Approaching Mile 20

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If you haven’t noticed, we think we’re clever. To begin each year, we publish our Construction Outlook, and we try to come up with a metaphor to illustrate the overall theme. This year, it’s running. What’s notable about the current economic expansion is its length. This cycle is nearing record duration, and economists believe it will break those records and become the longest expansion in history.

The thing about running is it’s hard to sustain. Any runner will tell you that after a mile or so of warmup, you’ll experience a burst of energy referred to as the “runner’s high.” Inexperienced runners will blow themselves out at this point, expending their energy too quickly and tiring before making the distance. Veteran runners know how to find their pace and ride their energy as far as it will go.

In a marathon, runners typically hit “the wall” around mile 20, and it takes great discipline to push through for the remaining 6.2 miles. After almost a decade of measured, responsible growth, economists believe they are seeing signs of this runner beginning to tire.

“Over the past three years, the expansion for the U.S. construction industry has shown deceleration in its rate of growth, a pattern that typically takes place as an expansion matures,” said Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics.

In 2019, we’re told the construction industry will essentially repeat its performance of 2018 as the broader economy rounds its peak. We’re told to expect a recession in 2020, though this pullback will be nothing compared to the last one.

Don’t shoot! We’re just the messenger in this, and we can help. What should you do to prepare? The answer to that question will depend on your business.
Turn to page 18, where Jeff Gavin takes you through this year’s forecast based on data from Dodge Data & Analytics, Moody’s Analytics, the American Institute of Architects, plus insight from ConstructConnect.

We have a lot of other annual features worth drawing your attention to in this issue. Tom O’Connor checks in with his OSHA Outlook on page 50. According to Tom, the agency will continue its aggressive approach of cracking down on violations in 2019. Of course, we have our Showstopper winners from the 2018 NECA Show in Philadelphia. Turn to page 42 to see what you should consider adding to your tool boxes, service trucks and workshops.

Finally, Craig DiLouie checks in with his lighting roundtable discussion on page 66. This year’s main themes will continue to be energy efficiency, light quality, the internet of things and circadian response.

We’re also introducing a new (to us) writer this month. Mark Earley—secretary of the National Electrical Code Committee and chief electrical engineer at the National Fire Protection Association—is our Code Insider. You can read his debut article on  page 48. And Mark C. Ode, long the Code Applications columnist, will be writing the Residential column (page 40). He was an EC specializing in homes over 5,000 square feet. Our previous residential columnist for more than 20 years, David Shapiro, writes: “Writing for all of you has been a wonderful learning-teaching and simply sharing experience. I’ve felt especially honored by the great many readers who’ve interacted with me over the years since I introduced this column.”

With the Construction Outlook spread out over 13 pages, it’s hard to fit anything else into this densely packed issue. We can’t mention it all here, so you’re going to have to run through it yourself. What are you waiting for? On your mark, get set, go!

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