New Balance HQ LEED Certified

Boston, or more accurately, Brighton, is home to one of most energy efficient buildings in the world! The 250,000 square foot New Balance HQ on Guest Street is one of only a few LEED Platinum certified buildings in Massachusetts. It was the first building in the US to achieve every possible indoor environmental quality credits.

LEED Platinum certification examines certain areas including: energy efficient design, water use reduction, sustainable site selection and development, responsible materials selection and waste management, and enhanced indoor environmental quality.  New Balance HQ was statistically superior to many other similar buildings.

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  • 26% annual energy cost savings when compared to a code-compliant building.
  • 35% reduction in water consumption of plumbing fixtures when compared to a code-compliant building.
  • 76% waste diversion during construction
  • 86% reduction in site runoff post-development when compared to pre-development.
  • 28% of material used in construction derived from recycled content.
  • 74% of material used in construction derived from a regional source.
  • 100% of wood used in construction was Forest Stewardship Council certified.
  • 30% higher ventilation rate when compared to a code-compliant building.

Based on these statistics it is clear that not only is the ownership devoted to LEED certification, but so were the contractors who achieved it.

Best of all, it was built by many of our SMACNA members!

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PBGC Issues New Pension Merger Rules

PBGC

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has proposed new rules to govern the merger of troubled multi-employer pension plans.  The PBGC has authority under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA),
to support mergers if it benefits the failing plan without harming the stronger plan. In addition, PBGC can provide funding to promote a merger if it is needed to help plans avoid insolvency. Mergers help reduce administrative costs and increase pension security.

The MPRA was an attempt by Congress to provide PBGC better tools to deal with the growing issue of pension insolvency. The proposed rule is a logical interpretation of the MPRA giving reasonable options to troubled multiemployer pension plans.

The proposed rule provides guidance for requesting help in a merger. PBGC can provide financial assistance, technical assistance, and mediation. Also, the rule provides an informal avenue for multiemployer plan sponsors to explore merger discussions with the PBGC before filing a formal request. Finally, the proposed rule allows plan sponsors to apply for both benefit suspensions under the MPRA and a merger under the statute. The PBGC realizes that pension insolvency is not a zero-sum endeavor stating, “some plans may need both benefit suspensions and a financial assistance merger to become or remain solvent.”

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 6. The deadline for submitting comments is Aug. 5.

Althlogo_pensionfund_br2ough the proposed rule is a commonsense step to facilitate pension mergers, many are still in precarious positions. The most prominent in the Central States fund whose emergency rescue plan was denied by the Department of the Treasury on May 6, 2016.

The Treasury Department found several issues with the methods Central States used in notifications to participants and in their proposal to cut benefits and reestablish financial stability.  Central States has announced that it will run out of money by 2025. As of the end of last year, the fund showed $16.8 billion in assets and $35 billion in retiree obligations. This is a 48% funding ratio.  That’s bad news because the average funding ratio for PBGC multiemployer plans in the construction industry was 44%.

Most experts believe that government action is the only way Central States will avoid bankruptcy.  However, given the national political scene this is unlikely, instead they are getting creative to cover the costs. For example, many employers have been exiting the plan due to its predicament.  Central States has increase the amount collected in withdrawal liability, the fee an employer pays to exit the plan.  Also Central States offers a Hybrid method where employers pay the withdrawal fee and remain in the plan, but are free from incurring any additional liability.

Report on Disabilities in Sheet Metal Workers

An analysis of permanent work disability among sheet metal workers in the American Journal of Medicine found that Musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. carpal tunnel, tendonitis, etc.) and circulatory disease were leading causes of sheet metal worker disability (47.2% and 13.7% of awards, respectively). Recommended preventative measures include task-specific ergonomic innovations and participatory interventions with sheet metal workers.

Read more about the study here.

Construction Jobs down by 15,000 in May  

The Associated Builders and Contractors reported that the construction industry as a whole lost 15,000 jobs last month. This was according to an analysis of Labor Department figures.

The decline was the largest since December 2013, the Association said.

Anirban Basu, ABC’s chief economist, said, “While the construction industry unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since October 2006, the fact that the unemployment rate has shed 3.5 percentage points in two months while losing 20,000 jobs is indicative of a shrinking labor force. This signals the worsening of the industry-wide skilled labor shortage.”

The losses come after April’s employment figures were revised from 1,000 new jobs to a 5,000-job decline for the month. This is the first time the construction industry has lost jobs two months in a row since 2012, ABC said.

The industry has long been aware of the need to recruit young talent to the workforce.

Although these reports are undoubtedly a sign that retirement rates for older employees are increasing. There is also a hope that they could be a result of the mild winter which allowed the industry to clear the project backlog. As new projects arise and the books fill up for the summer season, these numbers may improve.