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CSI/SBE Construction Outlook 2012 offers some optimism

By Journal Staff


DeWITT  —  Speakers at this year’s local Construction Outlook conference took on a more hopeful tone than in previous years, Stephen Poplarski said at the close of the event.

“From what I’ve seen and heard today from our speakers, I think the outlook is much brighter than it has been in the last four years,” said Poplarski, who is treasurer of the Syracuse chapter of the Construction Specification Institute (CSI).

CSI and the Syracuse Builders Exchange (SBE) hosted the Construction Outlook 2012 on March 26 at the Best Western Plus on Old Collamer Road S. in DeWitt. It was the fourth year for the program, which brings together representatives from construction, architectural, and engineering firms to address CSI and SBE members.

Just over 100 people attended the event, according to CSI Syracuse Chapter President Kevin Phillips. Nine speakers discussed the state of the construction market and upcoming projects.

The first speaker was Steven Moolin, principal at Beardsley Design Associates Architecture, Engineering & Landscape Architecture, P.C., which has offices in Auburn, Syracuse, and Malone. About 60 percent of the firm’s revenue is coming from government work, from barracks at Fort Drum to window replacements through the state Office of General Services to work at the village level, he said.

“We’re doing an awful lot of work in existing buildings,” Moolin said. “I think the message is people are looking to do more with what they have currently.”

QPK Design is also seeing increased activity in the military and government sector, according to Vincent Nicotra, partner at the Syracuse–based architectural, engineering, and site-planning firm.

The medical market has been strong over the last few years but tailed off slightly recently, he said. And QPK is seeing some private-development retail activity, according to Nicotra, although he said he could not share specifics.

“We have, I think, in the short term what I would call a little bit of a mix of everything,” he said. “We keep thinking every six months that it’s going to take off, and then it seems to pick up and then it sort of eases off a little bit. But I think it’s more encouraging than maybe it was a year ago.”

Syracuse–based Holmes King Kallquist & Associates, Architects has plenty of reason to be encouraged, according to partner Carlton Holmes. The firm is busy and seeing activity in all sectors that it serves, he said.

Those sectors include housing, industrial work, retail, religious work, government work, and interiors. They also include what Holmes said is a major source of activity: universities.

“Right now, the universities are spending a ton of money,” he said. “At some point it’s going to stop. But in any case, they’re doing a lot of work right now, so jump on quick while it’s going.”

Paul Levesque, a principal at HOLT Architects, P.C. in Ithaca, expressed more cautious optimism. The year is shaping up to be positive, but HOLT is experiencing a lot of competition from firms based outside of the upstate New York area, he said.

One reason for optimism is a large number of clients doing planning studies, according to Levesque.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “When we see that, it makes us feel good because there’s a future.”

Demolition and infrastructure work will be popular in the future, predicted Paul Moyer, executive vice president of The Pike Co., a construction-services company based in Rochester that has a regional office at 711 N. Townsend St. in Syracuse.

Environmental regulations are leading to coal-fired power plants shutting down around the country, Moyer said. He did not name any local plants that are slated to close.

“With these, there’s a lot of demolition removal, asbestos removal, abatement that will be coming up,” Moyer said.

James D’Aloisio, principal at the DeWitt–based structural engineering, landscape architecture, and building science firm Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt, said the company has seen a decline in work at K-12 schools. About five years ago, 75 percent of its work was in those schools, but just 25 percent is in schools now, D’Aloisio said.

Building-envelope assessment has turned into an excellent niche for the firm, he said. A building envelope is the barrier between the inside and outside of a building. Assessments can save school districts and senior facilities money, according to D’Aloisio.

“That’s where I see potential future markets,” he said. “Not just in square footage or bigger, more elegant buildings, but tighter buildings, better designed buildings.”

Other speakers included Peter Lindabury, executive vice president at RobsonWoese, Inc. in Salina. Lindabury started by explaining RobsonWoese’s acquisition late last year by GHD, Inc., and that it will soon be changing its name to some derivation of GHD.

He also discussed financing for construction projects.

“My contact at GHD basically said banks are starting to lend more money, but it’s still slow,” Lindabury said. “He says the money’s just not pouring out quite yet.”

Lisa Loftus, senior marketing coordinator at Syracuse–based King + King Architects LLP, said her firm is anticipating it will work on construction projects valued at a total of about $106 million this year. Major markets include health care and education, she said.

Ron Kenyon, the Syracuse City School District’s architect and educational facilities planner, rounded out the speaker list. Kenyon explained the district’s $926 million reconstruction program to renovate 35 schools. That program is currently in its first phase, which consists of six separate schools, he said.     

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