Monthly Archives: June 2012

See how Ken builds ’em

Contractor Ken Coleman has learned that old dogs can be taught new tricks. The owner of Compass Construction writes about what has changed over the past 25 years in mixed-use construction in the DJC’s special section covering urban development.
While you’re reading about Ken’s adventures, make sure to check out the numerous articles on the local apartment market that has heated up in the past few years.


Seattle Sick Leave Law Takes Effect Soon

Seattle’s new paid sick leave ordinance takes effect September 1, and nearly all firms with at least five employees will be affected.  Firms headquartered outside Seattle will also be affected if they have employees who perform at least 240 hours of work in the city within a calendar year.

During the recent contract negotiations, AGC and the Carpenters, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Cement Masons and Teamsters Unions agreed to waive coverage under the ordinance in all of the tentative agreements.  The ordinance passed by the Seattle City Council said that a specific waiver must be included in collective bargaining agreements for those workers to be exempt from the ordinance.

Unfortunately, the Council and Mayor ignored a major business element in the city — open shop contractors. They are bound by the ordinance, which is very difficult to comply with. Non-union contractors should become familiar with the new rules.  The latest rules implementing the ordinance can be found here.  This version was released in May and includes improvements the City made in response to concerns raised by AGC and other groups:

  • Cash outs and bonus payments are not prohibited (Rule deleted).
  • Employers are not required to apply overtime rates to hourly wages (substantive change).
  • Assistance for determining rate of pay for shifts of indeterminate length and on-call shifts (new Rules).
  • Clarification that “reasonable action” (discipline) is permitted for clear instance or pattern of abuse of paid sick/safe time.
  • Clarification that employers are required to reinstate paid sick/safe time after an employee returns from a break in service.
  • Requirement that employers with a combined or universal leave policy, such as a Personal Time Off (PTO) policy, may require employees to comply with the notice provisions of the Ordinance.
  • Major reformatting of the Rules in the “Accrual” section for better referencing (easier use).
  • Minor reformatting of the Rules in the “Use” section for better referencing (easier use).

A newer version, to reflect a comment period that closed June 13, is expected soon and it will be posted on the same webpage linked above.


STEM Summit to Promote Innovative Education

Washington STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and Boeing are hosting a summit July 11-12 around the opportunities associated with preparing our state’s students in STEM.  STEM is supported by several AGC members, including McKinstry’s Dean Allen who serves as STEM board chairman.  Members of the construction community are invited to participate in this important event which will include a discussion with gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. Click STEM Summit for info and registration.

Safety & Tech Expo Debuts June 27th

Now that construction is finally picking up a bit and more contractors have jobs, the inaugural Safety & Technology Expo is an easy way to discover what’s new to keep workers safe on those jobs and to make it easier to get more work and complete it efficiently and profitably using up-to-the-minute technology. ABC is hosting the first ever Safety & Technology Expo on Wednesday, June 27 from Noon-7 pm at the UW’s Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Education at Sand Point in Seattle. The event will feature panel discussions on safety and technology, three hands-on technology learning labs, a table top trade show of safety-related products and services, networking and dinner catered by an award-winning food truck! This new industry event is open to everyone in the construction industry. Pre-registration is encouraged so we are sure we have enough tacos and sliders — and liquid refreshments! For more details and to register, visit and follow the links.

Seattle Draft Solid Waste Plan Released for Review

The Preliminary Draft of Seattle’s Solid Waste Plan is now available for download and review at

AGC held a workshop for members on the proposed regulations and was one of many stakeholder groups that provided input to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) last summer.

For a quick overview of the changes between the Preview Draft and the Preliminary Draft, scroll down to Appendix C: Public Involvement, and click on “Summary of Changes from Preview Draft”.  To view stakeholder feedback, scroll further and click on “Summary of Stakeholder Outreach” and “Construction and Demolition Recommendations.”


But Wait, There’s More on Government Regulation

Not sure if it is good protocol to comment on your own blog post but…

In the last three years, the feds have added 10,000 new rules with an estimated $16 BILLION in compliance costs. Bernie Marcus, who founded Home Depot in 1978 and which now employs 300,000 people, said he would not have started Home Depot in today’s regulatory environment.

The American with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, again, with good intentions. However, as the definition of “disabled” expands, the federal disability benefits program is now broke, running a $4 BILLION monthly deficit. (Doesn’t the government ever do anything in the millions anymore?) Over the last five years disability lawsuits have risen 90 percent. This may be somewhat driven by a “trend” what when peoples’ unemployment benefits expire, they apply for disability benefits, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. And disability benefits don’t expire — adding another hefty line item on the federal deficit ledger. The feds paid out $130 billion in disability benefits in 2011 — and more to come.

Chinese erect office building in 9 days

The Chinese are at it again — this time building a pre-fabricated office in nine days.

The kicker here is that it was eight days behind schedule. That’s right, they wanted to build it in one day!

Broad Sustainable Building Corp. wanted to erect the five-story building in 24 hours to show that the system can be used for high-rises, saving money and, or course, time.

Broad Sustainable Building has built higher buildings in short time-frames, one profiled on this blog (30-story hotel in 24 days). Watch below as a swam of construction workers dressed in blue jumpsuits guide the pieces into place in quick fashion.

Government Regs Strangle Business Growth

A constant reason given for the slowest economic recovery since the 1930’s is the impact of government regulation, both for the strangulation aspect and the uncertainty of “what will regulators do to me next.” ABC recently sent a letter to the head of the U.S House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Darrell Issa and called attention to rules under OSHA, DOL, NLRB, EPA and EEO regarding persuader reporting for labor consultants and employers; a proposal to continually find and fix workplace hazards regardless of severity; revised standards for cystalline silica; federal contractors’ requirement to hire workers with disabilities, and the EEO criminal background check guidance. ABC called for comprehensive regulatory reform. A tall order.
And, if I wanted to “pile on” I could start on state regulations, too.

I guess the thing that is most frustrating to me is that employers are willing to start and own their own companies, assume the inherent risk in that, provide employment to others (and pay themselves last) and the reward they get for that is a mountain of regulations written by hopefully well-meaning bureaucrats who don’t “get it” and don’t have their mortgage and kids’ college fund at risk. How do we get back to some sense of balance between risk and reward and seeing employers as job creators not fat cats? My two cents worth…..

AGC, Unions Reach Tentative Agreements

On June 1 AGC reached a tentative agreement with the Carpenters Union.  With this agreement, negotiations with all five of the basic crafts have been completed. The Laborers, Teamsters, Operating Engineers and Cement Masons agreed to tentative agreements earlier last week.

Common elements in the agreements are:

  • Agreements are for three years;
  • The City of Seattle’s mandatory Sick Leave Ordinance has been specifically waived;
  • Commuting tolls will be the employee’s responsibility;
  • Wage and fringe packages agreed to were around the 2-3% per year range;
  • Normal hours of worked were extended to 5:00 am to 6:00 pm.

For more info including wage and fringe packages in the first year of the tentative agreements, click here.

The agreements now will be presented to the union memberships for ratification.  This process will extend through June.  The effective date of new wage fringe rates will vary with each craft.

Masonry, civic buildings take center stage

Riverpark medical office building
Brightwater Center

Who said building with bricks is boring?
Just look at the cover of the DJC’s special section on the MIW 2012 Excellence in Masonry Design Awards, where you will find the Orion Building designed by Stuart Silk Architects. Not only does that dental/office building look great, but it also uses an energy-efficient concrete form masonry unit wall system.
The MIW honored 14 other projects — all profiled in the special section.
Can’t get enough award-winning projects? You’re in luck. The DJC has put together another special section, this one covering AIA Washington’s Civic Design Awards. In it you will find 13 projects, including three in a new “unbuilt” category.
Projects in both sections were photographed by a group of talented local photographers that included Lara Swimmer, Benjamin Benschneider, Steve Keating and others.