Nonresidential Building

Nonresidential building in March fell 19 percent to $183.5 billion (annual rate), after surging 43 percent in February. The manufacturing building category in March plunged a steep 57 percent from its elevated February pace. Although March did feature the start of several large manufacturing projects, such as a $751 million polyethylene plant and a $150 million cement plant expansion, both located in Texas, the prior month had included the start of a $3.0 billion ethane cracker and propane dehydrogenation plant, also located in Texas.

The commercial building group in March settled back 10 percent, after climbing 20 percent in February. Office construction registered a 20 percent slide in March, although the latest month did include the start of several noteworthy projects, including the $225 million expansion of the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the $120 million Bristol-Myers Squibb office building in Lawrenceville, N.J., and the $82 million office portion of the $100 million Exchange Plaza mixed-use project in San Francisco.

Also reporting a double-digit decline in March was warehouse construction, which fell 26 percent. Hotel construction, down 1 percent, held virtually steady in March, as it benefitted from the groundbreaking of the $203 million Fairmont Austin Convention Hotel in Austin, Texas, and a $67 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel in New York. Store construction was the one commercial structure type able to report a March gain, rising 13 percent after a lackluster February.

The institutional building group in March retreated 9 percent following its 20 percent jump in February. The healthcare facilities category plunged 40 percent after an unusually strong February, returning to a level more consistent with its sluggish performance of recent years. Educational buildings slipped 11 percent in March, although the latest month did include groundbreaking for Cornell University’s first academic building on Roosevelt Island in New York, as part of the Cornell NYC Tech campus development.

Large public school buildings that reached the construction start stage in March included a $68 million K-12 facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., a $66 million high school replacement in Federal Way, Wash., and a $50 million high school renovation in Chicago. For the smaller institutional categories, weaker activity was reported by public buildings (courthouses and detention facilities), down 5 percent, while the remaining institutional structure types posted increases for March – transportation terminals, up 33 percent; amusement-related work, up 52 percent; and religious buildings, up 71 percent from a depressed February. Groundbreaking for a $78 million church in Leawood, Kan., helped to lift the religious building amount for March.