Perspective | by Thomas J. Finan, Publisher | 12/18/2008
“I can’t believe we got to where we are so fast,” Bill Mitchell, general manager of Roland Machinery said to me at the recent Construction Equipment Dealers Association (CEDA) dinner. “Where we are” is, of course, all anyone inside or outside the construction industry is talking about these days.
The mood at the dinner was, if anything, even more convivial than in past years (misery loves company). Bill Mitchell was passing out some lapel buttons he had produced with a red circle and slash through the word “Recession.”
This certainly isn’t our first recession at CNR. January begins the 40th year of CNR as the “Voice for the St. Louis Construction Industry”. My Dad, who was second-generation construction industry, started the magazine in the middle of an Ironworkers strike. The photo on the first issue's cover is a collage of shut down projects with the word "Standstill" overprinted on them.
I came on board as the magazine first broke even following the recession of 1973-75. Since then we've weathered the downturns in 1980-82; 1990-91; and 2001-2003.
It has been our role through all of those recessions to walk alongside you on the long climb out. Part of that walking alongside is accomplished by giving you information and tools you can use.
One of the greatest strengths of our local construction industry is the same thing that we complain about in good times: our conservatism and risk aversion. Because the highs here never ascend into the stratosphere, our lows are not as low as many other areas of the country.
Many contractors and designers I’ve talked to have work lined up into the third quarter of next year. The key issue, of course, is financing. “I have eight projects,” one general told me, “not stuff I’ve bid on, but stuff with my name on it, that I can’t get moving because of money.”
Credit far surpassed any other impediments to recovery in a recent national survey of AGC members, with 83 percent responding that they saw it as their biggest challenge. The next closest was labor at eight percent, followed by fuel prices (four percent).
Two-thirds predicted growth in sustainability work, with 41 percent saying that "sustainable practices will be big" in the next year and 25 percent predicting that sustainability would be "moderate". Less than 19 percent said "the same as this year" and 12 percent said it would be minimal.
While “green” construction holds promise, one of our town’s leaders in this field warns about charging down the sustainable construction path with green-colored spectacles.
The pivotal scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz happens when Dorothy Gale’s dog Toto pulls back a green curtain behind the fire-belching “Wizard”, to reveal a “humbug” patent medicine salesman. A similar situation exists in the world of “green” building, consultant Dan Sammartano, LEED AP and general manager of Salian Commercial Construction Services, told the attendees at the Green Buildings & New Technology Conference held in Clayton on November 11.
Sammartano, who has consulted on many LEED projects around the country, including the Platinum LEED Alberici building, expressed concern with the current state of LEED building.“ A recurring theme at the conference was the premium LEED is adding to the value of commercial buildings,” Sammartano said.
“This is evidenced by a growing interest in these buildings even during this economic downturn. Preferred lending and increased valuations were also discussed. If we are to put a premium on a building’s LEED certification believing they are energy efficient, than the system should assure delivery of the intended efficiencies.
“As a LEED practitioner, I am concerned about the effectiveness of the LEED certification system. If we are to believe LEED brings a premium to owners, lenders and tenants, then we’d better make sure it has true value. What has been shown in recent studies is that the energy savings portion of that value cannot be counted on in that sample.”
“If LEED doesn’t solve the problem of predictive energy use by requiring actual energy use data for certification, then it stands the risk of being passed by (other) benchmarking efforts,” Sammartano stated.