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State of the Construction Industry: June 2021 Roundup
June was another busy month for construction industry news. The tragic collapse of a 12-story tower in Surfside, Fla; progress on a construction infrastructure spending bill; and a little engineering inspiration borne from greedy squirrels are just some of the stories we were following.
Scores Missing in South Florida Condo Collapse
In the early hours of June 24, more than half of a 12-story condo building in the Miami Beach area suddenly collapsed, pancaking onto itself as residents and vacationers slept inside. As of this writing, there were 10 official deaths, but more than 150 people remained missing. Only a handful of survivors were pulled from the initial rubble. Nearly a week later, search and rescue missions at Surfside’s Champlain Towers South building remain ongoing.
However, as days pass, more information is coming to light that concerns about the building’s stability might have been expressed as far back as four years ago. Several media outlets have noted that an engineer warned in 2018 that there was evidence of “major structural damage” to the building after inspections of the building’s pool deck, garages and other areas. The New York Times, in an extensive article on the possible reasons behind the tower’s collapse, noted that experts were calling it a progressive collapse. “The gradual spread of failures could have occurred for a variety of reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under the building codes of four decades ago, when the complex was built, the article noted.
The Takeaway: This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts are with the families of those lost and still missing in the rubble. While the official cause of the collapse is still to be determined, it appears that human hands and decisions contributed to the disaster. It’s also another reminder that the state of infrastructure in the United States is at a critical point. Even a building such as this — only 40 years old — has weathered changing landscapes, harsh weather, decades of use and more, and at least some vital maintenance issues may have been dismissed. Without plans and budgets in place to properly repair or replace aging bridges, buildings and utilities, we’re likely going to see more incidents like this.
Bipartisan, $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Deal Reached; Full Passage Still Uncertain
Speaking of much-needed infrastructure relief, In late June, the White House announced it had reached a deal with a bipartisan group of 21 senators on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, with more than $900 billion potentially devoted to construction infrastructure projects.
“We have a deal,” Biden said in a speech to the media June 24. “We all agree that none of us got all we wanted. I clearly didn't get all I wanted, they gave more than I think maybe what they were planning to give in the first place ... Bipartisan deals mean compromise.”
Immediately after the agreement was announced, it was heavily scrutinized by both parties and some congressional members expressed concern over the White House’s reported insistence that the $1.2 trillion package be linked to another larger bill before the President would sign. Those remarks have since been “walked back” and the bipartisan infrastructure deal appears to be back on track for a full vote in the House and Senate soon. Though it is still unclear if the measure has enough votes to pass.
The Takeaway: It looks like — for the moment anyway — we are one significant step closer to a sizable infrastructure spending bill becoming a reality. With a starkly divided Congress, any bipartisan agreement can be considered a win, but it looks like the revised $1.2 trillion package has the legs needed to get it over the finish line by the end of this summer. We could start seeing contractors reaping the benefits of significant projects and federal contracts by as early as Fall of this year. We’re following — and sharing — all of the latest construction infrastructure developments as they happen on our Construction Infrastructure Resource Center.
Rober’s “Fort Knuts” Squirrel Obstacle Course is an Engineering Feat
Okay, now for something a little more fun. What do you get when you combine pesky squirrels, a brilliant engineering mind, time and a good budget? If you’re Mark Rober, you design the ultimate rodent version of an American Ninja obstacle course. Watch the video below to be delighted, amazed and inspired.
The Takeaway: If you haven’t heard of Mark Rober before, you might want to bookmark his YouTube channel. Rober is an engineer, inventor and YouTube personality. A former NASA engineer, he has delighted audiences with a number of fantastic engineering and design-based videos. Last year, he also launched a 30-day creative engineering class on the online learning platform Monthly. He’s been an inspiration to millions and is a perfect example of how the construction industry can get more creative and innovative to appeal to younger generations of professionals looking for work. Oh, and make sure you watch Rober take on porch package thieves — it’s absolutely brilliant.
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