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Commercial sector stalls, then rebounds, in 2016

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Reginald Tucker


Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.44.33 PMThe U.S. non-residential construction industry finished strong in 2016, with key end-use segments posting some of the highest numbers since the market began to rebound in the spring of 2015. That’s according to newly released U.S. Department of Commerce figures that show non-residential construction spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual value of $430.1 billion in December, nearly the same as November 2016 but up 9.2% compared to December 2015.

With respect to private construction, most segments were up during the period, with the exception of lodging and education, where spending was down 4.4% and 2.1% in December, respectively. Meanwhile, office construction spending was up 2% with commercial and healthcare rising 0.7% and 1.2%, respectively, during the final month of the year.

The value of private construction in 2016 was $876.3 billion, a 6.4% increase over 2015. Total non-residential private construction reached $420.1 billion, a 7.8% uptick over 2015.

In terms of public non-residential construction spending, the picture was vastly different. Spending across virtually all categories was down, led by office (off 7%) followed by education (down 2.1%). Public commercial and healthcare construction spending fell 1.1% and 1.5%, respectively, during the month of December.

Looking at 2016 as a whole, the value of public construction was $286 billion, a tad below 2015’s $288.9 billion. Total educational construction spending in 2016 was $69.7 billion, a 4.7% increase over 2015.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.44.59 PM“2016 was a chaotic year for non-residential building activity,” said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C. “For most serving this market, it turned out to be a successful year—construction spending in this sector rose almost 8%, according to current estimates—even as challenges to the industry were continually emerging.”

Anika Khan, senior economist with Wells Fargo, said lodging, office and amusement-related construction spending on the whole registered solid gains in 2016. She expects this trend to continue throughout 2017. “These outlays will likely advance as builders construct so-called ‘integrated’ resorts that include lodging, gaming and meeting spaces. Office activity is also expected to continue to post strong gains with the construction of large-scale projects. However, overall office operating fundamentals suggest some moderation in activity is in store.”

Experts believe rising construction costs will also play a role in slowing overall activity during 2017. “Costs have been muted in recent years, largely due to weak global demand and the strong dollar,” Khan stated. “However, the overall cost of materials and components for construction, including gypsum, ready-mix concrete and steel, is expected to see some upward pressure in 2017. Moreover, labor costs could also rise further as construction firms continue to report a shortage of skilled workers.”


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NWFA 2017 preview: Training, networking, products galore

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Reginald Tucker


Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.14.17 AMExcitement is building for the 2017 National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) conference and exhibition, set to kick off April 11–14 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Named one of the 50 fastest-growing trade shows for five consecutive years, NWFA will feature scores of vendors showcasing the latest in hardwood flooring products, installation tools and accessories; dynamic keynote speakers and expert technical demonstrations; and a revamped educational structure designed to encourage attendees to increase their participation.

NWFA 2017 expects to draw hundreds of specialty hardwood flooring contractors, retailers and distributors from around the globe. The three-day event offers attendees 25-plus hours of educational programming, invaluable networking activities, an exhibition teeming with stylish new products and installation tools as well as special events and entertainment. It’s all part of an evolution designed to deliver greater value to all participants.

“We are really looking forward to bringing our industry together for another tremendous show,” said Michael Martin, NWFA president and CEO. “With the successful launch of NWFA University, bringing Hardwood Floors magazine in-house and increased engagement with our members, we have more to offer than ever.”

Martin has good reason to be optimistic. For the fifth year in a row, Trade Show Executive magazine has cited the NWFA Expo as one of the 50 fastest-growing shows in the U.S. According to the publication, NWFA excels in the following areas: net square feet, number of exhibiting companies and total attendees. In fact, NWFA has been recognized in one or more of these categories each year since 2012.

“This is very rewarding recognition, especially as it’s for five years in a row,” Martin said. “Since completely rebuilding the show in 2012, it’s clear our expo is delivering a strong return on investment for both our exhibitors and attendees.”

NWFA literally promises something for everyone. Due to the captive audience of roughly 3,000 decision makers, exhibitors stand to gain a qualified list of prospects. Meanwhile, owners can attend the various educational sessions and roundtable discussions to learn about strategies to help them implement best practices to grow their businesses. Sessions are tailored to address participants across the supply chain, with seminars running the gamut from jobsite preparation, nail- and glue-down techniques and the effect of sanding on finish to the science of engineered wood, cork and bamboo. Beyond the core product- and installation-related sessions there are business seminars dealing with pertinent topics such as marketing to millennials.

Expo education sessions set to take place on April 12 and April 13 are included in the registration fee. The pre-expo symposium, which will take place on April 11, will focus the science of wood flooring. Each participant will receive one CCU. This entails a fee of $225 in advance or $275 on site.

This continued emphasis on education is in keeping with NWFA’s long-term goals. “Six years ago, NWFA completely overhauled its wood flooring expo and rebuilt it from the ground up,” Anita Howard, NWFA COO, explained. “This past year we launched NWFA University to provide online education that enhances our hands-on training.  The success of these two initiatives, and the enthusiasm with which they have been received by our members, has motivated us to shake things up once again by reformatting our educational program at Expo.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.15.34 AMIn the past, according to Howard, the NWFA expo has presented education in a very traditional way, usually via content experts presenting information to attendees in a passive fashion. This year, NWFA is moving away from that format in favor of more attendee-directed learning with interactive, collaborative sessions. Under the new structure, topics will be presented by a moderator who will lead the instruction, but it is the attendees who will ultimately direct how the material is presented and what is discussed. There is no script, no prepared PowerPoint presentations and no outline that will be followed to the letter.

“This may sound like less work, but in reality it’s not,” Howard explained. “For example, a main topic may be presented with three sub-topics to be discussed during each session. Moderators will introduce the main topic, then tables will discuss sub-topics that will then be shared with the group as a whole. This format encourages each attendee to actively participate in his or her learning, establishes contacts for future collaboration and provides a more meaningful takeaway that attendees can apply to their own businesses.”

Special events

NWFA 2017 is far from all work and no play. A series of special events, social gatherings, receptions and even some awards ceremonies are designed to keep attendees entertained. The opening act, the NWFA Wood Floor of the Year awards presentation, kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on April 11.

Additional points of interest include a special keynote presentation by Matt Beaudreau, a professional public speaker from Northern California who has provided professional development training to more than 10,000 educators across the country. He will share his insights about how NWFA attendees work collaboratively across generations to improve and advance the industry. Immediately following Beaudreau’s presentation will be a performance from Urban Electra, a string band. Refreshments will be provided during the performance.

Another dynamic speaker on tap is US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King, who joined the military in 1995 and graduated from the US Army Ranger School. In 2012, Sgt. King was severely wounded during his third deployment. Since his injury, he has continued to be productive, competing in marathons, climbing mountains and serving as an inspiration to many.

A Happy Hour event is scheduled to take place on the show floor between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on April 12. NWFA winds down on April 13 with the main event—a performance by actor/musician/ activist Gary Sinise and his group, the Lt. Dan Band.

Vendor showcase

Another key draw of the NWFA Expo is, of course, the trade show, which will run from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 12 and between 10:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on April 13. Scores of vendors have reserved space to showcase the latest hardwood flooring products, tools and accessories.

Case in point is Wickham Hardwood Flooring, which puts the spotlight on several popular solid lines such as Domestic, Winery (UV, oil finished), Wild West (wire brushed) and Mountain Home (hand scraped, oil finished). In addition, Wickham will showcase engineered collections manufactured to mirror some of its solid offerings.

Other vendors are putting the emphasis on new formats. For instance, Mirage will showcase new boards in lengths up to 82 inches. The new lengths represent an average increase of 25% for Mirage engineered 5- and 61⁄2-inch widths. The new lengths, according to Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, make any room look bigger, with fewer boards needed to cover a given area thereby resulting in fewer visible joints. “The trend toward longer boards continues this year. Increasing our board lengths supports that trend.”

Other suppliers will showcase technological breakthroughs. Lauzon, for example, will highlight its new engineered offerings designed to mimic solid floors.

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Greenbuild 2011: Green movement just as strong north of the border

TORONTO—Despite the crowds not being as big as last year; despite the absence of a number of well-known flooring brands from the sold-out exhibition floor; despite much of the world continuing to struggle to climb out of the economic pit it has been in, the 10th annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo not only proved to be beneficial to those who participated, the event showed the green building movement remains strong throughout the world. Continue reading Greenbuild 2011: Green movement just as strong north of the border