The National Institute of Building Sciences Consultative Council released its 2016 report on the building industry entitled, Moving Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council, during its Annual Meeting, held as part of Building Innovation 2017: The National Institute of Building Sciences Annual Conference and Expo.
Each year, the Council develops a Moving Forward Report to examine some of these challenges and offer findings and recommendations on how to overcome them. The summarized report becomes part of the Institute’s Annual Report, which goes to the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress.
As identified in the 2014 and 2015 reports, the availability of a skilled building-related workforce now and into the future remains a significant challenge to the U.S. building industry and the recent increase in droughts in places like California and infrastructure issues in places such as Flint, Michigan, have underscored the importance of potable water and the efficient and healthy use of this limited resource.
There are many issues at hand, but the report focuses very heavily on the two issues of workforce and water continue and are the primary focus of the 2016 Moving Forward Report.
A Desire for a Skilled Workforce
To maintain the strength of the U.S. economy and the health, safety, welfare and resilience of the nation’s citizens, the building industry requires the availability of a skilled workforce. In the past several decades, all sectors of the U.S. building industry have reported a growing shortage of skilled construction workers. In the 2016 report, the Consultative Council identifies several causes of this disturbing trend and offers recommendations to address them, some of which include:
- Promoting technical and trade programs in K-12 and technical schools, emphasizing the good career opportunities available;
- Encouraging women and veterans to enter the construction sector;
- Establishing programs that employ building industry professionals to work in underserved communities in exchange for a reduction in their student debt;
- Developing state and/or national reciprocity programs for certified trade professionals, allowing them geographic mobility to follow career opportunities; and
- Allowing low-interest federal loans to be used for industry credentials/certifications and post-secondary education.
Water Resources and Building Models
Regardless of how well the nation’s homes and commercial buildings are designed and constructed, how sustainable and energy-efficient they are or how vital they are to a community or a local economy, all buildings require a connection to a safe, reliable and continuous water supply in order to fulfill their purpose. When a building does not have a safe and secure water supply, normal building functions stop, the conducting of commerce ends, people are displaced, and jobs are lost. In the report, the Consultative Council offers recommendations, with the goal of initiating a dialogue to develop a holistic water strategy for the United States. Some include:
- Expanding and adequately funding federal water programs to help utilities improve infrastructure while also meeting federally mandated water quality requirements;
- Allowing federal and state government funds to be used for projects relating to water reuse;
- Developing best practices for utilities to reference when changing their water treatment processes to reduce unwanted consequences;
- Modernizing the existing water pipe-sizing calculations, which were developed in the 1930s and 1940s;
- Incentivizing the removal of water-guzzling plumbing fixtures and installation of new, high-efficiency models;
- Requiring utilities to provide and install smart water meters;
- Requiring compliance with standards to mitigate outbreaks of legionellosis and other water-borne diseases in building water systems; and
- Issuing uniform water-treatment and water-quality requirements for the use of non-potable water.
As highlighted in the 2016 Moving Forward Report, both the public and private sectors in the United States can take a number of steps to address the challenges of developing the U.S. building industry’s workforce and improving the nation’s water safety and efficiency. Now is the time for action, says the Institute. Continuing to neglect these problems makes them exponentially more expensive to resolve.
The Consultative Council’s 2016 Moving Forward Report is available for free download.