How Much Stimulation Will Your School District Lose? Or, maybe by now it should read – Did Lose. Pro Publica has put up a tool on the Web where you can see how much construction money won’t be flowing to your school system if the Senate version of the stimulus package gets passed. Some builders may have to forego those new tape measures since even in small communities the money that won’t be flowing is significant. I checked on a town with a population of 20,000 that is nearby and the amount was more than $1.5 million.
Earthquake Proofing According to Purdue: In light of the disastrous collapses of schools and other public buildings around the world as a result of earthquakes some civil engineers at Purdue have looked at building failures and found a built-in flaw that makes buildings more susceptible to earthquake damage. Buildings in Turkey, China and Latin America use too many partial height walls between structural columns. That leads to weak points that could easily be strengthened by replacing some windows with ordinary masonry bricks.
Brazil To Build Its Way Out Of Economic Doldrums: Government in Brazil plans to build a million homes and increase government-backed home loans by 42 percent in order to reactivate the domestic construction sector. The Brazilian President is bent on getting a package that generates more jobs while building cheaper housing for poor people.
Got an Infection? Eat Your Plaster. Chinese scientists are putting the finishing touches on a self-sanitizing building plaster that is more powerful than penicillin. Dubbed “supramolecular” the material can be used for wall coatings, paints and art work, to name a few applications. It is capable of killing five types of disease-causing bacteria and controls the growth of four other kinds of bacteria better than penicillin.
Housing Sales Upturn Predicted for UK: Some promising news comes from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the UK where housing market surveys predict a 10 percent increase in sales in 2009. That comes on the heels of a 25 percent drop in home values since the peak in 2007 and an anticipated additional drop in value in 2009 of 10 percent. RICS cautions though that unless mortgage money loosens up the gain might not materialize.
Dubai Construction Hits the Skids: Meanwhile, news of Dubai’s construction slowdown continues with the prediction that up to 45 percent of the construction workforce there could loose their jobs. This is on the heels of thousands already getting pink slips (or, whatever they call them over there.) In that country you can only change jobs when your current job contract is terminated, and that has to be done by application through the labor ministry. Look for this large layoff to have a ripple effect across Southeast Asia since most of those being laid off are from those countries.
Suzuki Construction On Hold: Suzuki is postponing a car plant construction project in Russia because of the global economic crises and some problems with the land at the construction site. Apparently there are some peat deposits in the soils that will need some closer scrutiny. The company was going to build 30,000 to 50,000 heavy trucks each year at the plant.
China Breaks Ground On Huge Telescope: All is not forlorn in the worldwide construction sector. China is moving forward with the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope. The scope has a 500 metre (1,640 foot) dish and is in a remote Southwest region of Guizhou. It is expected to be complete by 2013. The cost is thought to be $102.3 million and will greatly accelerate research related to pulsars, a study that has allowed scientists to confirm theories such as Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
As the built environment continues on its path of price adjustment there are few places on the globe where that adjustment isn’t taking place.
According to one British news report Barratt Developments is cutting its new home prices nearly in half and other builders there are building higher and selling cheap. A Barratt spokesperson says the discounts don’t necessarily reflect the company’s typical sales policy. Economists in Britain are saying house prices may be dropping by 30 percent between now and 2010.
The 100 biggest home builders in Australia noted a 5.7 percent decline in housing starts during 2007-2008. Housing starts are expected to fall another seven percent there during the remainder of 2008 and during 2009. At the same time Australia is anticipating more fallout from the slowing of construction in China. Australia’s major export is iron ore and the Chinese will be needing less of it as its building businesses slow due to the tighter credit markets.
In India builders of flats are contending with a custom called the “carpet rule.” Basically the square footage they are supposed to charge for should only include the inside dimensions – the floor area that would be covered with carpet. The dimensions included in the wall thickness, balconies, hallways, and stairs are not included in the price. Although we all know that somehow it must be. Builders have been ignoring the rule and so some charge that prices have gone up by 50 percent. With square foot costs at Rs. 25,000 ($536) per square foot it’s easy to see why some people might be crying foul.
Finally, in the U.S., at least in some markets, high end homes are showing weakness. Luxury builders in the Charlotte area are selling off prime lots and cutting deals to get rid of spec homes. Expensive homes there have been feeding the desires of the area’s financial services sector for the past decade.
Pakistan To Start Major Construction Efforts: The Prime Minister of Pakistan announced his country will be undertaking a project that will build a million houses for government retirees. Construction is expected to start soon. Yusaf Raza Gilani also said the government will be rebuilding prime tourist areas that were damaged by a 2005 earthquake. He cited places like Swat, Kaghan and lake Saiful as prime tourist areas that he says will once again flourish once facilities and infrastructure are restored.
Analyst Sees Construction and Engineering Companies Rebounding: Naming companies like Emcor Group Inc., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Shaw Group Inc. and Foster Wheeler Ltd., Tahira Afzal, analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets sees positive earnings for this quarter. She believes these companies’ involvement in heavy industry will shield them from lower-than-expected profits. All of the named companies had stock appreciation of from three to almost six percent in the wake of Afzal’s announcement.
Fast Train Coming To China: Hitting speeds of 217mph (350kph) the high speed train that will run from Beijing to Shanghai will cut the current travel time between the two in half. The estimated completion date is sometime in 2013. At that time the Ministry of Railways expects the train to move 80 million passengers every year and it will make the trip in about five hours. Traveling through seven provinces the train will touch the lives of a quarter of China’s population and will influence 40 percent of its national economy.
Construction Bid Rigging Scandal Revealed: The U.K. Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is digging deeply into bidding practices of major construction firms. Balfour Beatty, Kier Group, a Carillion subsidiary and 109 others are facing fines that may collectively run into the tens of millions of pounds. The work those companies were bidding on included public and private projects worth over three billion pounds. The OFT also alleges some companies colluded with others to generate false invoices. But in the face of this you have to admire the cooperative demeanor of the Brits when dealing with things like this. In other places companies caught in wrongdoing typically run, hide and say they did nothing wrong, leaving the cost of the proof on the citizens. But in this case 37 of the companies have applied for leniency (that would seem to be some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing), and 40 percent have already admitted to participating in some form of bid rigging.