Tag Archives: construction

Construction Materials Up in Q4 2011, But Moderating in 2012

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Fitch Ratings has published its fourth quarter 2011 Building Materials Volume and Pricing Trends Report.

As expected, revenue growth for the fourth quarter of 2011 was driven primarily by higher prices, particularly for coatings, aggregates and roofing products.

Fitch expects pricing growth for most building materials to moderate this year. Pricing actions during 2012 are unlikely to be as robust as those implemented last year, as inflation in raw material costs appears to be moderating. Additional pricing increases may be difficult to achieve, particularly if demand remains lackluster and raw material costs do not meaningfully rise further.

The full report, ‘Building Materials Volume and Pricing Trends: Fourth-Quarter 2011’ is available at ‘www.fitchratings.com.’


Utilitarian Municipal Structures Can Be Functional, Sturdy, Earth-Friendly AND Pretty

Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)
Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)

Contractors who are building out and improving the country’s metropolitan landscapes don’t have to settle for off-the-shelf transit shelters, street furniture and advertising kiosks. That’s because companies that design and manufacture those fixtures are increasingly turning out custom products that fit the local environment and climate.

One example is Tolar Manufacturing which uses Autodesk Gold Partner KETIV Technologies to design and make more than 500 shelter types within the company’s four main product lines, each designed and engineered to be long-lasting, attractive and environmentally friendly. This includes complying with a wide range of building code requirements across North America and community design requirements from economical transit shelters to high volume bus rapid transit facilities. Tolar client expectations for purpose- driven design range from hurricane-resistant bus shelters for Florida communities to solar-powered transit displays for agencies in California.

On a typical project, Tolar begins by creating 3D models of the proposed shelter using Inventor software. To further communicate design intent to customers, Tolar can create a near-photorealistic image of the model in Showcase software, and then superimpose it over an actual streetscape from the customer’s town, enabling customers to see exactly what Tolar’s product will look like when installed in the community.

Next, the Inventor manufacturing models are used to fabricate the multiple components that make up the shelter. These models provide clear, concise and comprehensive communications, resulting in fewer errors on the shop floor.

Additionally, Tolar uses Vault software to centrally store and manage its digital data, making it easier for the company to access and reuse drawings of specific parts for multiple projects rather than having to start each time from scratch — significantly reducing project turnaround time. Tolar also uses Inventor Publisher software to create installation instructions for customers.

Autodesk named Tolar its Inventor of the Month for January 2012 for how it used Autodesk software to create custom products matching the needs of municipalities throughout North America.

Construction Activity Boosts the Monthly Equipment Leasing Numbers

In December the construction and trucking industries were the leading boosters of the under-performing sectors in the Monthly Leasing and Finance Index, as reported by The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association. The index reports economic activity for the $628 billion equipment finance sector.

New business volume for December was $10.8 billion, up 20 percent from volume of $9.0 billion in the same period in 2010. Volume was up 74 percent from the previous month. Cumulative new business volume for 2011 rose 25 percent over 2010.

Credit quality metrics remained relatively steady. Receivables over 30 days rose slightly to 2.1 percent in December from 2.0 percent in November. Charge-offs were unchanged at 0.7 percent for the third consecutive month.

Credit standards eased as the number of lease applications approved increased dramatically to 79.3 percent from 76.2 percent the previous month. 70.8 percent of participating organizations reported submitting more transactions for approval during December, up from 65.5 percent the previous month.

Finally, total headcount for equipment finance companies in December was unchanged month to month and down 1.0 percent year over year. Supplemental data show that the construction and trucking industries again led the underperforming sectors.

Separately, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s Monthly Confidence Index (MCI-EFI) for January is 59.0, an increase from the December index of 57.2, indicating improved optimism about business activity amid continuing concerns about the global economic situation.

BIM Paves The Way For Generative Fabrication In Construction Projects

A very key advantage to Building Information Modeling (BIM) is that it helps to deliver the promise of prefabrication. Complex construction projects ( I’m talking about things way more complex than a typical single-family residence) designed and built from 2D drawings suffer from information anemia. It becomes extremely difficult to know for sure if everything is going to fit into a given space, especially since multiple trades often design their installations within the vacuums of their own minds.

By using a BIM approach everybody shares their plans, and so collisions and space requirements are worked out before construction begins. That gives rise to a whole new level of potential efficiency where complete units, with all of their attendant plumbing, electrical and HVAC, can just be dropped into place and connected. And that can be done with a high degree of certainty that everything will fit, and connect to what it is supposed to connect with.

As the advantages of prefab components are realized more and more during the construction process, architects and engineers will start to see more design opportunities in prefab as well. This is where generative fabrication (GF) begins to extend the advantages of BIM. Not only does it allow the quick creation of multiple, identical components, but it also allows the creation of structural members that permit design to come to the forefront. (Photo Courtesy designtoproduction)
Saws, mills and drills are creating building components that previously were too expensive to make in quantity.

People are making things using GF by connecting parametric CAD systems to computer controlled fabrication tools. In the case of timber the tools are mills, drills and cutters. This is the advent of what is called “mass customization” for the building industry.

Not only are complete building assemblies being created this way, but the door is also open for highly customized building components. Take lighting for instance. MyLight can be different for every person because it is not created from a mold. Instead it is fabricated through three dimensional “printing.” As the creators say:

We can now “print” an object directly from digital information. People have no idea yet what an incredible change in technology that is, and what that means for design. All design will become meta-design: objects can now be a range-of-objects, like in a family or a species.

The computer controlled machines that make these items come in a variety of forms. Stereolithography machines make things from plastic by building them in layers. The plastic is polymerized layer by layer using laser light. Selective Laser Melting is used for fabricating items from metal. Again, the metal is applied in powder form, in layers, and is made molten by laser beam energy.

For those of you who want to get a glimpse of the future, from August 3-7, in New Orleans Siggraph 2009 will showcase some of these generative fabrication concepts along with some of the things that have been built using them.