Top 3 Construction Industry Trends in the U.S.

A discussion of 2020 construction industry trends.


Have you ever wondered why construction on the interstate near your house has dragged on for the past five years, yet when you come back from a 10-day vacation in the Bahamas, an entire strip mall emerged out of existence since you’ve been gone? Okay, so maybe it takes longer than a fortnight to build an Arby’s but certainly not more than a couple years, like most roads and bridges. There are many differences between horizontal construction (roads) and vertical construction (buildings), but I would like to explore the top three trends in the (vertical) construction industry that have expedited the building process, enabling contractors to build smarter.

#1 Better Planning

It’s no surprise that technology is booming in every industry. Between IoT, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, the effect that big tech has had on construction has opened the doors for many process improvements. The way architects and engineers plan for construction has changed drastically over the past several years. One major improvement has been in their modeling software to incorporate Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is a 3-D, model-based process that allows for multi-disciplinary collaboration on a single platform. Succeeding CAD and other 2-D programs, BIM has transformed the way architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals visualize their projects, as well as how they convey them to the client.

construction industry blueprint

#2 Appeal to “Turnkey”

Turnkey solutions are emerging as the best way to streamline operations from planning to install. These can ease the minds of builders who can now better organize workflow knowing that a single product or service can get the job done. With turnkey solutions come project managers who can coordinate with multiple trades to accomplish the packaged scope. This plays particularly well to companies with a diverse product offering who already have a lot of expertise under the same roof. More specialized companies may be left by the wayside as they simply don’t have the resources to furnish a complete product without delegating some of the scope.

#3 More Skilled Labor

From the construction trends I covered above to forecasted industry growth, there is a labor crisis that is getting worse every year. With the emergence of new technology comes the need to educate the labor force to implement these advances without sacrificing quality. Unfortunately, forcing a generation of young adults to pursue trade school rather than college doesn’t happen overnight, so the construction industry has to adapt. Part of the solution comes with self-performing companies who can guarantee quality with the products that they offer. Afterall, who better to install the super high-tech gadget than the company that made it?

Melink offers turnkey options for clean-energy projects. From solar PV installation to DCKV systems to geothermal HVAC, our skilled team is comprised of industry experts. Contact us today to see how we can help on your construction projects.

Home Sustainability Projects

Melink Employee-Owner Natalie Heltman offers tips for home sustainability projects.


At work, I’m a member of Melink’s Sustainability Committee. We are a group of approximately 10 employee-owners working toward community involvement and education related to sustainability. Our team focuses on initiatives like ensuring our fellow Melinkers are educated on recycling and composting best practices. We conduct a monthly waste audit at our facility. We’ve set up initiatives to recycle items that typically aren’t recyclable, like toothpaste tubes and Plastic #5 items. Being part of the committee made me wonder how I could incorporate sustainability into my home life, too.

I began thinking of ways to add green infrastructure to my house. Based off electricity stats sent by my utility company, my house is ranked among the most energy efficient in the area. So instead of thinking inside my house, I wanted to “green” aspects on my home’s outside.

DIY homemade sustainability project rain barrels at gutter downspouts

DIY Rain Barrel

So, I decided my first project (thanks to YouTube university) would be a set of three 55-gallon rain barrels to use in the summer when Cincinnati goes through its driest months. Full disclosure: Making a rain barrel is noted on most DIY sites as an easy project. I am not a handy person; I had never picked up a drill before this, and I was able to complete the project in about a day.

Rain barrels are an interesting project because there are many options. There are kits sold at home improvement stores, or you can reuse food-grade 55-gallon drums as an inexpensive alternative. With sustainability in mind, I went for the reusable option and was able to buy my drums online from a soy sauce wholesaler for around $10. Also, I purchased spigots to install on the barrel to give us the option to use a drip hose on especially dry days.

I use the collected water for watering my lawn, vegetable garden, and hanging flower baskets. I haven’t noticed a return on our water bill, but I do feel less guilty watering my lawn and garden when I’m using water from the barrels.  

However, having large, blue barrels near our downspouts is not the most aesthetically pleasing look for our backyard. Before starting this project, especially if you live in a neighborhood, check to see if there are any restrictions. I followed our subdivision’s guidelines by installing the barrels on the back side of the house behind a fence. Make sure to reach out to your local officials to confirm any guidelines on water capture.

If you’re ready to get started, I recommend this video.

DIY homemade compost bins

DIY Compost Bin

Since the rain barrels were so easy to make, I decided to step up my green infrastructure game with a second project. We already had a couple of compost boxes, but I wanted to try building rolling compost containers. This project required a few more tools but was also very simple. 

If you’re a gardener, composting is a great way to boost your soil and, ultimately, your harvest. Composting enriches the soil by helping to retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

I made two rolling compost bins, using two additional barrels I purchased online. I am able to move them around the yard to add compost to our vegetable garden and potted plants. Compost is the “black gold” of soil. My vegetables grow really well with the compost, and there is almost no need to use any fertilizer.

This video gives a nice overview on how to build your own compost bin.

My Future Home Sustainability Projects

The great part about both of these home sustainability projects was how I was able to reuse items. Materials that might be deemed “trash” or unwanted were saved from going to the landfill. I was able to build both projects with materials I had around the house or from the barrels that had already served their purpose.

What’s next? During my time in the Peace Corps, I focused on community gardening and that is something I would like to revisit now. I think my next project will be a raised vegetable garden — maybe a keyhole garden with compost in the middle.

Melink envisions clean energy transforming the world by improving our global economy, security and environment — for ourselves, our children and future generations. “Walking the Talk” stories showcase Melink employee-owners that are making sustainable choices in their personal lives.

Melink 2025 Pledge

Happy Earth Day 2020!  Though we are living through a pandemic that is killing thousands, sickening millions, and affecting billions of jobs, we need to have a vision and purpose beyond this time that gives us hope for a better world.

Earth Day gives us the permission to think big again and to imagine the bold goals we have long supported finally being implemented and realized.  However, since government often lags rather than leads when it comes to the environment, we need individual action more than ever.

Sure, the clean energy movement is well underway.  Countless government, business, and education leaders are investing in solar and wind farms across the United States and around the world. Electric cars and batteries are slowly but surely going mainstream.

But certain headwinds are preventing this clean energy movement from becoming a revolution.  Yes, the current administration is one of them.  And the fossil fuel industry and climate change deniers are another. And, to some extent, so are you and me.

How many of us complain about someone else not doing their part to lead on climate action, and then fail to do so ourselves?  For example, is every one of us buying clean energy from our utility? And is every one of us at least planning to upgrade to an electric car in the future?      

It is in this spirit that I make the Melink 2025 Pledge. Though our company has long been a pioneer and leader in clean energy solutions and Zero-Energy buildings, we have typically allowed our employees to make personal choices that run counter to our mission.

Now that we are an ESOP and every employee is an owner, it is more incumbent than ever for us to walk the talk on our vision and mission. The world already has enough headwinds. But Melink shall continue to lead and live up to its calling even during the hardest times.

Melink 2025 Pledge

  • Every Melink employee-owner shall select the clean power option from his/her utility. (The average monthly cost of doing this is a Starbucks cup of coffee).

  • Every Melink employee-owner shall drive an electric car using clean energy. (Our EV incentive, leasing program, and lower market prices should make this possible).

  • Melink Corporation shall give everyone five years to transition to this commitment. If there are personal financial reasons preventing this, we will support him/her.

To further leverage this pledge, we ask that other local, regional, and national partners or stakeholders join us.  It’s a small premium to do the right thing, and it’s getting smaller every day.  Let’s create more demand so that in five years it’s cheaper than doing the wrong thing. Like the pandemic and any war, we can only win if we all do our small part. Let’s create a better world for our children and grandchildren — all of us, together.      

Sincerely,

Steve Melink signature

Steve Melink
Chairman & CEO
Melink Corporation

 

Is the Coronavirus Affecting Climate Change?

Internationally, the coronavirus has impacted many aspects of our world, from the economy and our spending habits to our jobs and everyday routines. But what about our climate? Yes, our ecological environment has been largely affected by COVID-19, too.

Decreased Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While COVID-19 has spread globally, governments have been forced to initiate social distancing and stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread. These lockdowns have caused many industries and individuals to cease production and travel, causing a ripple affect in greenhouse gas emissions. Countries across the world are experiencing a drastic drop in greenhouse gas emissions, according to an article from the BBC. In fact, China has experienced a decrease by 25% in CO2 emissions. In the United States, New York has seen a decrease as low as 50% in CO2 emissions. Other major countries seeing similar decreases in CO2 and NO2 emissions include Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

While this decrease appears to be some much-needed good news during the pandemic, scientists and ecological specialists are skeptical that these drops in emissions are going to have any lasting effects. If these drops in emissions are caused from a decrease in manufacturing and travel, then what will happen after the virus has been contained, when production increases and daily travel routines return?

“The fight against pollution is a long-distance race, not a sprint,” said Xavier Querol, a science researcher specialized in atmospheric pollution. Essentially, this means the sudden drops in emissions happening across the globe are temporary and if we truly want to see a lasting positive effect in greenhouse gas emissions, we must look to other solutions.

A Closer Look at Energy Consumption

The majority of greenhouse gas emissions (72%) can be attributed to energy. Of that 72%, the manufacturing and transportation sectors together make up 27.7%, which is the main contributor to the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that are being experienced around the world due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, it is not feasible to assume that these emission levels are going to remain where they are once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Therefore, we must look to the highest contributor of energy consumption, which is electricity and heat, and find solutions to decrease emissions.

Currently, there are many companies creating technology to support the goals of lowering emissions, slowing climate change, and lowering energy consumption. Melink Corporation, a leader in Zero-Energy buildings, offers five energy solutions to help create healthy buildings and lower energy consumption:

Each one of these services not only helps to create a sustainable world for future generations but also serves as a cost-saving opportunity for businesses to implement.

Coronavirus and Climate Change

In summary, what is coronavirus teaching us about how to decrease climate change? Well, that’s a loaded question that cannot be answered fully. But the solution starts with decision makers, business owners/operators, and individual consumers. If any good can come from this pandemic, maybe it’s how our perspective is changing. Now, perhaps more than ever, we see the importance of preserving this world that we all know and love — not just maintaining our current environment — and ensuring future generations are set up for success. We can do better when it comes to climate change, whether coronavirus is in the picture or not.

Beyond the Pandemic — Shifting to Sustainable, Clean Energy

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, there’s a different lens from which we can view its effect on the world. How can businesses become more resilient? While it’s hard not to focus on just the next few months, it’s important to think about the kind of world we want to live in after this crisis ends.

One immutable constant is great leaders always want to prosper. Despite whatever challenges, they will continue to seek opportunities to grow their top and bottom lines. They will continue to build their brands and organizations for long term success.

Given you may be one of these leaders, there’s a growing secret across the U.S. and around the world. Solar power is slowly but surely becoming the way of the future – and businesses are primed to reap the benefits. If you sense shifting to clean energy is an intimidating undertaking, the following points should empower you more than anything.

Ballasted mount on flat roof for solar power

Reasons to Consider Clean Energy

#1 Reduce Electricity Costs and Invest in Long-Term Savings
Using solar will lower the costs on your electric bill. Sure, the initial cost to install solar may be your biggest barrier. However, if you account for your average monthly electric bill cost, and budget for that expense on an annualized basis – after five, 10, 15, 20 years, the amount paid to the utility is a daunting reality that can be mitigated. Not to mention we should also factor in future rate increases over a 30-year period. The return on investment and savings over the lifespan of a solar panel system, depending on your energy consumption and the estimated production of the system, is a factor worth considering.  

#2 Hedge Against Volatile Energy Costs
Purchasing solar can be much like investing in insurance. People pay for insurance because of the uncertainties of accident, injury, or death. Similarly, there are unknowns about the price of electricity through your utility and what it will cost down the road. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over the last decade, the average price of electricity has increased about 4.6%. However, over those ten years, the standard deviation of commercial electricity prices was 0.24%. This signifies the great variability of energy costs over the last decade. Instead of relying on the ever-changing lows and highs of electric power prices, you can create a more predictable budget by locking into your rate for solar. Investing in solar can help companies avoid rising energy costs, and the uncertainty that comes with depending on power from the grid. 

#3 Boost Public Relations and Attract Talent
As more and more companies switch to clean energy solutions, they further enhance their brands. In an article by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, they indicate how practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reaps multiple benefits, such as engaged employees, loyal customers, and positive public attention. In fact, it’s a purchase driver for many. “In a Nielson survey, 66% of participants said they pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies.” People are simply targeting more businesses that strive for better Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) practices. It captures the interest of younger generations, brings talent, and drives morale within the workforce. Internally and externally, people are motivated by businesses that look out for the greater good.

#4 Improve Your Property Value
Think about buying and owning a house. There are various ways in which one can invest in its worth and longevity. Perhaps it’s an addition that makes the house more attractive. These investments should increase the value of your home or building when you go to sell it. People decide to stop renting because, well…it’s money down the drain. Like buying a house, when you purchase solar, you become an owner of your electric bills. Just like renovations maximize a home’s value, installing solar and producing your own energy appeals to buyers, employees, and consumers alike. An article from Money.com references a study provided by Zillow: “On average, solar panels raise a home’s value by 4.1% across the U.S. — that’s a boost of $9,274 on a $226,300 home.” Even more so with larger buildings, there’s always going to be operation costs that go into running a facility. Just like the importance of fixing a leak or fine-tuning the plumbing, investing in solar relieves the long-term expenses of running a commercial building, thus making it more valuable. 

#5 Commit to Sustainability
There’s no way to avoid it. Helping the environment and leaving the Earth in better condition for future generations is a driving force for companies to consider clean energy. Businesses now have a duty to pay attention to CSR. In an article published by RE100, numerous companies are taking action — and explain why:
IKEA has committed to “generate as much renewable energy as the total energy it consumes in its operations by 2020, as well as to consume 100% renewable electricity by 2025.” Why is that their goal? “(Our) investments into wind and solar energy generation contribute to the shift to a low carbon economy and, from a business perspective, help to secure our future as we become energy independent,” says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer.
AB InBev recognizes that the “shift to renewables has the potential to drive a remarkable transformation in infrastructure, not only in the U.S. and Europe but also across emerging nations around the world. They have “pledged to secure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025,” says Brian Perkins, Global VP Budweiser.
Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard, makes a strong statement when asked why the company wanted to be 100% powered by renewables (achieved in 2014): “We believe there is a clear and urgent need for society to address climate change, and we recognize that our responsibility begins with our own actions. We are working to consistently reduce our carbon footprint, and we are committed to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources.”

Investing in solar is a commitment to cleaner air and a brighter future. It’s a commitment to not only maintain the health of our planet but to sustain the economy.

Section 201 Commercial Solar Panel Insstallation

Is Clean Energy Worth the Investment?

Convinced yet?  If not, compare solar power to other investments that may be in your portfolio.

It has been estimated that the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) – a metric used to quantify the profitability of long-term capital projects – can be greater for solar systems than traditional equity investments in the stock market. Taking into consideration initial installation costs, scale of the project, future electrical price estimates, and so on, calculations for an IRR over a 30-year period typically range between 10-13% for solar, versus 7.4% for the S&P 500.

Of course, it’s important to assess the value of installation, or Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), which quantifies the cost of the electricity produced over a solar system’s lifespan – usually up to 30 years. This metric helps directly compare what you would otherwise be paying for utility charges. Again, this is where locking in a predictable rate can be crucial. One can expect to significantly gain from an investment like solar because it provides a solution to fighting rising electrical prices. There’s no longer a need to depend on the utility’s energy costs. 

If you’re a business owner or key decision maker in your company, these should be highly compelling reasons to consider clean energy for your facility footprint.

In times of uncertainty, it’s our responsibility more than ever to fool-proof our infrastructure and buildings to withstand the social and economic costs of pandemics, global warming, and other unpredictable occurrences. Furthermore, there’s a need to think about the greater good of our decisions, their impacts, and what our world can become beyond the pandemic.  

Prevent Sick Buildings: Why Positive Building Pressure Matters

Can a building get sick? I’ll give you the answer up front: Yes, sure, most definitely — a building can get “sick.” You may ponder… “But how can a building become sick? It is an inanimate object. It doesn’t live and breathe like humans!” On the contrary, your building is a living object. The main factor making your building come alive is its people: your customers, employees, and outside partners (think mail delivery or an overnight cleaning crew). Let’s dive into what factors can make a building sick and why maintaining positive building pressure is so important in prevention.

What Makes a Building Come Alive?

First, consider what may make your building come alive (or ultimately “infect” it):

  • Supplies
    The products you bring in (from any point of origin) may have outside contaminants or be perishable. As you know, perishables may emanate odors or fumes.
  • Chemicals
    You must account for chemicals or cleaning supplies in their controlled rooms (where exhaust is extremely important). 
  • Restrooms
    Consider the restroom facilities. Restrooms, especially those open to the general public (i.e. in a lobby area) can encounter high volumes of traffic and behaviors that may not meet sanitary standards. 
  • HVAC System(s)
    Your HVAC system is a key element bringing your building to life. With proper cleaning and maintenance, they are designed to provide comfort on demand. Heating and cooling are crucial amenities that have grown to be a must-have and are mandated by federal and local guidelines. 

When you take all these factors into account, it’s easier to understand how a building can become “sick.”

Sick Building Syndrome symptoms

Facility Managers: How to Prevent Sick Buildings

So how can a facility manager or building owner help to prevent sickness in a facility? As a professional in the HVAC industry, my primary goal is to earn your trust to maintain the wellness of your building’s HVAC system. Think about it — you can’t control others’ actions. There is no way to determine someone’s state of health as they are in your establishment. But you can control the HVAC system and make sure it is properly maintained to be a healthy system!

A little-known fact about HVAC systems that I will stress the importance: FRESH OUTSIDE AIR IS NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE BUILDING PRESSURE AT ALL TIMES. What does this mean, and why is it important?

  1.  Your restaurant, retail store or office building, has many moving parts to bring it alive, has to breathe. Like any living thing, it requires oxygen to replace the carbon dioxide. The equation should result in bringing in a greater amount of fresh air than the carbon dioxide, chemicals, fumes/odors, and cooking effluents that the building creates. When this happens, there should be a slight positive pressure from the inside of your establishment that pushes outward at your doors and drive-thru windows.  A proper HVAC test and balance (TAB) by an NEBB-Certified firm like Melink can help you achieve this goal.  

  2. A common oversight that people make is assuming, “My building is positive. We’re in good shape.” But how sure are they that the lungs of the HVAC system are clean and free of operational damages? Many times, I have encountered damaged and clogged filtration components within an HVAC system that may lead to costly repairs to your equipment and structural damages:
  • Clogged or missing outside air intake filters
  • Clogged, missing or inadequate air filters
  • Clogged evaporator and condenser coils
  • Clogged and inadequate fan blower wheels
  • Mold and mildew
  • Trapped small animals that lead to contaminations
  • Contaminated duct work that eventually shows up on the supply, return and exhaust grilles throughout the establishment 
Checking HVAC ductwork for positive building pressure

All these issues work together to create a sick building.  The opposite of positive pressure is that dreaded negative pressure. Every time your facility’s doors open, all of the outside air conditions are sucked into the building.  These elements can be hot or cold air, humidity, airborne pathogens, and odors. The humidity attaches to the chilled supply diffusers and grilles, creating moisture buildup that drips onto your floors, tables, customers, and clients.

Checking HVAC filters for positive building pressure

Of course, it’s not feasible for a facility manager to know the ins and outs of every HVAC system of every facility he/she manages. So let us do the work for you! Melink Corporation’s T&B technicians can be your eyes and ears to help your facilities maintain positive building pressure. We are an army of application engineers with skilled LEED and NEBB certifications. Our company is nationwide and has more than 30 years of experience. Along with services that will help you on your way to a healthy building, we offer a monitoring system and demand ventilation systems that will alert you when problems or concerns arise.  These services, along with reliable routine maintenance will minimize uninterrupted service to your most important people. We can help you protect your customers, employees, and outside partners from sick buildings.