Tag Archives: Construction

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Williston, North Dakota: America’s newest airport

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America’s newest airport opened to passengers on Oct. 10 when United Airlines Flight 4643 touched down, commencing a new era of connectivity to this growing part of North Dakota and its important oil fields.

Williston Basin International Airport (code: XWA) is located 10 miles northwest of the city, which is itself in the northwestern part of the state. The region is home to the oil fields operated in the Bakken Formation. The area is currently experiencing a boom in output and drives the local economy.

Williston was traditionally served by the much smaller Sloulin Field airport close to downtown. However, this facility, which opened in 1947, could not expand any more, limiting the number of passengers that could be handled by its tiny terminal and the aircraft sizes used by airlines.

A decision to replace the airport was explored as early as 2011, with groundbreaking on the new site taking place in October 2016. Meanwhile, at its peak, Sloulin Field was handling over 120,000 passengers per year in facilities recently upgraded to handle 10,000.

The new Williston airport has been designed to handle much larger aircraft as well as growing passenger demand from the outset. With its opening, Sloulin Field will close down.

It is the first new commercial airport in the United States since Denver International opened in 1995 to replace Stapleton International. Then, as now, United Airlines was the first to fly into the new facility. Flight 4643 from Denver was operated by an Embraer 145, a service which will be flown daily, and will soon be complemented by a Delta Connection link from Minneapolis St. Paul.

Building a new airport on a completely undeveloped site brings enormous costs and challenges. Williston has cost an estimated $273 million.

Commenting recently, Kevin Ploehn, Billings, Montana’s director of aviation and transit, said, “You have to build all that infrastructure underneath, get all the lights and all that — so it’s an expensive deal. And then to build a new terminal from scratch and then try to move everybody over — that’s a challenge, absolutely a challenge — I’m glad it’s them and not me.”

Image: XWA Airport

Built into Williston is the ability to expand, which Sloulin Field could not do. While a couple of daily regional jets is the norm at the moment, the ability to handle larger jets and with greater frequency will enable the city to work with the growing oil industry and welcome more business users and workers, and a growing local population.

“The opening of the Williston Basin International Airport is a monumental achievement that will greatly help to serve our growing population and business community in western North Dakota,” said Kyle Wanner, the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission executive director.

The new airport features two runways, a passenger terminal with four gates (three of them with boarding bridges) and the capacity for 350,000 passengers per year. A short link road connects the airport to U.S. Route 85.

Airport Director Anthony Dudas considers the project an overwhelming success and is looking forward to seeing the airport grow. “While it’s been nine years through its initial infancy to where we’re at today, that is the fastest that I’m aware of that it’s even been accomplished in commercial service airport relocation, from its idea to actual commencement of operations,” he said.

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Is it time to put ‘senior living’ out to pasture?

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Back in the day, when you reached a certain age and had no one to care for you, you’d be sent to the “old folks’ home” to live out your remaining years. Then, “retirement villages” came along, replacing the stigma of the old folks’ home with a vision of spending one’s “golden years” relaxing, soaking up the sun, and playing a friendly game of tennis or round of golf with your new neighbors.

Over time, these age-restricted communities have evolved into today’s “senior living” model, offering a wide range of activities, support services, and a continuum of elder care, often in a residential-like setting. Several reports released this year suggest, however, that the concept of “senior living” may have run its course, too.

In recent years, owners and administrators have reinvented the senior living model, transforming their properties from institutional, impersonal facilities into guest-friendly residences, adding a host of amenities and services while incorporating hospitality design elements from resorts and spas. Along with improving the quality of care and living environments for residents, the hope was that these changes would make senior living more attractive to younger retirees in their 60s and 70s.

But that has not happened. Many of today’s seniors are choosing other lifestyles and living arrangements, while senior living is primarily serving the oldest retirees (those in their 80s and 90s), who have a greater need of personal and medical care.

According to a report prepared earlier this year for the 2019 Senior Living Innovation Forum, Senior Living: The Next Decade, a few years ago the average age of people moving into senior was 80.5 Now it is closer to 84.

Currently, reports Senior Housing News, the industry is facing a supply-demand crux. In what Brenda Bacon, president and CEO of Brandywine Living, calls a “sea change,” oversupply is eroding occupancy, and the industry cannot count on future demand to be there, states the article.

One consequence of this sea change, relates McKnight’s Senior Living, a report prepared by PwC and the Urban Land Institute of emerging trends in real estate for 2020 finds investor preference for acquisition and development in senior housing has “fallen off a bit” for the coming year.

Two white papers released this year by Perkins Eastman provide highlights of research that finds a number of factors — financial, technological, societal and environmental — have provided today’s independence-oriented seniors with more options for living arrangements and lifestyles.

The firm’s “Clean Slate” project presents a series of future scenarios of how those options may likely proliferate in the next decades. Almost all are alternatives to current senior living models.

For personal and financial reasons, many aging baby boomers are choosing to modify and upgrade their current homes rather than move to senior housing of some sort.

Many of those who do move are relocating to intergenerational mixed communities, age-friendly urban centers, or co-housing and shared (including intergenerational) housing arrangements that are more affordable and flexible than traditional senior living facilities. Either way, the preference for most younger retirees is to remain in the community and remain independent for as long as possible.

What are the implications of these trends for interior design? Traditional senior living facilities will continue to operate, primarily as providers of a continuum of care.

Some may fold, and demand for new ones is likely to fall, at least in the coming decade. The ones that do remain will need to innovate and will be looking to design solutions that will make their properties more attractive to younger retirees as they seek to compete for a dwindling clientele.

More broadly, however, the concept of senior living will be less relevant in a society where more seniors are living alongside other generations. Any type of housing potentially could be senior housing and is thus in need of design solutions that will support independence and some level of in-home care.

Among other trends, future design for senior residents will involve optimizing smaller living spaces (be they condos, co-housing or accessory housing); integrating technologies that support autonomy and health monitoring; incorporating inclusive design principles and biophilia; and enhancing sense of place for those who relocate. Spaces will need to be flexible, adaptable and suitable for mixed use, including in-home health care.

Aging baby boomers have made it clear they do not want to be isolated from the rest of society. As seniors of various levels of age and ability remain an integral part of our communities, design for aging will naturally transition from a niche specialty into the way all designers practice.

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4 effective ways to address high turnover in your construction business

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Construction HR managers admit that working in a construction site is not always a great experience for field employees. The work can be exhausting, not to mention the prospect of facing real dangers in the field. That is why high employee turnover is one of the most challenging issues in the construction industry today.

For this reason, construction HR managers are finding it difficult to retain skilled workers and attract new talent to fill jobs. The recent Commercial Construction Index from the USG Corporation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that 58% of contractors experienced high difficulties in finding skilled workers in the last quarter of 2018, worse than the same period in 2017.

This persisting employee turnover is one of the key issues that construction HR managers need to address. Having to deal with employee turnover on top of protecting lien rights to address payment issues can be too much to handle for any construction business.

If there is a pattern of losing employees over a short period, it will result in multiple issues including the loss of productivity and lower workforce morale. Ultimately, it can threaten the existence of your company.

Here are some of the ways you can improve employee engagement to address the construction industry’s high turnover issue.

1. Define your company’s values and culture

Your company’s mission and vision statement are not just something you let employees memorize during onboarding. These are the principles that should guide how your business operates.

If there is a disconnect between your company values and the actions of management, this will give employees a negative perception of the company. With consistent leadership, you will be able to shape your own culture for the better.

2. Hire the right staff members

Searching for workers to fill construction jobs is still one of the major challenges in the industry. That said, the hiring process is still key to keeping employee engagement high.

Your construction company will thrive if you hire the right people in the first place. When employees are well-suited for the job, it will have a positive impact on their engagement.

Improve your hiring process by keeping job requirements realistic and straightforward. Make jobs attractive to fresh talent by having competitive compensation and benefits. Highlight your safety record and offer new employees training opportunities and a clear career track.

3. Improve teamwork and mentorship

Workers face a lot of real dangers in the field, so it is crucial that they protect each other while working. For this reason, it is important to create an environment that fosters camaraderie and trust.

One of the best ways to do this is by establishing a mentorship program. This way, workers can get to know their colleagues and superiors and, at the same time, there is a transfer of knowledge and skills ensuring the future of your company.

4. Include employees in decision-making

Another way to foster employee satisfaction and engagement is to foster an environment where their perspectives and opinions are valued. When employees know that their own ideas have a great impact on the success of the company, it will instill in them a sense of responsibility and make them feel that they are making a difference.

Make sure that you have open doors to accept employee feedback and suggestions. This is even more impactful in the construction industry where field employees have valuable insight that management-level employees may not possess. Check-in with your employees regularly and make a genuine effort to act on their feedback and implement their ideas.

The issue of persisting high employee turnover can only be dealt with by your willingness to change. It is not a problem that can be solved overnight. But by taking a look at your culture, improving your hiring process, and investing in your employees, you can start improving employee engagement one step at a time.

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New insights into millennials’ remodeling preferences

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With more and more millennials becoming homebuyers and sellers, we are learning more about what they are looking for in a home and the changes they are making to the homes they buy.

While they do demonstrate some preferences that distinguish them from older homeowners, in other cases their current behavior appears to be more influenced by life stage than by cohort values.

About half of all millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are in their 30s. In the decade ahead, more and more of them will be approaching the threshold age at which many are buying homes.

According to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS), The Shifting Profile of First-time Buyers, millennial homebuyers helped first-time buying activity rebound in 2017 after several years of decline. That year, the median age of a first-time buyer was 34, and one-fourth of all first-time buyers were between the ages of 25 and 34. Most of them purchased a single-family home.

In the past couple of years, millennial homebuying has been trending upward. Sheryl Palmer, CEO of homebuilder Taylor Morrison, recently told CNBC that 1 out of 3 of its current customers are millennials, up from about 1 out of 5 just five years ago. The average age of millennials entering the home market has dropped from around 34 to 35 initially to around 32 to 33 now. She also stated that about three-quarters of millennials age 30 or older are in the process of buying their second home.

Some millennials homebuyers, especially older and more affluent ones, prefer to purchase a “move-in ready” new home. Most, however, purchase an existing home, sometimes because of lower cost and sometimes to reside in a particular neighborhood.

High on the list of these buyers is remodeling the home to upgrade and make it to their liking. The 2019 U.S. Houzz and Home study found nearly half (46%) of millennial homeowners who recently completed a home renovation did so to customize or personalize the home, and more than half (54%) said they preferred to renovate their current home than buy a more suitable home.

Similarly, this year’s Home Advisor State of Home Spending report shows millennials are twice as likely as other cohorts to renovate in order to improve the aesthetic design of the home.

In addition, they are more likely to complete home projects in order to increase the value of the home. Proportionately, millennials in the study undertook the highest percentage of kitchen remodels (17%) among all cohorts and about the same percentage of bathroom remodels (24%).

A number of studies have found that millennials often undertake DIY projects. However, it is worth noting that, according to analysis by the Home Improvement Research Institute, baby boomers undertake more than twice as many DIY projects as do millennials.

Likewise, while less than 10% of millennials hired a contractor to do all the work on a home project, a higher percentage engaged the services of a professional to assist with some part of a project. The primary reasons why they hire a pro are because they don’t have the time to do the project (19%) and/or they don’t have the knowledge to do so (18%).

For the most part, millennials tend to hire professionals when undertaking large or technical projects, such as kitchen and bath remodels. In the Houzz study, 82% of millennials who had recently undertaken a renovation project had hired one or more professionals, nearly the same percentage as baby boomers (89%).

Nearly three-quarters of millennials taking part in the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report indicated they prefer to do basic remodeling tasks like painting themselves, but only two-thirds said they would take on a more involved project for a pet, such as putting up a fence or installing a cat or dog door, by themselves.

Given that many millennial homebuyers plan to stay in their current home for 10 years or more, and that more than two-thirds responding to a recent survey said they would be willing put an offer on a home in need of major repairs, it seems remodelers would do well to begin cultivating them as future clients.

As their finances improve, their homes grow in value, and their responsibilities increase, they are likely to become more amenable to hiring professionals in order to realize the home of their dreams.

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Travel2020: Construction causes pain at the airport, per new survey

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We have all seen the scaffolding and cranes, walled-off waiting areas and slowed traffic around our favorite gateway airports lately.That might have something to do with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s awards of some $986 million in airport infrastructure grants — the fifth allotment of the total $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program funding for airports across the United States.

These infrastructure improvements are happening as record passenger volumes force major expansion efforts. However, the road closures, confusing signage and delays that come with these projects are making it hard on passengers.

That disruption is evident in the results of the recently released J.D. Power 2019 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

Overall passenger satisfaction with North American airports has risen only a single point (on a 1,000-point scale) year over year, following several years of steady improvement.

“With major terminal construction projects now underway in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and many other airports, it is becoming impossible for travelers not to experience some form of disruption,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power.

“While these projects are absolutely necessary to address surging demand, they are currently causing passenger delays and confusion. This translates into a rushed passenger experience and less money spent on food, beverage and retail — and it’s slowing the progress of the airport satisfaction we’ve seen in the past several years.”

Amid the rebar and bulldozer beeps there are still some bright spots to be found in these tarmac takes. Detroit Metropolitan (DTW), Portland International (PDX) and Indianapolis International (IND) are sporting relatively new facilities that are welcoming more passengers, incorporating a sense of place with local food and beverage choices, and have created easy access.

Here are two more key findings of the 2019 study:

Traveler satisfaction stagnates after several years of growth: The overall customer satisfaction score this year for North American airports is 762, up 1 point from 2018. The modest performance is attributable to lower-than-average facility access scores, with larger numbers of travelers citing construction-related delays getting into and out of the airport.

Improved TSA processes, biometric screening improve security efficiency: The experience of getting through airport security — a perennial drag on airport satisfaction scores — has improved 5 points due to improved TSA processing and more widespread adoption of biometric screening technologies that move passengers through security faster.

Airport Satisfaction Rankings

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport ranks highest in passenger satisfaction among mega airports with a score of 786. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (779) ranks second, while Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (777) and Orlando International Airport (777) rank third in a tie.

Portland (Oregon) International Airport ranks highest among large airports with a score of 833. Dallas Love Field (826) ranks second and Tampa International Airport (822) ranks third.

Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest among medium airports with a score of 833. Jacksonville International Airport (831) ranks second and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (829) ranks third.

The 2019 North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

Mega airports are those having 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports have 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year; and medium airports have 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

The study, in its 14th year, is based on responses from 32,276 North American residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport and covers both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past three months. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip experience. The study was fielded from October 2018 through September 2019.

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Travel2020: Anticipated cooling finally hits hot hotel development market

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After forecasting a certain strength in demand for 2019, STR, a data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights source for the global hospitality sector, is seeing a softening following its August report. In a year-over-year comparison with August 2018, the industry saw a flattened occupancy rate at 71.4%, with the average daily rate (ADR) up 0.9% at $132.47 and revenue per available room (RevPAR) up 0.9% to $94.55.

The hotel industry’s current expansion cycle has reached 114 months (March 2010-present), with year-over-year increases in RevPAR in 112 of those months. Even though room demand was strong, with 2 million more room nights sold than in the previous August, occupancy was flat when compared with last year.

In 2018, hotels in the U.S. were operating at their highest occupancy and highest average rates on record. The pace of absorption of new supply, however, slowed in the year-to-date 2019 period, with many markets reporting relatively flat occupancy levels, and the top 25 markets even showing declines in occupancy growth, according to analysisfrom Hospitalitynet.

Over the first eight months of this year, ADR growth has been below or just at the level of inflation, which creates “quite a bit of pressure” on profit margins, noted Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights. This is a trend, he said, that runs across categories, “and we do not expect the fundamentals to change much moving forward.”

Emerging Trends in Travel

STR cites other changes in the tourism industry that reflect greater trends in the society at large. As dynamics change with total income, rising life expectancy and technological developments that empower customers to plan their travel in the palm of their hand, STR has identified some key tourism industry trends that are matching these changes.

Global wanderlust is on the rise, reflected in last year’s total international tourist arrivals — which grew 6% as a result of increases in all world regions. This growth has been accompanied by a growing intent to spend, across both short breaks and longer holidays.

Easy and Effortless Booking

Convenience rules today’s consumer landscape, and technology has been a great facilitator. According to STR’s latest Consumer Travel Insights Survey, 69% of respondents said convenience was the most important aspect when booking their holiday, whether booking with an agent, provider or through an OTA.

Technology has created a mostly seamless customer booking experiences and comprehensive research tools allow travelers greater empowerment over their travel decisions.

Experiential travel is a key trend for planning trips, STR found.

Experiential Travel

Consumers want an experience that’s enriching and authentic. In the tourism industry this means discovering new places and cultures, which turned out to be the fourth most influential factor travel planning, according to STR’s research.

Affordable Luxury

Technology has disrupted the product and pricing chain in the traditional travel marketplace. That means a growing pool of accommodation options and expert advice available to travelers, coupled with a rise in spending power, has allowed consumers to upgrade in their travel choices.

This accessibility in the luxury category has been seen in the rise of glamping, low-cost carriers and their pay-for-what-you-use business models, as well as customized and exclusive experiences in the destination.

Personalization of Travel

Consumers want to experience the destinations at their own pace. So, often, the travel plans made must be flexible and tailored to their personal interests.

Travel agents still figure greatly in this planning. Approximately 43% of respondents in STR’s Traveler Trends Survey agreed with the statement “personalized holiday adverts or notifications make my travel planning easier.”

Responsible Tourism

With climate change afoot and with the fast disappearing of iconic natural lands, there is a growing conscious among travelers has presented new opportunities for tour operators to tap into this growing sensibility. Growing interest in the environmental, social and economic impact of travel impacts the destinations travelers choose, what they do in a destination and the products they purchase when traveling.

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Selling interior design services in the 2020s

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Two inevitable trends will transform the interior design industry in the coming decade. One is the rise of the millennial client. The other is the maturing of e-commerce.

These trends are inextricably linked. Designers who want to remain competitive in this changing market will need to innovate their marketing and business processes to attract and retain these clients.

During the next decade, millennials will enter their 30s and 40s, gradually replacing baby boomers as the primary clients for interior design services as they buy homes and establish businesses. Although they currently make up a relatively small fraction of interior design clients, their numbers have been growing in recent years.

They have a high appreciation for good design and want to occupy spaces customized for their tastes and preferences. They also are looking for efficient and stylish ways to integrate smart technologies into those spaces.

Millennials are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, more than 9 in 10 millennials own one or more smart devices, and 1 in 5 only use smart devices to go online.

They are the heaviest users of social media and e-commerce. About 6 in 10 do the majority of their shopping online rather than in stores, and smart devices are their preferred tool for online shopping.

Mobile devices also are millennials tool of choice for communication. That’s because texting, instant messaging, and online chatting are their preferred forms of communication. They tend to use email sparingly and abhor transactional telephone conversations.

What do these trends mean for interior designers?

For one, it means that more prospective clients in the future will search for a designer online and evaluate designers by what they find there. That search is likely to be limited. Consider this statistic: 70% of mobile searches result in a purchase decision in less than an hour.

While hiring a designer is not the same as buying a pair of shoes, millennial clients will be expecting a fairly similar e-commerce experience. That is to say they will be looking for clear information about what services the designer provides and what they cost.

They will be interested in reading unbiased reviews from previous clients. They will want to be able to text the design firm with any questions and get a quick response. They will want a simple electronic billing and payment system to handle financial transactions related to their project.

Most designers today already have websites, online portfolios and social media presence to promote themselves. But they need to do more on the business end to prepare for this new type of client. Millennial designer Erinn Valencich told attendees at this year’s DFA E-Commerce Summit that digitally-oriented clients are frustrated by broken processes and lack of transparency and efficiency in design today.

She recommends designers and vendors streamline their offerings, provide detailed but easily digestible information about their products and services and implement processes that save clients time.

In addition, as smart devices become more powerful and sophisticated, more businesses will be using technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to showcase their offerings and provide high quality experiences to customers. Designers need to become familiar with those technologies and stay up-to-date on developments that will make them more available.

This transition is not going to take place overnight. Designers have ample time to make the needed changes to engage this new client. For those who aren’t comfortable with the technology, remember that some millennials are designers, too. You might want to think about hiring or partnering with a tech-savvy millennial as a first step toward moving your business into the next decade.

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Beijing Daxing Airport opens, gives a big boost to Chinese aviation

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Built to relieve pressure in one of the world’s busiest cities for air travel, the new Daxing Airport near Beijing formally opened last week, with the first passengers boarding one of seven flights on the day of opening.

With its iconic starfish-shaped terminal and world-class design, Daxing is set to become one of the world’s major air hubs.

It was built as the city’s Capital Airport, which has been steadily rising in the rankings of the world’s busiest airports — and is already the busiest in Asia — has started to reach a saturation point. China is expected to become the largest aviation market in the world by 2022.

Daxing is located around 30 miles (48 km) south of Beijing and has four runways. Its unique terminal design by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid has a layout thatmaximizes space.

Five giant piers radiate from a central point, linking to 79 aircraft gates. The design means passengers have the shortest distance possible to their gate from the check-in area, with a maximum walking time of eight minutes.

The terminal has a capacity for 72 million passengers per year, but this will rise to 100 million in time. Its central area is referred to by the architects as a “central orientation space dome” and features a glass roof above the four-story interior, which has wide open spaces and public areas, as well as the usual food and retail concessions.

A sixth pier completes the starfish design and is located landside. It connects the transportation hub to the airport, featuring a rail and metro station, as well as hotels and offices.

The high-speed train network linked to the airport can whisk passengers to central Beijing in only 20 minutes, while nearby cities like Tianjin and Hebei are easily reached by rail and road from the airport.

The opening ceremony of Daxing International Airport was conducted by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sept. 25. The day marked the first passenger operations from the airport, with a modest seven flights scheduled, mostly to ease the facility and staff in without becoming overloaded.

Image credit: Zaha Hadid Architects

The first flight was China Southern Airlines service to Guangzhou operated by its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo. China Eastern operated it brand-new Airbus A350 on a flight to Shanghai shortly after, and national carrier Air China used its flagship Boeing 747-8 on a flight to Chengdu.

China United Airlines also operated on the first day. Its presence is symbolic, as it will soon vacate the much older Beijing Nanyuan Airport closer to the city center. That airport has closed following the opening of Daxing. The airline will eventually operate 80 routes from Daxing.

Other airlines will transfer to the new airport more gradually, with Air China, Beijing Capital Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Hebei Airlines and Juneyao Airlines all operating jointly with Capital Airport initially. Some international carriers like British Airways, Finnair, LOT Polish Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines will also use the new airport from the start of the winter timetable at the end of October.

With Beijing Capital’s large Terminal 3 building only 11 years old, and its other terminals having been refurbished within the past 20 years, the opening of Daxing will not herald the end for the older airport just yet. Air China will retain its foothold at the older airport, with only a small number of routes from Daxing.

With China facing unprecedented growth in air travel and demand from both business and leisure users, the two airports will provide a combined 170 million-passenger capacity and help reduce slot constraints and waiting times.

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What’s driving diesel: 3 trends in engine development

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As the world turns, so does engine technology. The industry has experienced a great deal of change since Tier 4 Final standards for off-road equipment were introduced.

Continuous efforts have been made to increase power, efficiency and reliability of diesel engines, all while keeping total cost of ownership down. How have manufacturers stacked up to meeting these tremendous challenges?

A recent webinar presented by Rental Equipment Register and sponsored by Kohler, “What’s Next in Engine Development?” hosted representatives from Perkins, Genie Industries, John Deere and Kohler to discuss the demands fueling trends in diesel engine development.

Emissions — patience with payback

The ultimate goal of emissions reduction is to improve overall air quality, but immediate payback has been difficult to calculate. Yes, cleaner air is a major long-term benefit, but cost and design complexity blur advantages for business owners.

It’s undoubtable, however, that Tier 4F engines operate significantly cleaner. It takes 60 Tier 4F engines to produce the emissions of just one pre-tier machine from the 1990s. Is this enough to persuade change?

Chad Hislop, senior director of product management for Genie Industries, understands the confusion on return on investment, but believes the effort is merited. “It’s tough for people to justify because our air quality feels fine today. What we’re really paying for is not having to live or work in a place like Shanghai or Beijing has been over the last 10 years,” Hislop said.

Emissions reduction will continue to be a global effort in engine development, with countries moving beyond Tier 4 Final and Stage V standards. Emission regulations are only expected to become more stringent.

Power and efficiency — Can they coexist?

The applications which diesel engines are used for require them to run hard yet efficiently. This is a lot to ask. Can we really have our torque and fuel savings, too? Ryan Cawelti, manager WW engine market planning for John Deere, said Tier 4F engines have made vast improvements, but they also come with a unique set of challenges.

The use of aftertreatment systems allows diesel engines to perform with increased power density, respond faster and consume less fuel, leading to optimal productivity and lower operating costs.

Although those are impressive benefits, having multiple options and applications creates confusion for operators. Making the decision to use exhaust gas recirculation systems or diesel particulate filters boils down to matching the machine to its application.

“There’s really no free lunch associated with technology selection. The trade-offs must really balance against the application requirements,” Cawelti said. Additionally, Cawelti stressed the need for better understanding of the regeneration process, stating some operators falsely believe the process negatively affects the machine. When left to automatically regenerate, the system is virtually unaffected, meaning less downtime.

Power is greatly necessary, but what good is it without efficiency? Oliver Lythgoe, product concept marketing for Perkins Engines, said operators should focus on the low-hanging fruit, such as integration, hybridization, operator education and downsizing.

“The easiest ways are to improve integration between the engine and the hydraulics. Make them work in such a way that they’re operating in those efficient places.” Lythgoe said. He also noted that smaller engines will be ran harder in hopes of achieving peak productivity.

Technology — focus on service

Technology is not only applied to manufacture cleaner engines, but it’s also instrumental in meeting the needs of today’s consumer. From flexible parts ordering, telematics for machine maintenance, direct warranty submissions and operator training, technology will continually play a major role in the progress, and sometimes hindrance, of an industry doing its best to stay in the race.

Today’s diesel engine has been tasked with monumental challenges, yet it’s still one of the world’s most powerful and reliable sources of machinery. With the help of research and technology, it will remain a promising tool for global productivity.

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Uncovering a smart-home tech disconnect

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Smart homes are undoubtedly the wave of the future. Yet, despite the hype in recent years around the plethora of smart devices available for the home, homeowners have been slow to embrace smart-home living wholeheartedly.

At the moment, they appear to be more interested in supporting the tech they have already than in adding more tech to their lives.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has often been quoted for his remark that “consumers don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It has become something of a mantra for hi-tech innovation. However, it is also true that consumers want, or think they want, what they don’t need — only to decide later that perhaps they don’t really want it after all or not until the need is greater.

That appears to be the situation with smart home technology at the moment.

A kitchen technology awareness survey of interior designers and consumers conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) in 2018 revealed a considerable disconnect — in some cases by as much as 2 to 1, respectively — between what technologies consumers said appealed to them and what designers’ perceived their clients wanted.

Moreover, the survey found that although consumers said they wanted more tech in the kitchen, in practice they tend to use only general technology, such as email/texting, internet searches and social networking. (It seems designers know their clients better than they know themselves.)

The recently released 2019 Global Kitchen Study, conducted by the Cosentino Group, presents similar findings. The authors of the report conclude that “there is still a long way to go” before the vision of the hyperconnected, multifunctional smart kitchen becomes common practice.

Close to half (45.3%) of the respondents said at present they do not interact with any devices in their home using a smart phone or tablet. Among those who do, the most common interaction was with a television (16.1%). Fewer than 8% currently connect to smart appliances or lighting systems.

Even younger homeowners, who say whole-house connectivity is important to them, have been slow to adopt many of these technologies. Among those responding to the 2019 U.S. Houzz & Home Study, only about a third each of Gen Z and millennial homeowners said smart technology upgrades were a “high priority” in their renovation projects, and more than one fourth of each group rated them as a “low priority.”

In addition to already feeling overwhelmed by the technology they have, another reason for the slow adoption of some of these technologies may be cost. Consumers have yet to perceive the value of paying substantially higher prices for a refrigerator that lets them know when they are out of milk or a washer/dryer combo that texts them when the clothes are ready.

An analysis conducted by home renovation website Fixr determined that the average cost to outfit a kitchen with basic smart appliances was around $9,000. A smart-lighting system for the home runs about $2,250.

Nonetheless, studies show that interest in and adoption of smart technologies is growing. A literature review conducted by the Remodeling Futures Program of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University concludes, “Smart home technology . . . is expected to be a major area of growth for the remodeling industry over the coming years.” Smart home features are becoming more standard in new home construction as well.

Homeowners increasingly are considering the benefits of technology additions in areas such as centralized home automation (especially for heating and lighting), convenience automation (faucets, blinds or shades), home security, and support for aging in place, but are less interested in smart appliances or gadgets. Rapid acceptance of voice-activated devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, should help to speed the adoption of these technologies by making them much simpler to interact with or operate.

Another area experiencing growth is support for the devices consumers currently own. Results of the AIA Home Design Trends Survey for the third quarter of 2019 show continued high demand for “technology-friendly” integrations, such as built-in charging docks, USB outlets, and extra outlets. Whole-house wireless telecommunication and data systems as well as wireless sound systems that connect to audio files on smart devices also are popular.

Early adopters and aficionados of all cuisines may want the latest and greatest appliances and gadgets for their kitchens, pantries and wine rooms. For now at least, designers can help prepare the rest of their clients for the next phase of smart-home technology by making it easier and more convenient for them to live with the technology they use every day.

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