Nonresidential, nonbuilding push construction starts upward

By |  November 23, 2021

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Total construction starts pushed 16 percent higher in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.01 trillion, according to Dodge Construction Network.

Nonresidential building starts gained 29 percent and nonbuilding moved 52 percent higher in October, while residential starts lost 8 percent.

According to Dodge, the month’s large gains resulted from the start of three large projects: two massive manufacturing plants and an LNG export facility. Without these projects, Dodge says total construction starts would have fallen 6 percent in October.

“Economic growth has resumed following the third quarter’s Delta-led slowdown,” says Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Construction Network. “However, the construction sector’s grip on growth remains tenuous.

“Long term, construction starts should improve, fed by an increase of nonresidential building projects in the planning pipeline and the recent passage of the infrastructure bill. Both will provide meaningful support and growth to construction in the year to come. This expectation, however, must be tempered by the significant challenges facing the industry: high prices, shortages of key materials and the continued scarcity of skilled labor. While healing from the pandemic continues, there’s still a long road back to full recovery.”

Nonbuilding construction

Nonbuilding construction starts rose 52 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $268.4 billion, Dodge Construction Network says.

This increase was solely due to the start of an $8.5 billion LNG export facility, which lifted the utility/gas plant category significantly. Still, even without this project, the utility/gas plant category would have registered a strong gain because of the very low level of activity in September.

The public works side of nonbuilding construction was more dismal, Dodge says. Miscellaneous nonbuilding starts fell 43 percent over the month, and highway/bridge and environmental public works starts lost 14 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

On the year, total nonbuilding starts were 2 percent higher through October. Environmental public works were 23 percent higher, and utility/gas plant starts were up 14 percent. At the same time, highway and bridge starts were 7 percent lower, miscellaneous nonbuilding fell 13 percent, and utility/gas plant starts fell 10 percent during the first 10 months of the year.

The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in October were the $8.5 billion Venture Global LNG Export facility in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, the $484 million Moses-Adirondack Smart Path 1&2 Lines rebuild project in the Lewis and St. Lawrence counties of New York, and the $454 million RiverRenew tunnel in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Nonresidential building

Nonresidential building starts shot 29 percent higher in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $357.2 billion.

Dodge says the catalyst for the increase was a large gain in the manufacturing sector, as two very large projects kicked off. If not for these projects, total nonresidential building starts would have been down 3 percent over the month.

In October, commercial starts lost 4 percent, with only hotels posting a gain. Institutional starts gained 4 percent, with all categories rising.

In the first 10 months of 2021, nonresidential building starts were 11 percent higher. Commercial starts increased 9 percent, manufacturing starts were 94 percent higher and institutional starts were up 3 percent.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in October were the $6 billion first phase of the Taiwan Semiconductor plant in Phoenix, the $1.3 billion Methanex Methanol plant in Geismar, Louisiana, and the $550 million second phase of the Loews Hotel & Convention Center in Arlington, Texas.

Residential building

Residential building starts fell 8 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $388.6 billion.

According to Dodge, single-family starts gained less than 1 percent while multifamily starts fell 24 percent.

Through the first 10 months of 2021, residential starts were 21 percent higher than in the same period one year ago. Single-family starts gained 22 percent, and multifamily starts grew 10 percent.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in October were the $286 million first phase of the Archer Towers in Jamaica, New York, the $120 million residential portion of a mixed-use building on 3rd Avenue in Bronx, New York, and the $106 million Su Development Yesler Terrace Housing Block in Seattle.

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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