Orlando might be best known for its tourism industry, but look closer and you’ll find a more diverse economic landscape – one that has been quietly emerging over the past few years. 

Ever since the early 1970s – when the arrival of Disney began transforming the region from orange groves into a top vacation destination – construction projects have been tied primarily to hospitality, homebuilding and retail. Today, however, a budding defense contracting industry built on high-tech modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) is providing new opportunities for commercial and light industrial construction.

Nowhere is this more evident than 15 miles east of downtown at Central Florida Research Park, a 1,027-acre, 126-building campus adjacent to the University of Central Florida (the nation’s largest public university by enrollment). Here, some pretty exciting developments are shaping not only the future of America’s military, but the local construction industry as well.

 OP NYNJ FOCUS 01By Efstathios Valiotis

When we think of construction in a metropolitan area like New York City, we conjure images of massive foundations dug three stories below ground and wooden sidewalk sheds on Manhattan streets. Certainly, such scenes are the most visible indicators of the construction boom currently taking place.

However, there is a quieter and perhaps less visible boom taking place in all five of New York’s boroughs, as well as in older, former industrial cities throughout the region. Whether it is gentrifying urban areas where former factories and warehouses are finding new uses as residential developments - such as in Long Island City in Queens or Paterson, N.J. – or parts of Upper Manhattan where nearly century-old housing stock must be revamped, construction on existing properties has become another crucial focus of landlords all across the Northeast.

 OP COMMERCIAL 01By Lou Casale

As we approach the new year, reports across the industry continue to suggest that 2017 will be a great time to be in construction. Several markets across the country are expected to see new all-time highs in construction spending, beating pre-recession levels. The New York Building Congress, for example, forecasts spending on construction this year will reach $43.1 billion, a 26 percent increase from 2015 and the first time that spending will eclipse the $40 billion mark in the city.

 OP CIVIL 01By Eric Krieg

Benefits plans – and specifically health benefits – have long been used as a cost effective and tax advantageous way to support wages in a holistic view of total compensation. In the construction industry, where labor and related benefits costs often have the greatest impact on the bottom line, it’s important to continually manage and review plans to make sure you’re optimizing performance and eliminating waste.

However, benefits managers are consumed with the ongoing struggle to control healthcare costs and manage the structure of the employee health program. This is done with the additional challenge of managing employee noise and dissatisfaction regarding the health plan. This is a big chore, indeed. Unfortunately, what has been happening with such a close watch on health plan management is that many have forgotten about the big picture of total compensation. Without a close eye on compensation in conjunction with health plan decision making, your employees’ disposable income is experiencing dramatic erosion. This is due greatly because of the increase in payroll contributions and skyrocketing plan deductibles and cost sharing.

 SKILLED ED PIC 5What we can do about the skilled trades gap in the industry.   

By Todd Sachse and Steve Berlage

Skilled labor is the lifeblood of the construction industry. From carpenters to plumbers, those who have mastered a trade and honed a specialized skill set are a critically important piece of the construction puzzle. Unfortunately, structural economic issues – in conjunction with societal shifts and evolving perceptions with respect to the desirability of a career as a construction laborer – have contributed to a shortage of these skilled professionals. That shortage has been building for years, and what has been a frustrating inconvenience is quickly becoming a serious issue facing the industry. 

 SAFETY ED PIC 1A safety manager shares what he has learned on the job.   

By Charlie Crofford

I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve been lucky. Twice in my career spanning nearly 40 years, I have been called on to a jobsite the day after someone has lost his or her life. I have seen people fall, structures collapse and powerful tools malfunction. I was around during a time when the letters O-S-H-A didn’t carry a whole lot of weight as the organization was in its infancy.

 CONSTR DOC ED PIC 2Document retention policies can be inconsistent with recommendations.  

By Jason E. Handin, Esq.

Construction defect lawsuits are typically won or lost on two factors: Testimony of expert witnesses and the existence of project documents – the most important factor. Without project documentation, expert witnesses have their hands tied as far as what information can be used as the basis to form their opinions. An absence of documents results in a lack of factual foundation on which the experts’ opinions can be formed, which ultimately leads to a Frye/Daubert challenge and potentially to the experts’ opinions being stricken, delivering a fatal blow to that party’s case.  

 OP TECHNOLOGYBy Moussadak Mezouaghi 

Imagine taking a quick scan of your project and, by comparing to last year's scan, detecting slight shifts in a foundation that can be repaired before they become a problem. Also imagine running alongside a 100-mile-long gas pipeline and sniffing out even the slightest of leaks, all within a single day; or peering into a tower from every angle, then repeating the examinations from precisely the same vantage points on a regular schedule – automatically detecting when a single cotter pin slips or a metal support bends out of shape.

Such thoughts represent ongoing and future applications of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in commercial applications. The systems offer particularly bright prospects for improved speed, safety and documentation on design and construction projects, as they help streamline multiple workflows and reduce costs for mapping, monitoring, analysis and data gathering.

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