Construction Analytics

Home » Behind the Headlines » In What Category is That Construction Cost?

In What Category is That Construction Cost?

Seldom do two sources present information the same way!

In the construction industry, a disconnect exists in the reporting of construction starts data and spending data.  Problems may arise when data is used to perform comparisons or forecasts. New starts and backlog may be listed in one category and spending for the same markets may be listed in another.

The U.S. Census Construction Put-in-Place (Construction Spending) Release follows these definitions. I adjust all other input/forecasting data that I use to conform to these Put-in-Place definitions. Some pitfalls to be aware of:

Residential spending data is about 35% renovations and improvements that has no units associated with the dollars, so cannot be included in a comparison to housing starts.

Demolition is not included in renovations/improvements. Partial repair of flood damaged homes is NOT included in residential improvements. Full replacement of flood damaged homes is included as improvements, not new single family.

Offices includes pubic buildings such as city halls and courthouses. Also includes data centers and bank buildings but excludes medical office buildings, offices at manufacturing sites and offices at educational facilities.

Commercial includes all retail buildings, warehouses, parking lots and garages. Excludes parking at educational/healthcare facilities. Census DOES separate the costs for buildings that are mixed use retail/office/residential.

Educational, along with K-12, includes administrative offices, health centers, parking, residence halls, classrooms, labs, food service and sports/recreation facilities at colleges and universities and all associated infrastructure and maintenance facilities at the educational site. Also includes public libraries, science centers and museums.

Healthcare includes similar support and infrastructure to educational. Also includes non-manufacturing and non-educational research labs.

Amusement and Recreation includes performing arts centers, civic centers, convention centers, sports and recreation facilities not located at schools or colleges.

Transportation includes air freight and passenger terminals, runways, bus and railroad passenger terminals, light rail and subway facilities,  railroad track, railway structures and bridges, docks and marine terminals and maintenance facilities and infrastructure associated with each.

Some sources of design or new construction starts data carry terminal buildings as institutional buildings or other public nonresidential buildings, but Census caries the building cost of all terminals grouped in with the non-building infrastructure costs of Transportation. Some sources carry public buildings such as city halls and courthouses as Public Safety but Census carries cost data for public buildings such as city halls and courthouses in Offices. Some sources classify laboratories as commercial and warehouses as industrial/manufacturing but Census includes warehouses in Commercial and labs, depending on use, can be either Educational, Healthcare or Manufacturing.

Similar discrepancies may exist when comparing starts or spending to indexes, such as the Architectural Billings Index, which broadly classifies projects as commercial, institutional or residential. Some resources classify Amusement/Recreation as institutional and some as commercial. Labs are sometimes classified as commercial but in many cases are included in educational or healthcare, both institutional.

As you can see, there are several instances where the data are often mixed up. From the point of view of the forecaster, initial input data cannot always be used directly to forecast or match spending output. Some manipulation of the data is required to make input and output match. For example: I move starts for terminals from nonresidential buildings to non-building infrastructure Transportation, so that really changes my totals by sector.

What does your source for data take into consideration? Know your data!

 

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: