In today’s news, we will look into how the ECO has reached a significant milestone in the construction of the first SOV flying the American flag. Meanwhile, it is anticipated that demand for commercial development in the United States will continue robust “for the foreseeable future.” On the other hand, the state of Maryland is beginning to take baby measures toward establishing clean construction regulations, stating that “how we buy things matters.”
ECO builds the first US-flag SOV
Original Source: ECO marks milestone in construction of first US-flag SOV
Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) celebrated the 50% completion of the first US-flag service operation vessel (SOV) for offshore wind at its Houma shipyard.
ECO, a major offshore support vessel owner, announced the news on social media. The Louisiana vessel owner reported that US House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) and executives from Ørsted and Eversource Energy attended the event at LaShip in Houma, Louisiana.
“We’re thrilled to put our expertise on such an essential vessel for the offshore wind industry’s future American fleet,” said ECO president and CEO Gary Chouest. “Thanks to our decades of experience in offshore industries, our inhouse engineers, and the hard work of more than 400 shipbuilders, we’re now more than 50% complete on this historic, specialized vessel that will serve as a model for the US offshore wind industry and a home base for American offshore wind technicians for years to come.”
Ørsted and Eversource are building South Fork Wind, New York’s first offshore wind farm, which broke ground in early 2022 and will be operational with 130 MW in 2023, and Sunrise Wind, a 924-MW project that will bring renewable energy to New York in late 2025.
Ørsted and Eversource chartered the SOV for the operation and maintenance (O&M) phases of the Revolution Wind, South Fork Wind, and Sunrise Wind projects to safely transport technicians, tools, and components to and from the wind turbines.
The Jones Act-compliant 80-m SOV will accommodate 60 wind turbine technicians, have diesel-electric power to satisfy EPA Tier 4 criteria, and use ECO variable frequency drive technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fuel usage.
ECO Edison will be homeported in Port Jefferson, New York, after delivery in 2024.
US commercial development demand to continue high “for foreseeable future”
Data centers and manufacturing facilities offset decreased single-family homebuilding and public construction to reduce US construction spending by 0.1% in February.
AGC examination of federal statistics revealed that demand for several forms of commercial development will continue strong “for the foreseeable future”.
In February, construction spending was $1.84 trillion, 0.1% lower than in January.
In February, private home building spending fell 0.6% for the ninth month. February saw 0.7% more private non-residential construction and 0.2% less public development.
Large private non-residential sectors spent differently. Manufacturing rose 2.7%. Electricity and private office construction—including data centers—rose 1.5% and 0.5%, respectively. Commercial construction—warehouse, retail, and farm—fell 0.6% in February.
Education buildings fell 0.9%, while highway and street construction rose 0.3%. Transportation spending declined 0.7%.
Single-family homebuilding fell 1.8% from January, lowering public residential spending. Multifamily construction rose 1.4%.
The association’s chief economist, Ken Simonson, said, “Continued strong demand for manufacturing plants and data centers, together with an increase in power projects, contributed to the growth in private non-residential building.
“Those parts are likely to develop for many months.”
But association officials said a lack of precise instructions regarding new regulatory procedures associated with many of the new federal construction funding was holding up many projects.
It stated the administration’s Buy America standards, semiconductor funding labor measures, and green energy investment registered apprenticeship mandates were ambiguous or unfinished.
AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr stated, “The president and his administration appear far more intent on interpreting laws to fit their agenda instead of progress when it comes to the billions in additional federal investments Congress has allowed.
Instead of creating miles of extra red tape, the administration should engage with the construction industry to get building started swiftly.
Maryland’s proposed clean construction rules: “How we buy things counts”
Diesel-belching trucks accelerate down Maryland 550 in Woodsboro.
Cornfields surround this Frederick County roadway. Several trucks stop at Laurel Sand and Gravel, a big quarry and mining business off the main road that grinds 600,000 tons of small stones into powder each year. Aggregate powder thickens concrete.
Rocks, gravel, industrial chutes, tunnels, bridges, and conveyor belts litter the property. This natural deep pool trains U.S. and Israeli military divers, local first responders, and police deepwater investigations. Commercial scuba diving required specific zoning from Frederick County.
Brad Hill, a local businessman, is considering a carbon-free future while inspired by Ancient Rome. Hill runs Comus Sustainable Pozzolan Products on the site Laurel Sand and Gravel leases.
Hill devised a solution to drastically cut concrete manufacturing pollution. His patent mixes cement without burning coal or pollutants at high temperatures. He uses Pozzolan, a natural thickening system as old as civilization.
“You have clean cement because you don’t have to use fossil fuels in our product,” says astronomer Hill.
He claims it is cheaper and more durable than most concrete and climate-friendly.
Hill’s once-lonely mission to manufacture cleaner cement and concrete is now getting government and building industry support. The “Buy Clean” initiative for the construction and building industries, which promotes adopting less carbon-intensive materials, is becoming federal policy with a target of zero construction sector carbon emissions by 2050.
“This helps fill an enormous void in the drive to reduce industrial emissions,” said Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations. Walsh spoke last week at a Washington, D.C., conference on Buy Clean, sponsored by the BlueGreen Alliance and Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, and portrayed it as a means to battle climate change, revitalize the manufacturing sector, and create good-paying union jobs.
Four states—led by California—have Buy Clean laws. Maryland joined the proposed Federal-State Buy Clean Partnership a few weeks ago. State-funded infrastructure projects will use lower-carbon concrete and steel. They’ll work with the federal government and each other to change the market.
Walsh said the federal-state agreement “will give certainty to businesses that there is a substantial, stable market to acquire these cleaner products. Shopping matters.”
Maryland is also considering a Buy Clean construction strategy.
Last month, the House of Delegates enacted a bill requiring the Maryland Department of General Services to examine the global warming impact of each cement or concrete combination used in public projects. State agencies must specify the cement or concrete mixture used in building materials in each solicitation for government-funded construction projects starting July 1, 2025, and favor proposals with the lowest carbon footprint. Environmental product declarations—called greenhouse gas emissions nutrition labels—would be required from bidders.
The bill has a week to pass the Senate and reach Gov. Wes Moore (D).
Environmental groups and a multinational cement manufacturer support the law, arguing that regulating construction industry emissions helps the climate.
“How can you know the environmental impact of a building or structure if you don’t know what the items going into it are doing?
“Holcim US project pursuit manager Zachary Lovett in Baltimore remarked.
Some Maryland construction industry associations oppose the legislation, claiming it would create too much financial strain on smaller enterprises that cannot manage a big inventory of concrete mixes or label every product with an environmental label. Because MDOT oversees so many construction projects, including highways and the vast Port of Baltimore operations, they advised that any state Buy Clean program be handled by MDOT rather than General Services.
Marshall Klinefelter, president of the Maryland Asphalt Association, testified that his group “strongly thinks that the market should decide the types of materials needed for construction projects.” We worry that these ambiguous rules will be impossible to follow. Establishing preferences sets producers against each other, unfairly favoring those who match the requirements.”
Yet, the law would offer ready-mix concrete producers state funds to buy cleaner concrete technologies.
“I don’t see how, if this bill goes through, it puts any companies at a disadvantage,” Lovett said. “I believe it benefits smarter companies.”
March 20’s House vote was 103-31. Five Republicans and all Democrats supported it. The Senate Budget and Taxes Committee has heard both bills.
‘The world’s most used material besides water’
Because concrete is everywhere, the building sector is one of the greatest polluters. It is utilized on bridges, dams, ports, airports, pathways, walkways, playgrounds, swimming pools, skate parks, patios, fountains, sculpture, indoor construction, and more.
“Concrete is the most frequently utilized material on Earth except water,” says Del. Annapolis Buy Clean bill House sponsor Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) said.
The cement industry produces roughly 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions by heating coal in a kiln to over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. A high-carbon chemical reaction results. Concrete is made from cement, water, sand, and aggregates like those mined and crushed at Laurel Sand and Gravel in Frederick County.
“If the concrete industry were a country, it would be in the top five of carbon-producing nations in the world,” said state Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), the Senate sponsor of green construction legislation.
The U.S. government buys to fight climate change. The federal government is the largest direct purchaser and a major infrastructure funder. It owns 8,000 properties nationwide and buys the most electricity. The U.S.’s largest fleet operator.
The Biden administration wants the building industry to find less carbon-intensive ways to make cement, concrete, steel, and other construction materials.
The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $6 billion to the Department of Energy to provide concrete and cement businesses alternative production methods.
This year, the administration established a Federal Buy Clean Program to prioritize low-carbon materials for government construction projects, covering 98% of federal government purchases. The U.S. Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, General Service Administration, and others are proposing policies to benefit contractors who utilize low-carbon building goods.
Robin Carnahan, GSA administrator, said at the Buy Clean conference in D.C. this week that her department is regulating asphalt, concrete, glass, and steel for cleaner construction.
“The four are relatively large carbon emitters in the supply chain,” she said. “We know we can significantly impact these supply chain emissions.”
The First Movers Coalition, led by former U.S. senator and secretary of State John Kerry, is the government’s worldwide initiative. By 2030, these enterprises will buy 10% near-zero carbon cement and concrete.
Four states enacted Buy Clean laws. New Jersey is working on a rule that establishes benchmarks for concrete makers and provides financial incentives for enterprises who exceed the proposed climate-friendly standards.
The U.S. is also watching Buy Clean. As former President Trump left international climate pacts, Maryland joined the Climate Alliance, a partnership of 24 states and territories. A senior policy analyst at the U.S. Climate Alliance ensures that Buy Clean rules are reasonably well-aligned so construction industry suppliers don’t have to rush from state to state.
“We’re not just target-setting organizations,” Hammoud remarked. “Governors act.”
“This is a pretty new area for many states,” he admitted.
Brad Hill, a “cement guy,” has owned construction companies and built power plants, cement plants, and energy infrastructure. When he bought the quarry 15 years ago, he was a civil contractor at the Lehigh Cement facility in Union Bridge, 10 miles from Woodsboro. Its use was uncertain. “I had to figure out what I bought,” he said.
Hill discovered that the property’s rock deposits, generated from the Appalachian Mountains’ erosion, had many of the same qualities as Mount Vesuvius’ volcanic ash, which literally built the Roman Empire. Hill compared the longevity of Ancient Rome’s buildings and infrastructure, notably the Pantheon and the Coliseum, to modern concrete’s limited lifespan.
“It’s old,” he said. “We have 2,000-year-old stuff.”
Hill decided to promote Pozzolan in U.S. buildings. He also considered how the concrete industry mimics volcanic eruptions with carbon-intensive chemical explosions.
“We use so much fossil fuel to emulate Vesuvius,” he remarked.
He started fiddling and eventually created a device that reproduces the chemical reaction at frigid temperatures using large rollers operated by air currents. The Hill Process and Comus Sustainable Pozzolan Products were born.
Hill believes that using a less carbon-intensive method of producing concrete, such as the cold-temperature chain reaction, will produce concrete that weighs half as much as standard concrete and has a longer life cycle, requiring fewer road repairs, which contribute to climate change, and fewer truck trips to quarries like the one he owns and that Laurel Sand and Gr.
Lehigh Hanson, Inc., which manages the Union Bridge Lehigh Cement facility, stated last summer that the plant would switch from producing Portland cement to an eco-friendly product this year. The company said it was employing innovative technologies to cut energy and emissions, resulting in a 10% lower carbon footprint than standard Portland cement.
Some industry insiders say big corporations may easily make drastic changes and spend much on new products and equipment. Heidelberg Materials of Germany owns Lehigh Cement.
“If you’re requiring smaller enterprises to manage and hold different types of concrete, you’re essentially pushing out some of the smaller guys,” said Michael Sakata, president and CEO of the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association.
“If we are going to invest and make things cleaner, we absolutely need a push,” Sakata added.
Hill agrees. He and a team of scientists perfect his greener concrete technology as U.S. and European regulators evaluate it.
“Breaking enormous rocks into little rocks is big science,” he explains.
The U.S. Hill appreciates Rep. David Trone (D-6th) for visiting his quarry and getting money for operations like his. The money is currently in the federal bureaucracy.
Hill waits, dreams, and tinkers, hoping to battle climate change someday.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this,” he says.
Summary of today’s construction news
Overall, after reaching the halfway point of construction in the Houma shipyard, Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) celebrated the first US-flag service operation vessel (SOV) for offshore wind. The announcement was shared on social media by ECO, a significant owner of offshore support vessels. The dinner reportedly took place at LaShip in Houma, Louisiana, and was attended by US House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) and executives from Ørsted and Eversource Energy.
Meanwhile, in February, construction investment in the United States fell by 0.1% as data centers and manufacturing facilities made up for drops in single-family homebuilding and public construction. Based on an analysis of federal data, the AGC has concluded that there is a “continued and substantial” demand for multiple types of commercial development.
Additionally, local entrepreneur Brad Hill draws inspiration for a carbon-free future from ancient Rome. Laurel Sand & Gravel leases the land where Hill operates Comus Sustainable Pozzolan Products. Hill came up with a plan to significantly reduce emissions from the production of concrete. His innovation allows cement to be blended without the need of polluting fossil fuels. Pozzolan, a naturally occurring thickening mechanism, has been used by civilizations for millennia. He says it’s better for the environment and cheaper than regular concrete.