Discover the latest updates here, particularly on the Build America, Buy America Act on construction projects. Industry associations are concerned that an expansion of the rules will likely result in even higher project prices. This is because contractors will have to factor in the risk associated with their newly discovered unilateral duties for Buy America compliance when pricing their bids. Meanwhile, Kojo, a firm that assists construction businesses in the United States in “seamlessly” managing their material supply chains, has successfully raised $39 million. Furthermore, the ability of Marous Brothers Construction to fulfill their clients’ expectations and earn repeat business is made possible by a technology stack that features products from Sage, Trimble, Oracle, and other companies. Over and above that, a D.C. home receives a green makeover. The majority of traditional homes in the United States do not create any energy, despite the fact that they consume a lot of it. This family is working hard to change the outcome of that story.
Build America, Buy America and Construction
The Build America, Buy America Act (BABA), adopted as part of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) on Nov. 15, 2021, mandates iron, steel, manufactured products, and building materials used in federally supported infrastructure projects to be made in the U.S.
FHA’s Buy America policy includes:
- any steel or iron items (including protective coatings) permanently included in a Title 23
- alternate bid project
- Non-domestic product usage criteria
- a public-interest or domestic-product-based waiver process.
The construction industry favors using American labor and materials, but these provisions would make it harder to employ non-U.S.-sourced components, driving up costs and completion delays. Buy America’s waiver procedure would be bureaucratic and unnecessarily burdensome, requiring thousands of approvals on federal transportation projects alone. USDOT has given five Buy America waivers in four years.
IIJA Coverage Concerns
The IIJA expanded Buy America to highway and transit building goods. Construction materials are “anything other than iron or steel.”
White House Made in America Office (MIAO) guidance listed non-ferrous metals, plastic and polymer-based products (including polyvinyl chloride, composite building materials, and fiber optic cable polymers), glass (including optic glass), lumber, and drywall as materials requiring domestic manufacturing. IIJA excluded aggregates and pavement-related materials.
Other Buy America-exempt products include:
- Product made
- Cemented materials
- Stone, sand, or gravel
- Additive aggregating agents
This exemption is crucial for the asphalt sector because 12% of binder components are imported, 88% from Canada.
The National Asphalt Pavement Association: “These imports would be subject to Buy America regulations and couldn’t be used in federally supported projects without project-based exceptions.” Due to logistics, satisfying asphalt needs from other U.S. regions isn’t adequate to meet demand.
Last week, ARTBA encouraged the US DOT to work with the transportation construction industry to implement the new criteria. ARTBA underlined the necessity of this method given the record federal surface transportation spending in the IIJA, which is likely to raise demand for several commodities and cause historic cost spikes and restricted availability.
ARTBA expressed concern to the U.S. DOT about putting Buy America compliance on contractors and the Nov. 10 waiver delay deadline.
“We are worried by reports that certain state recipients plan to put the complete onus on contractors to comply” as the waiver expires on November 10. “This strategy is impractical and imposes risk on the prime contractor, a typical industry concern.” This would undoubtedly increase project prices as contractors price in the risk of their new unilateral Buy America commitments.”
The industry supports:
• Buy America coverage applies exclusively to permanent project components
• Clear Buy America exemption for aggregates and other pavement-related materials, as outlined in the IIJA and early MIAO advice.
• Continued waiver of coverage for manufactured products not principally constituted of iron, steel, or relevant building materials; “common sense” exemption for COTS products including nuts, bolts, washers, nails, tie wires, and others.
The sector is concerned about any more productivity hindrances in a challenging building environment so we can fully benefit from the IIJA.
“IIJA’s exceptional investment levels should yield equally unparalleled economic gains over several years,” ARTBA added. “We want to continue the dialogue on BABA to prevent policy conflicts, account for current market challenges, and best fulfill America and the IIJA’s surface transportation title’s stated purposes.”
Kojo rebrands, expands, and raises $39M Series C
Kojo, a startup that helps U.S. construction companies manage their material supply chains “seamlessly,” has raised $39 million.
Agora, founded in 2018, raised $33 million in August 2021 from Tiger Global. It’s been hectic since. This year, the startup relaunched as Kojo and expanded from providing electricity to mechanical, concrete, drywall, roofing, flooring, site preparation, and self-perform general contractors.
The startup’s objective is to help clients reduce project waste and material costs. It helps contractors discover the best price for construction materials, so they save money, move faster, and waste less.
Maria Rioumine, CEO and co-founder, says they’ve saved customers $19 million on material orders and 90% of project waste.
Kojo’s products have driven the construction of approximately 10,000 structures, including hospitals, schools, stadiums, commercial buildings, and multifamily housing developments. As a SaaS firm, it processes over $1 billion in material orders for thousands of users.
Productivity issues have plagued the $800 billion-a-year construction industry for decades. With growing construction prices, material and labor shortages, and supply chain constraints, contractors need technology to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Kojo claims it can save contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials yearly and cut order processing time in half.
Rioumine stated that Kojo’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) has climbed 3.5 times in the past year. In 18 months, it’s doubled its user base.
Kojo has launched inventory management, bills of material (BOM), and invoice matching in recent years.
“With these three products, we’ve become a fully end-to-end platform,” Rioumine told TechCrunch.
The company’s latest financing included new investors, Schneider Electric, RXR, and Bienville Capital. 8VC, Suffolk Construction, Human Capital, AME, and BoxGroup increased their investments.
Rioumine called Kojo’s Series C “an up round” without revealing its valuation.
The company wants to use its additional money to increase its personnel and invest in fintech solutions.
With new distributor interfaces, contractors will be able to monitor distributor pricing and inventories to make “the best purchase decisions.”
Rioumine told TechCrunch that the company’s tools will help contractors make better purchase decisions, expedite payments, and manage project spend more accurately. “Managing payments in construction is painful for our customers, so we’re thrilled about new product launches.”
For too long, tech entrepreneurs regarded construction as an unsexy market. She said, “We’re excited to change that.”
As part of Battery Ventures’ investment, Michael Brown is joining Kojo’s board. He feels technology has “long neglected” the building business.
This is “unacceptable” because it’s a major industry, he says.
More than $300 billion of commercial construction supplies are ordered annually in the U.S. using systems that haven’t been upgraded since the 1980s, Brown said.
Supervisors spend 38% less time on materials management, back-office personnel save 75% on purchase orders, and customers save 3 to 5% on materials.
Kojo lets field technicians search for and pick construction products via their phones. Material lists produce bids from suppliers. Brown said the subcontractor can track order status through delivery and automatically reconcile orders to the accounting system. Kojo’s trade-specific strategy allows them to offer each trade a purpose-built product.
This Ohio design-builder uses ERP for double-digit growth
Winning bids requires sound estimating, project plan performance, and good communication. Design-builders have more challenging work because they start with the project owner’s broad aspirations and expectations and must steer them toward a vision.
This is the difficulty encountered by Marous Brothers Construction in Willoughby, Ohio, which provides work through numerous project delivery systems, including design-build and construction management. The company self-performs sitework, digging, carpentry, and interior finishing. More than 90% of Marous Brothers’ projects come from returning customers, says Director of Business Development Arne Goldman.
Goldman: “This is our biggest year.” Goldman: “We grew 20% last year, 10% the year before, and 5% the year before that.” “We negotiate 90% of our work, so we don’t use a CRM platform because clients discover us. We’re often involved before an architect is chosen.
This relationship-centric approach to building has made Marous Brothers a favorite of Caterpillar, which has collaborated with them on many projects, including Ohio Cat Headquarters in Broadview Heights, Ohio. 62,250 square feet of retail, warehouse, and office space. Marous Brothers has developed Cat rental facilities in the state and uses an all-Caterpillar fleet with equipment guidance technology to improve quality and consistency.
The company uses drones to assess major greenfield construction sites to identify logistics, such as truck access, traffic patterns, and job trailer placement.
Marous Brothers’ construction technology strategy is particularly powerful in the back office.
Marous Brothers uses a spectrum of business solutions to assist operations and improve project owner communication. The contractor uses Trimble’s cloud-based Viewpoint for project management.
Goldman: “We used Prolog and other software years ago.” As a contractor with hundreds of millions of dollars in projects in various states, it was necessary for our accounting and project management software to communicate.
Marous uses Sage 100 Contractor, formerly Master Builder, for estimating and financials. On-Center Software’s On Screen desktop takeoff is linked with Sage 100 Contractor, driving takeoff data into the workflow. Stand-alone apps include Autodesk Revit and Oracle Primavera P6. Goldman said further integration would eliminate manual stages, but the current process flow supports the company’s expansion.
Sage Timberline connects to our historical cost database, and On Screen digitizing drawings for rapid takeoffs and estimates. “The takeoffs seed Sage, where we can change estimates.” Sage helps our 35 estimators.
Marous Brothers uses Primavera once an estimate is accepted.
Goldman: “Primavera isn’t integrated.” Wishful thinking. It helps with resource loading, scheduling, and identifying key tasks for CPM project management.
However, Oracle offers several ways to interface Primavera P6 with other software, but the favored technique has changed. Oracle says Primavera P6 users should no longer utilize the P6 SDK to import a WBS. Users can also use the P6 Professional API to access Primavera features, although this method has been deprecated. Oracle encourages customers like Marous to switch to Oracle Primavera Cloud, which features an Integration App.
Marous Brothers would likely require a systems integrator to use any of these, but Agave, an iPaaS firm, is working on adding Primavera P6, Viewpoint Visa, and Sage to their portfolio of standard connections, while Ryvit currently handles Viewpoint Vista and Sage 100 Contractor. HH2 was hired by Sage to build APIs for Sage 100 Contractor and Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate. All three solutions will be accessible and compatible under a single, standard API once they’re iPaaS-supported. Agave, Ryvit, and HH2’s iPaaS services are like a Rosetta Stone for bidirectional interactions.
Agave Co-Founder Tom Reno commented, “We’re newer and focus on different software.” Ryvit, HH2 focuses on legacy and on-premise systems. These products are popular and popular. We’re 100% cloud-based. We’re designing a means to not interface with on-premise systems, so if you’re a general contractor and your accounting system is behind a firewall but you need to connect with cloud-based purchase orders or payments, that’s a problem.
Because Primavera scheduling is stand-alone, Marous Brothers staff must manually input data and handle rework if they alter materials or other project variables in Sage to see how it affects the schedule.
Marous Brothers usually forms a pre-construction agreement before delivering services, so they don’t bid on plans. This Instrument of Service triggers actions in their different systems of record, including an initial project meeting with Viewpoint minutes.
At the initial project meeting, we’d try to learn about the client’s budget and expectations, Goldman added.
Then, they work with the project owner’s design team or internal personnel to develop a baseline budget using Sage 100 Contractor and On Screen to capture concept drawings for takeoff.
Marous Brothers builds a project schedule in Primavera using the takeoff and Sage estimating, ensuring it includes pre-construction activities, entitlements, and other key factors.
Goldman: “We model a realistic duration.” When negotiating work, clients demand early cost, timeline, and quality and scope estimates.
Sage 100 Contractor generates real-time project data for rapid decisions.
Sage 100 Contractor divides estimated reporting components and assembly, Goldman stated. “We constantly estimate delivery and capture fresh information.” Once a project is underway, transparency and communication become more important.
Marous Brothers uses its construction software stack for softer skills, such as project communication with the owner.
Goldman: “We employ technology to do initial drawings in design-build projects.” “This may be done in Revit, and in certain circumstances, we choose a 3D tour.”
Marous Brothers’ leadership considers the owner’s demands and capacities while packaging project materials for easy comprehension.
Goldman: “A lot depends on how graphically savvy the clients are.” “We determine our clients’ graphics and plan reading capacity.” The less graphically educated people are, the more significant 3D renderings are. We use technology to manage and deliver on expectations across our whole business.
Marous Brothers prioritizes the usability and readability of project plans and estimates so owners may easily understand them.
Goldman said clients have praised how straightforward Sage output is to understand. “Sometimes estimating software tosses out numbers and other information that is hard to comprehend. Even non-experts can get this.” We can configure Sage to make things easier for the owner; Sage will spit back a summary based on the parameters we enter. The owner may instantly see cost per square foot, contingency, and our fees. Sage presents this well. “
Marous Brothers must modify Primavera’s project plan so it’s easily digestible.
Goldman: “Unless you know how to understand a schedule output, it’s not friendly.” In PowerPoint presentations, we utilize an Excel bar chart because Primavera’s output is too technical.
The Marous Brothers team uses Viewpoint for meeting minutes and project financials, including owner outputs.
Goldman uses Viewpoint for meeting minutes and financial reports. Viewpoint can generate good project cost deliverables even as a construction manager-at-risk with fiduciary commitments to clients. The product has gotten better at this, so we can share outputs without deciphering or repackaging them. Our customers’ output can be streamlined.
Marous Brothers’ deliberate approach has facilitated significant expansion, from front office operations like estimates to back office functions like accounting and takeoffs. Their strategy isn’t technology-focused; their processes aren’t fully digital, and there’s potential for growth. Their strategy promotes straightforward communication and trustworthy delivery.
A D.C. home gets a green makeover
Vanessa Bertelli and Stefano Negri’s renovated Craftsman house in Northwest D.C. seems different. Clear, fresh air replaces the outside dampness. The door shuts out the city noise. The temperature is steady from the basement to the attic. The structure, constructed in a Scandinavian minimalism style, has white, clean walls and exposed wooden ceilings. This house isn’t typical.
Bertelli and Negri have spent two years retrofitting this century-old house to be “net-zero energy,” meaning it produces as much energy as it uses. Motivated by scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change, the family modified their home to reduce energy use. They use solar energy to offset their use.
“I have 3 kids.” Personal. Bertelli: “I need to make sure our ordinary acts don’t make it worse.” “Net-zero homes aren’t a dream. It’s necessary. “
Most American homes don’t produce energy. Residential buildings account for more than 20% of the nation’s energy usage and release 8.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per household per year, 70% more than the average passenger automobile. Temperature control and appliances that heat water, chill food, and wash clothing are big energy consumers. Poorly insulated walls and thin-glazed windows in many American homes let controlled air escape, requiring additional energy.
Bertelli and Negri have insulated their walls and ceilings, airtightened their home, and installed solar panels.
Advocates argue these techniques reduce carbon footprints and improve the quality of life. James Ball, co-coordinator of the National Capital Region chapter of the Net Zero Energy Coalition, adds, “We can increase comfort and health while cutting operating expenses and improving our environmental impact.” Health and comfort are personal motivators.
Environmental advocates often enumerate pleasures individuals should give up to save the earth. Reducing carbon footprints generally requires lifestyle adjustments, such as eating less meat, having fewer children, or giving up dogs as pets. Americans don’t always like this message. Net-zero houses could change that. They heighten modern life’s joys, not reduce them. Long-term heating and cooling expenditures are lower, and maintaining indoor comfort is easier. Americans have realized these techniques may make their houses more comfortable.
Bertelli and Negri searched for a net-zero home in the District for a year before turning down a quiet side street in February 2020. The neighborhood ended at Rock Creek Park. At the end of a stone path along the park’s edge stood a brick Craftsman.
The old house, unoccupied since the last owner died two years ago, needed a makeover. Moldy walls peeled. roof leaks The living room fireplace had soot from decades. The attic floor is strewn with personal papers, rooms with porcelain knick knacks, and shoes. Furniture sagged. A moist unfinished basement held the home’s gas-powered furnace and asbestos-lined ducts. Rooms had dehumidifiers or small air-purifiers to preserve air quality.
Bertelli and Negri examined hundreds of city residences, although most had modern appliances. All were rejected. Bertelli and Negri sought to renovate an existing net-zero home. Bertelli claims building from scratch was a “cop-out” due to the cost. “You’re not addressing our existing residential portfolio, which must become net-zero in 20 years.”
Working with an established structure was difficult. Catherine Fowlkes, who co-owns Fowlkes Studio with her husband VW, consulted on Bertelli and Negri’s residence. Renovations are different.
Existing residences may face an undesired direction, whereas new buildings can be orientated to maximize solar energy. Renovations are limited by building form, shape, and siding. Masonry constructions represent a physical problem for applying passive building approaches, which reduce a home’s carbon impact.
What’s below is a mystery. “You don’t know what a building is built of until you open it. You can have the best designs in the world, but you must be ready to change when you uncover a wall and find it crumbling or in need of improvement, says Ed May, a passive house specialist with Bldgtyp.
Europe overheats. This AC is green.
Lindsay Baker, CEO of the International Living Future Institute, which certifies net-zero buildings, believes historic homes can be more ideal for net-zero overhauls than those built in the past 50 years. Baker loves old structures. 100-year-old buildings lacked AC and lighting. naturally ventilated, chilled, and illuminated. Older structures have the bones for investment.
American households have been slow to adopt passive construction techniques since the 1970s, when energy prices skyrocketed. U.S. energy expenses are lower than abroad. This, combined with a difficult political debate over climate change, has prevented widespread adoption of the technology in U.S. homes.
may emphasize the comfort and health benefits of innovative building approaches.
Simple principles drive passive home construction and retrofitting. They need comprehensive insulation, to seal thermal bridges that let air escape, high-quality windows and doors, and a strong ventilation system to control temperature. May says it’s a must-have for all buildings. Once the house is as energy-efficient as feasible, adding renewable energy makes it “net-zero.”
Bertelli and Negri closed on the house in April 2020, just as covid-19 spread. Bertelli’s company folded. Unemployed, she renovated the house full-time. She explored online architecture forums but found little information for anyone unfamiliar with building lingo. She recalls, “They used words I didn’t know.” She noticed some blog posts, but they were largely about new buildings. Architects and contractors told her her ambition was unrealistic. “Nobody was around. She claims no one claimed you could retrofit a 100-year-old Craftsman to net-zero. “They couldn’t imagine it.”
Bertelli is frustrated. Nicole Tysvaer, CEO and co-founder of Symbi Homes, produces sustainable houses in Washington. “We’re tech-savvy. We need someone to promote, educate, and install this new technology. We fight daily with this. “
Bertelli and Negri eventually recruited willing experts. 475 High Performance Building Supply in Brooklyn supplied advice and products and connected Bertelli with May, who guided them during video calls.
Before adding anything new, they had to remove fossil-fueled equipment. They removed the basement furnace, water heater, and dryer. 50-year-old gas range was replaced with an induction stove.
Electricity is essential. Simple. Bertelli: “If you burn fossil fuels at home, your machinery can’t be converted to electricity from renewable sources like solar.”
Many grids are now fueled by nonrenewable coal, but many are converting to renewables. D.C.’s system will run on 100% renewable energy by 2032.
Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a measure imposing energy-reduction objectives in 2019, making D.C. a pioneer in clean-energy construction. New commercial buildings must be energy-efficient. It encourages net-zero retrofits and solar power programs. D.C. banned fossil fuel heating systems in new commercial buildings in July, after New York. Net-zero construction is required. In its Solar for All initiative, the city offers income-qualified residents free solar panel installation, including solar shingles. All of this is part of the city’s objective to be carbon neutral by 2050 and halve its emissions by 2032.
During the refurbishment, the couple replaced their gas furnace, water heater, and clothes dryer with electric appliances. Allen, Kevin
Mark Kresowik, who leads RMI’s carbon-free buildings strategy, calls D.C. “the shining star.” “That’s the country’s best example.”
The city helps homeowners remodel. Bertelli and Negri were eligible for up to $10,000 in Net-Zero Energy Program subsidies and permit assistance.
Every homeowner can’t afford Bertelli’s “deep” net-zero conversion. Local government incentives help, although they only cover a portion of the refit. The family spent $35,000 on windows, $6,000 on Minot Air heat pumps, and $5,000 on a Mitsubishi backup. Adding solar panels and replacing the stove and water heater increased prices.
But don’t rush. Most people incorporate energy-efficient designs gradually to spread costs. Ball is moving his Maryland home to net-zero by replacing fossil fuel appliances as they wear out. We’ll find ways to do it cost-effectively as long as we use this in our decision-making process.
While governments supported green building, Bertelli and Negri confronted a federal hurdle. Bertelli had to submit plans for exterior improvements to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which can reject building or remodeling projects based on aesthetics and their effect on public land. The commission maintains the aesthetic integrity of buildings near federal territory in the District, including the National Mall, White House, Pennsylvania Avenue, and various parks. VW Fowlkes, a Bertelli-Negri consultant, claims the environmental and historical agendas clashed.
Bertelli says the commission denied their request to install solar panels on the roof, which would have been visible from the street, and instead limited them to a narrow spot above the house’s sloping dormers. That left 15 panels, not enough to power the house. The commission accepted her request to install additional panels on an adjacent detached garage.
Another commission concern. Sealed, multi paned, high-performance windows are vital for low-energy buildings, yet their appearance contradicts traditional aesthetics.
30 to 40% of heating energy is wasted through windows, says Craig Maierhofer, VP of business development at Alpen High Performance Products.
Insulated walls hold in more energy than windows, which make up one-fifth of a building’s front. Better windows with tightly gasketed glass reduce energy loss. An average window’s U-Factor, which measures insulation, is 0.30. Bertelli’s triple-glazed windows have a U-Factor of 0.14 to 0.17, a 50% improvement.
“It’s necessary to be flexible so you can reach as many values as possible,” says commission spokesperson Thomas Luebke, adding that the agency will evaluate future solar panel applicants as the technology grows. “This is an excellent example of everyone getting what they wanted.” Your high-performance home respects the community and surroundings. The park wasn’t harmed.
The family eventually got permits for much of the outside construction.
Bertelli gutted and sealed the house. Passive home builders add insulation and an extra layer to ensure airtightness and vapor management. She used Intello Plus to create a membrane under the drywall from the basement to the roof. “Airtight is wonderful,” adds Bertelli. Then you can control where the air comes from and heat or chill it.
Buildings can assess energy efficiency by calculating air changes per hour, or how often air escapes through leaky windows, gaps, roofs, doors, joists, or poorly insulated ducts. 15 to 20 air changes per hour are typical for a house of its size and age. “You waste a lot of energy heating air you can’t control,” she explains. “Winter brings cold air; hot air escapes.” It’s inefficient. “
After adding an airtight barrier around the home, new windows, and insulation, it tested at 0.6 air changes per hour. Heat pumps filter outdoor air and remove stale indoor air. Bertelli said, “You want that smell in my teens’ bathrooms?”
She replaced the furnace and AC with two modest electric heat pumps. Heat pumps bring hot air in through ducts. When cooling a home, heat pumps blow hot air outside. According to the Energy Department, only 14% of American households utilize heat pumps. Biden used the Defense Production Act in June to expedite heat pump production. Last month’s Inflation Reduction Act gave rebates and credits for buying them and other green energy purchases that might lower a home’s carbon footprint.
In May 2021, the family moved in and continued to improve it. Bertelli and Negri want to know how close they are to net-zero. After a year, they’ll compare their electricity use to what their solar panels have generated. Add panels as needed.
Bertelli was shocked by how easy greening her house was once she learned the basics. Not every family has the time, money, and tenacity for a project like this, but she thinks that as awareness and financial incentives rise, more Americans will benefit.
It’s not rocket science. Bertelli says, “If I could do it without a building background, anyone can.” “I want to help everyone.”
Summary of today’s construction news
In today’s construction news, iron, steel, manufactured products, and building materials used in federally sponsored infrastructure projects must be created in the U.S. under the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA), which was adopted as part of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) on November 15, 2021.
In addition, approximately 10,000 buildings, such as medical facilities, educational institutions, sports arenas, business establishments, and apartment complexes, have been built thanks to Kojo’s goods. Over $1 billion in material orders are handled annually by the SaaS company.
Additionally, Marous Brothers use a variety of business tools to facilitate operations and enhance communication with project owners. In order to keep track of everything going on at once, the contractor relies on Trimble’s Viewpoint cloud-based application.
And beyond everything, after spending a year looking for a net-zero house in the District, Bertelli and Negri decided to take a detour down a quiet side street in February of 2020. Rock Creek Park marked the boundary of the community. A brick Craftsman stood at the end of a stone path that ran along the park’s border. The house had been abandoned for two years after its previous owner passed away, thus it was in desperate need of renovations.