Young Constructors, Architects Meet in Birmingham, AL

Wed January 18, 2006 - Southeast Edition

More than 75 members of the Young Constructors and Young Architects forums from around the country were in Birmingham in November as the Alabama AGC hosted a national working weekend for the under-40 groups.

The contractors and architects were treated to some outstanding educational opportunities, including seminars on national construction economies, labor issues and project delivery systems, as well as job-site tours.

“This was an excellent learning opportunity for both groups,” said Carolyn Cooney, National AGC director of Chapter Services. “The Alabama AGC hosted an excellent program and offered some great entertainment as well.”

Attendees attended an open house in the new Alabama AGC State Headquarters building as well as a party at Vulcan Park.

Alabama AGC Executive Vice President Henry Hagood said the three-day conference covered “issues our young group will have to address.”

Said YAF President Gregory Walker, with Houser Walker Architecture in Atlanta, “This is a great way to explore our relationship instead of pretending the other doesn’t exist.”

Guest Speaker

During the event, National AGC Economist Ken Simonson said the United States experienced almost zero inflation in 2003 and owners were used to stable construction prices, but that is going to change drastically as the country recovers from hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita.

“The entire economy is being affected,” Simonson said. “The country as a whole will be a little bit slower for the next several quarters.

“As contractors you’ve already experienced those diesel prices. The impact is going to be multiple on the construction industry. Brick, glass and other materials will go up. There will be volatility in construction prices.”

“Steel took everyone by surprise at the beginning of last year,” he said. “By this summer the price of steel has leveled off and come down. All the demolition in the hurricane area is a source for scrap steel and should keep prices down.”

But prices for almost every other material — from cement to PVC pipe to equipment tires — will be going up, Simonson said.

“You will pay more for asphalt and anything that uses petroleum products,” he said. “PVC and other plastics depend on natural gas. The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 20 percent of our supply and half of that is shut down.

“Thirty-two states experienced cement shortages before Katrina. New Orleans was the number one import destination for cement. From there the cement was distributed throughout the country. Mexico can’t sell much here because of heavy duties. AGC is trying to work with the government to lift those import restrictions. There should be a shortage of cement throughout the winter.

“New Orleans also was the leading port for bringing in natural rubber. The demand for construction equipment has moved up and therefore so has the demand for huge, specialized tires. The industry can’t keep up. Add to that the high cost of petroleum.”

But the hurricanes are going to cause a huge surge in construction, right? Not so, said Simonson.

“There is a lot of demolition and removal,” he said. “Twenty million tons of debris has been removed with 50 million tons left to go. General commercial construction will be a long time coming and there probably will be no net increase in construction.”