Womble Carlyle Construction Industry Blog

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Green by the Numbers

A quick unscientific look at some Green Building statistics reveals a strong growth trend. First, lets look at annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo attendance. Between 2002 and 2006, attendance has steadily risen from 4,000 at the inaugural conference to 13,000 at the Denver conference less than two weeks ago. U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates a much larger attendance at the 2007 conference in Los Angeles next October.

Second, lets look at some statistics gleaned from opening plenary remarks at the 2006 Greenbuild conference by USGBC President & CEO Rick Fedrizzi. USGBC now has more than 7,200 member organizations. Last year, 92,000 people attended workshops, web sessions and the Greenbuild conference. To date, over 33,000 people have been certified as LEED Accredited Professionals. Today, there are over 6,000 LEED registered and certified buildings in all 50 states and 16 countries. Fedrizzi predicts that by the year 2010, there will be over 100,000 certified buildings and 1,000,000 certified homes. Ten years later, he predicts there will be over 1,000,000 certified buildings and 10 million certified homes.

See a trend? The numbers speak for themselves.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Senior Living -- What's In a Wall?

The need for senior housing in the United States is set to explode in coming years as the population ages. But how much attention is being paid to design and construction specifically for senior living?

A few years ago, Eric Hubbs published an article entitled "If Walls Could Talk -- Design and Construction of Senior-Living Projects" (Nursing Homes, June 2003). He touted the use of insulated concrete form (ICF) for exterior walls as the best choice for senior living, for these reasons:

  • Being more sensitive to heat and cold, seniors need a constant and evenly distributed temperature --- in particular, free from drafts and cold spots. ICF walls consist of concrete mass surrounded by foam, slowing thermal transfer.
  • Noise frequently distresses seniors --- they do best in a quiet and peaceful environment free from cacophony. ICF walls have a much higher sound transmission coefficient (STC) than wood and steel-framed walls, making them much more resistant to outside noises.
  • Seniors are typically aware of their vulnerability and seek a living space where they are safe and well-protected, both from natural disasters and from intruders. ICF walls are naturally fire-resistant and provide a natural barrier to forced entry.

For an example of senior condominiums in Wisconsin that were built with ICF walls last year, click here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Green Tower to Rise in Downtown Charlotte

The Houston Chronicle reports that Bank of America will build a new, 32-story office tower to complement its headquarters in downtown Charlotte. The office tower is on schedule to be completed in 2010.

The building will cost $450 million dollars, add 750,000 square feet of office, retail and hotel space to downtown, and will become the third "green building" in Charlotte and the city's first green office tower. The architectural firm Perkins+Will will strive to obtain a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council for the building. This will be Bank of America's second green office tower (the first is under construction in New York City near Times Square).

As discussed here previously, the LEED green building rating system is a standard for developing sustainable, high-performance, low-impact buildings. The system grants points for various green features in a building. Buildings that compile at least 39 points may receive Gold certification. More than 250 projects worldwide have achieved LEED certification, but less than 25% of such projects have achieved the Gold rating.

For our more inquisitive readers, the two buildings in Charlotte that have already achieved LEED certification are the John James Audubon Lodge, located in the Sanctuary residential development and ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center, located downtown.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arbitration Award Overturned

The result is right but the implications of cases like this continue to suggest that if you choose arbitration you may be in for the long haul. See Construction Channel.net, where City of Bridgeport v. Kasper Group, Inc., 899 A.2d 523 (Conn. 2006) is reviewed.

What the Court Considered: After the scope of a public school project was expanded to include two more grades, the city decided to repeat the proposal and selection process for a design firm. The design firm who had earlier been awarded the project filed a breach of contract action against the city. The parties agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration. The city argued that the contract was void from the beginning because the majority owner of the design firm had admitted to engaging in a bribery scheme with the mayor. After the hearing, the city asked the arbitrator to stay the proceedings until the conclusion of testimony in the mayor's trial so that the trial transcript may be entered into evidence. The arbitrator denied this request and entered an award in favor of the design firm.

What the Court Said: Because the exclusion of the transcript substantially prejudiced the city, the arbitration decision was reversed.

What the Opinion Means: Although an arbitrator is accorded substantial discretion in determining the admissibility of evidence, he may be guilty of misconduct if he refuses to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy. The court reviewed both the evidence presented and the excluded transcript. It concluded that the arbitrator's decision amounted to misconduct because the transcript was highly probative and very likely would have altered the outcome of the arbitration.
Care should be taken before unconditionally committing to arbitration as your alternative dispute resolution procedure. There may be many instances where litigation may provide more appropriate relief. Giving yourself the right to choose may be well worth it. You can then manage the risk as it more clearly presents itself for resolution. (This entry was published by John Springer of Womble Carlyle's construction and real estate development group.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Design-Build Lite" May Lead to Trimmer Project Budgets

In the category of "I should have thought of that," the ENR reported on November 13, 2006, that a large mid-western contractor has tweaked the traditional design/build project delivery system by successfully applying it only to mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP), fire protection, or structural work. This approach has resulted in better pre-construction coordination, time and cost savings, and more satisfied builders and owners. Poor up front coordination and resulting field conflicts can result in large claims by owners and contractors alike stemming from the cost of inefficiencies and delays. This hybrid approach may eliminate that risk.

James McHugh Construction Co. in Chicago has achieved good success after having completed 12 such projects. It's Senior Vice President observed that the process "resolves potential conflicts during the construction phase and helps accelerate the preconstruction process." Control is important, as is excellent communication among the architect, contractor and owner.

The jury's in on Design-build lite and it should definitely be considered as an option on large or complicated projects. It makes great sense. (This entry was published by Laura Luger of Womble Carlyle's construction and real estate development group.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

New Congress to Build Up Housing Market

The day after the 2006 mid-term elections provides the context for this entry. While some votes may be recounted, it appears that the Democrats have swept both houses of Congress. Motivated by a mandate for change, what changes will the Congress enact that may affect the construction industry? Surely, it's too soon to know specifically, but one analyst has already taken a stab at answering the question, before the fact. Jim Haughey is Director of Economics at Reed Business Information. He prepares construction market forecasts. In his October 25, 2006 blog entry, he concluded that "[t]he 2007 construction outlook is not at risk of being changed by the November 7th election results." He envisioned a scenario where the Democrats control both houses of Congress and concluded that the one market that might be affected - positively - would be housing, the weakest sector.

Haughey may be right and help can not come too soon for the homebuilding market. Today's New York Times focuses on the continuing slump in residential construction. As in most things, though, there are usually at least two sides of a story. While residential contractors are hurting, apartment construction is up, and owners and landlords of rental properties are experiencing the boom only hoped for by the condo developers a year ago. See here.

It's probably too early to know whether a Democratically controlled Congress will have a major impact on the construction industry, but we can say one thing with some certainty: these times they are a changing. (This entry was posted by Laura Luger of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction group.)