The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 26, 2008

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

No action in '08 on toilet bill
LANSING - The legislative year ends with no action on House Bill 5064, a measure which would increase the number of portable toilets on construction sites, and require the nearby placement of hand sanitizers or washing stations.

The measure stalled last summer when lawmakers heard from business owners and associations, upset that more costs were being placed upon the business community. An effort by The Building Tradesman to get workers to lobby legislators to adopt the bill was insufficient to get the bill moving again.

"The homebuilders and to a lesser extent, the ABC (the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors) came in and took the momentum out of it," said Todd Tennis of Capitol Services, a lobbyist for the IBEW and Mid-Michigan Construction Alliance. "We'll be around again next year. It's not like this issue is going away. There are still unsanitary conditions on work sites."

House Bill 5064 - Sanitary Facilities on Construction Sites - would have increased the quantity and quality of toilet facilities on construction sites. The bill would increase the number of toilets to one for every 10 workers. Current state regulations call for a minimum requirement of one toilet for a jobsite with 1-20 workers, two toilets for sites with 21-40 workers, and an additional toilet for each 40 workers after that. A higher ratio of toilets increases accessibility and means they're likely to remain cleaner, longer.

Downward trend for U.S. construction
New construction starts in November fell 3% from the previous month, according to a report released Dec. 18 by McGraw-Hill Construction.

Through the first eleven months of 2008, total construction on an unadjusted basis was reported at $509.9 billion, down 16% from the same period a year ago. Surprisingly, if residential building is excluded, new construction starts for the January-November period of 2008 were up a slight 1% over last year.

Residential building has retreated further, as the lengthy downturn for single-family housing continues. Nonresidential building lost additional momentum in November, while the nonbuilding construction sector (public works and electric utilities) registered a small gain.

"The pattern of construction activity continues to be shaped by the extended weakness for single family housing, which has not yet shown that it's close to reaching
bottom," stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "The steep correction for housing has been underway for three straight years now, and a fourth year of decline is anticipated for 2009."

Murray continued: "The current year has also seen emerging weakness for nonresidential building, which is expected to broaden in scope during 2009 given tight credit conditions and the tough economic climate. Public works has seen some erosion in the volume of construction starts during 2008, but the nonbuilding total has also been lifted by a surge of new power plants.

"The prospects for nonbuilding construction going into 2009 would appear to be the brightest of the three major sectors, given the potential boost to public works coming from the stimulus package that's likely to be enacted in late January or February."