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Newsmakers

Construction Spending to Continue into 2018

Dec. 11, 2017

A leading construction spending indicator continued a positive outlook in November after the Dodge Momentum Index (DMI) increased from the previous month. Last month’s reading came in at 149.5, nearly 14% higher than October. This was the second straight month of gains following declines from May to September, said Wells Fargo Securities.

“The rebound in the DMI suggests nonresidential construction activity picked up in Q4 and suggests 2018 will see solid gains,” added Wells Fargo. The commercial building sector saw an increase of roughly 20% in November, while institutional building rose 5.5%. On a year-over-year basis, the index is almost 21% higher. The commercial sector is ahead 24%, and the institutional portion is up 17%, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.

There were 21 projects that entered planning that were valued at $100 million or more last month. They included a $300 million mixed-use facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and a $230 million office campus in Massachusetts on the commercial side. For institutional building, there was a $200 million medical facility in Pittsburgh and a $200 million educational project on Long Island.

-Michael Miller, editorial associate

U.S. Finalizes Softwood Lumber Duties, While Challenges to the Ruling Are Underway

Dec. 8, 2017

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) determined yesterday that U.S. industry is materially injured by imports of softwood lumber from Canada that the Department of Commerce has determined are subsidized and sold in the U.S. at less than fair value.

The USITC therefore finalized new tariffs on softwood lumber from Canada, while Canadian officials have already begun challenges with both the NAFTA dispute panel, which has to make a ruling by next fall, and at the World Trade Organization, where the process could take years.

Most Canadian producers will now have to pay a combined countervailing and anti-dumping rate of 20.83%, a reduction from the 26.73% in the preliminary determinations earlier in the year, according to a report from CTV News. To date this year, Canadian producers have paid about $500 million in deposits for the duties.

Some mills will have to pay higher rates—West Fraser Timber pays the highest at 23.7%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found Canadian softwood lumber imports are down approximately 8% for the first nine months of the year, while Statistics Canada data finds British Columbia producers are seeing the most impact from the duties with exports down about 33%.

Imports of softwood lumber from Canada will not be subject to retroactive antidumping duties, the USITC said.

– Nicholas Stern, managing editor

Harvey Causes Houston Area Construction Changes

Dec. 7, 2017

Hurricane Harvey changed the landscape of the Texas gulf coastline, now months later, the natural disaster is bringing a change to construction in the Houston area. New building regulations were approved this week by Harris County officials to help protect homes in the path of destruction.

The county analyzed more than 30,000 homes that were flooded and their location to create the new rules, which go into effect Jan. 1. The regulations will not apply to the city of Houston, but they will cover roughly two million residents living within the unincorporated areas of the county. Houston regulations are still being reviewed.

The new rules will hold builders to standards that follow a 500-year flood plain rather than the current 100-year flood plain. A 100-year flood has a 1% chance of happening in any given year while a 500-year flood has a 0.2% chance of happening. This is the first major change in regulations in nearly 20 years, said the Associated Press. Harvey was the third 500-year flood event to hit the Houston region in the last couple years.

Included in the new regulations is that new homes will need to use pier-and-beam construction rather than just a concrete slab foundation. The new rules will be the toughest in the country, said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who took part in the unanimous approval by the Harris County Commissioners Court.

New structures could be mandated to be raised up to eight feet higher. The forthcoming changes will be for all new residential and commercial buildings, and they must be at least two feet above the 500-year flood plain, noted Houston Public Media.

-Michael Miller, editorial associate

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