Tag Archives: Building Materials

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What’s your office’s air pollution level?

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You probably figure you don’t need to worry about air pollution unless you’re sitting in traffic.

Think again — the way you go about daily tasks in your office can actually create unhealthy levels of harmful air, putting you and your team at risk for respiratory diseases and other health issues. What can you do to stop the problem? Start here:

Go green.

A study from Portland Universityfound that “green” rooftops — those planted with vegetation — may cut down on indoor air pollution within office buildings because plants cut down on how much ozone makes its way inside. Talk to building management about this simple and inexpensive healthy fix.

Utilize portable air purifiers in your office space.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that these easy-to-use devices can lower indoor air pollution significantly. Air purifiers are inexpensive (under $70 apiece on average), can be used in multiples to cover large office space dimensions and are easy to use.

Avoid cleaning sprays when sprucing up your work area.

A study from the American Thoracic Societyfound that using any disinfecting or cleansing spray product a couple of times per week can, over time, cause a decline in lung function comparable to smoking.

Use liquid and powder cleansers around your desk instead and wear a mask when you clean to avoid any airborne irritation to your mucus membranes.

Open a window in your break room.

Researchers from the University of Colorado found that simply boiling water on a stove can create the same volatile chemical compounds that create air pollution in a city environment.

If you have a kitchen setup, inform your staff about this so they never cook in an unventilated area.

Weigh yourself.

Gained a few pounds lately? Ask your cleaning staff to check the products they use for the chemicals cadmium and tributyltin.

Not only are these chemicals bad for the air you breathe, but they’re “obesogens” — exposure to them can change the body’s ability to burn calories effectively, according to the European Endocrine Society. Ask your staff to switch to organic products without these ingredients.

Get your building tested for radon.

This odorless gas pollutes your home silently and can raise your lung cancer risk. A malfunctioning heating system can cause radon levels to rise.

Subsequently, in the summer, central air may circulate radon through your workspace. Get yours serviced if necessary.

Take smog seriously.

On days where air pollution levels are high, don’t open windows in small workstation areas — it’s worth it to crank up the air conditioning a little instead.

Not only will this action protect your employees’ health, it will show them you care to do so. That way, everyone benefits!

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American consumers, businesses set to suffer as trade war escalates

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It took three days for the Chinese government to retaliate against President Trump imposing new import tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of goods earlier this month.

U.S. imports in China will face retaliatory tariffs, according to China’s Finance Ministry, rising from 10% to 20 or 25% on thousands of goods from alcoholic beverages to apparel. What does this latest move in the two nations’ escalating trade war mean for American businesses and consumers?

Douglas K. Barry is director of communications and publications for the U.S.-China Business Council, a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit group of about 200 U.S. firms doing business with China.

“New tariffs imposed by China will hurt U.S. manufacturers,” Barry told MultiBriefs in an email. President Trump ran for the White House in part on a plan to revive American manufacturing.

The data does not indicate that manufacturing revival is happening. U.S. industrial production dropped 0.9% from April 2018 to April 2019, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade gap in goods with China hit $419 billion in 2018. That is, the U.S. exported to China goods valued at $120 billion, while China’s goods exported to the U.S. totaled $539 billion last year.

What about agricultural businesses in the U.S.-China trade tumult? “Farmers, already feeling the pain from an earlier round of tariffs, will be harmed even more,” Barry said.

Soybean farmers in red states that supported Trump in his successful campaign for president have been dealing with China’s imposing of import tariffs. The same red state farmers might take cold comfort in what agricultural interests in blue states such as California are experiencing.

“The real damage associated with the third Chinese tariff increase (effective June 1, the total tax and tariff on U.S. wine will be 91%) is the loss of market share in a rapidly growing market,” said John Aguirre, president of California Association of Winegrape Growers, to MultiBriefs in an email. “China was once the fastest growing market for California wines and had the potential to be a very large market for U.S. wines.”

In essence, China’s new U.S. import tariffs will slow consumer and business demand for California wine. Do you think that competitors are standing still, as California wine exports to China dropped roughly 25% in 2018? If so, you might think again.

“As the Europeans and Australians capture a greater share of the market, we can expect to see a much smaller market in the future for U.S. wines (compared to what would have been without tariffs).”

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer and the U.S.’s biggest private-sector employer, expects that American consumers will pay higher prices. Macy has conveyed a similar forecast on price hikes for American shoppers.

It is unclear when talks between China and the U.S. will resume. Meanwhile, their trade war is heating up. When it will stop is anybody’s guess.

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New York-area pipeline halted, Keystone XL persists

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Pipelines have become one of the biggest issues in U.S. environmental politics since the 2016 Standing Rock protests against Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The main issue opponents raise is groundwater contamination and spills.

After operating for two years, the DAPL has spilled 6,100 gallons of Bakken crude oil. Ongoing concerns about DAPL spills have authorities anticipating more protests in the heartland, as #NODAPL remains a strong voice for clean energy and water.

These concerns can also be found across the country, as pipeline opponents in the Northeast recently defeated a 37-mile, $1 billion natural gas project, the Williams Companies’ proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Pipeline. Intended to connect natural gas fields from Pennsylvania through New Jersey to New York, the pipeline application has been rejected on a technicality, citing potential copper and mercury water contamination.

Apparently, NESE opponents, including the Sane Energy Project, decided they would rather enhance their energy supplies with renewables, instead of the volatile project that would have increased the natural gas supply by 14%.

This heated topic even led six women, all anti-pipeline activists, to stage a three-day hunger strike. 45,000 comments, mainly opposing the project, were registered with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which rejected Williams’ current project application.

Citing his environmental legacy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (and 11 U.S. Representatives) urged the state DEC to reject the pipeline application. This kind of pipeline opposition from a state governor reminds us how controversial dirty energy projects are these days. Increasingly, states play a vital role in defeating dirty energy projects. Meanwhile, President Trump seeks ways to circumvent state-level environmental reviews in an effort to speed up pipeline building nationally.

In April, Trump initiated two executive orders regarding pipelines. One order states that presidents, not the State Department, must approve pipeline infrastructure that crosses an international border. The other order uses a section of the Clean Water Act to limit state reviewers’ abilities to halt pipeline projects.

These orders impact the proposed 1,200-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which continues to haunt the heartland’s infrastructure as recent Midwest flooding presents further fodder for pipeline opponents. Inside Climate News reports that climate change-related impacts, like erosion and flooding, can cause hazardous spills, as the pipeline will not be buried far enough underground to withstand climate events.

As the list of negative environmental impacts grows, it’s important to consider how renewables can be substitutes for pipelines.

New York’s Sane Energy Project is ahead of the game, proposing offshore wind: “In January 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo committed to developing 2400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. In January of 2018, he made a second step and agreed to procure the first 800MW.”

It’s more difficult than ever to dismiss alternative energy projects, and New York reinforces its strong environmental leadership position with the recent defeat of the NESE project and ongoing support for wind power.

Some states, like the Empire State, continue to innovate climate change solutions using forward thinking approaches. Others, like South Dakota and Oklahoma, passed legislation criminalizing pipeline protestors. A proposed bill in Texas wants to make pipeline protesting a third-degree felony, with other states possibly following suit.

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Frankfurt Terminal 3 construction begins with dedicated low-cost carrier pier

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Construction has begun on the first phase of the next major expansion at Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt, which will dramatically increase the airport’s capacity, create thousands of new jobs, and a bring boost to the national and regional economies.

Terminal 3 has been in the preparation stage for a number of years, with the airside apron and the building’s basement level works already completed. Now, the cornerstone of the above-ground works have been laid by Fraport AG, the airport’s operator, and it hopes to have the terminal’s first pier in operation within two years.

Built on the south side of the airport, opposite existing Terminals 1 and 2, Terminal 3 will eventually boast a capacity for 21 million passengers per year.

Initially with a three-pier design, somewhat mirroring Terminal 1 on the north side, this new structure has been designed to be built in stages and adapted easily in the future should further piers be required.

Pier G will be the first built, along with the main terminal building and its check-in, baggage and security areas. This pier will be ready in 2021 and allow 5 million passengers to be handled. Then, Piers H and J will be completed by 2023.

Architect Christoph Mäckler explained the terminal’s design as follows: “What passengers want before and after flying is, more than anything else, rest and relaxation. This was an essential leitmotif for designing Terminal 3, alongside maximizing the technical and functional flexibility of the building complex. The light-flooded interior spaces feature high-quality materials in warm natural hues to evoke a pleasant ambiance that invites passengers to relax and stay a while. In this respect, the new terminal will be the first of a new generation worldwide.”

Image credit: Fraport

At the ceremony to lay the cornerstone Fraport CEO Schulte said: “No other aviation hub in the world offers more destinations to business or leisure travelers than Frankfurt Airport. And Terminal 3 will further strengthen Germany’s most important gateway to the world.”

A Fraport board chairman said, “It’s good news that one pier can be completed ahead of the rest.” He added: “This leaves no doubt that we were right to opt for an architectural design that could be flexibly adjusted as required.”

Frankfurt Airport served 14.8 million passengers in the first three months of 2019. This is an increase of 2.5% over the previous year, with aircraft movements also up. The airport has recently become an operating base for low-cost carrier (LCC) Ryanair, which accounted for 3.6% of capacity, and is targeting the leisure market traditionally held by German carrier Condor, and the business market dominated by Lufthansa.

Since low-cost operations are now an operational fact of life for Frankfurt, it is moving with the times by making dedicated provision for their needs.

While the ultimate list of users of Terminal 3 has not been revealed yet, Pier G of the new terminal will be used by low-cost carriers, at least initially. It will use bus gates rather than jet bridges, suitable for the fast turnaround times demanded by airlines like Ryanair. This will allow the pier to be brought online much quicker.

While not alluding to LCCs directly, Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer said: “The construction of Terminal 3 is an important step for strengthening the airport’s competitiveness” and that inevitably means this kind of operator, even at traditional large gateways like Frankfurt.

An information site to follow progress of the build is at https://terminal3.frankfurt-airport.com/

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More sellers than buyers for luxury homes

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Sales of luxury homes have been falling since the beginning of the year. In most areas of the country, the number of luxury homes for sale has increased while selling prices have declined. Among higher-end properties, demand has especially dropped off as tax changes and fluctuations in the stock market have made luxury home purchases less desirable.

Many luxury homes were put up for sale following the tax reform changes that took effect as of Jan. 1 this year. Although the wealthiest households receive substantial tax breaks under the new law, those living in states with high state and local income, property, sales, and other taxes ended up paying more taxes this year because of new limits to state and local tax (SALT) deductions.

Interviews conducted by wealth investment advisors the Spectrum Group found households with incomes between $500,000 and $749,000 and those between $750,000 and $1,000,000 felt the greatest impact on their personal financial situation.

Among those hardest hit were residents of California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York — states with a substantial number of high-end luxury homes. Spectrum says there is now a wave of investors moving from high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and Illinois to low or no-tax states, such as Florida, Washington and Nevada.

That exodus is reflected in the changes in the luxury home market in recent months. Web-based real estate brokerage Redfin reports that luxury home sales declined for the second quarter in a row during the first quarter of this year.

The average sales price for luxury homes nationwide fell by 1.6%, compared to the same time last year — the first annual decline in three years. Moreover, sales of homes priced at $2 million or more plummeted by 16% to their lowest point in nearly a decade.

In its Luxury Market Report for April 2019, the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing states that it is a buyer’s market for luxury homes at present. The number of listings between February and March was up by more than 2,000.

On average, homes are selling for below list price. However, the report indicates there are signs the market may be beginning to normalize. The median sales price was up $25,000 in March compared to February, at $1,425,000. Some 1,800 more luxury homes sold in March than in February, and homes were on the market 16 days less than in the previous month.

Part of the reason for the uptick in sales is the high demand for housing in some highly affluent metropolitan areas.

Even though California is one of the SALT states, it is still very much a seller’s market for homes priced at $1 million or more in tech-intensive centers like San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Sacramento. Other high-demand metro areas include Seattle; Arlington-Alexandria in Virginia; Los Angeles and nearby San Fernando Valley cities; and Denver and Boulder.

Those states with no state income tax that attract wealthy relocated households also have experienced higher-than-average sales of luxury homes. In Florida, for example, homes priced at $2 million or more have sold briskly in cities such as Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, according to local real estate website The Real Deal. Luxury homes sales in Miami have jumped 161% since a year ago. Other areas experiencing higher sales include Charleston, Boise, and Nashville.

All this shifting about will impact interior designers differently in different areas. Taking the longer view, with the luxury prices beginning to stabilize and the economy barreling along with no signs of slowing down any time soon, the market is likely to perform much better in the second quarter, leading to demand for designer services in the second half of the year.

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7 of the best living history parks and museums in the US

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Living history parks and museums invite us to step back in time — and into our ancestors’ world — for a glimpse into what our predecessors’ lives were like all those many years ago.

There are far too many excellent living history destinations around the country to include them all in one article, so we’ve chosen seven of them that truly standout for their emphasis on interactivity and hands-on experiences — and for their great visitor reviews.

Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts

OSV was founded in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in fits and starts just before World War II and finally opened to the public in 1946. It is the largest living history museum in the Northeast, covering more than 200 acres and showcasing some 60 antique buildings, three water-powered mills and a working farm.

Buildings, including homes, a meetinghouse, a school, bank, print shop, country store and blacksmith shop, have been authentically restored to show how they would have been used during the 1790s through the 1840s. Costumed and well-schooled interpreters occupy most the buildings, offering cooking and handicraft demonstrations, while others carry out daily farm chores, sometimes with assistance from visitor volunteers.

www.osv.org, 800-733-1830

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Often cited as the cream of the crop when it comes to living history museums, Colonial Williamsburg presents a masterful showcase of 88 original historical buildings, lovely grounds and formal gardens, and nearly 500 reconstructed buildings from the Colonial and Revolutionary War eras.

Meticulously restored to appear as it did when it served as the capital of Virginia from 1699-1790, Williamsburg also was the center of education and culture for the colony. Great political thinkers of the time, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Peyton Randolph and Richard Henry Lee met to debate the issues of the day at the Raleigh Tavern.

The flames of freedom from England were fanned here and today’s visitors can join in daily street theater performances as talented character actors recreate the events of the revolution that gave birth to the nation.

The Historic Area buzzes with activity as tradespeople and handcrafters demonstrate more than 30 historic trades and domestic crafts. Merchant’s Square is home to numerous shops and dining options, including historical taverns serving traditional 18th century dishes.

www.colonialwilliamsburg.com, 855-231-7240

Washington’s former home at Mount Vernon.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Virginia

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, situated 15 miles south of the nation’s capital, is the historic home of George and Martha Washington. Owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, it stands as an enduring tribute to America’s founding president where visitors can explore the historic mansion, outbuildings and grounds preserved to the year 1799 — the last year of Washington’s life.

In its entirety, the estate encompasses almost 8,000 acres, much of which were actually farmed by Washington, who was known at the time as a visionary farmer. The Mansion Tour is a must, but admission tickets also are good for a look at fully functioning reconstructions of Washington’s grist mill and whiskey distillery.

Also of interest is a 16-sided treading barn (Washington’s very own invention that was used for processing wheat) and replica slave cabin where visitors can learn about the lives of enslaved workers who helped put Washington’s agrarian ideas into practice. Visitors keen on history will also want to explore the galleries of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.

www.mountvernon.org, 703-780-2000

Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

More than 600 vessels were constructed along Connecticut’s Mystic River between 1784 and 1919 — the golden age of America’s maritime enterprise. Today, the Mystic Seaport Museum explores the long, historic relationship between America and the sea, and stands as a tribute to the nation’s rapidly disappearing seafaring traditions.

A visit starts with a stroll through the re-created 19th century whaling and shipbuilding village comprised of dozens of authentic old New England buildings staffed with historians, musicians, storytellers and craftspeople that strive to bring America’s seafaring past to life. More than 30 homes, shops and businesses from the 1800s were transported to Mystic from locations around New England.

On Mystic’s waterfront you can climb aboard historic vessels such as the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship. Later on, a visit to the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard provides a rare chance to watch skilled craftspeople — shipsmiths, coopers, riggers and woodcarvers — performing the lost art of wooden shipbuilding.

www.mysticseaport.org, 860-572-0711

The clock tower at Greenfield Village.

Greenfield Village, Michigan

Greenfield Village, near Detroit in Dearborn, showcases historic homes and buildings that Henry Ford had moved to the site from their original locations around the country as well as exhibits on transportation and the history of American innovation. The sprawling, 80-acre attraction features seven historic districts that lead visitors on a trip through three centuries of American history.

In a matter of hours, you can drop by Noah Webster’s home where he compiled the first American dictionary, explore a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, visit the former home of poet Robert Frost, and check out a bike shop once owned by the Wright Brothers.

Not to be missed either are districts/buildings dedicated to American innovation, such as Henry Ford’s Model T District featuring Ford’s home and a replica of his first factory (where you can take a spin in a restored Model T). Another such venue is the Edison at Work District where guests are invited to tour the legendary inventor’s Menlo Park laboratory.

There’s much more to do — a steam train ride, farming demonstrations and a visit to the Henry Ford Museum among them — but you’ll need more than a day to do it all.

www.thehenryford.org, 313-855-5048

Old World Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s 19th century settlers had a tough life, and Old World Wisconsin was founded in 1976 with a mission to tell the stories of hardy homesteaders in a new and more compelling way — by inviting visitors to spend some time in immigrants’ shoes.

The park, located about 40 miles west of Milwaukee, routinely lets guests wander among 60 reassembled historic structures to glimpse life as it was lived by European newcomers. During fall months, visitors wishing to go deeper can join a special tour, assuming the identity of an actual immigrant.

Details of that person’s life — including all the ups and downs involved in surviving in the Wisconsin wilderness — are revealed bit by bit as the visitor moves through the village. According to the park director, visitor reaction to this attempt to personalize history has been quite positive.

oldworldwisconsin.wisconsinhistory.org, 262-594-6301

This is the Place Heritage Park, Utah

This 450-acre living history park offers visitors a look at life in 19th century Utah from the Mormon arrival in 1847 to statehood in 1896.

The location of the park is where, on July 24, 1847, Brigham Young first saw the Salt Lake Valley, soon to become the Mormon pioneers’ new home, proclaiming “This is the Place.” Tens of thousands of Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) followed the original settlers, enduring a long migration to escape religious persecution in Illinois.

Today, this family-friendly state park takes visitors back to the early settlement of Utah Territory, showcasing more than 50 historic structures. Walk or ride a train through Heritage Village to view original and replica buildings, including Brigham Young’s barn, a tinsmith shop, chapel, telegraph office, boot shop, livery stable and a gristmill.

The Park’s Native American Village pays homage to the five tribes that inhabited the area long before pioneer settlement. It offers guests an opportunity to watch ceremonial dances, grind corn and weave rugs.

www.thisistheplace.org, 801-582-1847

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Opposing trends will hold remodeling growth in check

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Recent first quarter industry reports show signs that the pace of remodeling services growth has begun to taper off. While forecasters do not expect demand to slip into negative territory for the foreseeable future, they do project that, contrary to the robust increases remodelers experienced in 2017 and 2018, growth over the next several years will be more modest.

In part, this is because conflicting market forces will constrain demand.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), year-over-year growth in residential remodeling spending fell from a high of 19% in 2017 to almost half that, 10%, in 2018. The NAHB predicts remodeling spending for owner-occupied single-family homes will increase 1.6% this year and another 1.1% next year, for an annual growth rate of 4% and 2%, respectively.

Reflecting that trend, the NAHB reported that its Remodeling Market Index (RMI), which gauges remodeler confidence, fell by three points in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter. Remodelers indicated a decline in both current and future market conditions. Especially affected were demand for major additions and alterations (down 7 points) and shrinking project backlogs (down 5 points).

Among the reasons cited by the NAHB for the weaker activity are declining home price appreciation (which means less equity for homeowners to tap for improvements), low volume of existing home sales (and thus fewer homes trading hands, which prompts either sellers or buyers to remodel), and the rising costs and scarcity of labor and materials (prompting remodelers or clients to delay projects). There are signs that sales of existing homes may improve in the second quarter, which would likely generate more business for remodelers.

In addition, a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (JCS), Improving America’s Housing 2019, identifies several other trends that may temper the growth in demand for remodeling services in the coming years. For one, the report points out that following the Great Recession spending on home repair and renovation projects accelerated as investors picked up foreclosed properties or converted homes to rental units.

Plus, as the economy gradually recovered, many homeowners undertook improvements that they had been putting off for lack of resources. Most of those homes have now been repaired or renovated. Also, the decline in homeowner mobility, due to rising home prices and the aging of homeowners, means fewer existing houses are trading hands.

The report also mentions some positive trends that may help to counterbalance the negative ones. The authors point out that as more owners choose to age in place, they will need to make modifications or improvements to maintain the homes and safety.

As millennials continue to enter their 30s, a greater number of younger households will be formed and will be in need of housing. Expanding options for how homeowners can borrow against the equity in their home will make it possible for more of them to pay for projects.

Yet, these positive trends are already encountering headwinds. A recent article for HousingWire relates that fewer owners are tapping into their home equity. In the last quarter of 2018, only 1% of available equity was leveraged, the lowest share since 2012.

Among those decreasing their use of home equity are older homeowners, who are reluctant to take on more debt just at the time that they are thinking of retiring, home prices are going down, and the cost of borrowing is going up. As for those younger buyers, the latest ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey found that less than half of millennials believe buying a home is a good investment, down from three-quarters two years ago. Many of those who want to buy a home do not have the means to do so.

Trends, of course, can shift. For now, however, these countervailing forces indicate that while demand for remodeling services will remain positive, different forces than those of the previous several years will constrain growth to a more modest level.

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How a new school facility can improve learning

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The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s about what you are made of, not the circumstances.” Years ago, as a high school math teacher, this quote was displayed in my classroom as a way to remind my students that regardless of their circumstances and their environment, they could overcome adversity and succeed.

In life, we make do with the hand that is dealt to us. We find a way to exploit our strengths to compensate for our differences. Yet, for all the promise of a positive outlook when dealing with shortcomings in life, the reality is that, sometimes, an upgrade can go a long way towards changing one’s promise for a better future.

In America, there are nearly 100,000 public and charter schools scattered across our 50 states. They represent a combined 6.6 billion gross square feet of instructional space, sitting on over 1 million acres of land.

According to this report back in 2011, school districts had an estimated $271 billion of deferred building and grounds maintenance in their schools, excluding administrative facilities, which averaged $4,883 per student. Having an adequate facility for schooling matters.

Inadequate space can lead to other unintended problems, such as lost instructional time due to building closures because of poor indoor air quality, mold, water leaks, or other similar issues.

The middle school in my New Hampshire school district had to close its 8th grade classroom wing for an entire calendar year when a heavy snow load compromised the roof structure. Classrooms had to be relocated to other district facilities, causing major disruption to all involved.

In the fall of 2006, I began my principal career at a high school that had recently moved from a building constructed in 1883 to a new, state-of-the-art facility just down the road. After over 100 years of “making due” with sub-par school facilities, my students suddenly had a space that was built with their educational program needs in mind.

Over time, I have watched a tremendous growth in school pride and, more importantly, our school community. The growth has been seen in both students and staff, and data points to significant decreases in discipline issues and increases in student engagement and achievement.

It is easy to argue that the building itself has contributed to this rise, but the reality is that the building was only the foundation and the inspiration for the work. The real heroes in helping us get where we are today have been the educators who have made the most of the space and used it to turn the tide with students and staff.

In a recent EdWeek blog, writer Daarel Burnette asks whether or not moving into a new school building improves learning. Burnette reports on this working paper by two researchers from the California Policy Lab at UCLA and Cal-Berkeley, which was recently presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy conference.

Burnette reported, “Researchers Julien Lafortune and David Scönholzer tracked the individual test scores, classroom grades, and attendance rates of more than 5 million individual Los Angeles Unified School District students between 2002 and 2012, before and after those same students moved from overcrowded, dilapidated schools to new facilities. They concluded that a more-than $10 billion, multiyear school construction effort had a positive academic impact on students.”

The biggest gains were noticed nearly four years after construction projects concluded, with improvements in ELA scores, math scores, course grades, and average daily attendance.

Los Angeles is, perhaps, a great case study to show the impact new school facilities can have on student achievement. For two decades, from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s, the district didn’t build any new schools. Students became accustomed to surviving on staggered, year-round schedules, with time spent packed into portable units.

Many instructional spaces lacked air conditioning and were crumbling. Then, between 1997 and 2008, more than $10 billion was spent in new school construction, with 131 schools built, 65 campuses expanded, and 170,000 new seats added to the district. It was one of the largest school construction campaigns in the country in recent years.

In recent years, America is trending upwards in its spending on school facilities, with more than $49 billion per year on new schools and major capital projects, and $46 billion a year for maintenance and operations. Yet, for all that spending, Burette reports that it will cost more than $925 billion over the next 20 years to get every school into “overall good condition.”

The challenge for school leaders and policymakers is to justify that the return on the investment for school construction projects will yield an increase in student achievement. Early results show that this is possible.

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Interior designers consolidating in fewer states

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Between 2017 and 2018, large numbers of interior designers changed locations, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Half of all states reported fewer employed interior designers in May 2018 than in May 2017. Many of the designers appear to have migrated to a handful of states with some of the highest concentrations of designers in the country.

Employment figures for interior designers always fluctuate among states from year to year. That in itself is not unusual. Local economies have good years and bad years. Firms may close or move. Designers can only thrive where there is a demand for their services.

However, in the past few years, the number of states losing designers has been gradually increasing. In 2015, only eight states reported fewer employed interior designers than in the previous year. That number rose to 13 in 2016 and to 17 in 2017. In 2018, it jumped to 25, an unprecedented number, higher than in the wake of the Great Recession.

In total, those 25 states reported nearly 2,000 fewer employed designers in 2018, or about 3.5% of all employed designers.

Among the states reporting the largest decrease in the number of designers were Massachusetts (330), Virginia (230), Maryland (190), New Jersey (180), Florida (170), and Illinois (130). In addition, some states have been experiencing declines for two or more years. Florida reported a decrease of 350 positions in 2017; New Jersey a decrease of 100; and Illinois a decrease of 20.

In terms of the proportion of designers lost in 2018, those states or territories with the biggest percentage decreases were Puerto Rico (42.9%), Vermont (37.5%), Maine (33%), Arkansas (26.5%), Alaska (25%), and Massachusetts (21%).

Since the total number of employed interior designers increased by 1,000, or nearly 2%, between 2017 and 2018, not all of these losses can be attributed to downsizing or attrition due to retirements, family leave, or other reasons. Moreover, this was a period of high demand for interior design employees, with many firms stating they were having difficulty filling positions.

In some cases, changes to the local economy may account for some of these losses. Overall, though, the numbers suggest a different cause at work.

Looking at the states that reported the highest gains in employed interior designers, one begins to suspect a pattern. Topping the list are New York (790), Minnesota (450), California (330), and Tennessee (300).

In addition, a few states experienced substantial rebounds in the number of employed designers from the previous year, when they reported losses; notably Oregon (180), Missouri (180), and Texas (160). California, New York and Texas rank highest among all states for the total number of employed interior designers (8,460; 4,780; and 4,230, respectively). Tennessee and Minnesota have been adding new positions each year for the past several years.

One other statistic may shed some light on what has transpired. In the same period, the number of interior designers employed in design specialty firms fell slightly, by 20 positions, while the number of designers employed with architecture firms went up substantially, by 1,820 positions. This was very close to the total number of decreased positions (1,970). The median annual salary for all designers in these firms went up, by $660, while the pay for those in design specialty firms went down, by $1,040.

It would appear, therefore, that with the increased demand for skilled, experienced interior designers, more designers in this period went to work in architecture firms, which generally pay better.

Meanwhile, design firms that needed to re-staff hired less-experienced designers, who earned more entry-level salaries. The higher concentration of designers in some of the most populous states reflects this pattern as well. In other cases, improvements in the local economy appear to account for the rebound in employed designers from one year to the next.

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How Louisville’s airport is planning for the future with a new name, $100 million overhaul

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Louisville, Kentucky’s airport is in the early stages of planning a major overhaul to help put improvements in place to its aging facilities and create a more favorable first impression to travelers.

The airport is currently implementing a name change following a vote in January, which has seen it become Louisville Muhammad Ali International in honor of its native son and sporting legend in the hope of increasing its global appeal.

Now, the plan is to undertake a $100 million renovation of the airport, which will greatly improve the airport’s passenger terminal, as well as other infrastructure.

The main priority is in upgrading the structure, built in 1985. This would see a recladding of the frontage and new design elements, as well as an overhaul of the interior spaces. Concept drawings show higher ceilings, plenty of light, and the use of glass to create a modern, welcoming space over the current tired structure.

Image credit: Louisville Regional Airport Authority

Inside, there will be a complete reworking of mechanical and electrical systems, including plumbing, cooling and lighting, as well as the installation of new moving walkways and escalators, costing an estimated $55 million.

Around $20 million will be earmarked to install 24 new jet bridges for boarding aircraft, to replace the older examples in use today.

The remainder of the funding will be allocated to relocating the rental car spaces and surface parking, as well as adding another 1,000 spaces and redirecting access roads.

Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, said, “More than anything, we’ve got an aging facility, and it’s needed a lot of work.” He added, “We want to have that gateway to our community that has a lasting and favorable impression.”

More than just a vanity project, this upgrade will come not a moment too soon with the airport experiencing a record-breaking year in 2018 in terms of passenger numbers, with a 12% increase on the previous year.

Image credit: Louisville Regional Airport Authority

A new service to Los Angeles with American Airlines began earlier this month. At the inauguration, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill said, “This is a tremendous first step, and the major airlines are closely watching this flight’s success.” The airport naturally hopes more destinations will follow.

The redevelopment proposals are still at an early stage, with concept drawings attracting a lot of attention so far, but the plans could still change. Approval must come first, before bidding on the project works is undertaken by suppliers.

If everything is finalized in 2019, work could commence in 2020 and take around three years to complete.

Funding for the project will come from the airport’s reserves, plus concessions, parking and facilities charges. There will also likely be an application to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Trust Fund.

Louisville recently received $24.4 million from the FAA to improve drainage, airfield guidance signs, taxiways, parking aprons and lighting systems. Much of this was for the benefit of Louisville’s sizeable cargo operation, which occupies much of the airport site.

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