Infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture

The federal government is comprised of many departments, agencies, and commissions. Some deal with areas that would seem to be outside their mandate, if you think that mandate is found in their name. The USDA (Dept. of Agriculture), for example, would logically deal with crop and livestock issues but they also address other aspects of what is usually referred to as rural living.

Take for instance an investment the USDA is making in building a new campus for the Winooski School District in Winooski, Vermont. Winooski is a city of about 8,000 people adjacent to Burlington, a city of 43,000. Burlington is the home of the University of Vermont among other attractions while Winooski is the most densely populated municipality in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Small Business Wage Growth

After months of economic pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, states continue to revise their closure mandates for what have been deemed non-essential business. Shops are reopening, restaurants are serving (limited numbers of) people indoors, and customers have been venturing out, safely, once again.

What has been happening to those who have continued to work through the slowdown? The latest Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch shows that despite hiring remaining flat since its drop-off in April, employees of small business are seeing the benefits of solid wage growth. Hourly earnings growth was steady at 3.28% in August and weekly earnings continue to improve as the number of hours worked increases. The national jobs index stood at 94.39, moderating 0.21% from the previous month.

COVID and New Construction: Lessons Learned

The novel coronavirus and its disastrous disease COVID-19 have run rampant across the world, causing deaths and economic as well as physical pain. Governments are working to find ways to lessen the damage and industries are doing the same. Construction, while often considered an essential business during the pandemic, has been hit hard with forced layoffs and office closings. In the midst of the crisis, lessons are being learned, both for future prevention and near-term mitigation of the effects of a pandemic. And designers, architects, and construction professionals are finding answers for their clients, too.

Taylor Morrison, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based homebuilder and developer, has taken the idea of a “Healthy Home” to heart with its TM LiveWell, a standard offering for all new construction. Inspired by comments of home shoppers during the COVID-19 crisis, the builder is offering consumers healthy home features with in-home products for safer and cleaner living at no additional cost.

Hey, Dude, Where’s My Truck?

Fleet owners at every level are concerned about theft of their vehicles. Insurance costs, replacement costs, and lost time are making vehicle tracking technology more and more interesting to fleet managers and construction companies of all sizes. Vehicle tracking systems combine tracking the location of a vehicle with a software interface that further displays various vehicle data.

Several factors, such as growing traffic congestion, concerns regarding vehicle safety and security, and the need for higher operational efficiency are anticipated to drive the market growth according to Grand View Research in a new report. The systems are also suitable for several applications in the GPS segment, such as tracking and mapping devices, sea vessel and air navigation, as well as ground vehicle tracking.

Suppliers and Supply Chains

Most construction companies have multiple suppliers for equipment, material, and consumables both on the job and in the office. The supply chains that feed material to those suppliers are usually not thought of by the consumer. If the supplier has what you need, you don’t particularly care where it came from or how it got there. But the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragile nature of many supply chains and what can happen to them in the future.

According to EcoVadis, a provider of business sustainability ratings, 80% of suppliers lack supply chain due diligence measures, 57% aren’t monitoring working conditions, and 44% lack health and safety preparedness. The report includes insights from global supply chain ratings with analysis on the sustainability scores of more than 40,000 companies assessed from 2015 through 2019.

5G Front and Center

The 5G (fifth generation) telecommunications network requires, in most locations, a building out of the current infrastructure to support higher data rates and clearer signals. Since 5G is a multiple spectrum network (using three different frequencies depending on the infrastructure supporting it), there are problems with interoperability and backward compatibility. All these issues are being resolved and 5G is being released in various parts of the country.

Low band 5G uses a frequency spectrum similar to 4G, 600-700 MHz, which allows download speeds higher than 4G and a similar range and coverage area. Mid-band 5G uses microwaves of 2.5-3.7 GHz. This currently allows speeds of 100-900 Mbit/s, with each cell tower providing service up to several miles in radius. This service is the most widely deployed and should be available in most American cities by 2021.

Modular Market Moving Millions

Modular construction is divided into various subsections such as four-sided, open-sided, partially open-sided and others based on design. A new market research report, Modular Construction Market, published by MarketsandMarkets, the global market size is projected to grow from $85.4 billion in 2020 to $107.9 billion by 2025, at a CAGR (combined annual growth rate) of 5.71% from 2020 to 2025.

The growth is attributed to increase in concern towards work-zone safety, need for lower environmental impacts, and supportive government initiatives. The increase in population and rapid urbanization, leading to a large number of new construction projects, offers opportunities for the modular construction market. However, factors such as lack of awareness and volatility in transportation charges may inhibit the growth of the market.

Internal Sustainability

We speak of sustainability in our buildings and infrastructure but rarely in terms of our businesses and policies. CHA (CHA Consulting, Inc.) released its first comprehensive Sustainability Report detailing the company’s commitment to doing business in a way that meets the needs of the present while contributing to an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable future. CHA offers engineering, architectural, survey, construction, project management, and other services.

CHA believes that sustainability is fundamental to the way it should approach everything they do. Responsibly Improving the World We Live In is the guiding motto. This long-term value creation enables a growing and sustainable company now and into the future.

Electrification of the Electric Company

Large electric utilities would seem to be a major market for EV (electric vehicles). After all, they provide the power for the charging stations and the grid is in place to allow those stations to be up and running anywhere the utility operates. So, it comes as no surprise that SCE (Southern California Edison) has announced that by 2030, every passenger car and small-to-midsize SUV in its fleet will be electric. Additionally, the electric utility will convert 30% of medium-duty vehicles and pickup trucks, 8% of heavy-duty trucks, and 60% of forklifts from fossil fuel to electric power. For example, SCE is replacing its 310-forklift fleet with electric versions to reduce air and sound pollution with 151 vehicles in the forklift fleet electric.

Science Fiction or Science Future?

When Star Trek first appeared in 1966, it presented a world of the future that was so far beyond the norm of the time that people were asking, “Can that really happen? Will that really happen?!” The years since have proven that, in some cases, Star Trek was only a short distance ahead of the technology curve.

In the 21st century, we take for granted so much of the science fiction of the recent past that we may become jaded to what the real future holds. Terms that were the realm of fiction writers 50 years ago are being used by kids in high school—and being explained by them to their parents. The internet has expanded—for good or evil depending on your point of view—the access to information and technology. And now, the Internet itself is being examined for ways to make it even more powerful.