Construction Trends and Outlook for 2020

As 2019 and the decade draw to a close, we’ve been reviewing some of the issues and trends affecting the construction industry. Throughout the last decade, some noteworthy developments have been noted nationwide in the U.S., from the ongoing construction labor shortage to an amplified focus on worker safety issues. In addition, aging infrastructure remains a concern throughout the U.S. and will continue to be a focus well into the next decade, according to the latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

In New York City, some of the notable issues, such as the shortage of construction workers in all trades, mirrors what’s going on in markets across the country. There are other trends that are more apparent in NYC than other areas. It’s expected that 2019 trends will continue to be a factor into 2020 and beyond.

Some of the most significant developments in New York City are in the following areas:

MTA’s New Capital Plan – In September 2019, the Metropolitan Transit Authority revealed its new capital plan for 2020-2024. The plan, described as “transformational,” includes widespread improvements throughout all areas including subways, buses, railroads, bridges and tunnels. When approvals are finalized, the $54.8 billion budget will make it the largest capital program in MTA history. The program includes $37.3 million in improvements just in the NYCT Subway system.

Megaprojects – According to Curbed NY, the development of megaprojects in New York City is a trend that will continue into the new decade. Along with the World Trade Center, some of the major “megaprojects” include Hudson Yards, Essex Crossing and Manhattan West. For a complete report, see:
Safety Efforts – The NYC DOB will continue to focus efforts on worker and jobsite safety, as new safety and training regulations took effect this year (OSHA 30). In addition, as new building inspectors were hired, NYC DOB initiated surprise inspections across the five boroughs in the last couple of months. According to the New York Times, as a result of these inspections, 11,484 violations were found, with more than 2500 stop-work orders issued for safety supervision violations and dangerous working conditions. (For the full report, see

Construction Megacities – New York City is among the top three global construction megacities noted in a report from Global Data this year. The UK-based data and market intelligence firm based their findings on cities with a pipeline of construction projects with an investment value of more than $30 billion. Their report places NYC as the third largest megacity, with current projects valued at $285.2 billion.

We will continue to follow trends in construction and safety in NYC and other markets in the East Coast, including Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia. Watch for our continued reports in 2020.

For further information on some of these trends, see the following resources.

Infrastructure report card from ASCE:

AGC Report on construction labor shortages:

Global Data report on construction megacities:

Outreach Campaign for Construction Worker Safety Training Announced Ahead of Deadline

The deadline for construction workers in New York City to complete certain safety training is rapidly approaching. On December 1, 2019, Local Law 196 goes into effect, meaning workers who require 30 hours of training specified by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration must have those training hours completed by that date.

On September 13, 2019, city officials announced the launch of an information campaign.  in all five boroughs, which includes direct DOB outreach to workers on construction sites, multilingual advertisements in 30 community newspapers, and 1,000 subway ads system-wide. In interactive map showing the more than 8,000 construction sites where training is required is available online at

Local Law 196, which was signed in 2017, was a response to an increase in the number of construction-related injuries and deaths in NYC in the last several years. The law requires certain workers to take a combination of training courses administered by OSHA —  OSHA 10 and OSHA 30, or a 100-hour program approved by NYC Department of Buildings. In addition, certain supervisors are required to complete additional training.

According to NYC DOB, Local Law 196 requires certain workers and supervisors to receive safety training at construction sites that are required to designate a Construction Superintendent, Site Safety Coordinator or Site Safety Manager. Workers must receive 30 hours of site safety training by this year’s December 1 deadline. An additional 10 hours must be received by September 1, 2020. Supervisors will need 62 hours of training by the December 1, 2019 deadline, including a 30-hour OSHA course to attain a Supervisor SST card.

Recently, the New York City Department of Small Businesses also announced the availability of a one-time grant to cover a percentage of the training course. Small construction firms located in New York City with 1-15 employees, and certified M/WBEs in the construction industry with 1-15 employees are eligible to apply for the grant.

For complete information on LL 196 and training information and other links, visit .

Construction Projects in U.S. Focused in 10 Key States, Report Shows

A significant percentage of all construction projects in the US are located in 10 key states, according to a recent report by GlobalData, with New York remaining one of the top areas seeing continued growth in both current projects and upcoming projects.

The report, which was released in June, shows the three states encompassing the largest number of projects are California, Texas, and New York. The report data includes not only public and private development but also infrastructure projects. It also takes into account both current projects and projects that are in the pipeline.

According to a summary of their report, GlobalData is tracking nearly 900 projects in New York, representing a total value of $409 billion. This figure includes projects in pre-execution and execution as of May 2019.

Rounding out the top 10 states with the most construction activity are Florida, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina.

These results are in line with recent reports pointing to continued growth and expansion in development and infrastructure projects in New York City. While residential development in NYC has curtailed somewhat in the past year, demand for office space and commercial properties continues to see growth.

In addition, the 2018-2020 Construction Outlook released in the beginning of this year by the New York Building Congress showed continued robust spending in all areas of the construction sector. The report projects that New York City construction expenditures will surpass $59 billion by the end of this year.

Recent Changes to Adjoining Property Notification Requirements Affects DOB

A recent amendment to the New York City Building Code adds new notification requirements pertaining to adjoining property owners. Although this new law only affects the Department of Building’s notification requirements, it will require the DOB to provide adjoining property owners in New York City with three written notices regarding construction plans.

Under this law, the DOB will be required to notify adjoining property owners when an application for approval of construction plans is received; when an application for a building permit is received; another notice at least 30 days before either construction or demolition work begins.

The amended law also requires the notice to include a copy of the building permit and the proof of insurance.

Cases of emergency construction work are exempt from this notification requirement.

Legislators introduced the bill in response to concerns from homeowners and tenants regarding building damages occurring as a result of construction on adjoining properties. Specifically mentioned by legislators was a case a number of years ago involving a building collapse in Brooklyn.

This is only the latest development in recent changes to the NYC building code regarding either adjoining or adjacent properties or structures, including the 2014 changes that included not only notification requirements but also pre-construction surveys and licenses to enter adjoining properties.

To read the amended code, please visit the following link:

Pre-Construction Surveys and Monitoring Services: Vital for Managing Risk on Construction Projects

Pre-Construction surveys and related monitoring services are vital components of risk management and damage prevention plans on any construction site. When construction activities are being conducted in urban areas and locations such as designated historic districts, surveys and monitoring programs are often required in order to comply with building codes that serve to protect adjacent structures. However, surveys and monitoring can also protect the interests of stakeholders involved.

Programs to monitor adjacent buildings begin prior to the start of construction activities. Construction activities which typically can have greater a impact or risk of damage on adjacent or surrounding buildings include foundation work, drilling, excavation, blasting and demolition. Building codes typically require that surveys and monitoring be conducted before and throughout the duration of certain construction projects, depending on a variety of other factors, including site location.  In New York City, for example, when the construction activity is being conducted within 90 feet of a designated historic structure, preconstruction surveys and a monitoring program is mandatory for all adjacent structures in a radius of 90 feet.

Existing Conditions Documentation, or the Pre-Construction Survey is one precautionary measure that can mitigate potential risks involved prior to the start of any construction activity. It also serves to document any existing damage prior to the start of construction activities. This comprehensive survey involves a visual and photographic inspection of adjacent structures or properties, as well as extensive documentation. In order for a site to be fully compliant, a fully licensed technician is required to complete the mandatory existing conditions documentation.

The pre-construction survey will also determine where telltales and Crack Gauges may be required on the adjacent structures. Vibration Monitoring may be either recommended or required, depending on the type of property involved, or whether the site is within 90 feet of a designated landmark.

These measures not only mitigate risk on the structure, but may also protect interests of various parties involved, including the property owner, developers, contractors and others conducting the construction, as well as the owners/landlords involved with the adjacent structures. In specific building codes such as Technical Policy and Procedure Notice 10/88 in New York City, existing conditions documentation and monitoring programs are required specifically to landmarked buildings because they are particularly susceptible to damage.

Construction Monitoring: Protecting the Various Stakeholders in a Building Project

Construction monitoring services are a critical component of protecting structures as well as assets of the various stakeholders on many types of construction projects. Services including pre-construction surveys and various ongoing monitoring (vibration, crack gauge) all play a role in helping to assess any potential risks that can affect any of the various parties involved in a project.

Every construction project involves a list of stakeholders who can be impacted in a variety of ways by construction and related activities. Stakeholders can include both direct stakeholders, or parties that are directly involved in a project, as well as indirect stakeholders. Key stakeholders may include property owners, developers, architects, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors and building site employees. Additional stakeholders can include owners and/or tenants of adjoining buildings and adjacent properties, neighboring communities, as well as local governments and other authorities.

The typical construction monitoring services either required by local authorities or requested by project stakeholders can help mitigate risks in various ways. For example, Existing Conditions Documentation, or Pre-Construction Survey of adjacent structures or buildings, is essential for protecting both the developer/contractor as well as the owner of the adjacent property. This photographic documentation of the adjacent structure or structures serves to establish a baseline documentation of the existing structural conditions prior to the start of any construction activity. Pre-Construction Surveys can succeed in protecting developers or property owners from unwarranted claims of prior damage.

Other typical monitoring services can provide additional protection for various stakeholders in a project. Vibration monitoring, which uses seismographic equipment to monitor and record vibration data, helps to protect not only the adjacent structure and property owner from potential damage, but is also a crucial safety element for on-site employees, workers and subcontractors. Vibration monitoring can also protect those who live and work in the neighboring areas who could be negatively impacted.

Local, state and federal regulations and building codes often require a complete monitoring program that includes measuring, recording and reporting data in order to protect the various stakeholders involved in every construction project.

Wireless Technology Creates High Accuracy When Measuring Tilt

Construction monitoring companies are using equipment with innovative wireless technology to develop versatile and highly accurate structure monitoring solutions for their clients. Along with wireless crack gauges, the use of bi-axle wireless tilt meters allows technicians to measure real-time lateral and horizontal movement with maximum precision in various applications.

Many buildings and other structures need to be monitored for changes in lateral or horizontal movement during construction activity such as excavation, under piling, and other activities. And for some applications, tilt monitoring may be necessary on an ongoing or continual basis so that structural health can be monitored permanently.

Tiltmeters are devices that measure and record tilt, or inclination, data from either above ground or in-ground structures. Data is measured and collected on an ongoing basis and transmitted to the construction team and/or other project stakeholders. The latest devices use microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, offering high accuracy and versatility such as the ability to install a bi-axle or a single axis sensor as necessary.

Tiltmeters are often used as part of a complete monitoring solution developed for a specific project or structure. Some examples of common uses of tilt monitoring include in historical structures, adjacent property excavations, tunnel excavations, and bridge monitoring.

Like other wireless monitoring devices, wireless tiltmeters offer a number of benefits and advantages for different project types and applications. Among the benefits of wireless tiltmeters are:

  • Versatility: Wireless tiltmeters can be used in a wide variety of locations, conditions, and installation types.
  • Remote monitoring: Wireless tiltmeters and systems allow the data to be monitored, accessed, and transferred remotely. They are used in conjunction with web-based monitoring systems and software allowing for seamless data transmission. In addition, there is no need for technicians to be on site. This technology can also be used in difficult locations or settings.
  • Accuracy: Use of MEMS technology allows for highly accurate readings and measurements. Devices are also constructed to be waterproof, allowing for accuracy in detrimental conditions.

Thanks to the latest technology developments, wireless tiltmeters are versatile, highly accurate, and capable of providing early warnings of potential structural damage. Construction monitoring service companies incorporate wireless tiltmeters and other devices when designing a total solution for their clients.

Wireless Crack Gauge Monitoring: Providing Reliable Data with Advanced Technology

Crack gauge monitoring is an essential part of any construction monitoring plan. In New York City, crack gauge monitoring is required as part of TPPN #10/88 in the building code, and for the preservation of historic landmark buildings and structures.

A crack gauge monitoring program generally consists of both a physical inspection and photographic survey in the pre-construction phase, as well as crack gauge measuring equipment that is in place throughout the construction process. Crack gauge monitors and sensors are positioned to monitor existing cracks in adjacent structures, and these cracks are continuously monitored for changes or displacements.

Wireless crack gauge monitors are the best option for many types of construction projects and sites. The use of technologically-advanced wireless sensors and monitoring equipment provides a number of benefits to projects that require crack gauge monitoring. These benefits are found in all phases of the crack gauge monitoring process, including measuring, collecting and transmitting data to the client. They include:

Versatility – wireless crack gauge systems can be used in any number of structure types, including tunnels, buildings, and bridges. Systems can be used in a variety of construction projects. Wireless crack gauge monitors are also a better option than tell-tale crack monitors for sites that have either limited access or for hard-to -reach areas.

Reliability and accuracy – Wireless monitoring systems have the ability to measure data on a constant basis; all data is recorded in real time and transmitted to the client with no waiting time via cell phones directly to the client’s computer. Any issues such as displacement can be reported in real-time to minimize risk. Reports can be created on a custom basis, depending on the needs of each client and project. Monitors have a five-year battery life, so there is virtually no interruption in service.

When used as part of a complete solution, wireless crack gauge monitors are among the most advanced monitoring equipment that can be used in any construction monitoring program.

Protection of Landmark Buildings in New York City

New York City’s historic landmarks are an integral part of the city’s vibrant culture and landscape.   The City of New York established the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965, in response to the demolition of a number of historically relevant properties, particularly the original Pennsylvania Station that was built in 1911.  According to the LPC, a landmark is defined as “a building, property or object that has a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the city, state, or nation.”

Since then more than 36,000 properties in New York City have been designated as landmarks. Once a building has been designated as a landmark, the LPC is required to approve any alteration, reconstruction, demolition or new construction. This is required for individual landmark buildings as well as buildings within a designated historic district.

Although part of the landmark preservation regulations includes maintaining a building’s architectural style and character, there are more than aesthetics involved. Historic structures can be more susceptible to damage from construction activities than newer more modern buildings.  Vibration levels from construction activities in areas adjacent to historic buildings can also impact these buildings and their foundations. Historic buildings can be significantly affected by demolition and foundation work being conducted in the vicinity.

New York City building code requires surveying and monitoring of construction work within a 90-foot radius of any designated landmark. Technical policy TP 10/88 details the types of surveying and monitoring that must be in place at these building sites. A complete monitoring program in a landmark building or adjacent area includes a combination of services such as pre-construction surveys (existing conditions photographic documentation), Optical Structure Survey, remote or manned seismographic vibration monitoring equipment, crack gauge monitoring, and tilt meter monitoring.

Pre-construction surveys and ongoing vibration monitoring are crucial for detecting any potential issues prior to the start of a construction project or during the project. Monitoring and surveying are part of a comprehensive approach that can serve to protect  not only the historical structures and residents of the area, but other stakeholders involved, including developers, building owners, contractors and site engineers.

Detailed information and latest updates on the NYC LPC can be found at:

Innovative Monitoring Technology Key in Bridge Preservation Programs and Solutions

A Bridge Preservation Guide published this spring by the Federal Highway Administration outlines the importance of bridge preservation programs and other solutions as part of an overall necessity to address the nationwide infrastructure challenges in the US.

According to 2017 bridge data collected and released by the FHWA, of the nation’s 612,677 bridges, more than 54,000 of these are rated “structurally deficient,” while more than one-third of all bridges in the U.S. have demonstrated repair needs. As a result, bridge repair and rehabilitation remain among the top priorities for transportation departments throughout the U.S.

The FHWA notes that limited funding for infrastructure makes it necessary for federal, state and local governments to implement cost-effective methods and programs that seek to extend the safe service life of bridges through a variety of preservation and rehabilitation programs.  These programs include a combination of solutions, including developing and implementing routine maintenance for various bridge components, both surface and structural. Bridge preservation programs also involve assessing and monitoring the structural health and integrity of existing structures, including mandatory inspections and methods of damage detection.

There are various ways that innovative monitoring systems, including continuous, wireless and remote systems, are being used in structural health monitoring (SHM) programs for bridges and other structures. The FHWA notes that technical innovations and advancements in monitoring equipment and data gathering can be incorporated into various phases involving bridge construction or repair. Some of these areas include early detection of structural defects and ongoing monitoring and data collection related to the study of traffic or environmental impact. Monitoring systems can also be implemented for design and pre-construction activities, as well as new bridge construction. These innovations can be included in both the design and construction phases of both bridges and sub-structures.

As the average age of bridges in the U.S. continues to climb, and as more bridges each year approach the end of their design or service life, it’s imperative for government and transportation officials at all levels to look to innovative, new technologies for early detection, assessment, monitoring, and collecting data, as part of an overall plan to restore the infrastructure.


For further information, see: