from $57,741 in 2015)

What is interesting is that average wages for two other types of electrical craft workers have actually decreased in the last three years:

  • Power Line Worker: $68,262 in 2018 (down from $70,217 in 2015)
  • Power Generation Technician: $63,024 in 2018 (down from $70,720 in 2015)
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IEEE Releases New 1584 Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations
IEEE Releases New 1584 Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations tjohnson Thu, 01/10/2019 - 14:02

IEEE Releases New 1584 Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations

According to the IEEE Standards Association, approximately 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers each year for extended injury treatment caused by arc flash incidents.

With this in mind, the IEEE Standards Association announced last month the publication and immediate availability of "IEEE 1584-2018 - IEEE Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations." This new technical standard is sponsored by the IEEE Industry Applications Society, Petroleum & Chemicals Industry (IAS/PCI).

The standard is the result of extensive research and laboratory testing conducted by the Arc Flash Research Project, which is an ongoing collaboration between IEEE and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), with the mission of providing improved models and an analytical process to enable calculation of predicted incident thermal energy and the arc-flash boundary.

"Our extensive, collaborative work with the NFPA has resulted in an IEEE standard that dramatically improves the prediction of hazards associated with arcing faults and accompanying arc blasts," said Konstantinos Karachalios, managing director of the IEEE Standards Association. "Contractors and facility owners will benefit from IEEE 1584 by being able to more thoroughly analyze power systems to calculate the incident energy to which employees could be exposed during operations and maintenance work, allowing them to provide appropriate protection for employees in accordance with the requirements of applicable electrical workplace safety standards."

IEEE 1584 2018 includes processes that cover the collection of field data, consideration of power system operating scenarios, and calculation parameters. Applications include electrical equipment and conductors for three-phase alternating current voltages from 208 volts to 15 kilovolts.

"It has been sixteen years since the first edition of the IEEE 1584 standard was published in 2002," said Jim Phillips, vice chair of the IEEE 1584 Arc Flash Working Group, international chair of IEC TC78 Live Working, and arc flash safety columnist for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine. "The new 2018 edition of this standard takes arc flash studies to the next level."

The original model was based on arc flash test using only a few enclosure sizes with the electrodes in a vertical configuration.

"Subsequent research and testing for the 2018 edition have led to the inclusion of more enclosure sizes, an enclosure size correction factor, and additional electrode configurations, as well as many other enhancements to enable more detailed modeling," Phillips said.

"The update to IEEE 1584 has empowered thousands of engineers conducting arc-flash hazard calculations," said Daleep Mohla, chair, IEEE 1584 Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations Working Group. "These efforts, conducted in partnership with the NFPA, have armed all stakeholders involved in arc-flash hazards to better protect employees and contractors in the working environment."

For more on IEEE 1584 and to hear about the most significant new changes, check out the video below by Jim Phillips.

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2018 NECA Showstopper Winners
2018 NECA Showstopper Winners tjohnson Wed, 01/09/2019 - 15:58

2018 NECA Showstopper Winners

At the 2018 NECA Convention and Trade Show in Philadelphia, 22 exhibitors won Showstopper Awards. Sponsored by ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, Showstoppers are the longest-running such competition in the industry.

The NECA Showstoppers Showcase was a special area on the exhibit floor where exhibiting companies displayed the products they entered in competition. It opened one hour before the exhibit hall and was filled with eager conventiongoers.

Showstopper judges are industry experts with many years of experience. A blue ribbon is placed on the winners’ displays in the Showstopper area, and each winning company is presented a trophy.

The 2018 Showstoppers are listed alphabetically by company. Descriptions are based on information provided by the companies that entered products in the competition.

3M

3M's 2018 Showstopper

The 3M Peltor wireless communication accessory turns Peltor X-series earmuffs into a hands-free device for making and receiving telephone calls. It protects hearing without sacrificing communication on noisy job sites. Also, it enables users to communicate with other crew members at the push of a button. It is Bluetooth compatible with smartphones, has a noise-canceling microphone, and is resistant to harsh environmental elements. Earmuffs are designed to provide comfortable fit for a full work day.

Aris Wind

Aris Wind's 2018 Showstopper

Aris Wind systems provide renewable, resilient wind- and solar-powered off-grid and auxiliary power for exterior and security lighting, telecommunications, public safety and security applications enabling these systems to remain on when outages of power sources occur. Self-powered internet connectivity expands uses to security cameras, sensors and other applications, and the system can be installed with no trenching or wiring.

Arlington Industries

Arlington's 2018 Showstopper

FLB gangable floor box and cover kits for new commercial concrete pours have interlocking single boxes that join together to build a two- or three-gang box. Connections on opposing sides lock boxes securely together. Each cover/frame kit comes complete with device and low-voltage insert. Single-, two- and three-gang cover/frame kits are available in brass- or nickel-plated zinc. They also are available in black, brown, gray, light almond and caramel-colored plastic.

Bridgeport Fittings

Bridgeport's 2018 Showstopper

The MC-Flexit connector has an adjustable, one-piece  armor stop and steel-hinged strap to ease installation. Bridgeport’s new 680-UI series of adjustable end-stop connectors have an insulated throat that provides effective conductor protection. These fittings have a two-position, two-screw hinge design that allows use of a large cable range without requiring separate bushings. Heavy-duty steel construction supports large MC feeder cable.

CAB (Cambria County Association for the Blind)

CAB's 2018 Showstopper

The CAB Solar integrated grounding system is designed for cable management in large-scale solar power system installations. Its copper-composite messenger wire both suspends hangers for cable management and acts as the equipment grounding conductor and grounding electrode conductor, providing cost and time savings compared to trenching and cable trays, including CAB’s current standard cable-management systems.

DeWalt

DeWalt's 2018 Showstopper

The 20V Max dual switch lithium-ion band saw is a deep cut, variable-speed cutting tool. The dual switch feature encourages the use of both hands during operation. Features include an ergonomic soft grip, good tool balance to reduce fatigue, blade speed control enabling the user to tailor cutting speeds to the application, a sight light that improves visibility to the cut line, and rubber bumpers. An integrated hanging hook facilitates storage.

Dynamize

Dynamize's 2018 Showstopper

The patent-pending Ripjack is the first power tool to remove the outer jacket from stranded concentric underground primary cable, providing an effective option to current manual methods. The Ripjack strips the outer jacket off stranded underground residential distribution (URD) primary cable safely, quickly and efficiently. It can strip all sizes of stranded concentric URD cable, from No. 2 to 1,500 MCM, with no adjustments needed for different sizes of cable.

Eaton

Eaton's 2018 Showstopper

The Eaton Double-Door safety switch is promoted as the industry’s first compartmentalized, fusible safety switch that features an innovative two-door design with an internal barrier that isolates the fuse base from line-side power. The design provides lowered exposure, enhanced safety and improved uptime when accessing the load-side fuse compartment. An interlocking mechanism keeps the door closed when power is on but includes a defeat mechanism for access when necessary.

Enespro PPE

Enespro's 2018 Showstopper

AirLite 40 CAL suits are lightweight with ActiveCool Venting to increase air-flow in the underarm area. Designed specifically to offer enhanced comfort and functionality while providing reliable protection, the Enespro PPE U.S.-made 40-CAL AirLite arc flash suit offers multiple advantages including super lightweight 11.5-ounce Drifire and Aramid fabric, 3M Scotchlite FR silver and yellow reflective tape, elastic-back waist, antimicrobial collars, and 14-in. leg zippers.

FLIR

FLIR's 2018 Showstopper

The FLIR One Pro LT is a 4,800-pixel thermal imager attachment for Apple or Android smartphones to help pinpoint electrical problems invisible to the naked eye. The pocket-portable device plugs into a phone’s charging port and takes both video and photo images. It measures temperatures up to 248ºF (120ºC) and features multiple temperature meters and level/span controls. VividIR image processing helps the user see greater details.

Greenlee

Greenlee's 2018 Showstopper

The 30-ton Greenlee Shear 30T shearing station is described as the first mobile work station on the market capable of shearing back-to-back strut and multiple sizes of threaded rod. The Shear 30T is hydraulically powered and has an easy-to-use measuring station for accurate, repeatable cuts. A quick-die change system requires no tools or loose parts. Die profile design offers compatibility with multiple strut brands, and dies automatically retract after a cut.

Hilti

Hilti's 2018 Showstopper

The Hilti DD-WMS 100 Water Management System reduces labor costs of managing water supplies, slurry and dust removal and saves hours of unproductive time. It can recycle water as many as seven times, providing water autonomy (30 gallons) for as long as an entire work day. During coring, slurry is captured in a filter bag for easy disposal. The WMS 100 sets a new standard in diamond coring by removing concerns about slurry and silica dust.

iToolco

iToolCo's 2018 Showstopper

The iToolco Swivel Lifting Coupling is designed to quickly and safely lift conduit risers, automatically leveling and centering the riser below the picking point. The coupling has a built-in lifting eye to provide a convenient rigging location to keep conduit in a level position for threading pipe for final assembly. Couplings feature ½-in. all welded steel construction, standard NPT thread, and a wing bolt that locks conduit in position. Swivel lifting couples come in sizes from 3 to 6 in.

Klein Tools

Klein's 2018 Showstopper

Hybrid Pliers are a multi-purpose tool that can strip, cut, twist, shear and crimp. The full-length, induction-hardened cutting knives are designed for use on hard wire. A high-leverage design increases power to make cuts. These pliers crimp noninsulated connectors, lugs and terminals. The dual-material Journeyman handles are designed to provide a long-lasting, comfortable grip. The wide, knurled head effectively grabs and twists wires.

Leviton

Leviton's 2018 Showstopper

This combination Type A and C USB charger and tamper-resistant receptacle offers two vertical USB ports and 5.1A of charging current, 25-plus watts of power for smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, printers and other devices. Smart chip technology recognizes and optimizes the charging requirements of multiple individual devices.

Lind Equipment

Lind's 2018 Showstopper

The Beacon360 Spark is a modular LED string light with features superior to traditional bulb-based string lights. Each Beacon360 Spark is a purpose-built, self-contained single LED light string with a 20-ft. cord length and plug and triple outlet. It provides a method of creating exactly the amount of light needed for varying situations. Several360 Sparks can be deployed in any configuration: down a hallway, in a daisy chain, and with two outlets on every light.

Milwaukee Tool

Milwaukee's 2018 Showstopper

The SDS Plus Dust Trap drilling shroud is the industry’s first OSHA-compliant dust-control option without a vacuum. Universal fit enables the dust trap to work with all SDS Plus rotary hammers and SDS Plus drill bits up to 8 in. long. The clear sleeve is designed to offer visibility. It is compact and collapsible, so it is easy to handle and store. It is OSHA objective-data-compliant when used without a vacuum and OSHA Table 1-compliant when used with a dust extractor.

Orbit Industries

Orbit's 2018 Showstopper

Orbit Industries’ UL-listed simple support bracket with T-bar clips (SSB-TBAR) spans the 2-ft. side of the ceiling grid. It includes mounting clips on either end, which feature seismic-wiring provisions and Tek screw holes for fastening to the channel. Pairing the support bracket with T-bar with Orbit’s Universal Mounting provides an adjustable box for six-way maneuverability. With the required hardware, it also can mount 4-in. and 411/16-in. square outlet boxes.

Patriot Industries

Patriot's 2018 Showstopper

The new Patriot Magnum stainless steel conduit system is designed for highly corrosive or stringent sanitary wash-down areas. Patriot Magnum combines a complete line of 316 stainless steel straps, hangers, reducers and strut components for enhanced volume with Form 8 conduit bodies. All products in the line are made in America. Stainless steel conduit, nipples, elbows and couplings are NSF Certified 304 or 316.

Snake Tray

Snake Tray's 2018 Showstopper

The newest Snake Tray cable management system has a multiple pocked, color-coded design that combines power conductors along with control and signal cables, all under one jacket. The design provides as many as eight separate color-coded pathways to manage and identify a variety of cables. The new cable manager easily integrates with cable trays or can be mounted to a wall. It is designed for managing cables in hospital and healthcare facilities.

Southwire

Southwire's 2018 Showstopper

Romex Brand SIMpull NM8-PCS Duo combines power conductors along with control/signal cables, all under one jacket. Coupled with the Southwire SIMpull cable jacket, the combination saves time and reduces installation costs when compared to traditional installations of two cables, and it helps make pulls safer and more efficient. This new product is ideal for use with LED or fluorescent dimming controls and smart homes.

Werner

Werner's 2018 Showstopper

Blue Armor H9140 Arc Flash Harness is specifically designed for applications that have potential exposure to electric arc. The Kevlar webbing, shoulder padding and dielectric hardware construction meet ASTM F887 requirements for arc flash and the ANSI z359.11 and OSHA 1926 and 1910 fall protection requirements. In the event of a fall, the built-in yellow handles at the seat aid in achieving gravity override position, reducing the potential suspension trauma hazards.

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Brighten Up: New Lighting Installations in Existing Dwellings
Brighten Up: New Lighting Installations in Existing Dwellings tjohnson Wed, 01/09/2019 - 15:49

Brighten Up: New Lighting Installations in Existing Dwellings

New lighting technology provides electrical contractors with a unique capability to redo an aging home and vastly improve the lighting system. At the same time, many aspects of an existing home, such as its construction, can pose challenges. ECs must find a way to work around them.

Before an EC can install a new lighting system, he or she must first consider the home’s construction. Knowing the location and date the home was built, an EC can make some educated guesses. For example, many homes in the South have a crawl space underneath, while those in the North and Northeast tend to have basements.

The home’s construction will determine the difficulty of the lighting reconstruction and the scale of repairs the home will require after the installation. If there is either a crawl space or an attic space, is there enough working space for an electrician to access walls and ceilings? The less accessible attic or crawl space, the more repair work will have to be done.

Another consideration is whether the home is a single-story, two-story or multilevel home and the access points for new lighting control and luminaire wiring. A tri-level or split-level home may have an attic, but since the home actually has three levels, the concrete slab on the lower level and the second level would not permit easy access to the ceiling or walls. In a tri-level, only the top floor is easily accessible.

When working in an accessible attic, there are many tricks ECs use during a rewire of an existing structure. I don’t profess to know all of these tricks. There probably are as many tricks out there as there are electricians.

One I’m aware of is, when installing new Type NM cable in an existing wall from an accessible attic, drill a hole in the studs in the attic. Using a flashlight, determine if there is insulation inside the wall (commonly found in outside walls). If there is insulation in the wall, a tape measure with the end cut off can be used to go behind the insulation to the hole for the box. Install a hole in the tape and insert one of the conductors of the NM cable into the hole, tape it up and use the tape to pull the cable into the attic. If no obstructions are visible in the wall space between the studs, a smooth chain can be dropped through the hole in the stud. A hole can then be cut into the drywall in the room for the future box, and the NM cable can then be attached to the chain and pulled into the attic for termination in a new luminaire’s ceiling box.

Here is another. Flexible spring steel shank drill bits with wire fishing holes in the head and the shanks are available in various sizes from ½, ¾, 3/8 and 9/16 inches and up to 54 inches long. These flexible shank bits can be used wherever the length of the flexible drill bit permits in the attic and can be used with a flex bit placement tool through a hole for a box in the drywall to drill into the attic plate. Care should be taken to always know what is on the other side of the stud before drilling.

One more: When installing a new box for a ceiling- mounted luminaire, always check in 314.27(A)(2) for determining the requirements for ceiling outlets. For a ceiling-suspended paddle fan, 314.27(C) requires outlet boxes used as the sole support shall be listed, shall be marked by the manufacturer as suitable for paddle fan support, and shall not support ceiling-suspended paddle fans that weigh more than 70 pounds.

Next month, I will cover the new types of lighting technology and dimmers available on the market.

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2019 Construction Outlook: A Steady Jog Through a Maturing Expansion
2019 Construction Outlook: A Steady Jog Through a Maturing Expansion tjohnson Wed, 01/09/2019 - 10:29

2019 Construction Outlook: A Steady Jog Through a Maturing Expansion

It’s a new year, but will it be different from last year? From 2012–2015, the wind was to our backs, and we made great strides. Total construction starts (breaking ground) grew between 11–14 percent. In 2016–2017, we maintained a spirited run, achieving 7 percent growth. Slowing to a jog in 2019, expect a repeat of 2018; this long-distance runner isn’t quite finished.

As in years past, our forecast is based on Dodge Data & Analytics’ “2019 Dodge Construction Outlook” and ConstructConnect’s “Tariffs, Trade & Transition: Post Election Design & Construction Outlook.” Dodge reported starts for the U.S. construction industry in 2018 grew by 3 percent ($806.8 billion). This year, expect a near repeat ($808.3 billion) with some variation in sector performance (see Figure 1). ConstructConnect’s report focused on put-in-place spending (total dollar value of construction work), finding a spending increase between 5–7 percent in 2018 and projecting nearly the same in 2019 between 5–8 percent.

2019 Outlook 1

“Over the past three years, the expansion for the U.S. construction industry has shown deceleration in its rate of growth, a pattern that typically takes place as an expansion matures,” said Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics.

Strong economic fundamentals, including declining unemployment, managed inflation, modestly rising wages and happy consumers, have buoyed this modest construction growth. The difference this year may be an injection of uncertainty as the economic expansion matures.

In 2018, residential building starts grew, advancing in both single-famiy (6 percent) and multifamily (5 percent) construction (see Figure 2).

2019 Outlook 2

Put-in-place spending grew between 5–9 percent, according to ConstructConnect. Nonresidential construction starts advanced 3 percent thanks to small gains in commercial (2 percent) and institutional (1 percent) and a big gain (18 percent) in manufacturing. Put-in-place dollars grew 3–6 percent. Meanwhile, nonbuilding construction showed a decline (–3 percent) where growth in public works softened; retreating numbers were impacted by negative electric plant/gas plant activity. Put-in-place was estimated between 2–5 percent.

2019 Outlook 3

Economists for Dodge, ConstructConnect and others are watching rising interest rates, inflation, higher material costs and a continued shortage of skilled construction workers. They also are monitoring inflation. The U.S. Labor Department reported inflation at 2.5 percent for the 12 months ending October 2018. Rates over 3.0 percent raise concerns.

2019 Outlook 4

We are approaching 10 years of economic recovery in summer 2019, which would match the largest expansion in post-World War II times (see Figure 5). Gross domestic product (GDP) averaged 3.0 percent in 2018.

2019 Outlook 5

“Contractors are equally confident now [2018] and in the year to come based on an AGC [Associated General Contractors of America] survey,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist, AGC of America. Simonson participated in ConstructConnect’s webcast, held on Nov. 15, 2018.

Simonson said construction employment rose by 5 percent from 2017–2018.

“That’s triple the rate of the overall economy,” he said. “The industry is hiring ... but [the workers] may not be the ones they want to hire.”

Unfortunately, a lack of ready-skilled workers remains a challenge.

“Interest rates will keep rising but not sharply,” Simonson said. “They may price out some homebuyers, some developers may pencil out projects, and perhaps bond issuers will scale back some projects. Spending, however, is well above its previous peak, not taking into account inflation.”

Robert Dietz, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) chief economist, said, aside from the declining affordability of housing, “overall economic conditions remain solid.”

More positives

Tax cuts passed in late 2017 helped strengthen business investment and create some jobs; however, economists don’t expect this form of fiscal stimulus to provide prolonged growth (see Figure 6). GDP for 2019 is projected to fall back to 2.5 percent.

2019 Outlook 6

At the Dodge forecast, Murray pointed to other bright spots supporting the U.S. expansion carrying over to 2019, including eased bank lending standards for commercial projects and some rollbacks of Dodd-Frank bank restrictions.

“The Congressional 2018 omnibus spending stood at $1.3 trillion, surpassing previous caps,” Murray said. “Within it, $21.2 billion was set aside for infrastructure. Transportation-related construction was a big winner. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [USACE] activity received an additional $918 million.”

Murray considered the passage of bonds another positive.

“California is seeing some pretty good gains,” he said. “Texas continues to pass bond measures. The year 2017 showed more bonds passed than rejected.”

Trouble reading tea leaves

The question on most attendees’ minds at both the Dodge event and ConstructConnect webcast was whether decelerated growth reflects an imminent recession? At Dodge, Cristian deRitis, senior director, Moody’s Analytics, said he sees a recessionary possibility sometime in 2020. The AGC’s Simonson and Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects (AIA) chief economist, agreed.

Baker added in the ConstructConnect webcast, “Maybe we see a slowdown [smaller growth] but not a downturn at all.”

Of note, Christophe Barraud, Paris-based chief economist for Market Securities, pushes a possible U.S. recession into 2021 or beyond (see Figure 7).

2019 Outlook 7

Meanwhile, the Dodge Momentum Index bounced around in 2018. The index is a monthly measure for nonresidential building projects in planning, and it has shown to lead construction spending of this sector by a full year. The index retreated in August and September, 164.1 (2,000=100) to 150.5. That turned around in October as robust construction activity raised the index to 179, second only to June’s 192 figure. Through the first 10 months of 2018, total construction starts were up 1 percent from the same period in 2017.

“During 2018, the presence of very large projects in a given month has played a considerable role in shaping the monthly pattern of activity,” Murray said. “In October 2018, nonresidential starts climbed 53 percent, contributing to a 21-percent boost in overall construction.”

Meanwhile, the AIA’s Architecture Billing Index (a measure of activity in architecture firms), while also fluid, held on at 150 or above, signifying growth in 2018.

“The first three quarters of 2018 were just as strong as the numbers in 2017,” Baker said. “Multifamily has seemed very healthy in the housing sector, even accelerating in the first three quarters of 2018. Commercial [and]  industrial showed stable growth. We expect growth from both in 2019.”

Baker added spending on rehabilitation, remodeling, additions and historic renovations has stayed strong since the recession, a noteworthy contributor to overall construction health.

When the inevitable downturn does develop, deRitis said a housing bubble will not be the culprit, meaning recessionary effects on the construction industry likely will be less severe than in 2008. He characterized 2019 as a “good but risky time.”

Employment has been a big positive.

“We’re seeing 200,000 jobs drawing people into the economy each month,” deRitis said. “In fact, there are more job openings than candidates to fill them. We are at the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years [3.7 percent/Oct. 25, 2018].”

The unemployment rate remained un-changed in November 2018.

Since October, job growth has slowed, but workers are feeling confident nonetheless. Wage growth, however, remains stubborn.

“It is at 2.8 percent right now,” he said. “In 2000, with 3.9 percent unemployment, we saw wage growth rising 4 to 4.5 percent.” Meanwhile, job openings, layoffs and quits totals show a healthy economy (see Figures 8 and 9).

2019 Outlook 8

2019 Outlook 9

For deRitis, the risks in our economy are creating uncertainty, such as the housing market being short 400,000 units.

“Housing starts remain low,” he said.   “Housing contributes 5 percent to GDP growth. Every single-family start adds three full-time jobs. So, [low starts are] a concern. Multifamily may not be at the levels we want, but it is holding its own. Meanwhile, household formations are not rising based on expectation, and there is not enough housing in the market.” (see Figure 10).

2019 Outlook 10

DeRitis also found the all-time low of infrastructure spending as percentage of GDP a “real risk” and drag on the economy. He pointed to a growing trade war with China.

“The first round of tariffs [25 percent of $34 billion of Chinese goods] had a negligible effect,” he said. “The second round [$200 billion of goods] will affect more consumer goods but won’t push us into recession. A full-scale trade war at $500 billion would hurt us and maybe push a recession. Supply chains would be affected, and that impacts the economy and growth with a tax on key inputs for companies. A preview was the washing machine tariff and prices jumping 25 percent. The Northwest and South would be hit hardest in a trade war” (see Figure 11).

2019 Outlook 11

Alex Carrick, chief economist for ConstructConnect, added a few more possible headwinds. He called them “shadows at the edge.”

“The rising interest rates also impact auto sales,” he said. “I also wouldn’t discount inflation. Prices are coming up. And while the U.S. economy is strong, the rest of the world is behaving much more sluggishly. The deficit wall may hurt prospects of a middle class tax cut. Finally, President Trump is likely to be at loggerheads with the chairman of the Fed [Jerome Powell]. Trump doesn’t want interest rates to jump up.”

DeRitis also weighed in on interest rates.

“We expect to see inflationary pressure in 2019, though the investor market may not believe this forecast,” he said (see Figure 12). “If we overheat with prices and inflation, we hike interest rates to control them. The Fed may need to be more aggressive than they think. We may also risk an inverted yield curve—a bad deal for the economy. Average length [between] an inversion when it appears and a recession is 12 months.”

2019 Outlook 12

An inverted yield curve is an interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term of the same credit quality.

The Fed hiked rates in December 2018. Two or more hikes are likely in 2019, which could get interest rates to 3.5 percent or greater, Murray projected. He and others also cited the federal deficit as a point for concern, increasing 17 percent to $779 billion in 2018 and projected by the Congressional Budget Office to climb to $973 billion for 2019.

In positive gains, Kiplinger forecast 10-year Treasury notes to edge up to 3.2 percent by year-end 2018 (a 3.1 percent yield) and achieve 3.6 percent by the end of 2019.

“There’s a funny contradiction going on,” Murray said. “The recent stock market behavior is a warning sign that the good times don’t last forever. So does construction­-industry-growth deceleration signify decline? Ask construction contractors, and they cite the highest levels of backlogs and remain optimistic about the construction market. There is some anxiety, but the fundamentals remain sound.”

Sector Performance and Forecasts for 2019

These are based on Dodge Analytics and Data and ConstructConnect estimates unless otherwise stated.

RESIDENTIAL—Still an economic driver

Eight years of recovery for the housing market has shown starts growing 127 percent (2009–2017). Multifamily has led, increasing 281 percent from 2009–2016. Single-family starts rose 94 percent from 2011–2017. In 2018, total housing starts reached an estimated 1.350 million units, a 4-percent increase. (The NAHB figure is 1.263 million.) A maturing economy and rising interest rates will add pressure this year. A 5-percent decline to 1.280 million units in total housing starts is projected for 2019. The NAHB’s estimates are similar at 1.283 million.

Single-family

By and large, the single-family housing sector did well in 2018, gaining 5 percent in units and 6 percent in dollars ($232.4 billion). The NAHB placed total single-family housing starts at 884,000 units. Put-in-place spending grew between 6–8 percent. Dodge and others, however, see “signs of aging.” This year’s forecast projects lesser growth at 3 percent with flat dollar gains ($232.2 billion). The NAHB projects 917,000 units. Put-in-place spending is expected to climb 6–10 percent. Fixed-rate mortgages in 2018 topped out at 4.60 percent. The NAHB forecasts 5.21 percent for 2019 (see Figure 13).

2019 Outlook 13

Simonson included put-in-place figures for remodeling and improvements. In 2018, this spending grew 6–8 percent. In 2019, expect advancements between 5–10 percent.

Housing affordability is creating its own drag on the single-family market. Dodge considers it a No. 1 issue. From February 2007 to February 2012, the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index revealed home prices dropped 26 percent. That helped deliver a buyer-friendly market.

Home prices then rose 49 percent through July 2018. The rise was most acute in 2013 (9.6 percent), slowed in 2015 (4.6 percent), accelerated in 2016 (5.6 percent), again in 2017 (5.8 percent), and more in the first half of 2018 (6.3 percent). Home prices continue to rise up 6–7 percent year over year (see Figure 14).

2019 Outlook 14

“I think income growth will help us get out of this period,” NAHB's Dietz said. “We’re probably looking at a period where existing home sales volume is flat to declining.”

Multifamily

While multifamily is a maturing market, it has been pretty stable (see Figure 15). In 2016, starts slowed to 3 percent but still represented a market up 282 percent from the depth of the recession. Growth matured as gains fell to 4 percent in 2017 (497,000 units). In 2018, starts surprised observers and grew by 2 percent (508,000 units), and dollar value rose 5 percent ($93 billion). Put-in-place spending was flat. The NAHB found 2018 multifamily starts at 380,000 units. This year, anticipate an 8-percent drop in starts (465,000 units) and a dollar value decline of 6 percent ($87.1 billion). Spending gains are projected between 2–5 percent. The NAHB projects lesser starts of 366,000 units.

2019 Outlook 15

Household formation among millennials, while improving, is not happening at the pace of past generations. This age group of 18–38 year olds remains primarily renters or still live with their parents. As a consequence, the last eight years of the rental market has remained strong with tightening vacancies but escalating rental rates. This may be starting to change.

Growth of multifamily construction during the economic expansion has largely been driven by large projects. In the first nine months of last year, 74 projects ($100 million or more) broke ground, adding $13.2 billion. Unit totals of 32,752 were 10 percent of the total market. New York City and its outlying metro area represent the largest placement of big apartment complexes. In 2018, New York City topped the starts list again ($12.8 billion) followed by Washington, D.C. ($3.5 billion); Miami ($3.5 billion); and Boston ($3.1 billion). Dollar value for seven of the top 10 multifamily markets grew by double digits in 2018. Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta showed declines.

Despite an expected multifamily softening in 2019, Dodge feels this sector may still drive overall construction activity in the decade ahead. It points to demand keeping pace with supply supported by more young adults, the continued popularity of downtown living and reasonable vacancy rates.

COMMERCIAL—Gains for a shrinking player

The up-and-down ride for commercial construction may be peaking. Starts for 2018 saw a 1-percent decline, or 761,000 million square feet (msf) from 2017 but earned a 2 percent dollar gain ($119.3 billion). Spending rose 4–6 percent. In 2019, some weakening is forecast with declines of 7 percent (704 msf) and an erosion of 3 percent in dollars ($115.8 million). Put-in-place spending will register gains of 5 percent or less. Dodge expects square-footage declines in every sector of commercial building in 2019 but characterizes them as “moderate” supported by reasonably healthy market fundamentals and some easing of bank lending.

Stores and shopping centers

The words “recovery” and “store construction” haven’t generally fit together for eight years, though 2010–2017 did see stores advance 58 percent in dollar value. Even with a strong economy and hearty consumer spending, new store construction has disappointed. In 2018, starts declined 13 percent in square footage (84 msf) and 9 percent dollar value ($18.3 billion). This year, stores and shopping centers construction is expected to decline 5 percent in square footage (80 msf) and 1 percent in dollar value ($18.1 billion).

The structural shift of online shopping continues to grow as store construction weakens. The U.S. Commerce Department reported second-quarter 2018 e-commerce growth at 15.2 percent ($127.3 billion) year-over-year. In comparison, total retail sales grew 5.7 percent over the same period. New capital investment also is focused on e-commerce. Notably, however, online shopping still represents only 9.6 percent of total retail sales.

Walmart led in new store openings. In the first nine months of 2018, it spent $866 million on new construction projects, although that was a 12-percent construction drop from 2017 (see Figure 16). Big projects for 2018 also included the Bal Harbour Shops expansion ($258 million); and a renovation for retail in a vacant Dayton’s department store ($75 million) in Minneapolis, part of a mixed-use project ($150 million). Mixed-use may be a space where retail finds some traction. Renovating existing spaces has been popular for retail in recent years.

2019 Outlook 16

Commercial warehouses

In 2010, warehouse starts represented 49 msf. By the end of 2017, starts had grown 500 percent thanks largely to e-commerce (see Figure 17). After seven years, this sector appears to be maturing. In 2018, warehouse starts increased 2 percent in square footage and dollars (299 msf, $23.8 billion). This year, warehouse construction is expected to pull back 11 percent in square footage (265 msf) and 8 percent in dollar value ($21.9 billion). Vacancy rate declines show demand is still outpacing supply. CBRE Econometric Advisors (CBRE-EA) found third-quarter 2018 vacancy rates standing at 7.1 percent.

2019 Outlook 17

Amazon ruled the day, owning the top three warehouse-construction projects in 2018. Those projects included the “Project Rose” Fulfillment Center (2.6 msf) in Spokane, Wash.; “Project Dylan” warehouse (2.4 msf) in Tulsa, Okla.; and a warehouse (2.3 msf) in Bessemer, Ala. Today’s design imperatives are demanding larger, technologically sophisticated spaces.

Offices and data centers

In 2018, office starts increased 5 percent in square footage (143 msf) and 6 percent in dollar value ($44.6 billion). Put-in-place spending rose between 7–9 percent. In 2019, gains may pull back 3 percent (139 msf) but increase in dollar value by 1 percent ($44.9 billion). Gains in spending will top out at 5 percent.

Several noteworthy projects broke ground in 2018. They included the 64-story Tishman-Speyer Spiral Tower ($1.8 billion) in New York City’s Hudson Yard; two Facebook data centers in Papillion, Neb., and Huntsville, Ala. ($1.0 billion and $750 million, respectively) three Google data centers (in Clarksville, Tenn., Stevenson, Ala.; and Pryor Okla.) and the North Wacker office tower ($659 million) in Chicago.

In 2017, of the 52 office projects valued at $100 million or more, 10 were data centers ($3.4 billion, 5.8 msf). Last year, of the 34 projects valued at the same threshold, 14 were data centers ($5.8 billion, 8.6 msf). Facebook data center starts in 2018 were dominant in Dallas/Fort Worth; Huntsville, Ala.; and Columbus, Ohio. Atlanta and Austin, Texas, also saw major data center projects.

According to CBRE-EA, U.S. office vacancy rates fell by 10 basis points to 12.8 percent during the third quarter of 2018. This marked the fourth consecutive quarter of a 10-point drop. Downtown rates stayed flat at 10.5 percent. Suburban rates fell 10 points to 14.1 percent. Office renovations have also remained very strong (see Figure 18).

2019 Outlook 18

In overall office construction, New York City led in 2018 with $5.8 billion in projects, most notably the Spiral office tower. It was followed by Washington, D.C. ($2.5 billion), Chicago, Boston and Omaha, Neb.

Hotels

Hotels have seen healthy growth. Between 2011–2016, starts rose 344 percent, or 75 msf. Growth retreated 2 percent in 2017 but progressed in 2018 by 4 percent in square footage (77 msf) and 10 percent in dollar value ($18.5 billion). Put-in-place advanced a strong 10–12 percent. This year, hotel construction will slip 8 percent in square footage (71 msf) and 6 percent in dollar value ($17.4 billion). Spending advances will be near zero.

Now that 37 of 50 states offer legalized gambling, casino growth has fed hotel construction. Strong leisure and business travel has also strengthened this sector; business travel can help support convention center projects. Meanwhile, revenue per available room (RevPAR) rose 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, another 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018, and 4.0 percent in the second quarter. Hotel occupancy rates were strong as well. The national average rose to 70.2 percent in second quarter of 2018 from 69.4 percent a year earlier (see Figure 19).

2019 Outlook 19

The largest 2018 projects included the Omni Seaport Hotel ($450 million) in Boston; the Four Seasons Hotel ($320 million) in New Orleans; and the Loew’s Kansas City Convention Center Hotel ($232 million) in Kansas City, Mo.

INSTITUTIONAL—Staying in the game

The institutional building sector regained its mojo in 2017, growing 9 percent in square footage (348 msf) and 18 percent in dollar value ($143.5 billion) with growth in educational buildings, healthcare facilities and large transportation terminal projects. In 2018, this sector advanced another 2 percent in square footage (354 msf) and 1 percent in dollar value ($145.5 billion). Increases are expected again this year, gaining 2 percent in square footage (361 msf) and 3 percent in dollar value ($149.7 billion).

Education

Educational facility gains in 2018 rose 9 percent in square footage (147 msf) and 11 percent in dollar value ($64.2 billion) (see Figures 20 and 21). Put-in-place growth stood between 2–4 percent. Stability was seen in primary and junior high schools. High school construction experienced moderate growth. College and university projects receded in square footage. In 2019, education is predicted to grow 4 percent in square footage (153 msf) and 6 percent in dollar value ($68.3 billion).

2019 Outlook 20

Spending is forecast to reach no more than 5 percent.

Noteworthy bond measures in 2017 have given the educational sector a good foundation. Examples included $2.7 billion in metro Houston; $1.1 billion in Austin, Texas; and $922 million in school construction in Charlotte, N.C. More bond measures (some of which were renovation) passed in November 2018 and build on the momentum. They included Round Rock, Texas ($508 million); Spokane, Wash. ($495 million); and Eugene, Ore. ($319 million).

Large K–12 projects greenlit in 2018 included a high school addition ($202 million) in Somerville, Mass., new high schools in Frisco, Texas ($200 million), and Sherwood, Ore. ($186 million). The top five states in K–12 construction starts (dollar amounts year-over-year) were Texas (up 9 percent), California (up 30 percent), New York (up 8 percent), Washington state (up 28 percent) and Ohio (up 30 percent).

2019 Outlook 21

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), K–12 enrollments (public and private schools) grew by 469,000 (0.9 percent) between 2008–2013. Between 2013–2018, numbers advanced to 451,000 (0.8 percent). Together, they represent 55.9 million students in 2018. By 2023, numbers will reach 56.5 million, or 621,000 more. High school enrollments will climb by 369,000 (2.2 percent) and lower grades by 252,000 (0.6 percent). At the college/university level, enrollments are improving, too. From 2013–2018, growth stood at 311,000 (1.5 percent). Over the next five years (until 2023) enrollments are projected to jump 1.4 million (6.9 percent), bringing total enrollment to 22.1 million.

Notable projects that broke ground in 2018 included the University of Washington Population and Health Initiative facility ($230 million) in Seattle; the University of Oregon’s Knight Campus for the Acceleration of Scientific Impacts ($230 million) in Eugene, Ore.; and a biomedical research facility ($210 million) at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities

Healthcare construction has languished but took a notable upturn in 2017, growing 10 percent in square footage (85 msf) and 6 percent in dollar value ($28.2 billion) (see Figure 22). Several large hospital projects helped. With fewer such projects in 2018, sector performance dropped 6 percent in square footage (80 msf) and 5 percent in dollar value ($26.8 billion). Spending grew as much as 2 percent. In 2019, momentum is expected to return, showing growth by 4 percent in square footage (83 msf) and 6 percent in dollar value ($28.6 billion). Put-in-place spending will be flat.

2019 Outlook 22

With 28 percent of the U.S. population now over the age of 55, this growing demographic shift should portend well for healthcare construction. The continuing fight over the Affordable Care Act in Congress and the courts adds some volatility.

Major 2018 projects included an expansion of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital ($500 million); the construction of the Boston Children’s Hospital clinical building ($400 million); and Prince George’s County Regional Hospital ($295 million) in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Transportation

In 2017, the transportation sector led the way in institutional building with starts gaining 34 percent in square footage (29.0 msf) and a massive 126 percent rise in dollar value ($21.5 billion). Major contributors included work commencing on the $4 billion terminal overhaul at LaGuardia Airport in New York City; terminal work at major airports in Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco; and key rail work including a $1.3 billion Moynihan Station project in New York. Some pullback occurred in 2018 as starts withdrew by 5 percent in square footage (275 msf) and 24 percent in dollar value ($16.3 billion). Put-in-place spending was brisk at 15–17 percent. In 2019, forecasts show a lesser retreat at 2 percent in square footage (27.0 msf) and 12 percent in dollar value ($14.4 billion). Spending should advance between 5–10 percent (see Figure 23).

2019 Outlook 23

In 2018, major transportation projects included the North Concourse ($740 million) at Salt Lake City International Airport; a concourse expansion project ($700 million) and Great Hall terminal upgrade ($650 million) at Denver International Airport, and a North Concourse project ($375 million) at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va.

Amusement and recreational

The last couple of years have generally been strong for amusement and recreational building. In 2018, increases of 10 percent in square footage (52.0 msf) and 12 percent in dollar value ($20.1 billion) were seen. Construction types are shown in Figure 24. This year, fewer projects are expected to break ground. Expect to see declines of 6 percent in square footage (49.1 msf) and 2 percent in dollar value ($19.7 billion). Helping is the reauthorization of tax-exempt status for private activity bonds in the federal tax reform bill.

2019 Outlook 24

Major projects in 2018 included the NFL Raiders’ new home stadium ($1.3 billion) in Las Vegas; expansion of the Washington State Convention Center ($810 million) in Seattle; and the performing arts complex at the World Trade Center ($363 million) in New York City.

Public buildings

While starts in public building construction (fire and police stations, court houses, state capitols and governmental administrative buildings) have been soft, they have advanced into positive territory, most robustly in 2017 (24 percent to 195 msf and 6 percent to $9.6 billion). This past year, starts advanced 5 percent in square footage (20.5 msf) and 4 percent in dollar value ($9.8 billion). In 2019, there may be a 1-percent decline in square footage (20.3 msf) but a dollar gain of 2 percent ($10.4 billion). The sector had benefited from the 2009 stimulus act. More recently, however, it was affected by limited federal spending for General Services Administration spending.

In 2018, starts for detention facilities and police/fire stations were up. Military buildings and courthouses were down (see Figure 25). In the future, some stimulus for this sector will likely be found in a $486 million increase for the General Services Administration’s new construction account.

2019 Outlook 25

Major projects in 2018 included the Center for Law Enforcement and Public Health ($207 million) in Philadelphia; the Franklin County Corrections Center ($175 million) in Columbus, Ohio; and the Johnson County Courthouse ($126 million) in Olathe, Kan.

Religious

In 2017, religious building construction stopped its retreat and grew 16 percent in square footage (11.2 msf) and 19 percent in dollar value ($2.1 billion). Last year, starts slipped back by 18 percent in square footage (9.2 msf) and 12 percent in dollar value ($1.9 billion). Small gains are expected to return in 2019; 1 percent in square footage (9.2 msf) and 3 percent in dollar value ($1.9 billion).

The religious building sector is expected to make small gains in future years, though drags can be found in the recent tax reform bill. Because the standard deduction for individuals has increased, fewer taxpayers may choose to itemize deductions like charitable contributions. Lower tax rates also shrink savings gained from itemization.

The AGC summarized put-in-place for this sector (and added water, conservation and amusement) to show spending growth in 2018 between 7–9 percent. It offered no forecast for 2019.

MANUFACTURING—Cooling gains

Dollar values of manufacturing construction starts grew 27 percent ($25.8 billion) in 2017 while square footage shrunk 3 percent (70 msf) (see Figure 26). Last year, dollar gains reached 18 percent ($30.4 billion). Square footage fell another 5 percent (65 msf). Put-in-place spending fell into the negative for 2018, ranging between –1 to –3 percent. In 2019, smaller gains in starts are expected at a projected 2 percent for dollar value ($30.9 billion) and 5 percent in square footage (68 msf). Spending advances will be flat, (near zero).

2019 Outlook 26

Rising oil prices in 2018 ($70 per barrel in the third quarter) have helped incentivize investment in energy-related projects. The lower corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent helped in full expensing for equipment spending. If ratified by Congress, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly NAFTA) could positively influence this sector. Dampers of growth are lurking, however, such as rising interest rates and subsequent financing costs. Tariff hikes and a trade war with China could constrain this sector in 2019 and 2020 if exports flatten or decline. Capacity utilization rates in 2018 trended upward ever so slightly in the first nine months of 2018 (75.2 percent in January to 76.5 percent in September).

In that period, 31 projects were valued at $100 million or more. The largest was the U.S. Department of Energy’s uranium processing facility ($6.5 billion) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Other noteworthy energy projects included a propylene-oxide and tertiary-butyl-alcohol plant ($2.4 billion) in Channelview, Texas, and a petrochemical plant expansion ($1.7 billion) in Port Arthur, Texas. Beyond energy projects, 2018 saw construction of an aluminum-rolling mill ($800 million) in Ashland, Ky.; a Continental Tire plant ($682 million) in Clinton, Miss.; and an Intel chip fabrication plant renovation ($400 million) in Chandler, Ariz.

PUBLIC WORKS—Humming along

Robust construction, driven in part by pipeline projects, made 2017 a very good year for public works as starts more than doubled to 18 percent ($159.9 billion). Last year saw a smaller gain of 2 percent ($162.5 billion). The federal 2018 omnibus appropriations, state and local bond measures, and related hurricane-­restoration projects helped support public works in 2018 (see Figure 27). Moody's deRitis believes infrastructure investment remains dangerously low. This year, stronger starts at 4 percent ($169.6 billion) are expected.

2019 Outlook 27

Highways and bridges

Highway and bridge construction rose 7 percent ($76.7 billion) in 2018. Put-in-place spending ranged between 5–7 percent. This year, another gain of 3 percent ($79.3 billion) is expected. Spending is projected between 3–8 percent. The 2018 omnibus allotted $8.7 billion for transportation, including a $3.5 billion increase for highways and bridges. State and local government funding is also supporting this sector, as has a rise in gasoline taxes, approved in 27 states since 2013.

The top five states for highway and bridge construction year-over-year (first 9 months of 2018) were Texas, up 48 percent; California, up 31 percent; Florida, flat growth; New York, up 1 percent; and Pennsylvania, though down 8 percent. Large projects in 2018 included the I-405 improvement project ($1.2 billion) in Orange County, Calif; the Grand Parkway project ($855 million) in Houston; and the Twin Ship Channel Bridge replacement ($568 million) in Pasadena, Texas.

Environmental public works

The omnibus appropriation bill has boosted this sector. Starts in 2018 were expected to climb 7 percent ($39.4 billion). This year should see a 6-percent gain ($41.7 billion).

A few factors are at work. The federal spending bill bolstered the Environmental Protection Agency’s water infrastructure state revolving fund low-interest loan programs by $300 million for both the clean water and drinking water fund. The Army Corps of Engineers civil works program was increased by $789 million. Both the USACE and the Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure programs had funding increased to $918 million. Post-disaster relief and rebuilding funds also kicked in for 2018 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

In 2018, river/harbor work climbed 14 percent ($13.4 billion). This year, it should grow 5 percent ($14.1 billion). Large projects in 2018 included a storm sewer tunnel project ($580 million) in Washington, D.C., and a flood mitigation project ($310 million) in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sewer construction for 2018 rose an estimated 10 percent ($14.0 billion). This year, construction is expected to rise 4 percent ($14.5 billion). Key projects in 2018 included an environmental cleanup project ($1.4 billion) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Echowater Tertiary Treatment facility ($300 million) in the Sacramento, Calif., region.

Put-in-place spending for sewer and waste-disposal projects stood at 7–9 percent. The AGC did not offer a 2019 projection in the ConstructConnect webinar.
Water-supply construction in 2018 slipped an estimated 2 percent ($12.2 billion). In 2019, this sector will reverse and climb an expected 9 percent ($13.1 billion). Major projects in 2018 included the Catskill Aqueduct repair and rehabilitation project ($159 million) in Catskill, N.Y., and a water treatment plant replacement ($99 million) in Thornton, Colo.

Other public works

Pipelines, mass transit and outdoor sports stadiums help comprise “other public works.” After continued strong gains in 2017 (43 percent, or $51.6 billion) thanks to pipelines, this sector retreated 10 percent ($46.4 billion) in 2018. It’s expected to regain momentum this year, growing 5 percent ($48.6 billion). A drag on this sector could materialize if China imposes a retaliatory 25 percent tariff on U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

Looking at 2018 natural gas pipeline work, major projects included the Mountain Valley Pipeline expansion ($3.5 billion) in West Virginia and Virginia; the Mountaineer Xpress Pipeline ($2.1 billion) in West Virginia; and the NEXUS natural gas pipeline ($2.0 billion) in Ohio and Michigan.

Rail projects continued to be strong in 2018 and should carry over into 2019. The 2018 omnibus spending bill added $3.1 billion for rail infrastructure. Top projects in 2019 include the Long Island Rail Road expansion ($1.5 billion) in Nassau County, N.Y.; the Westside Purple Line extension/section 2 ($1.4 billion) in Los Angeles; and the Green Line Extension ($1.1 billion) in Somerville, Mass.

Electric power plants

Electric power and gas plant construction dropped 32 percent ($31.8 billion) in 2017. Last year, the drop was less at 25 percent ($23.7 billion). Spending (adding in pipelines) did gain between 4–6 percent.

Consider 2019 a big improvement. This sector will still face a decline, but only 3 percent ($23.7 billion). Forecasts for put-in-place advances shift to 2–5 percent. Natural gas-fired power plants may see modest growth.

A trade war with China could impact construction in this sector, too. Dodge reported Trump’s approved 30-percent tariff on foreign-built solar panels (declining 5 percent per year to 2022) could lower the number of solar farms by 11 percent. Other 2019 headwinds include financing issues with LNG plants, a low capacity utilization rate (75 percent) for electric power generation, and the investment tax credit for large-scale wind projects reduced from 18 percent to 12 percent.
Top projects in 2018 included the South Field Energy power plant ($1.3 billion) in Wellsville, Ohio; the Entergy Lake Charles power station ($872 million) in Westlake, La.; and the North English Wind Farm ($510 million), one of two built last year in Iowa.

Summary

Total construction advances may be spying a finish line. Sector advances will continue, but some will be smaller. Total gains in 2019 will resemble those in 2018. Looking to this year, institutional and public works are showing strength supported by increased state and federal funding and select private-public partnerships. Residential housing will show overall gains. Manufacturing will grow. Commercial will also advance, and electric/gas will decline slower.

With a maturing economy, the logical question is what’s next? A recession, when it arrives, is expected be “garden variety” and perhaps short-lived. Maybe we slow down but avoid negative growth altogether. Actions in Washington, D.C., and on the world stage will be closely watched as this historic long run continues.

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2019 Construction Outlook: A Steady Jog Through a Maturing Expansion
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