CONSTRUCTION OVERVIEW AND DATA EXCHANGE. Two Disasters. Two Responses: Part 1

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1 SEPTEMBER 2011 C.O.D.E. CONSTRUCTION OVERVIEW AND DATA EXCHANGE Two Disasters. Two Responses: Part 1 In this issue of the CODE Construction Overview and Data Exchange, we look at two natural disasters and the re-building efforts and the economic consequences. We answer your questions about building construction costs, restoration work, and asphalt shingles. As the Building Cost People, it is our pleasure to share our in-depth knowledge and data with you. Enjoy! Norrine Brydon Vice President, Data Asset In this Issue: Two Disasters. Two Responses FAQs Construction Costs Ask the Pros FAQs Asphalt Shingles Data Points Construction/Building Factoids Large disasters affect rebuilding costs in ways different from single losses, with different dynamics coming into play. When such events happen, insurers are reminded of the critical role they play and how their efforts need to intersect with those of governments and the communities they serve. The natural disaster recovery approaches for Slave Lake, Alberta (wildfires) and Joplin, Missouri (an EF5 tornado) differ from each other, but the recovery methods, cost effects and impacts on the communities, and different logistical approaches to reconstruction may provide lessons, in particular around reconstruction costs. Slave Lake, Alberta Wildfires caused an estimated $700 million dollars in losses, according to Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates of insured loss in and around Slave Lake, the second largest insured loss in Canadian history. Insurers and government agencies, the private sector, and the community are moving quickly to recover and rebuild. The response has been swift in part because the community s economy plays a vital role in servicing the oil, gas and forestry industries. Canada s gross domestic product decreased in May by 0.03 percent, pushed down by the mining and energy sectors. Oil and gas extraction declined by 4.2 percent with the wildfires in Alberta cited as a cause of reduced production. Re-settling workers and getting Slave Lake operational again is important to both Alberta s and Canada s economies. The speed with which the recovery is progressing is remarkable and is based on the players having recognized early the need to collaborate and act collectively in order to get the job done. Insurers immediately saw that the scale of the disaster, the location and the small size of the contractor workforce in Slave Lake, and the need to rebuild rapidly called for a unique solution: a coordinated approach to debris removal managed by one party. An ad hoc committee of insurers developed spontaneously, led by the largest insurers of the dozen companies impacted. Insurers were brought together and agreed to hire a project manager, pool funds earmarked for debris removal and share the debris removal costs on an equal basis. All but one firm participated in the process. The insurers appointed a coordinator, SPECS, who negotiated debris removal contracts with two large out-of-town excavating firms and work began in coordination with the town. The flat-rate cost for debris removal is about $4,500. The costs to remove some 30,000 tons of debris were reduced significantly due in part to the economy of means presented by the scale of the work. The province is building 350 modular homes to house workers designated as essential, and the first units began arriving the third week of June. Reconstruction of site-built homes has also begun, but most building materials and labor are being brought in from Edmonton, some 3.5 hours south. Infrastructure is being placed in temporary sites. The plan calls for 242 units to be ready for occupancy by the end of September. (Continued next page) Marshall & Swift/Boeckh LLC USA Issue

2 Two Disasters. Two Responses. (Continued from page 1) Joplin, Missouri While Canada felt the heat of wildfires, the central United States experienced the havoc of tornados. The people of Joplin, MO are enduring devastating hardships after a powerful EF5 tornado swept through the town on May 22. More than $2 billion in damage was done in the city of 50,000. The tornado cut a swath one mile wide and six miles long, killing 159 people, destroying over 7,000 homes, 400 commercial properties, and 18,000 vehicles. It damaged 10 public school buildings and displaced over 5,000 jobs. Three months later, the signs of recovery are apparent, though the recovery process has been different than that of Slave Lake. Governmentfunded tornado debris removal was substantially completed by August 16 and removal contractors and the clean-up process were managed by FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. The federal government agreed to pay 90 percent of the debris removal costs until August 7. (If the city had to pay for the work, it would cost residents $3 million a day.) A group called The Citizens Advisory Recovery Team has also been formed to steer discussions and advice on such things as neighborhood redesign, energy efficiency in rebuilding and sustainable communities. Joplin s location, easy driving distance to major centers like Tulsa and Springfield, suggests that labor and material are more readily available in stocked quantities. Within a 50-mile radius of Joplin there are over a dozen big-box lumber stores and other smaller outlets. The vast national network of big-box stores, capable of shifting supplies around as needed, has reduced supplyand-demand problems that have often plagued natural disasters in the past. Major building materials retailers have built temporary tents, increased supply at nearby outlets, or have built entirely new stores to serve customers. The current state of the economy left no shortage of contractors eager to build back homes and businesses, so much so that the Joplin City Council put a 60-day hold on building permits for new houses in parts of the city. The city staff proposed the hold to allow expedited debris removal in the most severely damaged neighborhoods. To date, 2,800 building permits have been submitted since the tornado. More than 65,000 volunteers have flocked to Joplin and the surrounding areas to help rebuild. Schools opened on time in August thanks to support from all over United States and the generosity of people with buildings left standing. Observations Two cities, two natural disasters, two different yet effective disaster responses. Insurers at Slave Lake are playing a key role in the cleanup operation, whereas in Joplin, the federal government is bearing most of the costs. Slave Lake is also a more remotely located community requiring different supply chain logistics than Joplin, a more centrally located community. The lessons learned between how Joplin and Slave Lake are being rebuilt won t become totally clear for some time, but early indicators show different methods of recovery that may help other communities define their own disaster response plans. As part of an ongoing series, MSB s C.O.D.E. will detail the developments to share with clients the challenges and successes between two cities with distinct differences in geography and economies. page 2

3 What is happening with Building Construction Costs? FAQs MSB is forecasting that in the home building industry, profit and overhead charges will remain at average historical levels, and the claims business will also maintain the industry benchmark for profit and overhead. There will be temporary spiking in certain geographical areas due to excessive timesensitive building pressure, but overall, with steadily increasing material and labor pricing, and consistent profit and overhead conditions, MSB expects to see construction costs rise 4 to 5 percent annually over the next 12 months. Building indicators are somewhat brighter today, with single-family building permit authorizations in July up 0.5 percent above the revised June figure of 402,000 units. Actual single-family housing starts in July, however, were at a rate of 425,000; this is still 4.9 percent below the revised June figure of 447,000. For those few who qualify for mortgage financing, the continuing low interest rates are making the buying decision easier. But what about the costs to build? The major cost components for construction include: Hourly labor rates, employment costs, and trade availability Materials costs and product availability Permits and other fees Profit and overhead rates (OHP) Taxes Interim financing costs Financing costs are very low and are expected to remain so for the next two years. Public pressure to keep taxes low is pronounced, so permit fees and sales taxes should remain at current levels. MSB has seen housing construction costs rise slowly since 2010, after declines in 2009, the bottom of the recent recession. McGraw-Hill Construction s ENR magazine reported that heavy and light construction costs combined rose 0.3 percent in June for a year-over-year (YOY) rise of 2.7 percent. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job losses in the residential construction market began before the recession, and the losses have not stopped. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently reported that for every one person entering the construction field, seven are leaving. Usually unemployment rates have an effect on labor wage rates and help to lower wage expectations and annual raises. Cost-of-living factors, union rates, and state minimum wages dictate a floor level. Companies struggling to stay afloat are doing everything possible to keep their most productive workers while reducing overhead. Those who are employed are seeing wage raises, but may be working less. As in past recessions, working hours were reduced; that appears to be over now, with the BLS data reporting average weekly hours rising slowly to 39.2 hours per week as of July 2011, returning to pre-recessionary levels. As working hours increase, and with fewer staff employed, some supervisory staff and owners are returning to the jobsite to work in their trade (self-perform), rather than hire new workers. It is expected that labor costs will continue to creep upwards in line with inflation for the foreseeable future, absent a deflationary cycle. And what about materials costs, given the reduction in orders for commodities worldwide? Material costs continue to rise in most product areas: Lumber is the most notable exception, where costs decreased 1.3 percent YOY July 2011 as lumber demand slipped worldwide. An earlier rise in the price of steel is still moving through the system, with a YOY increase of 11.5 percent seen by July 2011 alone. Fabrication input costs and high demand for certain materials are driving these increases, with record high fuel costs a major contributor. Construction materials costs tracked by MSB rose 6.7 percent YOY. An obvious area where contractors can adjust their pricing is overhead and profit. When demand is down, contractors shave profit margins and economize to remain competitive and win enough jobs to remain in business. In the insurance industry, restoration contractors, working under time-is-ofthe-essence conditions, tend to hold profit and overhead rates at industry-standard levels. MSB has confidence that the home building industry has seen profit and overhead margins reduced as far as practical in specific markets although claims restoration work has not seen those same reductions. We expect the industry standard rates to continue for the foreseeable future. page 3

4 The ability to respond to time sensitive emergencies utilizing certified trained staff and specialized equipment make restoration contractors uniquely equipped to perform tasks required by insurance claims adjusters. Ask the Pros: Why do residential contractors rarely perform restoration work? If there is a subject or topic that you would like to see discussed, please us at Have you ever wondered why insurance firms use specialty contractors for emergency restoration and clean-up work instead of the average home builder? The reasons are simple: restoration contractors are trained and certified to perform certain tasks that most home builders are not prepared to do. Nor is the home builder s business model the same as a restoration contractor, who must be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A typical insurance restoration contractor uses mainly certified cleaners, essentially low-skilled laborers, to perform a variety of tasks including 24-hour emergency de-watering work, flood damage removal and mold mitigation. Further up the skills chain, these contractors employ roofers who can tackle wind and hail damage quickly, and carpenters and drywallers who can restore structures with fire, wind, and water damage. Restoration contractors also maintain specialized staff capable of bio-hazard cleanup such as that found at trauma or death scenes. Demolition and cleanup work is relatively lowskilled work; however, water and mold mitigation, fire-damage restoration, and restoration cleaning all require special training and certifications. Almost all restoration employees have specialized training and/or certifications that residential contractors do not have. Restoration companies commonly send their employees to school for training and certification. Examples of common certifications are WRT (Water Restoration Technician), ASD (Applied Structural Drying), CDS (Commercial Drying Specialist), OCT (Odor Control Technician), and FSRT (Fire Smoke Restoration Technician). Recently, more training and certification was made a requirement for restoration contractors. In 2010, the EPA passed a law requiring workers to take an 8-hour lead-safe certification course. These certifications are commonly good for two years, and refresher courses are required to maintain accreditation. Insurance restoration work also requires the use of different types of specialty equipment not used in residential construction. Extraction equipment, axial and centrifugal air movers, LGR (low-grain refrigerant) dehumidifiers, HEPA air scrubbers, and electric drying equipment all require specialized training and special care to operate. The production schedule of restoration contractors also separates them from residential contractors. Since they provide 24-hour emergency service, new work can come at anytime of the day. Their crews, sub-contractors, suppliers, and other resources accept the rigors of being on-call to respond to emergency losses. The ability to service one or more new customers on very short notice without compromising existing projects is a different business model than the detailed, advanced planning model of most residential contractors. Restoration contractors are also very familiar with the insurance claims process and how insurance companies pay for repairs. They use estimating software similar to what adjusters and insurance companies use and assist homeowners by proving the required, detailed documentation to support a claim. page 4

5 Asphalt Shingles Taking the mystery out of Expected Life By a vast majority, asphalt shingles are the preferred roof covering for pitched roofs. They are made by saturating either an organic (felt) or inorganic (fiberglass) mat with asphalt, then surfacing the impregnated mat with colored mineral granules. Two strip-type asphalt shingles are predominately used: 3-tab and architectural (or dimensional ) shingles. A 3-tab shingle is approximately* 36 inches long and 12 inches wide, with two equally-spaced grooves cut in the lower portion of the shingle, yielding the 3-tab look. Architectural shingles are made using a mat that is heavier than the standard 3-tab asphalt shingle. Unlike 3-tab shingles, which have a groove or slot every 12 inches or so, architectural shingles are typically solid across their entire length. Multiple layers are overlapped or laminated together to produce the desired dimensional appearance. Another type of shingle, interlocking or t-lock, was once popular in high-wind areas, but it is no longer manufactured. For years, asphalt shingles were rated by their weight. For example, there were 235 lb., 265 lb. and 310 lb. shingles, all referring to the weight of the shingles per square (in roofing, a square equals 100 SF of roofing surface). When manufacturers began using glass fiber instead of felted material for the base mat, they found it absorbed much less liquid asphalt material. As a result, shingles that used to weigh 265 pounds per square suddenly weighed much less. This led the shingle industry to change to a rating system based on expected life. Instead of 235 lb. or 265 lb. shingles, manufacturers began marketing 20-year, 25-year, on up to 50-year shingles. The legal profession found this to be very subjective and misleading, which resulted in hundreds of class action suits for premature product failures. As of 2011, all shingle manufacturers have gone to a limited lifetime warranty. Understand that they did not change the product itself, just the warranty. They all still have a variety of qualities (i.e., good, better, best); however, the terms of the warranty for each quality are varied and specific. Each quality warranty may have a different non-prorated period ( full warranty is only applicable for the first 5, 7 or 10 years, depending upon quality), wind-speed limit (60, 90, 110 or 130 mph), and so forth. Also, most limited lifetime warranties require a host of other roofing components be installed as well, such as a starter strip, underlayment, and hip and ridge. As of 2011, all shingle manufacturers have gone to a limited lifetime warranty. Understand that they did not change the product itself, just the warranty. This means a complete roofing system, as defined by the shingle manufacturer, must be installed in order for the warranty to be in force, and often it is also required that the installer be certified by the manufacturer. One key thing to note is that limited applies to production or manufacturing defects only, not to product durability (aging or appearance are NOT covered by the warranty), and lifetime means of the original property owner. * metric-sized asphalt shingles are slightly larger. page 5

6 US Data Points CANADA Gas Trends Regular Gasoline Average Prices US (G) Canada (L) Today One Week ago One Month ago One Year ago Trend Gas Trends Hurricane Irene punished the mid-atlantic states and northeastern seaboard while leaving oil refineries, terminals and pipelines Regular undamaged. Gasoline Average The Labor Prices Day weekend pushed retail prices a few cents higher from the normal increased holiday US (G) traffic. EIA s Canada forecast, (L) as of August 9, 2011, for the average retail price Today of regular-grade gasoline for August to December is $3.48 per gallon. The forecast for the One average Week ago retail price in is $3.64 per gallon In 2010, the United One States Month consumed ago about billion gallons (or 3.3 billion barrels) of gasoline, a daily average of One about Year ago million gallons (9 million barrels) This was 2.7percent less than the record high of about billion gallons (or 3.39 billion barrels) consumed in Trend Steady Decrease Increase Steady Decrease Increase Building Stats Description June-11 July-11 % Change Housing Starts 613* 604* -1.5% * thousands Description June-11 July-11 % Change Building Permits 617* 597* -4% Privately-owned housing starts in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000. This is 1.5percent below Building the revised Stats June estimate of 613,000, but is 9.8percent above the July 2010 rate of 550,000. Builders Description started on fewer May-11 homes in June-11 July which July-11 is a sure % sign Change that the housing industry remains stubborn and continues to contribute little to the economic recovery of the U.S. Housing Starts 183.6* 196.6* 205.1* 9.5% Foreclosures, lack of jobs and the continued difficulty acquiring credit is depriving the world s largest economy of a source of strength. The Federal Reserve has * committed thousands to holding rates low until 2013 in an effort to encourage lenders to loosen strict mortgage rules. In the mean time, demand for new Description homes is extremely May-11 weak. June-11 July-11 % Change * thousands Value of Building Permits (Residential) 3700* 3700* % * thousands Construction/Building Factoids 1. The Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world before the construction of the Empire State Building in The Sears Tower consists of nine framed tubes, which connects nine skyscrapers as one building. 3. Construction workers hard hats were first invented and used in the building of the Hoover Dam in Lightning strikes the Empire States Building about seven times a year. 5. The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building. 6. The button most often pressed in elevators is the first floor/ground floor button. 7. Ceiling lamp is the most common and basic lighting for homes and businesses. 8. The smallest occupied apartment in Manhattan is 90 square feet and has no kitchen. 9. Between 1948 and 1952, during the Truman administration, the White House was completely remodeled after it was found to be structurally unsound. Steel framing was added to strengthen the walls, but the original rooms were reconstructed. 10. Bathrooms are the most used and most often remodeled rooms in the house. 11. At 175,000 SF, the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC, is the largest home in the US. Editor: Norrine Brydon Copy Editor: Susan Vanselow Publishers: Guy Kopperud David Nason Mike Samsa Glen Wither Phone: Marshall & Swift/Boeckh LLC Marshall & Swift/Boeckh 2885 S Calhoun Road New Berlin, WI 53151

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