By Eric Althoff
HAMILTON, N.J.—Like all other economic sectors, the construction industry is feeling the pinch as the ongoing covid-19 pandemic forces businesses to close and the economy experiences a major downtown. However, this followed on the heels of an overall growth spurt for building in the first few months of 2020 compared to the same period a year prior, reported Business Wire, and the upswing was present even in February—as worldwide coronavirus infections were increasing. According to Business Wire, several new healthcare construction projects were due to begin in February, which counted towards their figures for March. (April figures will not be released until May.)
According to Business Wire, “institutional building” construction, a broad category that encompasses healthcare projects, posted large gains in February. In fact, the numbers got a boost thanks to several large new healthcare facilities that broke ground in February. Also of note is that educational construction was also up in March, presumably prior to the state-by-state shutdown that has seen schools closed for weeks subsequently.
Business Wire reports that the single largest healthcare facility to break ground in March was the Duncan Neuroscience Research Facility, with a sticker price of $616 million, to be located on the campus of Washington University in in St. Louis. Work has begun, with a projected completion date of 2023, but no updates on the construction have been reported since the beginning of March, just before the groundbreaking.
Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics, was cited in Business Wire’s report as saying that projects that were due to begin in April and May will almost certainly face a more uncertain fate given stay-at-home orders and “construction moratoriums,” some of which were not even due to begin until the end of April. It’s too soon to forecast the figures for April, he said, especially considering that some states have halted construction work entirely, while others have yet to do so.
Over the 12-month period that ended in March, nonresidential building groundbreakings were only slightly lower than for the 12-month period ending March of 2019, the report said. However, commercial starts were nonetheless up 2 percent.
Dodge Data & Analytics provides analytic services to the construction industry, and has worked to assist the building industry for a century. The company is located in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, not far from the state capital of Trenton.