Mayor R. T. Rybak’s 2011 budget address on August 17, 2010 must have brought cheer to the Minnesota commercial construction industry. The mayor, speaking from Minneapolis City Hall, put a lot of stress on “growth.” He also rejected the popular belief that Minneapolis, locked in by other municipalities on all sides, is fully developed. He listed many areas capable of absorbing extensive growth.
Earlier in the year, John K. McIlwain, Senior Resident Fellow, Urban Land Institute, in a presentation to the trustees said, “The old ‘normal’ will not return. Over time, a new mode of metropolitan development will emerge, presenting opportunities and stiff challenges. Those who fail to understand these new trends will find themselves building what is no longer in demand.”
While one is showing the way forward and pointing towards potential growth for the Minnesota commercial construction industry, the other cautions with words to be well-marked by Minnesota building contractors. The future will clearly be won by those that have taken advantage of the recession to reinvent themselves to a "new normal."
Consumer Behavior and Demographics
Trends indicate that the major drivers for new real estate development will be consumer behavior and demographics. At a time of scarce resources and increased competition, extensive planning with emphasis on aggressive workforce training are the areas that the Minnesota building contractors should focus on.
With the proposal to appoint a new director of transit-oriented development, Mayor Rybak re-emphasized the emerging trend of developing real estate along current and future transit lines. Though past experience has shown that employers, and therefore commercial buildings, do not necessarily follow this trend, there is a need to market transit-oriented job locations to private companies. The Minnesota commercial construction industry could use innovative ideas to develop the large expanses of undeveloped commercial property lying adjacent to light rail stations.
Nanotechnology materials and applications can be used by the construction industry to enhance material properties and functions. Considering that 41 percent of all energy used in the United States is consumed by commercial structures and residential homes, nanotechnology can help enormously in energy conservation.
Some Benefits from Manufactured Nanomaterials (MNMs) And Nanocomposites:
Structural strength enhancement
Biocidal activity in coatings and paints
Improved thermal management
Harvesting solar and other forms of renewable energy
MNMs can substitute for harmful environment pollutants such as lead and mercury
However, research is still underway on the potential pollutant risks from MNMs. The industry is still gaining insight into the life cycles of these new materials and weighing the risk factors workers are exposed to. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration hosted a Web Forum (August 16, 2010) to identify hazardous chemicals most in need of agency action. Still, one thing is clear -- progressive companies who stay current with new, safe technologies will come out ahead.
The words of Earl Bakken, who in the early days of the Second World War launched Medtronic from a garage in northeast Minneapolis, should inspire Minnesota building contractors. "The greatest ideas, the greatest innovations and the greatest reforms," he said, "have come out of times of great challenge."
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