September – October 2015 TRENDS
Construction Backlog Indicator Shows Increased Activity
The Association of Building Contractors (ABC) provides a quarterly update on the amount of work its members have booked in the months ahead. The latest report shows a 1-percent expansion during second-quarter 2015. The regular Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) is a national economic indicator that reflects regional changes as well as growth by industry and company size.
“Though CBI expanded during the second quarter, performance continues to be uneven,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist at ABC. “A surge in heavy-industrial investment in the middle states, including in the auto sector, and technology-led growth in the west were responsible for the bulk of second-quarter momentum. Backlog actually slipped in the infrastructure category, which remains hamstrung by uncertainties lingering around the Highway Trust Fund.”
Overall, the outlook continues to be positive, although the recovery remains fragile. Continued job recovery helps fuel construction as office and other commercial vacancy rates decrease.
Visit the CBI site (bit.ly/1EYF1oR) for detailed reports and analyses of commercial and industrial construction.
Permitting Delays on Infrastructure Projects Cost Nation
Calculations from a new report on the cost of bureaucratic delays on infrastructure projects pegs the wait time from plans to construction at six years and the cost to the nation at more than $3.7 trillion. The report by Common Good, a nonpartisan reform coalition, aims to shed light on the costs of prolonged inefficiencies.
The goal as outlined would be to reduce the wait time for approvals to two years or less. The report also cautions that funding isn’t the most-important problem, as permitting and project reviews will continue to slow progress if they aren’t addressed.
In analyzing the costs of delay, the report includes direct costs (legal, administrative and overhead), opportunity costs of lost efficiencies and environmental costs of antiquated infrastructure during the years of delay. These costs are estimated for electricity transmission, power generation, inland waterways, roads and bridges, rail, and water.
Read the report at bit.ly/1KaMs8t.
Research Reveals Need for Better Understanding of Water Use
A recent study by researchers at Purdue University reveals the need for greater understanding of water use within watersheds. Their study of the Wabash River watershed, which covers most of Indiana, showed that virtually all the water entering the watershed in the summer months is withdrawn before a portion is returned.
“By the time the river reaches the confluence of the Ohio River, the water in the Wabash, on average, has been through one human-engineered system, which includes wastewater treatment plants and power utilities,” said Loring Nies, a professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering as well as a member of the Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University.
The paper calls for better coordination of water-system data to get a more-holistic understanding of watersheds, particularly in light of the constant reuse of water taking place. It also cautions that humans must safeguard the results of water treatment, as one failure of adequate treatment in the watershed above impacts all downstream water users.
“People are resistant to reusing water, because they don’t want to use treated wastewater as their drinking-water source,” noted Chad Jafvert, another author of the report and a professor in the same program. “But in the Midwest, we do it all the time. It’s called a river system.”
Read the research paper at bit.ly/1UF64Nk.
IoT Makes Inroads in Transportation
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to sensors and other Internet-connected devices such as mobile phones that are taking measurements and providing insight to guide decision making to improve efficiency. The transportation sector is out in front of other enterprises in its adoption of IoT, as it’s an excellent approach for monitoring a large number of moving assets as well as the dynamic environments of highways and transit systems.
Companies such as IBM, Cisco and Intel all have aggressive Intelligent Transportation System solutions built on the backbone of IoT for a common set of benefits that include the following:
- Improved safety, with vehicles that detect each other as well as sensors that detect driver inattentiveness.
- Improved convenience, with greater connectivity to food, fuel, repair and roadside assistance.
- Greater reliability, with tracked vehicle performance and preventive maintenance.
- Converging networks across all multimodal options for easy transitions and efficient travel.
- Improved efficiency, with reduced energy costs and less time stuck in traffic.
Citywide networks that combine inputs and analytics to manage traffic lights and improve overall urban transportation are on the rise. Central integrated transportation systems that improve traffic and transit now are being deployed across the globe.
The following are the top stories from the last few months (in terms of traffic) on the Informed Infrastructure Web-site. This also reflects the key coverage areas that are regularly refreshed via Twitter (@iinfrastructure) and our weekly e-newsletter.
- High Performance Homes Wins 2015 Housing Innovation Award
- Denver Water Plans Operations Complex Redevelopment
- Australia Unveils “Design of Place” Online Site for Sustainable House Day
- Structural Engineers Readily Adopt BIM
- LafargeHolcim Merger Officially Launched
- Michael Baker Deploys Pavemetrics Solution for Automated Pavement Data Collection
- Public Transit Provided Morale Boost, Sense of Community in Katrina’s Wake
- Bridging the Gap Between Inspections and Decisions
- HERE Convenes Industry Forum to Discuss Vehicle Sensor Data
- MIT Study: Traffic Jams Magnify How Roads Affect Fuel Consumption
- Low 2015 Snowpack and River Flows Studied to Provide Insight Into Future Droughts
- Using Green Infrastructure to Enhance Coastal Resilience
- Bureau of Reclamation to Lead Interior Department’s Independent Review of Colorado Gold King Mine Incident
- EPA Guidance Provides New Options for Meeting TMDL Goals
- Pennsylvania DEP Offers Funding for Projects to Improve Local Water Quality by Reducing Stormwater Runoff
Tools and Technology
- Construction Management Software Moves More Toward Mobile Use
- Topcon Introduces New Construction Estimate and Heavy Hauling Software Solutions
- ORNL-Developed Building Efficiency Software Now Available
- Hexagon Geospatial Automates Property Change Assessments in ERDAS IMAGINE
- Trimble Unity Software for Water Utilities Adds Support for Advanced Asset Maintenance