The Construction Industry Online: Part 1: Commercial Building and Industrial Construction-Private Sector

By Kangiser, Angela | Searcher, June 2010 | Go to article overview
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The Construction Industry Online: Part 1: Commercial Building and Industrial Construction-Private Sector


Kangiser, Angela, Searcher


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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry employed some 7.2 million wage and salary jobs in 2008 and was one of the country's largest industries. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that construction also makes a large contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP), totaling $582 billion or 4.1% of the GDP in 2008.

"Another way of showing the role of construction in the 11 economy is to look at the purchases of goods and services made by the construction industry in addition to the value added by construction workers and owners," stated Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "This total is measured by the Census Bureau in a series called value of construction put in place, or construction spending. Spending totaled $1,072 billion in 2008, or 7.5% of GDP." As Simonson explains, "Unlike the GDP by industry, this measure accounts for how much GDP in other industries is attributable to demand from construction. Although the production takes place in other industries (mining, manufacturing, professional or financial services, for instance), it would not occur in the absence of the construction activity. Thus," Simonson concludes, "both measures give a legitimate view of the role of construction in the economy."

This 3-part series will look closely at both free and fee-based online construction sources for the following construction segments: Part 1 will address commercial building and industrial construction within the private sector; Part 2, commercial building and industrial construction in the public sector with infrastructure; and Part 3, residential and green construction.

Construction Industry Segments

Various information sources segment the construction industry differently. In general, the industry is segmented into the following categories: commercial building, industrial, infrastructure/heavy, and residential.

Commercial Building Construction

Often referred to as nonresidential construction or nonindustrial business, the commercial segment includes the construction of healthcare facilities, commercial offices, educational buildings, commercial warehouses, and hospitality and retail buildings. Commercial construction projects are usually coordinated by general contractors who subcontract a good portion of the work to qualified subcontractors known as specialty trade contractors. Subcontractors typically handle the heating and plumbing, electrical, painting, and carpentry work. The general contractors coordinate all aspects of the project including budgeting, scheduling subcontractors, site safety, and quality issues. In addition to new construction, general contractors coordinate additions, improvements, and repairs of commercial buildings as part of their company service offerings.

Industrial Construction

Industrial construction is a highly specialized segment of the construction industry. Industrial contractors manage large-scale, highly technical, highly complex projects including nuclear power plants, geothermal power plants, steel mills, oil refineries, chemical complexes and facilities, and mining facilities. Industrial contractors are unique in that many contractors provide expertise in the planning, design, and construction phases, serving the owner from the planning stages through to project completion. Some industrial contractors can assist owners with moving existing industrial plants or closing down existing structures Industrial construction is also heavily regulated by the government.

Infrastructure and Heavy Construction

Most infrastructure and heavy construction projects are publicly owned. These include dams, sewage and water treatment plants, reservoirs, drainage systems, mass transit projects, freeways, highways, bridges, and tunnels. In recent months, the public sector of the construction industry has had an advantage over the private sector because of the government's recent investment in heavy construction projects.

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