Tag Archives: construction

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Arizona’s Unemployment Rate Climbs In August

Despite some gains in the governmental sector, the state’s unemployment rate for August rose one-tenth of a percent to 9.7 percent as private sector hiring was flat, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce. Usually, Arizona’s economy generates jobs in August, but last month only 28,000 jobs were created. That was still better than August of 2009.

Most of the seasonal job gains were the result of local schools bringing on 26,000 positions for the start of the academic year. State education added 7,000 jobs, with losses in other government agencies offsetting some of the gains.

The private sector posted gains in five sectors and losses in five sectors for a net decline of 800 jobs. Of the state’s 11 industry sectors, government posted the largest job gains at 29,000. Educational and health services followed government, adding 3,000 jobs. Construction continued to add jobs in August, generating 1,900 and giving the industry a net gain through the first eight months of the year.

The Commerce Department reports that, “Construction employment trends in 2010 indicate stabilization in the industry after 28 months of continuous losses.”

Other sectors creating jobs in August were: professional and business services (1,800); trade, transportation and utilities (1,100); and natural resources and mining (100). The sectors that lost jobs last month were: information (500); financial activities (800); manufacturing (1,400); and other services (2,000).

Leisure and hospitality lost 4,000 jobs last month, which the Commerce Department called “unusual.” With the winter tourism season generally starting after Labor Day, hotels and resorts in the state traditionally tend to ramp up hiring in August.

Year-over-year, the jobless situation in Arizona continues to show improvement. Total nonfarm employment last month was down 0.1 percent. In August 2009, it was down 8.3 percent. Compared to August of last year, four sectors registered year-over-year job gains last month. The professional and business services sector was up 8,200 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities was up 7,700 jobs; educational and health services had a gain of 7,100 jobs: and natural resources and mining posted gains of 1,000.

Around the state, only the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas held steady with their unemployment rates. Other major metro areas in the state posted increases in joblessness. Here’s a look at unemployment around the state:

Phoenix Metro: 8.8%
Tucson Metro: 8.7%
Yuma Metro:    23.7%
Flagstaff Metro:   8.0%
Prescott Metro:   10.2%
LHC-Kingman Metro: 10.9%

Greenroads: A sustainable highway

Greenroads: A Sustainable Performance Metric For Roadways

Windows rolled down. Wind whipping through your hair. Music blaring from the speakers.

Does this scene sound familiar? Chances are many (if not all) of you have experienced driving down the highway and can relate to this imagery. Indeed, driving on the millions of miles of American highways is as embedded in our culture as hot dogs.

The United States highway network consists of 4 million miles of roads and streets. But did you know that building and maintaining a single mile of freeway takes as much energy as 200 homes in the U.S. use in one year? Or that it generates more waste than 1,200 homes produce annually? I certainly didn’t.

Luckily, researchers from the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the engineering firm CH2M Hill have launched the world’s first rating system for sustainable road construction.

Just as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced the LEED Rating System — a third-party certification program encouraging sustainable green building through tool and performance criteria — the researchers and engineering firm have introduced Greenroads.

According to the website, Greenroads is “a sustainability performance metric for roadway design and construction. It is applicable to new and reconstructed/rehabiliated roadways. It awards points for approved sustainable choices/practices and can be used to assess roadway project sustainability.”

In order for a roadway to be considered a Greenroad, it must meet 11 “Project Requirements”. Much like the LEED system, there are also several levels of certification including: certified, silver, gold and evergreen.

Sustainable practices continue to be implemented into all facets of living and Greenroads is a great example of the progress that’s being made. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — our future is green and that’s a good thing.

What do you think? Will Greenroads be a success?

www.greenroads.us
www.usgbc.org
www.ce.washington.edu
www.ch2m.com

Recycled Plastic Used as Building Material

Recycled Plastic Bottles — Building Material For Classrooms

It’s all about the three Rs right? — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Laura Kutner certainly took this idea to a whole new level when she led the way in the construction of a school building in Guatemala, using discarded plastic bottles.

The inspiration came to her when she realized there was plastic trash everywhere yet classrooms had no walls. Why not use the resources available and create a solution?

Kutner, a Peace Corps volunteer, gathered the community of Granados — a village of 900 people — to collect more than 4,000 used plastic drink bottles. They then stuffed these bottles with other waste material and stacked them side by side, tied them with chicken wire and coated them with a cement-sand mix.

The Guatemalan group Pura Vida, inspired Kutner to the design. The group was using bottle-filled “eco-blocks” for construction projects.  With the help of local businesses, who donated labor and materials, and the Hug it Forward organization the project was successfully completed.

I’m no engineer but I was very impressed at this hands-on yet useful approach. This sustainable solution was a great gift to the children of the school. Not only did they recycle plastic bottles that would have otherwise littered the area, they received the biggest reward — a safe, stable building to learn in.

Read the full story here: www.oregonlive.com

Peace Corps
Pura Vida
Hug it Forward

Recycling Bins

Green News Roundup-Greener Building, Education & More

For those of you involved in the green/sustainability arena, you are probably still decompressing from the impressive event that was the Greenbuild 2009 Conference and Expo that was held last week. With over 27,000 attendees, the Phoenix Convention Center, Chase Field, local businesses, and the entire community were host to a remarkable event.

Produced by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the conference aimed to bring leading minds, businesses, and the community together around the premise of green building, education, and professional networking.

During my time visiting the impressive conference, some of the following thoughts came to me:

  • The Gargantuan Expo: The expo (which was an exhausting feat to see all of it in detail) was filled with an incredible array of vendors showcasing their particular products that contribute to green buildings and lifestyles. There are – it is not a stretch to say – innumerable creative manners in which a business or individual may contribute towards a “greener” building, property, and subsequent environment.
  • Intellectual Development and Discussion: There were several intriguing presentations by industry experts, academic researchers, community members, and perspicacious interdisciplinary practitioners. The presentations that blended elements of “green” building/design with a social cohesion element had particular merit.
  • Keynote Speeches: Nobel prize laureate Al Gore gave the keynote address on Wednesday evening at Chase field. While much of Mr. Gore’s speech was information that many of the participants may have already heard via self subscription to the “green” lifestyle, he did offer a particularly compelling charge to the audience. It was a call to arms advocating that the audience move beyond discussing green tactics and immediately work to make a substantive difference, now.

Given the participation of the conference, I would challenge each individual to consider some of the following points:

  • How do we, as individuals who have a particular interest in this field (and its success), bring the tenants of green building to those who need it most? What are the ways in which we are enabling and setting up our communities – of all socioeconomic and demographic representation – for success? Are the technologies and methods we recommend commensurate with a practical application to those who need it most?
  • What are the implications of the commoditization of green building ideals? While there are too many integrated issues to list here, how could the exhibitors at the Greenbuild expo make a difference in areas of abject poverty and subsistence-level construction (i.e. the applicability and practicality of technology towards the greater good)?
  • Given the awesome level of experience and mental aptitude that accompanies these conferences, what type of demonstrable impact can they have on the community in which they are held?

I’d love your thoughts, reactions, and recommendations on what you thought of Greenbuild and how to make conferences, like this one, better in the future.

Pulte Homes - Best of the Best 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Best of the Best Awards 2009: Real Estate Residential

Real Estate Residential Honoree: Homebuilders: 12 developments or more

Pulte Homes and the Communities of Del Webb

Pulte Homes and the Communities of Del Webb - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Photograph by Duane Darling

Building on a reputation of quality home construction and commitment to superior customer satisfaction, Pulte Homes and the Communities of Del Webb provides customers a home buying, building and living experience second to none. With more than 90 years of combined experience, Pulte Homes is positioned for success in Arizona with neighborhoods such as Anthem Parkside and Anthem at Merrill Ranch, Bella Via, Stetson Valley, Festival Foothills, Cabrillo Point, Red Rock and Vista at Fireside at Norterra. The company’s Del Webb communities, such as Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch, Sun City Festival, Fireside at Norterra and Fireside at Desert Ridge, Solera at Johnson Ranch and Sonora, are known for their unparalleled amenities and programs for residents.

Pulte’s Arizona presence includes two Phoenix divisions and one in Tucson, as well as the Pulte Building Systems Division in Tolleson.

16767 N. Perimeter Drive, Scottsdale
480-391-6000
www.pulte.com

Year Est: 1956
Developments: 89
Principal(s): John Chadwick
Price Range: $100Ks – $800K+


Real Estate Residential Finalist: Architects: Residential

Carson Poetzl Inc.

Carson Poetzl Inc. is a fullservice architectural firm with a rich history and focus dedicated to high-end custom residential architecture. It approaches the highest level of design and service by closely working with builders, interior designers, landscape architects and engineers. It offers a wide range of talents that are represented in designing styles ranging form cutting-edge contemporary to historically accurate. It tailors each project around the clients’ needs and desires, while working to create a blended harmony between the architecture and its surroundings.

7522 E. McDonald Dr., #G, Scottsdale
480-905-1712
www.carsonpoetzl.com


Real Estate Residential Finalist: Nurseries: Plants/Trees

Moon Valley Nursery Inc.

An Arizona native, Les Blake started Moon Valley Nurseries in 1995. Realizing a demand for affordable planting services, Blake implemented the “You Buy It and We Plant It” strategy for marketing trees and plants. The strategy was an instant success. As the volume of sales increased, so did the demand for quality trees. Blake expanded the growing operations to maintain the supply needed to keep up with increasing sales. This promoted a higher level of quality control and increased cost effectiveness. Moon Valley Nurseries has nine Arizona locations, serving all cities in the Valley.

18047 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
602-493-0403
www.moonvalleynurseries.com


Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Mixed Use Development

Mixed-Use Developers Urged To Plan For Defect Claims Before Signing Contract

Developers of mixed-use projects can reduce the likelihood of costly construction defect litigation by anticipating risk and allocating responsibility at the time of contract. Unfortunately, developers often assume that the standard industry forms provide sufficient protection.

These forms, however, rely heavily on good faith for resolution of issues in the future. There are certain approaches developers can take to protect them, prevent construction defects and resolve issues arising from them.

Determine project function and likely defects prior to contract
The developer’s contracts with contractors and designers are best structured after the developer has arrived at a clear “big picture” understanding of how the project will function. Gaining this understanding includes consideration of regulations, financing, insurance and marketing plans specific to the development. It would behoove the developer to conduct a “what if” analysis to determine the defects most likely to result from failures in the design or construction.

Knowing how the project will function and what defects are most likely to arise places the developer in the best position to craft project-specific core objectives for negotiation of the contract.

These core objectives related to defects should include:
A clear allocation of responsibility and accountability for preventing critical defects.

A determination of comprehensive insurance and bonding requirements based on an assessment of which risks can and should be covered.
A clear statement of how disputes will be triggered and resolved during and after completion of the project.

Resolution of disputes deserves particular attention given the implications of technical issues and the possible need to involve numerous categories of potentially responsible parties. The solution will differ from project to project.

Beware of the economic loss rule
Developers sued for construction defects invariably look to the designers and contractors for indemnification. If the designer or contractor is not held financially responsible however, the developer may remain on the hook even if subcontractors are truly at fault. Subcontractors can be immune from liability for construction defects under a principle known as the “economic loss rule,” which provides that a party whose claim is based upon a financial loss caused by construction defects is only entitled to recover under contract theories against those with whom it has a direct agreement. To the extent the economic loss rule applies, it prevents the developer from suing the responsible subcontractor, unless the subcontract provides otherwise.

Developers concerned about the economic loss rule typically require in the prime contract that each subcontract include text specifically indemnifying the developer from suits for construction defects caused by the subcontractor, and names the developer as an “intended third-party beneficiary” of the subcontract with the right to directly sue the subcontractor.

Require indemnification and defense
Developers typically do not cause construction defects, and assume the insurance furnished by the designer or contractor should be the primary source of payment for all related costs, including defense costs. Yet, under the standard industry form indemnity, the primary responsible party does not provide for defense. To address this gap, developers can explicitly require a defense obligation in addition to indemnity.

Nip the issue of warranty claims in the bud
There is the potential for confusion and discord in efficiently responding to warranty claims, given there will likely be multiple parties potentially responsible for the design and construction. Developers concerned with this concept should negotiate contract provisions for a “warranty response contractor” to ensure warranty/defect claims from third-parties are responded to and accommodated promptly, with allocation of responsibility being addressed later.

If the developer envisions the project to be above average in quality of design or construction — which is normally the case in upper-end developments where quality of construction administration is considered important to minimizing defects — the contract should memorialize that expectation. Otherwise, the enforceable measure of performance could be the minimum standard, which may make it more difficult for the developer to prove a breach of the standard of care and increase the likelihood of defects due to lower performance standards. To avoid disputes, the contract should reflect any understanding that performance will exceed minimum standards.

Contractual language dealing with any or all of these concepts is only as effective as the effort given to integrate them with the other contract provisions, as well as the core objectives, so that the entire contract clearly addresses the parties’ expectations for the specific project.

Jeff Roberts Opus West

Jeff Roberts – Vice President Of Real Estate Development At Opus West

About 10 years after its Phoenix headquarters opened in 1979, Opus West came up against a major recession in the Valley. It survived that test and is weathering today’s economic downturn with the same tactics.

A division of the Minneapolis-based Opus Group real estate development company, Opus West is going head-to-head with Arizona’s moribund economy with its corporate structure, diverse product base and a development philosophy that has served it well.

“We are vertically integrated and that allows us to react quickly in good times and bad,” says Jeff Roberts, vice president of real estate development.

Opus West has in-house property management, construction, design and development services. Presently, the company’s design-build staff is opening new revenue streams by offering its services to outside clients, such as corporations and governments.

The company still looks for opportunities and is more likely to find them within its broad line of products — retail, industrial, office and residential, including condos, apartments and senior housing.

As part of its approach to development, Opus West does not hinder its flexibility with a sizeable property portfolio and keeps its land inventory low, Roberts says.

“In the late ’80s and early ’90s (recession), many companies accumulated a large portfolio and were much more affected, while we had built our buildings and sold them for a profit,” he says. “That makes us much less subject to market cycles.”

In these tough times, Opus West is again focused on finishing existing projects to get new tenants moved in, taking care of existing tenants and keeping the door open to build-to-suit projects for tenants that are willing to commit, Roberts says. Projects on its plate include the 263,000-square-foot mixed-use Tempe Gateway building in downtown Tempe and the 170,000-square-foot Mill Crossing shopping center in Chandler.

One bit of good news Roberts sees in today’s economy is a “reasonably strong amount of large tenant activity” as companies move for economic reasons or to take advantage of a down market and upgrade to nicer space. Roberts expects little new construction in 2009.

“I don’t look at it as a year where there will be any major projects,” he says. “It will be a year of people working through leasing up what they’ve got and, hopefully, a year we hit bottom and see things heading back up. The big question is whether the economy picks up enough where we can get some significant net absorption.”

Roberts has more than 17 years of real estate experience in eight different cities. Prior to joining Opus West, he was an asset manager for Beta West in Denver. Roberts holds a bachelor of science degree in real estate from Arizona State University.

www.opuscorp.com

Mr.WestValley

John F. Long Didn’t Just Build Houses In The West Valley, He Also Built A Community

About the only person who would disagree about calling the late John F. Long the father of the West Valley would be John F. Long. For more than 60 years, the man described by friends and colleagues as quiet and unassuming, held the vision that transformed the West Valley from fields to thousands of homes for soldiers returning from World War II to emerging cities.

The legacy of John F. Long will live forever,” says Jack Lunsford, president and CEO of WESTMARC. “Unlike footprints in the beach sand, which are eventually washed away, John’s are cast in concrete. And that doesn’t just mean buildings. He left us foresight and philanthropy, all with humility and without fanfare, simply because he loved the area, he loved people, and he wanted to make the West Valley a great place for families to live.”

Long died in February at the age of 87, but his legacy in the West Valley — indeed the entire Valley — will live on, not just in the communities he built, but also in the people whose lives he touched.

“His vision and reality of building a master-planned community is certainly important,” says his son, Jacob Long, who is chief operating officer for the company his father founded, John F. Long Properties. “Not only was he providing an affordable place to live for so many, he was also providing jobs for so many people. A lot of those people not only stayed here, but they are an integral part of helping the West Valley grow as business and community leaders. At least once a week I meet someone who says, ‘Because of your father, my family or I was able to buy a solid home at a great price. It helped me build equity.’ ”

A Phoenix native, John Long got his start in the building industry with a G.I. loan, his own hammer and other tools he borrowed from his stepfather. He first set out to build a home for his new wife, Mary. Instead, he ended up selling the home for twice what it cost to build.

By 1954, John Long was thinking big. He set out not only to build a collection of tract homes in one area, but also to create a community with schools, churches, hospitals, shopping centers and parks. Long created the state’s first master-planned community and named it Maryvale, after his wife.

By applying mass production techniques to homebuilding, Long was able to offer a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a swimming pool for less than $10,000. Houses began selling at a rate of 100 per week, and John F. Long Properties was born.

Despite his success, Long never forgot who he was building the homes for, says Diane McCarthy, director of business partnerships and legislative affairs for West-MEC. For example, when Long first began constructing homes, he realized the VA loans didn’t cover such essentials as refrigerators and stoves. So Long trekked to Washington, D.C., and went before Congress to change the scope of the VA loans.

“He didn’t do it to make money. Making money was a sidebar to what he was doing,” McCarthy says. “He wanted to build communities. He knew with all those returning servicemen after World War II who had served out here either at Williams or Luke, he knew they were going to come West and he wanted an affordable place for them to live.”

Already hailed as an innovator for his assembly line methods of homebuilding, Long adopted sustainable methods years before it became popular. In 1988, John F. Long Homes was chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop, construct and test a demonstration model home featuring roof-mounted photovoltaic solar cells. His Solar One became the world’s first solar subdivision. The 24-home subdivision in Glendale has almost all of its power needs met by ground-mounted photovoltaic cells.

“I think John was probably one of the greatest entrepreneurs and innovators, at least in the housing end, in water conservation, in just general development,” says Rep. John Nelson, (R-Phoenix). “He was a step ahead of everybody in those areas.”

John F. LongFor Long, finding new ways to build homes was just one part of his vision. He was interested in building a community; more specifically, he wanted the West Valley to be a place where people lived and worked. Rather than resent the fact that the West Valley was perpetually in the East Valley’s shadow, Long took the East Valley model and used it to reshape the West Valley. To that end, WESTMARC was born

“WESTMARC wouldn’t have happened without him. It’s just that simple,” says McCarthy, who first met Long in 1992, when she became the first director of WESTMARC. “He provided a lot of the seed money for us to get started, and in addition to the money, he talked to a lot of people. When you’re starting up an organization like that, you don’t have a lot of credibility because you don’t have a track record. He was willing to talk to other people and say, ‘Look, I really believe in what this organization can do and we have to give it a chance. And we all have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and get involved and help make a lot of these things happen.’ ”

Making things happen was a John Long specialty. He was always quick to donate money, land or services to make sure his beloved West Valley would continue to grow and be a place where people could raise families and build communities. A very small portion of what he gave includes the labor and material to fill potholes on 550 miles of West Phoenix streets; building and donating 21 townhouses to the city’s Affordable Housing Program; and when the Milwaukee Brewers were looking for a new Spring Training home, donating 60 acres of land for the Maryvale Baseball Park – as well as lending the city $10 million for construction.

Besides giving out of his own pocket, Long made sure others with the wherewithal gave as well.

“Dad was born and raised in Phoenix,” Jacob Long says. “This makes a huge difference. You have that sense of ownership and pride. He always was looking for ways to help others help themselves, who in turn might have the same feelings and be inspired. That is how true communities flourish.”

John Long had a standing challenge to other developers who built in the West Valley, Nelson says.

“He’d say, ‘I’ll do this if you do that,’ ” Nelson adds. “If you took a look at the developers who took a project on the West Side, they always had that challenge with John to put a project in pace that had benefits for those who lived there.”

McCarthy recalls a time when the library and senior center just north of Indian School Road and 51st Avenue badly needed repairs. Long made sure money for the upgrades was included in a bond measure. The measure succeeded, but when he found out the renovations weren’t scheduled until years later, Long took matters into his own hands.

“He went to the city and said, ‘Here’s the check for $10 million. Get it done sooner and pay me when the bond proceeds come in,’ ” McCarthy says. “So that beautiful, beautiful library and senior center he lived to see done.”

Exactly how much Long gave to the community is not exactly known, as most of his work was done behind the scenes and with no fanfare.

“Both parents instilled in us the need to be aware of someone who truly needs help and is experiencing a tough time through no fault of their own,” Jacob Long says. “One such person, a teenager, experienced a very bad athletic accident. He was confined to a wheelchair and his parents didn’t have the resources to modify their home. Dad read about this in the newspaper and he contacted the family and offered to remodel their home to accommodate the son’s special needs. This way he could be with his family. No one asked (my Dad) to do this.”

His philanthropy was not a recent development. In fact, he established the John F. Long Foundation, a nonprofit group supporting local charities, schools, education events and general community needs, in 1959. Long was generous in the extreme, but he was still a businessman and he would fight to protect his interests and those of the community he loved.

“He had a heart of gold and was tough as nails when he had to be,” Nelson says. “John sued the living daylights out of the city of Phoenix (in 1986) because they sold water to Palo Verde (Nuclear Generating Station). That was another side of John; he was not afraid to fight. If he felt he was right, he’d drag you to court. He didn’t care who you were.”

In 2000, WESTMARC created a lifetime achievement award and named it after Long. Despite all of his years working for the West Valley, the honor came as a surprise to him, McCarthy says.

“We told him we named it after him and I had never seen him speechless up to that point,” she says. “He was so thrilled at that. And then every year, I would take a couple of names to him and ask him, ‘Who do you think should get it?’ And he’d pick out the one and say, ‘That’s the one.’

“He never, ever flaunted anything. He was the most humble person. He would walk into a room and quietly sit down and unless you knew John Long, you wouldn’t know it was him,” McCarthy says. “I miss him. He was always somebody to call if you had an idea and he was willing to call you if he had an idea. And that’s how things get done.”