The U.S. construction market has gotten off to a slow start in 2021. However, some market segments, including hospital and residential construction, will outperform the construction market as a whole, and several leading indicators for the business recently turned positive — the Dodge Momentum Index published each month by Dodge Data & Analytics, and the monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, DC.
In March, the Dodge Momentum Index hit its highest level since the summer of 2018, in large part because of back-to-back increases in healthcare and lab projects entering the planning stage. Billings at architecture firms turned positive in AIA’s ABI Index for the first time in a year.
Another good indicator of the health of the construction market is the number of large projects of at least $100 million in total value that either broke ground or were announced in Q1 2021. EM’s editors found more than 50 projects of this size. The projects in the chart on page 2 will all generate plenty of revenue for the electrical construction industry because electrical work typically accounts for an estimated 10% of a construction project’s total construction value.
Three trends quickly become apparent when you study these 50 construction projects — the number of large hospital projects; how many of the projects are in the Industrial Midwest (and in particular the Chicago metropolitan area, Ohio and Michigan); and the continuing strength of the data center construction. The size of the 13 hospital projects is impressive, as 10 were in the $800 million to $2 billion range. At $5.6 billion, the largest of them all is the multi-facility project announced by the Mayo Clinic that will include the construction and renovation of its nationwide network of hospitals.
Chicago-based contractors will be busy with a mix of multi-family projects, a life-sciences facility and data center construction. Microsoft will be building two data centers in Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village, IL. Another interesting project there that will get underway later this year will be the $500-million Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Columbus, OH, is another Midwest city that will enjoy some large construction projects, including a $300-million data center and the $1.2-billion Wexner Inpatient Hospital Tower being built on the Ohio State campus.
The data centers to make our list of the Top 50 construction projects for 1Q 2021 included two projects of more than $1 billion in total contract value, and several that will be built in some typical data center hotspots — northern Virginia, the Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE/IA metro, Des Moines, IA and Prineville, OR. The largest project is the $2-billion expansion of Facebook’s existing campus in Prineville, and the $1-billion Ginger data centers in West Des Moines, IA.
California and Texas electrical professionals with a focus on renewables will be interested in utility-scale solar and wind farms now underway or scheduled to break ground soon. The largest renewables project now underway is the 825-MW Desert Quartzite Solar Facility in Blythe, CA. Other projects of note are Orsted’s 518-MW Helena Energy Center solar and wind facility, which is valued at $495 million and scheduled to break ground in Bee County, TX, later this spring; and the $427-million, 345-MW Mesquite Sky Wind Farm in Putnam, TX.
While construction economists don’t expect the overall U.S. construction market to show any significant growth this year, electrical folks with any of these large projects in their market may have a shot at a big-time revenue boost if the get a piece of this action.