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State of the Construction Industry: April 2021 Roundup
Details of ‘American Jobs Act’ Infrastructure Bill Released
The $2 trillion American Jobs Plan that is being placed before Congress is at the core of the latest 2021 infrastructure spending plans. Spending on this bill has been proposed over an eight year time period, funded by potential corporate tax increases and other measures spread across 15 years. Included in the $2 trillion package:
- $621 billion dedicated for transportation infrastructure
- $400 billion for healthcare projects
- $300 billion in manufacturing, small business and labor programs
- $213 billion for affordable and sustainable housing projects
- $174 billion dedicated to expanding an electric vehicle market
- $180 billion earmarked for research and development and science and climate programs
- $111 billion to provide clean drinking water projects
- $100 billion for expanding broadband
- $100 billion for improving power infrastructure
- $100 billion for workforce development
- $100 billion-plus for school and education facilities
The goals of the American Jobs Plan are detailed in this White House Fact Sheet and Business Insider has provided a comprehensive breakdown of these figures here. Congress has not voted on this bill yet, and we don’t have a timeline for debate or a vote, but we could see significant movement by mid- to end-summer 2021.
The Takeaway: Of course this comes with the caveat that the proposal is subject to changes along the way, and already both sides of the political aisle are picking away at the details. There has been talk of splitting this massive bill into smaller, more targeted packages. However, optimism is high that significant infrastructure spending — on a level not seen in decades in America — will be approved in some form. With this in mind, Viewpoint has created a Construction Infrastructure Resource Center to follow all aspects of this proposal and its potential impact on the construction industry to keep you up to date.
Modular, Prefabrication Processes Gaining Steam
In its recent report, 2021 Market Outlook: Material and Labor Supply Update, Boston-based general contractor Consigli noted that technology and offsite fabrication are helping subcontractors and construction vendors work around material shortages, price fluxuations and other construction challenges. Consigli’s report, compiled from surveys of its own partners and vendors in the New England market, noted that respondents were doing 20% more prefabrication work than before the pandemic. The report also notes that since February 2020, the cost of copper has increased 33%, steel costs have increased 40% and lumber has risen 73%.
The Takeaway: These increases mirror what we’re seeing across the rest of the United States as more and more contractors explore offsite prefabrication and modular construction. Taking place in warehouses or machine shops, these pre-assembly workflows, paired with the rightconstruction management software solutions, can be conducted with tighter controls over timelines and processes, productivity and material waste. These prefabrication workflows also allow contractors to work around weather issues and spot design and construction problems before they’re entrenched deep into a finished phase or project — something that often requires costly rework onsite. Expect more movement toward off-site fabrication in the near future, as it’s proving a cost- and process-friendly practice.
North American Crane Count Increasing
What has become a trusted index for assessing the North American construction industry’s health, the Rider Levett Bucknall’s Crane Index reported an increase in the number of construction cranes in use in major metropolitan areas of the United States and Canada for the start of 2021. Construction Dive recently broke down the firm’s Q1 2021 report, noting that the number of cranes operating (on in-progress projects) increased by 71 cranes — rebounding from an early 2020 dip. Of the 14 major cities surveyed, seven saw crane increases, four held steady and three saw significant decreases. Toronto leads with 208 active cranes, up a whopping 84 cranes from the same period last year.
The Takeaway: The Rider Levett Bucknall index has been both a fun and fundamental way to look at the status of construction projects in major North American cities. The firm’s crane counts do tend to mirror other construction trends we’re seeing, some of which you can see for yourself here with Viewpoint’s own Quarterly Construction Metrics Index. Obviously seeing more active construction work is a great sign that the industry is rebounding.
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