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How 2021 construction starts ultimately fared

By |  January 19, 2022

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Total construction starts were flat in December with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $879.3 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network.

Residential construction starts gained 4 percent in December, while nonresidential building starts improved by 3 percent. Nonbuilding starts declined 12 percent.

Across 2021, total construction starts rose 12 percent compared to 2020. Residential starts moved 20 percent higher, and nonresidential buildings increased 12 percent. Nonbuilding starts were flat in 2021.

“The increase in construction starts was impressive given the many challenges the industry faced during the year,” says Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Construction Network. “Higher material prices, labor shortages and multiple waves of COVID infections threatened to dampen the recovery. However, construction remained resilient and persistent throughout the year in the face of these difficult issues. While these challenges will remain in 2022, the industry is well-positioned to make further gains fed by a growing pipeline of nonresidential projects waiting to break ground and the infusion of money directed towards infrastructure.”


Nonbuilding construction starts lost 12 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $166 billion.

The only sector within nonbuilding to gain ground during the month was environmental public works, which gained 40 percent. Utilities/gas plants fell 79 percent, miscellaneous nonbuilding dropped 23 percent, and highway and bridge starts fell by less than 1 percent.

For the full year, nonbuilding starts improved 0.4 percent from 2020. Environmental public works rose 21 percent, and utilities/gas plants moved 6 percent higher. Miscellaneous nonbuilding starts were down 16 percent for the full year, and highway and bridge starts fell 6 percent.

The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in December were the $1.3 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project in New York, the $305 million Kirkman Road extension in Orlando and the $177 million first phase of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach project in Lindsay, California.


Nonresidential building starts improved 3 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $284.3 billion.

The commercial sector advanced 12 percent due to gains in retail, office and hotel starts while parking structures lost ground. Institutional starts fell 17 percent in December as health care pulled back following a strong November. Manufacturing starts, meanwhile, posted a significant gain due to the start of a large project.

For the full year, nonresidential building starts gained 12 percent from 2020. Commercial starts were up 8 percent, institutional starts improved 5 percent and manufacturing starts rose 89 percent for the year.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in December were the $700 million expansion of the Danimer Scientific manufacturing facility in Bainbridge, Georgia, the $650 million expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles and the $500 million renovation of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Las Vegas.


Residential building starts rose 4 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $429 billion. Multifamily starts moved 5 percent higher, and single-family starts gained 3 percent.

For the full year, residential starts were 20 percent higher than in 2020. Multifamily starts rose 25 percent, and single-family starts increased 18 percent.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in December were the $1 billion Southside Park mixed-use building in Miami, the $398 million first phase of the Broadview at Purchase College senior living facility in Purchase, New York, and the $300 million 800 Broadway apartment tower in San Diego.

Regionally, total construction starts in December rose in the South Atlantic and Northeast but fell in the Midwest, South Central and West.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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