Posts tagged with "Construction":

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Bendable concrete could make infrastructure safer—and cheaper

Bendable concrete is one step closer to hitting the market. Bendable concrete or Engineered Cementitious Composites (ECC) were originally developed in the 1990s by Victor C. Li at the University of Michigan, whose research was in part inspired by how animals like abalone produce the inner nacre of their shells. However, cost, supply chain concerns, and technical factors have prevented its widespread adaptation in the construction industry and its use has been limited to just parts of a handful of projects in Japan and the United States. However, a new development by Gabriel Arce, a construction management research associate at Louisiana State University is hoping to change that. Arce led a multi-year project titled “Evaluation of the Performance and Cost-Effectiveness of Engineered Cementitious Composites Produced from Region 6 Local Materials,” which experimented with an array of locally sourceable materials to develop a more cost-effective, scalable bendable concrete. The material, which comprises a PVA fiber, fine grain sand from the Mississippi river, and locally-gathered fly ash, costs more than conventional concrete but much less than existing ECC. “The cost of our material is approximately 2.5 times that of regular concrete; typical ECC cost can be more than four times that of regular concrete,” said Arce in a university publication. Considering the fact that structures using ECC can be built with less material and require less upkeep and repair, the gap in cost may actually be negligible. Bendable concrete is filled with small fibers, generally polymer-derived, organized into a microstructure that helps give the material increased ductility in comparison to traditional concrete, which is prone to cracking and failure under strain and long-term use. Where standard cement only has a strain capacity of around .01 percent, bendable concrete’s can be as much as 7 percent, meaning it is hundreds of times more flexible. Its fibrous structure also means it breaks in a safer, slower way—generating many “microcracks” instead of the large cracks seen in traditional concrete. This means wear leads to smaller deformations, rather than full-on shattering or structural failure. This is critical as most failures in concrete structures, are due not to a lack of compressive strength, but tensile strength, as Li explained in an article he published this past year in The Conversation. Traditional concrete simply can’t bend or give without breaking. Besides making infrastructure and buildings unsafe, these cracks, which can occur after a few years of use, require substantial amounts of time, material, and carbon output to repair. Over time this adds substantially to the financial and environmental cost of the building. Arce, whose project was funded by the Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET), an association of several universities across the southern half of the U.S., hopes to see bendable concrete used to help alleviate problems with this country’s decaying, and often poorly maintained, infrastructure. This past October he put the new ECC to the test, using the material to repair a section of Baton Rouge sidewalk—it's not building a bridge, dam, or tower, but it was hopefully a step towards building a safer, more durable, and more sustainable world.
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The U.S. mass timber industry is maturing while it branches out

This article originally appeared as part of our January 2019 print issue in the timber feature.

President Donald Trump’s tariffs, enacted in November 2017, have not yet made a significant impact on the U.S. mass timber industry. But if Trump chooses to take more aggressive action in the next two years of his administration, this could dramatically change. This urgency, coupled with the recent global obsession with building tall wood structures, newly motivates American wood manufacturers to become independent of foreign suppliers. This would entail American manufacturers catching up in machine technology and production capacity to bolster domestic trade and support innovative architecture sourced from home.

What’s clear is that U.S. demand for wood buildings is there. The country’s largest producer of cross-laminated timber (CLT), SmartLam, has experienced such rapid growth since opening six years ago that it is building a new headquarters in Columbia Falls, Montana, and planning a second facility in Maine to supply what the industry thinks will be an influx of midrise construction in New York and other cities along the Eastern seaboard.

“The expansion here is simply driven by need,” said SmartLam CEO Casey Malmquist. “There’s always been a grassroots support for CLT in the U.S. and a recently increased interest in research and testing. But now we’re no longer speculating about whether it will work—it’s going mainstream.”

While similar Pacific Northwest companies like DR Johnson and Katerra, as well as firms such as LEVER Architecture and Michael Green Architecture, have long led the field, production is growing in uncharted territories. South Carolina–based LignaTerra is adding another plant in Maine, while Canadian leaders like Nordic Structures in Montreal and Structure Fusion in Québec City, which already supplied CLT to projects across the country, are now focusing more attention on supplying the eastern U.S. market. Production is even swelling in the South with Texas CLT LLC, which is reopening a mill in southwest Arkansas.

But pioneering European companies, which have historically dominated the market and supplied American developers, are now putting down roots in the U.S. Austrian giant KLH is partnering with International Beams’ new factory in Dothan, Alabama, by supplying it with glulam blanks. Having opened this past September, it is the first plant east of the Rocky Mountains to produce CLT in the country and will primarily utilize the unique Southern Yellow Pine native to the region.

These investments show that the race to build such production facilities is vital to the U.S. market becoming competitive with other countries. But many experts say we need to increase cultural acceptance of mass timber as well as get investors on board before the industry starts churning up a sizable profit.

“The real strategy is that the big manufacturers in Europe are focused on making franchises here,” said Alan Organschi, principal of Gray Organschi Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut. “They can produce higher quality products cheaper, even with overseas shipping, than manufacturers can in the U.S. and Canada.”

Organschi’s firm has been at the forefront of timber innovation for 20 years. He is confident the market is growing and will prove that by designing 6- to 14-story buildings, the sweet spot for mass timber construction. Dominique Briand, general manager of Canadian structural engineering firm Structure Fusion, is also optimistic about North America’s future, but feels certain that product-specific issues still need to be addressed before wood can match the quality of other structural materials like steel and concrete.

“The problem is the tools are not there,” Briand said. “There’s not enough manpower or knowledge to make or sell mass timber in the United States. Plus it’s a disorganized market, which creates a big gap between the product and the project.”

Briand believes that as long as timber is trendy, it will take young U.S.-based companies about five to ten more years to be competitive with Europe. In the meantime, architects, engineers, and educators are working to imagine groundbreaking designs at modest scales to ramp up domestic interest and encourage policy changes.

Many U.S. states are using financial incentives to entice manufacturers to locate to their respective regions. In Maine, both the state and federal governments have provided funding for the University of Maine’s extensive research to advance timber assemblies. Russell Edgar of the university’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center says the ultimate goal of this work is to organize the state’s supply chain in order to make Maine viable for these companies.

“People are talking a lot about South Carolina and Georgia since they grow trees like corn at such rapid rates,” he said. “But in Maine, we have proximity to these huge markets in New York and Boston, so we’re busy trying to find ways to get these companies here now.”

Sourcing timber products within 250 miles of a project is a huge advantage to practicing sustainability and boosting regional economies—not to mention a reason for rarely crossing borders for building materials. But a little competition is healthy, especially for lumber producers who want to bid in a fair marketplace.

“The more people there are, the better it will be,” said Briand. “I only worry that because we’re such a fast-evolving industry, a lot of companies will build huge facilities and focus solely on making and selling products. It’s not just about the products; it’s about creating strong business plans so the investment pays off.”

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Texas judge halts school construction after 95 bodies unearthed on site

Last week, Texas judge James Shoemake ordered the Fort Bend Independent School District to halt construction after the remains of 95 black prisoners were unearthed on a property it was building on. The site, once known as the “Hellhole on the Brazos,” was the former Imperial State Prison Farm, the infamous home of numerous prison camps and sugar cane plantations where slaves lived and worked in hellish conditions before their subsequent deaths. The property is located in Sugar Land, now one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing cities in Texas just southwest of Houston, but which once served as a graveyard for slaves. It was there, after the district broke ground for a new school, where archaeologists exhumed a massive, 19th-century graveyard of nearly 100 bodies that had been concealed five feet beneath the soil in dilapidated pinewood caskets for decades. According to NBC affiliate KPRC, Judge Shoemake ordered the school district to halt construction so that the human remains could be examined and investigated at the site. “This find is very different from any other,” Judge Shoemake said in an interview with KPRC. “We have a history that’s different. I want some more effort. This is important stuff. Families and communities are affected by this. You came here for permission [to build]; I’m not going to give you permission.” Sugar Land has a unique and shocking history. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the town, located along the Brazos River, served as the epicenter of the country's sugar industry. The convict-lease system flourished throughout the region, targeting former slaves who were leased by the state to private businesses and forced to work in coal mines, plantations, railroads, and state projects. According to The Washington Post, the black “convicts” were imprisoned into the system for offenses as minor as homelessness, flirting with white women, or petty theft, yet they were made to work from sunrise to sunset in the fields, occasionally until they “dropped dead in their tracks.” The Fort Bend Independent School District’s construction site encompasses land that was called “Imperial State Farm Prison Camp No. 1.” Conditions were so horrific that prisoners wrote songs about how they would rather die than live another day of beatings, whippings, and slaving under the hot sun. Private contractors did not care about the health and well-being of their workers. According to W. Caleb McDaniel, a history professor at Rice University in Houston, the convict-leasing system experienced tremendously high levels of disease and mortality. If a prisoner died, a contractor would simply demand a replacement prisoner from the state. More than 3,500 prisoners of ages ranging from 14 to 70 years old died between 1866 and 1912 when lawmakers finally outlawed convict leasing out of utter shock at the death rates. This past summer, a team of archaeologists requested permission from the Texas Historical Commission to conduct a more thorough investigation of the human bones salvaged from the cemetery. Their main goal is to perform DNA testing on the remains in order to identify the prisoners. The Fort Bend Independent School District shares this ambition, telling KPRC that “our sole mission is to educate students and we only exist to learn. The more knowledge we have the better. We want DNA testing. We want answers, we want to connect the body with the name, and we want to tell the story of an individual.” As of last week, Judge Shoemake said he hopes to reconsider his decision to halt construction by March 2019.
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New York City is looking for artists to beautify its construction fences

On September 12, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs announced a call for applicants for “City Canvas,” a 24-month-long pilot program designed to improve New York City’s visual landscape through the installation of large-scale, temporary artwork on protective construction structures including construction fences and sidewalk sheds. Protective structures scattered throughout the five boroughs of New York have been criticized for their invasive nature and unattractive appearance. While New York construction codes typically prohibit the alteration of these structures, the City Canvas program will allow select artists and cultural institutions to install visual art on the unsightly supports that lurk over the city’s construction sites. “Sidewalk sheds are unattractive, but they keep us safe,” Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, P.E., told Broadway World. “If anyone can bring some love to the sidewalk sheds New Yorkers love to hate, it’s our city’s artists.” There are two main goals associated with the City Canvas initiative: to improve the pedestrian experience of city residents and tourists by transforming protective structures into beautiful works of art, and to increase opportunities for artists and cultural institutions to gain recognition and create artworks that are representative of the communities in which they are installed. “Art is a way for people to connect, and promoting the installation of more art in public spaces is a fantastic way to create a stronger sense of community in neighborhoods throughout New York City,” Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. told Broadway World. “City Canvas is an innovative way to support local artists and build community, all while beautifying otherwise unattractive construction sites. I hope the many great cultural nonprofits that serve our city take advantage of the great opportunity, and that it becomes a lasting initiative that brightens our public spaces for many years to come.” During the pilot period, the City is seeking proposals from at least one qualified nonprofit organization to install artwork on at least one location. The deadline is Friday, October 12. The pilot program will run for the next 24 months. Application instructions are available in detail on the NYC Cultural Affairs website.
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Fire breaks out at the Statue of Liberty Museum construction site

A fire broke out at the Statue of Liberty Museum construction site on Monday, forcing 3,400 people to evacuate New York’s most famous tourist attraction, reported CBS News. The incident occurred on the north side of Liberty Island where the 26,000-square-foot museum, designed by FXCollaborative, is currently being built. According to the FDNY, three 100-pound propane tanks caught fire around noon yesterday where a new security screening facility is under construction. Work was being done on the roof of the building, which sits about 200 feet from the base of the statue, during the time of the fire. None of the tanks exploded due to the accident but one construction worker was injured. It took firefighters two hours to contain the flames. Set to open next May, the $70-million museum is being developed by the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The existing museum, which is laid out inside the statue herself, can’t accommodate the number of tourists the site sees per day. The new expansive design will be able to hold over 1,000 visitors per hour and will include three gallery spaces covering 15,000 square feet of the facility along with an outdoor plaza and a green roof that doubles as a terrace overlooking the monument. The museum will also sit above 500-year flood levels and feature exterior materials that can withstand hurricane-force winds and inclement weather. As of 2 p.m. Monday, the island opened back up to visitors and work resumed on the scene. The site has been under construction for just over a year by Phelps Construction Group and is on track for a spring 2019 opening.
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Construction workers protest developer behind DS+R, SOM towers

Hundreds of construction workers crowded New York City's Park Avenue on Wednesday during rush hour in protest against Related Companies, developer of New York’s $20-billion Hudson Yards project. Hudson Yards is the massive real estate development on Manhattan's West Side that has towers by DS+R, SOM, and KPF along with DS+R and Rockwell Group's The Shed and Heatherwick Studio's Vessel. As part of the #CountMeIn movement to fight against open shop or non-unionized workplaces, 37 people were arrested at the scene according to Crain’s New York. The demonstration shut down the street at 345 Park Avenue, an office tower home to the headquarters of the National Football League where billionaire Miami Dolphins owner and Related chairman Stephen Ross works. Protestors called for Ross’s resignation from his new seat on the NFL’s social justice committee, which seeks to appease the professional players who oppose the league’s ban on kneeling during the national anthem. Crain’s said that the #CountMeIn protestors—who claim Ross is anti-union—wore teal T-shirts designed to mimic a Dolphins’ jersey that read “Step Down Steve” in orange lettering. The large-scale gathering is the biggest public display so far from organized labor groups in their ongoing dispute with Related, which wants to use nonunion labor for the second phase of construction at Hudson Yards. Crain’s reported the company filed a $100-million lawsuit earlier this year to undercut the efforts of the city’s strongest labor organizer, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, in negotiating new union opportunities for the construction of the upcoming towers at Hudson Yards. The real estate and construction powerhouse believes union workers abused their hours on site and caused inflation over the last five years while working on the first phase. Crain’s wrote that Wednesday’s protests were seen by many as a personal attack on Ross and that he’s discriminating against laborers by condoning racism, sexism, and union-busting. Targeting Ross’s new position on the NFL’s social justice committee is an avenue for the union groups to bring greater awareness to this ongoing fight.
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New interactive map details every active construction site in New York City

Construction cranes dominate the New York City skyline almost as much the city’s tallest spires. A street with scaffolding, especially in Manhattan, is a sight seen more often than not. Thousands of projects are currently underway in the five boroughs and it’s impossible to keep track of them all. To provide some perspective, a new interactive map and database from the New York City Department of Buildings allows you to visualize all the active major construction sites in the city. Updated daily, it unveils the great pace at which the city is changing in real time—not to mention that it shows the disparity in investment from neighborhood to neighborhood. Categorized by square footage, estimated cost, and number of proposed housing units, the data lets users analyze what’s being built right now and where. According to the site, there are 7,457 active permits filed and 197,913,815 total square feet of construction happening now. Brooklyn and Queens have the most sites under construction with 2,800 projects and 2,500 projects respectively. Nearly 2,000 more new buildings are coming up than renovations. So this leads us to ask: How is the city making room for all this new space? The answer: It's building up. The largest-scale project shown is 500 West 33rd Street (a.k.a. 30 Hudson Yards), a 3.9 million-square-foot, mixed-use skyscraper spearheaded by the Tishman Corporation. It’s subsequently the most expensive project going up in New York at a reported $576.68 million. Norman Foster’s 410 10th Avenue (50 Hudson Yards), an office tower, comes in a close second at 2.91 million square feet but is beat out for second priciest project in construction by the residential conversion happening at One Wall Street. The data also details that the tallest new building under construction in New York is, not surprisingly, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s Central Park Tower at 225 West 57th Street. The supertall boasts 98 floors and should top out next year. Also hitting the top ten list of tallest buildings by floor count are 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern, One Manhattan Square by Adamson Associates and Dattner Architects, as well as the MoMA-adjacent 53W53 by Jean Nouvel. The residential project with the most apartments offered under construction is HTO Architects’ 22-44 Jackson Avenue, a controversial two-towered, 1,115-unit development that’s replacing 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. The map also shows the stark differences between the construction corporations leading the market. Tishman currently has so many projects under its purview that together they span a total of around 15 million square feet in New York. Lendlease and Turner fall behind with 5.4 million and 4.8 million square feet, respectively. According to the data, 120 million square feet of apartment projects are underway, with five of the top ten residential projects with the most dwelling units going up in Queens alone. What this map doesn’t do, however, is zero in on how much residential construction is affordable. To find that out, you have to extrapolate from the data by looking at each project’s permit application on the DOB’s website. Having that information more easily available, maybe also as an interactive map, would be even more helpful to normal New Yorkers than a site that largely details the city’s tallest and most expensive buildings. All you have to do is walk outside and look up to know that.
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Massachusetts projects open paths for women in construction

One way the casino industry in Massachusetts mandates diversity within its construction projects is by only giving gambling licenses to companies that use 6.9 percent female labor. According to a CNBC report, the opportunity to work on these multi-million dollar buildings as tradespeople is a lucrative way for women to get into construction. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission requires that all casino developers set diversity contracting goals and build strategic plans to work with minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned business. Throughout the design procurement and licensing processes, companies must keep and provide detailed records showing statistics on how they’re integrating these different groups into the business of building and operating the casinos. Two upcoming Massachusetts casinos, Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield, have exceeded the commission’s hiring goals and are on track for setting precedents as models of diverse hiring strategies for construction projects in the United States. Encore Boston Harbor, a Wynn Resorts development coming in June 2019 to the city of Everett, currently employs 328 women. That’s 7 percent of the total labor on site—a goal they hit in July. MGM Springfield, opening later this month, hired 7.5 percent skilled female labor laborers and boasted an all-female demolition crew during its initial construction phases. Women currently make up 3 percent of skilled tradespeople in the U.S. construction industry. These projects reveal that the male-dominated field can employ more women and well exceed the national average of female workers when governing bodies set strict standards for diversity and fairness. CNBC noted that Building Pathways, a nonprofit program that helps low-income people in Massachusetts access building trade apprenticeships and jobs in construction, hopes to make the construction industry workforce 20 percent female by 2020.
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Opioids hitting construction workers hardest says new study

A new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) revealed that nearly a quarter of opioid-related deaths over a four year period occurred among people in construction-related jobs. The Boston Globe noted that the pain and pressure associated with such highly-physical roles is an “overlooked hazard” of the job. The study looked at information from Massachusetts death certificates from 2011 to 2015 to figure out how many opioid overdoses resulted in death across various industries and occupations. Construction and extraction workers accounted for over 24 percent of all opioid-related deaths among the state’s working population. Both professions had an equally high rate with 150.6 deaths per 100,000 workers and 1,096 fatal opioid overdoses out of 4,302 total deaths (with usable occupational information) in the state. Opioid overdoses occurring within the fields of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting had the second highest rates of deaths while transportation, material moving occupations, maintenance and repair jobs, as well as service-related positions also reported significant fatality rates. The report infers that such deaths are higher among workers with jobs where the risk of a work-related injury or illness is high, and employees are often turning to prescription drugs to manage acute and chronic pain. Additionally, it stated that the fatality rate is higher in jobs that have less paid sick leave and substantially less job security. Men were also reported to suffer higher death rates from opioid misuse as opposed to women. The DPH said that further in-depth research needs to be done in order to clarify whether these complex factors as directly contributing to the opioid epidemic in the state of Massachusetts. According to the report, the state is committed to taking serious steps to address the issue by enacting education and policy interventions on overdose prevention and by improving workers' compensation systems. The DPH reported in May that opioid-related overdose deaths declined by an estimated five percent for the first three months of this year when compared to the first three months of 2017.  
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Trump’s timber tariffs divide the construction industry

Last November, the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Trump announced an average of 21 percent import duties on Canadian timber products entering the U.S. The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions within the construction industry; builders claimed that the tariffs would increase the cost of construction, and American suppliers argued that the domestic timber industry would benefit, expand, and keep wood prices low. Single-family home construction in the U.S. relies heavily on Canadian softwood for roofing and framing. In 2017, Canadian lumber yards supplied 28 percent of the U.S. softwood lumber market, and home builders have been the first to raise concerns about the new duties, which were in effect by January. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) claims that the imposed tariffs have added approximately $9,000 to the cost of single-family homes and up to $3,000 on multi-family homes. The NAHB doesn’t believe U.S. domestic production is capable of meeting the current market demand and that the tariffs only hurt native manufactures by forcing them to increase their lumber prices. The NAHB is calling for the Trump administration to resume talks with Canada to secure a more mutually beneficial long-term agreement. David Logan, director of tax and trade policy analysis at the NAHB, says that historically, the U.S. lumber field has never been able to support rapid housing growth. “Buyers are still buying from the distributors they’ve always sourced from despite the tariffs,” he said. “Domestic lumber production has increased marginally in the last year, but it’s not kept up with the housing demand in terms of percentages, so it’s hard to say that we’re meeting the challenge. This has always been the case. We can’t meet that need...not even close.” Logan also argued that larger lumber companies in the U.S. are profiting unfairly from the deal, citing the Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser, which owns 12.4 million acres of forest in the U.S. alone and manages 14 million acres in Canada, as well as West Fraser, a Vancouver-based company that operates 48 mills across both countries. The NAHB claims that these companies are able to reap the benefits of both markets under the current trade agreement and likely won’t be affected if things change again. “We say over and over again that we need predictable and stable supply. That means using Canadian lumber,” Logan said. “Diversification of operations in the biggest mills on both sides of the border has really hampered any progress towards talking further about this issue because they’re able to increase production and do well. Prices have been so high there’s not really room for anyone but the big players to have a seat at the table, whether they’re Canadian or American.” The U.S. Lumber Coalition (USLC) rejects these claims. “Since the duties were implemented," the USLC wrote in a statement last week, "U.S. lumber shipments have increased by about 1.4 billion board feet, roughly filling the gap left by the decrease of Canadian imports. U.S. companies continue to invest in expanding their production capabilities to mill lumber from American trees by American workers to build American homes.” Pleasant River Lumber, a small milling company based in Maine, isn’t experiencing the negative side effects that the NAHB claims is coming out of the current tariffs on timber. In fact, the company is on track to complete a $20 million expansion at two of its four sawmills in the next 18 months. As part of the USLC, Pleasant River Lumber sources 95 percent of its lumber within the state of Maine and takes a bit from New Hampshire and Canada as well. Owner Jason Brochu is pleased with the country’s newfound focus on local production and plans to take advantage of it. “Increased demand due to forest fires and hurricanes in other states, spiked prices from the duties, heightened transportation costs, and a strong housing market all factor in to establish a level playing field for lumber production in the U.S. right now,” said Brochu. “We can’t compete against the government or any larger mills without things being equal.” Pleasant River Lumber is capitalizing on the growing lumber market by adding 50 percent more capacity to its production facilities and hiring 40 new employees as quickly as possible. They plan to boost production of their dimensional lumber from 200 million to 300 million board feet annually with the upgraded equipment. More importantly, they’re investing in their framing mills to address the increased demand within the housing market. “We believe we’re pretty typical of most mills in the country at this time,” Brochu said. “Most mills in Maine specifically are adding shifts or putting more money into mills to increase volume. We’re confident that the duties protect our rights as producers in the U.S. and we feel like the laws are working the way they should.” Brochu also emphasized how “relatively insignificant” framing lumber is in housing construction. USLC said the same thing stating that lumber makes up only 2 percent of the cost of a new home—which in 2018 stands at $368,500.  Framing lumber isn’t the only wood material that’s used to construct new homes. Plywood, which has zero duties imposed on it, flooring, and other timber products are also increasing in price. New York-based specialty wood-product manufacturer Hudson Company said the niche wood market has been affected as well. Two of its most popular reclaimed-wood products, both of which feature Canadian imported lumber, have both been impacted dramatically, says owner Jamie Hammel. Sales of silver pine siding are down by 60 percent, while hand-hewn beams are down 40 percent. “The reason our business is not down by 60 percent,” he said, “is because we sell other things. But we've had to limit the amount of volume we import because of the tariffs and we’ve had to diversify our product line to adjust and will continue to do. We’ve had to source more products locally which I guess was the administration’s goal.” The timber tariffs against Canada were among the first official duties placed on another country by the U.S. government since Trump took office. In the ten years since the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) was established in 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department has allowed Canadian companies to sell lumber to the U.S. market at subsidized prices, lifting previously countervailing and anti-dumping duties as long as prices stayed above a certain figure. The SLA expired in 2015 and since then both countries have been unable to negotiate a new deal.   On behalf of the NAHB, Logan said that his organization doesn't foresee a new Canada-U.S. deal happening in the near future. “We don’t think the dialogue will reopen any time soon as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are ongoing. If history repeats itself...the last time this happened it took around 5 years to settle,” he said referring to the original SLA. “Hopefully I’m wrong and this is done very quickly. Until then, prices will maybe get a bit higher, but volatility will certainly increase.”
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Philadelphia passes affordable housing tax on new construction, but it may not last

Philadelphia’s City Council narrowly approved a tax on new construction projects last Thursday, in a 9-to-8 vote that may not stand up to mayoral scrutiny. The measure would bring in about $22 million a year for affordable housing, but trade unions and developers are arguing that the tax would slow the city's economic growth. The one percent tax on new construction and significant redevelopments is part of a sweeping package aimed at boosting the city’s affordable housing tools. In a move to capitalize on Philadelphia's meteoric building boom, the fee would apply to projects of any scope and be paid when filing a building permit. Funds from the new construction tax would go into a Housing Trust Fund, which non- and for-profit developers could tap for construction or closing costs. A zoning change was also included in the measure, which would allow developers to increase the height and density of their projects in exchange for making 10 percent of their rental and condo units affordable. Opting into the zoning bonus would not preclude developers from also paying the new tax. “Affordable” units, in this measure’s language, would be open to households who have lived in Philadelphia for at least three years, and who make less than a combined $105,000 a year; 120 percent of the city’s median income. Not everyone is on board, and building trade unions, developers, businesses, and some affordable housing advocates around Philadelphia have come out against the tax on new construction. In a letter to the City Council’s finance committee ahead of a vote earlier in the month, trade unions came out swinging against the tax, arguing that it would dissuade Amazon from picking the city for its second headquarters. On the other end, affordable and low-income housing advocates feel the $105,000 income cap is too generous, and that the city should do more to tighten the requirements. Of course, the tax’s passage is far from assured. Sources within the City Council have reportedly indicated that Mayor Jim Kenney is likely to veto the bill over the rising pushback in a move similar to Seattle’s recent head tax controversy. The veto would be the first of Kenney’s career, and would require 12 City Council votes to override–far from a sure thing, considering the slim margin that the bill originally passed with.
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Meet the incubators and accelerators fostering the next generation of architecture start-ups

Technology is developing at an exponential rate, and while architecture still moves significantly slower than the latest transistor, things are picking up. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) speaks to tech experts Craig Curtis of Katerra (Katerra’s approach could make factory construction a model for the future) to learn more about the revolutionary changes that are in the pipeline for the construction industry, and Dennis Shelden of the Digital Building Lab (Talking about our tech future with the Digital Building Lab) about how we've gotten to this point, and what's next. We also profile several incubators and accelerators behind some of the most influential design and AEC technology start-ups that promise to revolutionize the construction and architecture industries. AN profiled the following: The MINI-owned URBAN-X in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a younger incubator which leverages its assembled experts to guide startups through a semester-long program; Digital agency R/GA, long a major player in the advertising field, has carved out spaces in all of its offices for accelerator space and given startups an easy way to hit the ground running; ZeroSixty, a three-month design-and-technology-focused incubator program, was launched by Gehry Technologies to help bring disruption to the AEC industry; The one-stop shop Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which gives its members access to makerspaces, fabrication labs, and plenty of research space across a 60,000-square-foot campus; Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Laboratory, which has already released a suite of programs that architect's (especially those who use BIM) have already come to rely on; The advanced offices of the Autodesk BUILD Space, one of the company's best tools for keeping up with the rapidly changing worlds of architecture and design; and New Lab’s 84-000-square foot flagship collaborative tech hub in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The interviews and profiles were originally printed in our April 2018 technology issue.