US construction sector anticipates Biden boost
Incoming President Joe Biden’s campaign proposals will have major implications for the US economy and construction industry - providing they pass through Congress, according to a GlobalData report.
The data and analysis firm expects the US construction industry to grow by an annual average rate of 1.4 percent between 2021 and 2024, after increasing by an estimate of 1.5 percent in 2020.
Record-low mortgage rates, and significant shift in remote working, are expected to continue to support housing demand while the rollout of vaccines and prospects of an additional fiscal relief package present optimism in the short term, the report adds.
"Mr Biden’s proposal to create a $2-trillion fund for infrastructure and clean energy as well as his proposals to expand broadband networks in rural areas, and plans to increase spending for housing, education and healthcare, if passed through Congress, would provide a boost to the construction industry in the coming years," said Dariana Tani, economist at GlobalData.
"Passing these legislative proposals, nevertheless, will still be challenging for the new President given the Democrats’ slim majority in both the House and the Senate where most fiscally conservative members of Congress could be reluctant to agree to programs that increase the federal budget deficit."
Tani adds that in the medium-to-long-term, GlobalData expects that long-standing issues such as shortages of labour, expensive land and rising material costs will continue to hold back industry investment.
However, a less disruptive foreign trade environment under the new Biden administration is likely to benefit the industry from lower tariffs and somewhat limit the rise of construction material costs, which have increased substantially under the Trump administration.
"Furthermore, Mr Biden is likely to be more open to immigration as he has promised to reverse Mr Trump’s controversial policies. This could help address the shortages of skilled labour, which are causing wage inflation and leading to additional increases in project costs and home prices," Tani said.
Whether the president will be able to pass his legislative proposal through Congress will depend to a large extent on his ability to keep the Democratic party fully united behind any legislation and working with Republican lawmakers to find common grounds, she added.
ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings
Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.
Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.
“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."
Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.
Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.
Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.
Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.
Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential.
Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US
Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use.
It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.
CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.
Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.