As the sun sets on 2017, we wanted to take a look back at some of the top stories that shaped the construction industry. The following 10 stories were among the most visited on Construction Dive, and span a range of topics, including regulation, plans, sporting venues and trends.
Engineering and construction giant AECOM announced in May a six-month hiring initiative, in which it would add more than 3,000 workers to support its North American infrastructure operations. Positions included skilled labor, architects and engineers to work on transportation, building, environment, water, defense and energy projects. AECOM confirmed with Construction Dive that it surpassed the company-wide goal of hiring 3,000.
The AEC firm had a busy year, as it also announced its development of a federal contracting division, its $175 million Shimmick acquisition and its journey into developing virtual reality technology.
Sporting facilities in general tend to be popular, but the new 65,000-seat Las Vegas Raiders football stadium is of particular interest to readers. Mortenson Construction and McCarthy Building Companies are leading the charge. In November, the Raiders broke ground on the stadium and anticipate it should be ready in time for the 2020-21 NFL season.
Alongside the stadium, the Nevada Department of Transportation is tackling $900 million of infrastructure improvements around the site, including new highway interchanges, carpool lanes and direct-access ramps. Depending on the final tax plan, the Raiders and Las Vegas Stadium board could be required to pay an extra $3 million per year. Officials reportedly are seeking an exemption.
After several delays, OSHA fully enforced its silica rule in late October. New regulations tend to bring with them a lot of questions and a learning curve, which OSHA responded to by issuing a set of interim enforcement guidelines. Inhaling respirable crystalline silica dust can lead to silicosis, an potential fatal and incurable lung disease. Other complications from silica exposure can include lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The standard reduced the permissible amount of exposure from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an average of eight hours to 50 micrograms in the same time period.
In early January, a dozen construction industry and other private sector groups wrote to then President-elect Donald Trump requesting he rescind President Obama’s Executive Order 13502, which encouraged federal agencies to require project labor agreements on large-scale projects. They alleged that PLAs force union control of all labor relations, which often required nonunion employees to pay into benefit schemes that they may never be able to collect. The coalition estimated that repealing the federal PLA mandate would eliminate 12% to 18% in extra costs and create a level playing field for union and nonunion contractors.
Speculation remains high about which city Amazon will elect to build its second headquarters in. An October study by Anderson Economic Group said New York City might be the best option because of its extensive transportation system, qualified labor pool, customers and supply chain. The cost of doing business, though, is quite high. Others think Amazon might choose a city with an existing R&D hub as its HQ2. Those cities include Atlanta, Austin, TX, Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Portland, OR.
Amazon is sorting through 238 proposals from cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, district and territories across North America. The e-commerce giant will announce its final site selection sometime in 2018. All in all, opportunity will be ripe for whichever city is awarded the multi-billion dollar project, which is expected to create 50,000 permanent jobs.
San Francisco’s 58-story Millennium Tower has sunk 17 inches since construction began in 2005. As problems and legal fees mount, LERA and DeSimone Consulting Engineers in July proposed a potential solution. The companies would drill up to 100 new piles into the bedrock 200 feet below the building, adding to the 900 existing piles that reach 60 to 91 feet below ground.
Expected to take five years, this tunnel will build redundancy into cross-bay transportation. The project broke ground as planned on Sept. 18 and should have minimal impacts on travel because it's outside of the regular roadway. A tunnel-boring machine (TBM) will create a two-lane underpass that will run parallel to the two existing tunnels. Using the TBM, which also created the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, should protect the bay's ecosystem and reduce weather-related delays.
Despite women comprising 47% of the overall U.S. workforce, they represent only 9% of the construction industry. For Women in Construction Week in March, editors talked with six women leaders in construction, including those in building material sales, homebuilding, architecture and large commercial contracting. Each woman explains how the construction industry can benefit from increasing its diversity, and each one is working to make that happen.
AECOM's strategic move expanded the company’s operations to the West coast, California in particular. Notable Shimmick-completed projects include repair work on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the South Bellevue Extension in Seattle. AECOM, which was awarded Company of the Year in this year’s Construction Dive Awards, is positioning itself to take advantage of the much-talked about $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which may be set for a January rollout. AECOM isn't the only company strategically positioning itself, however. In August, Jacobs Engineering Group announced its agreement to purchase CH2M Hill in a $3.27 billion deal.
General contractors and owners are becoming more open to the idea of using modular construction, as evidenced by Marriott International’s plans to pursue a modular construction program for some of its brands. Modular also has experienced an unexpected boost thanks to the lingering labor shortage. Manufacturing in a control environment, offsite facility can reduce project schedules, thereby reducing the required work hours. Healthcare is another area where modular construction is gaining traction, thanks to its consistency, cost savings and ability to be easily adapted to accommodate rapidly evolving medical industry demands.