Womble Carlyle Construction Industry Blog

Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

UNC Bond Money at Work on Statewide Campus Construction Projects: UNCG Shines

An August campus tour of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, now teeming with recently-arrived students, reflects the progress and promise of new construction and renovation. For more on the breath of facilities design and construction improvements at UNCG, visit the Facilities Design and Construction Department website.

All University of North Carolina System bond projects are reported to be underway. "The program is moving forward at a steady pace," with scheduled completion in August 2008, some 11 months under the baseline schedule, according to the UNC Bond Report to the Higher Education Bond Oversight Committee (June, 2006). Additional university system bond project information, organized by individual campus, may be found here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is Congress Developing a Green Thumb?

The Engineering News-Record notes that with the rise in energy prices, building green has become a hot topic on Capitol Hill. There are at least 29 bills before one or both chambers of Congress that promote energy efficiency and environmentally sound design and construction. Unfortunately, any bill not approved before adjournment will have to be introduced in the 110th Congress.

Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, says there has been a strong push for a few green bills in recent weeks. "We are running short on legislative days, but the lead sponsors of a few of these bills are hopeful that they can make a good run for it and get these to the floor," she says."
Meanwhile, Bill Prindle, deputy director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, disagrees.

"I don't see any of those bills having legs," he said. "There's no energy legislation that's likely to pass this year. Time is running out and the Senate and House have different ways of seeing the issues. I don't know that they'll come to any agreement on anything."

For the complete ENR article, see here.

For more in-depth coverage of green building, visit GreenSource, McGraw-Hill Construction's online directory dedicated to sustainable design, practice, and products.

For a discussion of the interrelationship between mix-used planning and green building, see Jonathan Groner's recent post at Womble Carlyle's Mixed Use Development Blog.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Public Not Very Mixed on Mixed Use Development

The National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) hosts a Mixed Use Resource Center on its website. The resource center is a good place to visit on the web for current information about mixed-use projects, trends, and news briefs.

There is no doubt that regardless of whether you live in the rust or sun belt, mixed use development is on the rise and here to stay for the foreseeable future. People want to live closer to their workplaces, and to have the conveniences offered in city centers. Economic conditions also favor the mixed use development. Property & Portfolio Research Inc. has reported that over 5500 new mixed use developments commenced this year alone. See Danielle Douglas, Real Estate Forum (06/06) Vol. 61, No. 6, P. 58.

Mixed-use development models present a host of challenging questions to be addressed by legal practitioners. These projects involve complicated ownership structures, and public/private partnerships where costs and revenues can be shared. They should be tailored to a community's overall economic development and land use plans, adding vibrancy and creativity to the mix.

Durham, North Carolina is a case in point. Commencing with a AAA ballpark stadium and class A high-rise office space, Durham began to experience a boom in the purchase and renovation of historic sites. Tobacco warehouses have been converted into office, retail, and residential in several key locations, creating the "live, work, play" environments characterized by mixed-use. The thirty-something demographic is enjoying the plaza and market-like open spaces all within a stone's throw from the new residential lofts and condominiums.

This model has been replicated in many other mid-size cities - take a look at Raleigh's North Hills Mall, Greenville, South Carolina's downtown, Washington's Anacostia River project, Virginia's Brambleton Town Center - and will likely continue as long as the economic climate remains favorable. Mixed-use development has something for everyone.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Estate Tax Bill Fails on the Senate Floor

Relief is still around the corner -- tax relief that is. As hard as the ABC and AGC have pushed for repeal of the estate tax, to soften the challenging process of transferring one's construction business from one generation to the next, more effort will be required. The "trifecta" bill, which included, among other things, a minimum wage hike and estate tax relief, was rejected by the Senate. For a full discussion, see ENR's article here. For the AGC's reaction, see here.

In the meantime, there is still much that can be done to make what can be a very challenging process a successful one. Timely transition planning, to include corporate, partnership and estate planning devices, can still make a huge difference.

-John Springer

Monday, August 7, 2006

New North Carolina State Building Code

The North Carolina State Building Code is changing again. The latest triennial update was finalized and passed by the North Carolina Building Code Council effective July 1, 2006. Use of the new code is optional for a six month phase in period. By January 1, 2007, all projects must be designed under the new code. The new code is a revised version of the 2003 International Building Code (IBC).

Amendments to the code can be viewed by clicking on the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) link here.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Planning and Designing for Safety

ASHRAE has published a draft guideline entitled Risk Management of Public Health and Safety in Buildings to help building owners and designers assess holistically the need and desirability of implementing protective measures in new and existing buildings to reduce the health and safety risk posed by the threat of "extraordinary incidents".

The extraordinary incidents addressed in the Guideline include fire, seismic events, chemical and biological release, blast and other terrorist actions. The Guideline focuses primarily on office and multi-family residences, and addresses comprehensively aspects of building performance that affect occupant safety and health.

The Guideline recommends utilizing a risk management approach that includes, among other steps, conducting a threat assessment to identify the types of incidents that present a risk to the building and its occupants, the probability of their occurrence, and the likely impacts they would cause. The Guideline suggests ranking potential extraordinary incidents for a given building into five risk categories -- critical, serious, moderate, minor and negligible -- based on the building's location, use and a variety of other factors. Recommendations for specific protective actions are given based on the various risk categories.

For example, in siting buildings that will be at Moderate Risk, the Guideline contains the following recommendations: locate the building a sufficient distance from uncontrolled vehicles to mitigate the effect of a blast; keep litter and trash bins and postal collection boxes at least 100 ft. from the building; keep communication centers, electrical power entrances, potable and fire protection water entrances and emergency egress doors as far away as possible from delivery vehicles -- and many more.

The draft Guideline is open for public comment until August 29. To obtain a copy, click here.