IBHS and FEMA Prepare Homes and Businesses for Natural Disasters

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recently joined with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the first National Prepare-A-Thon, which was designed to help home and business owners become better prepared for natural disasters.

“Research shows that communities, families and individuals who prepare in advance for possible disasters are better able to recover from them and adapt to new or changing conditions,” says Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “Communities around the country [held] Prepare-A-Thon events April 30. The time to act is now before disasters threaten. These events are perfect opportunities to learn how to make your home and business safer and stronger in the face of disasters.”

The first step in preparing for a disaster is knowing what risks you face. IBHS provides an interactive risk map on its website to help you identify your region’s risks by entering your ZIP Code.

“A critical part of preparedness is making sure your home or business is disaster-resistant. Strengthening your building will make it more likely it will be there when you return after a disaster. A stronger, safer building will sustain less damage, making your community more resilient and requiring less federal and state aid to recover,” states Rochman.

IBHS provides a wealth of information for home and business owners about how to protect your home and business against damage from tornadoes, wildfires, floods and hurricanes.

Equipment Leasing Shows New Business Volume Is Increasing

The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s (ELFA) Monthly Leasing and Finance Index (MLFI-25), which reports economic activity from 25 companies representing a cross section of the $827 billion equipment finance sector, showed their overall new business volume for March was $7 billion, up 3 percent from new business volume in March 2013. Month-over-month, new business volume was up 30 percent from February. Year to date, cumulative new business volume increased 6 percent compared to 2013.

Receivables over 30 days increased to 2.1 percent from 1.8 percent the previous month, and were up slightly from 2.0 percent during the same period in 2013. Charge-offs were down at a new all-time low of 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent the previous month.

Credit approvals totaled 77.8 percent in March, an increase from 75.3 percent the previous month. Sixty-five percent of participating organizations reported submitting more transactions for approval during March, an increase from 53 percent during February.

Finally, total headcount for equipment finance companies was up 4.4 percent year over year.

Separately, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s Monthly Confidence Index (MCI-EFI) for April is 65.1, remaining at the highest index level in two years for the second consecutive month.

ELFA President and CEO William G. Sutton, CAE, said: “Equipment finance companies in almost all industry sectors are reporting a strong first quarter of the year. The March data showing new business volume clearly provides evidence of a strong first quarter looking back and a positive forecast for future activity. The Federal Reserve recently hinted at continuing a monetary policy that will promote a sustained low interest rate environment at least for the foreseeable future, which is giving the business community a reason to feel confident about the overall trajectory of the U.S. economy and make capital investments in their businesses. Credit quality metrics are mixed, with delinquencies edging upward counterbalanced by monthly losses reaching historic lows. Another positive sign for the industry is the trend toward increased hiring during the past 10 months.”

Brian J. Griffin, Senior Vice President, Leasing, MB Financial Bank, N.A., said, “The continued strong metrics measured by the MLFI-25 reflect the ongoing strength of the economy and, more specifically, the leasing industry. Of particular significance is the dramatic increase in new business volume from February, the record low charge-off percentage and the continued increase in headcount in the industry. If medium- and long-term rates can remain relatively stable, these results bode well for continued growth for the balance of the year.”

The MLFI-25 is the only index that reflects capex, or the volume of commercial equipment financed in the U.S. The MLFI-25 is released globally at 8 a.m. Eastern time from Washington, D.C., each month on the day before the U.S. Department of Commerce releases the durable goods report. The MLFI-25 is a financial indicator that complements the durable goods report and other economic indexes, including the Institute for Supply Management Index, which reports economic activity in the manufacturing sector. Together with the MLFI-25 these reports provide a complete view of the status of productive assets in the U.S. economy: equipment produced, acquired and financed.

The MLFI-25 is a time series that reflects two years of business activity for the 25 companies currently participating in the survey.

ERA Recommends EPA Base Procurement Guidelines on Assessed Risk

The EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) is recommending that the EPA base proposed environmental performance guidelines on “assessed risk” of referenced chemicals, rather than on the concept of “intrinsic hazard”. In comments to the EPA on its proposed Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards & Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement, ERA stated, “The concept of “intrinsic hazard” as used in the draft neglects the importance of overall risk assessment as the best approach to identifying potential and actual environmental or human health danger of a product. Taken as a whole, the potential for product exclusion within broad hazard-based protocols may be significant for many segments of the building material industry.”

The ERA comments cite a broad range of widely used building products that could be excluded from the marketplace if the proposed guidelines are implemented.

“We applaud the EPA for incorporating the expertise of impacted industries as they establish environmental standards,” said Ellen Thorp, Associate Executive Director, EPDM Roofing Association. “It’s vitally important that we review all of the consequences – intended and unintended – of these proposed guidelines. Roofing professionals who have extensive field experience with these products can provide uniquely valuable input.”

ERA further praised the EPA for incorporating “consideration of all viewpoints, the requirement for timely response to objections, the opportunity for appeal, and transparency in the development and communication process” in the draft guidelines. ERA underscored that these principles need to be emphasized in green standards development: “Only by doing so can we move green construction from the boutique privilege of a few to the mainstream of the built environment.”

The complete text of ERA’s comments on the Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards & Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement is below.

ERA Comments Submitted to the EPA on April 24, 2014

The EPDM Roofing Association is the national trade association that represents EPDM roof membrane manufacturers and suppliers to the industry. ERA advances the use of sustainable EPDM roofing systems, while also providing technical and research support to the public and construction industry.

ERA appreciates and supports the development of forward looking standards grounded in the key principles of modern consensus processes. Given the importance of the burgeoning number of proposed green and/or healthy building guidelines and standards, the principles outlined in the EPA draft go a long way to ensuring progress that can be measurable and achievable by the nation’s building industry. The consideration of all viewpoints, the requirement for timely response to objections, the opportunity for appeal, and transparency in the development and communication process, are all key elements of the Draft Guidelines. Without a doubt, these principles need to be emphasized in green standards development, where true consensus processes have too often been ignored or compromised. Only by doing so can we move green construction from the boutique privilege of a few to the mainstream of the built environment.

The only area of concern we wish to comment on involves the concept of “intrinsic hazard” as described in the Section II, # 13, and Footnote 9 of the draft. The concept of “intrinsic hazard” as used in the draft neglects the importance of overall risk assessment as the best approach to identifying potential and actual environmental or human health danger of a product.

Taken as a whole, the potential for product exclusion within broad hazard-based protocols may be significant for many segments of the building material industry. As an example, Healthy Product Declarations (HPDs) for many building envelope products will likely include the disclosure of at least one ingredient alleged to be hazardous by one or more of the “authoritative” lists. The following is a listing of a number of these building envelope products, the alleged hazardous materials they may contain, and the reference list from which the alleged hazard is identified.
• Thermoplastic Roofing Membranes: Titanium Dioxide (California Prop 65)
• Rubber Roofing Membranes: Carbon Black (California Prop 65)
• Asphaltic Roofing and Waterproofing Products: Bitumen (California Prop 65)
• “Cool” (Reflective) Roof Coatings: Titanium Dioxide (California Prop 65)
• Fiber Insulation: Wood Dust (California Prop 65)
• Foam Insulation: Halogenated Fire Retardants (San Antonio Protocol)

This listing helps illustrate our serious concern about possible misuse of standards that are not focused on risk but rather the existence of hazard to make a use or not use decision. Knowledgeable chemists realize that many of these ingredients, like TiO2, wood dust or carbon black in roofing materials will likely never affect building occupants. But how will building designers respond to HPDs or similar hazard-based protocols that contain hazard warnings about cool roof coatings, wood, carbon black, and the like? They will now be possession of information stating the products they plan to specify contain ingredients potentially hazardous to the health of the clients. In short, if HPDs or similar protocols flag every building product as hazardous, their relevancy and usefulness will be lost.

As a result, we recommend that Section II, #13 be revised as follows:
“Product environmental criteria focus on the assessed risks of chemicals, and require safer substitutes to the extent possible, considering existing data and availability of functional alternatives.9”

In addition, we recommend that Footnote 9 also be revised to support risk assessment rather than hazard identification: “A risk-based approach, grounded in Green Chemistry principles, can reduce the use of hazardous substances, and lower overall risk to people and the environment. Key to this focus is an understanding of the actual risks of chemicals in terms of effect levels and exposure pathways, as well as the availability of safer alternatives.”

We thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments, and we look forward to the formal release of these guidelines.

Center PV Taskforce Seeking Comments on PV Racking and Attachment Criteria for Effective Asphalt Shingle Roof System Integration

The Center PV Taskforce is releasing the second public draft of PV Racking and Attachment Criteria for Effective Asphalt Shingle Roof System Integration for a final round of public comment.

The Center PV Taskforce will accept public comments until 5 p.m. ET on Friday, May 30, 2014. Directions for submitting comments can be found below.

The document is intended to enhance collaboration between key stakeholders from the solar and roofing industries and accelerate the deployment of rooftop integrated solar. Members of the solar industry and other interested parties are encouraged to submit comments and engage the Taskforce in future stakeholder discussions. Taskforce members also will accept comments from the at-large community and consider those comments within internal stakeholder discussions.

Directions for submitting public comments:

    Download a copy of PV Racking and Attachment Criteria for Effective Asphalt Shingle Roof System Integration.
    All comments must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. ET on Friday, May 30, 2014.
    All comments must be submitted using the Center PV Taskforce online survey form. Access the survey form.
    Additional details can be found on the first page of the criteria document.

    If you have questions, please contact Jim Kirby at JKirby@RoofingCenter.org.

    The Taskforce looks forward to working with you to achieve higher quality combined solar energy roofing systems.

2012 Fatal Work Injuries Are Second Lowest Reported Since 1992

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012 was 4,628, up from 4,383 preliminarily reported in August 2013. The final 2012 total was the second-lowest annual total recorded since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2012 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down slightly from the final rate of 3.5 reported for 2011.

The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 is the lowest rate published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006. The final 2012 numbers reflect updates to the 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after the release of preliminary results in August 2013. Revisions and additions to the 2012 CFOI counts result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results. A table summarizing the results of the update process appears on the next page.

Among the changes resulting from the updates:

  • The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job in 2012 rose to 715 fatalities after updates were included. Contract workers accounted for over 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012. For more information, see the
    table on contractor data.
  • Roadway incidents were higher by 109 cases (or 10 percent) from the preliminary count, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2012 to 1,153 cases. The final 2012 total represented a 5-percent increase over the final 2011 count.
  • The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic workers was higher by 40 fatalities after updates were added, bringing the total number of fatally injured Hispanic workers to 748. That total was about the same as the 2011 total (749), but the fatality rate for Hispanic workers declined to 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012, down from 4.0 in 2011.
  • Work-related suicides increased by 24 cases to a total of 249 after updates were added. Workplace homicides were higher by 12 cases after the updates, raising the workplace homicide total in 2012 to 475 cases.
  • In the private transportation and warehousing sector, fatal injuries increased by 9 percent from the preliminary count, led by a net increase of 44 cases in the truck transportation sector.
  • A net increase of 31 fatal work injuries in the private construction sector led to a revised count of 806 for that sector. The 2012 total was an increase of 9 percent over the 2011 total and represented the first increase in fatal work injuries in private construction since 2006.

Overall, 36 states revised their counts upward as a result of the update process. CFOI has compiled an annual count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. since 1992 by using diverse data sources to identify, verify and profile fatal work injuries. For more information, see Chapter 9 of the BLS Handbook of Methods.

Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance Completes ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessments

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), the educational and technical resource to the spray polyurethane foam industry, has announced the completion of an ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for three generic formulations that include open-cell, closed-cell and roofing foams. The Life Cycle Assessment is published and available as a free download from the SPFA website. Using the results of the LCA, the SPFA has collaborated with UL Environments to develop an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which allows spray polyurethane foam contractors to assist sustainable building designers in obtaining proper credit among leading sustainable building programs for spray foam insulation and roofing materials use.

An EPD is a third-party reviewed document that summarizes the results of the more detailed LCA. EPDs are required by design professionals to satisfy requirements of many sustainable building programs, such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED v4 program, the International Green Construction Code and GreenGlobes, to name a few. For example, the current LEED v4 program enables a building design to earn 1/4 point for using products that have an LCA; 1/2 point for products with a generic EPD (such as the one from SPFA), and 1 point for products using a product-specific EPD from a material supplier.

SPF contractors may now provide copies of the generic SPFA EPD to sustainable building designers to assure proper credit for SPF insulation and roofing materials. The EPD can also be used as general supporting information for customers wanting to use ‘green’ products. The SPFA EPD and related Transparency Briefs for each foam class are now available at no charge from the UL Environments website.

NRCA Is Accepting Applications for Its Future Executives Institute

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) now is accepting applications for its Future Executives Institute (FEI), a comprehensive, powerful three-year program focused on leading and managing a successful roofing business. FEI’s first session is slated to be held Sept. 28 — Oct. 1. Classes will take place at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management campus in Chicago.

FEI, which is taught by Kellogg professors, industry leaders and field experts, offers participants an in-depth look at management theory and practice. Those who attend also benefit from unique industry networking opportunities while developing their leadership and communication skills.

“It is rare to have access to such accomplished and insightful minds in such a focused setting,” says 2013 FEI graduate, Marc Farrell, manager at A.W. Farrell & Son Inc., Salisbury, N.C. “NRCA has done an excellent job providing us with the opportunity to make improvements to ourselves, our companies and our industry.”

FEI provides basic business information, current industry topics, leadership and personal development opportunities, and team building exercises. Class size is limited to 30 roofing professionals to allow for in-depth conversations and class relationships during the three-year program.

The deadline for early-bird applications is June 1, 2014. Those who apply by this time will receive notice if they are accepted by June 16. The regular application deadline is Aug. 1.

Learn more about FEI or apply for the program.

Confidence in Equipment Finance Market Remains at Highest Index Level in Two Years

The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation has released the April 2014 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry (MCI-EFI). Designed to collect leadership data, the index reports a qualitative assessment of the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $827 billion equipment finance sector. Overall, confidence in the equipment finance market is 65.1, remaining at the highest index level in two years for the second consecutive month.

When asked about the outlook for the future, MCI survey respondent Thomas Jaschik, president, BB&T Equipment Finance, said: “The first quarter of 2014 had positive results with respect to new business activity, and the economy is on a positive trajectory. The conclusion of the winter of 2013-2014 may be the catalyst for pent-up demand to begin to be released. This will have a positive impact on the equipment finance market throughout 2014.”

The overall MCI-EFI is 65.1, unchanged from the March index.

• When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 37 percent of executives responding said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, up from 31.4 percent in March. Sixty percent of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, down from 65.7 percent in March. Two point nine percent believe business conditions will worsen, unchanged from the previous month.

• Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months, up from 31.4 percent in March. And 60 percent believe demand will “remain the same” during the same four-month time period, down from 62.9 percent the previous month. Another 2.9 percent believe demand will decline, down from 5.7 percent who believed so in March.

• Also, 28.6 percent of executives expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, a decrease from 31.4 percent in March. And 71.4 percent of survey respondents indicate they expect the “same” access to capital to fund business, up from 68.6 percent in March. No one expects “less” access to capital, unchanged from the previous month.

• When asked, 37 percent of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, a decrease from 40 percent in March. Sixty percent expect no change in headcount over the next four months, unchanged from last month. Another 2.9 percent expect fewer employees, up from no one who expected fewer employees in March.

• And 2.9 percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “excellent,” down from 5.7 percent last month. Another 91.4 percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “fair,” up from 88.6 percent last month. Just under 6 percent rate it as “poor,” unchanged from March.

• Of the survey respondents, 34.3 percent believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, an increase from 31.4 percent who believed so in March. And 62.9 percent of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will “stay the same” over the next six months, a decrease from 68.6 percent in March. And 2.9 percent believes economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, an increase from no one who believed so last month.

• In April, 40 percent of respondents indicate they believe their company will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, a decrease from 45.7 percent in March. The other 60 percent believe there will be “no change” in business development spending, an increase from 54.3 percent last month. No one believes there will be a decrease in spending, unchanged from last month.

April 2014 MCI Survey Comments from Industry Executive Leadership:
Independent, Small Ticket
“I believe there are many projects that were put on hold during the last quarter due to the difficult weather conditions this winter. Equipment acquisition should improve as these projects get back on track as economic conditions continue to improve and the weather turns more favorable. The concerns I have are for the increasing amount of capital that continues to enter the marketplace bringing a downward pressure on yields.” Valerie Hayes Jester, President, Brandywine Capital Associates, Inc.

Bank, Small Ticket
“It seems that the U.S. consumer is gaining confidence, which may translate into increased spending. When this segment of our economy actually gains real traction, we will see tangible growth in GDP. The one caveat is the threat of a global event that could stall our cyclical recovery.” Paul Menzel, President & CEO, Financial Pacific Leasing, LLC

Bank, Middle Ticket
“The industries we serve continue to make capital investments to support growth activities. Drought in some areas of the country may curtail capital investment this year.” Michael Romanowski, President, Farm Credit Leasing Services Corporation

Why an MCI-EFI?
Confidence in the U.S. economy and the capital markets is a critical driver to the equipment finance industry. Throughout history, when confidence increases, consumers and businesses are more apt to acquire more consumer goods, equipment and durables, and invest at prevailing prices. When confidence decreases, spending and risk-taking tend to fall. Investors are said to be confident when the news about the future is good and stock prices are rising.

Who participates in the MCI-EFI?
The respondents are comprised of a wide cross section of industry executives, including large-ticket, middle-market and small-ticket banks, independents and captive equipment finance companies. The MCI-EFI uses the same pool of 50 organization leaders to respond monthly to ensure the survey’s integrity. Since the same organizations provide the data from month to month, the results constitute a consistent barometer of the industry’s confidence.

How is the MCI-EFI designed?
The survey consists of seven questions and an area for comments, asking the respondents’ opinions about the following:
1. Current business conditions
2. Expected product demand over the next four months
3. Access to capital over the next four months
4. Future employment conditions
5. Evaluation of the current U.S. economy
6. U.S. economic conditions over the next six months
7. Business development spending expectations
8. Open-ended question for comment

How may I access the MCI-EFI?
Survey results are posted on the Foundation website, included in the Foundation Forecast newsletter and included in press releases. Survey respondent demographics and additional information about the MCI are also available at the link above.

New Reality Show Seeking Building Professionals

UTOPIA, FOX’s bold new unscripted series that follows a group of everyday people creating their own new civilization, has begun a nationwide search for pioneers to become the first inhabitants of UTOPIA. The series is looking for motivated and adventurous people who possess the passion and determination to create and build a whole new world—just the way they want it! Entrants should express their ideals, beliefs, skill sets and vision for their interpretations of UTOPIA.

Casting currently is seeking people with skills in the construction, home decorating, design, DIY, transportation, wood working, machinery/tools, architecture, green living, sustainable development, building/engineering trades areas.

UTOPIA will follow 15 inhabitants as they leave their everyday lives to move to a beautiful, but isolated and undeveloped location—for up to an entire year—challenging them to create their own world. The series offers people from across America the chance to be part of a groundbreaking social experiment; the pioneers will make every decision about how they will live, work and what the rules and laws of UTOPIA will be.

Participants must be a legal U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident, at least 21 years of age (as of March 24, 2014) and able to commit to a full year as a “Utopian” pioneer. Watch a UTOPIA casting video. Visit UTOPIA’s website for updated submission rules, terms, conditions and additional casting information and events.

Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction Is Extended by Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee has approved a two-year extension of the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction, also known as Section 179D, as part of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act.

The provision allows a taxpayer to take a deduction equal to commercial building energy-efficiency expenditures made by the taxpayer as part of the building’s interior lighting systems, heating, cooling, ventilation and hot-water systems or building envelope. Certification must be obtained to verify that the retrofits are installed as part of a plan to reduce energy costs by 50 percent or more in comparison to a specified minimum standard.

The bill makes some modifications to the 179D incentive. Tribal governments and 501(c)(3)non-profit organizations would be permitted to transfer the deduction to the architect or designer primarily responsible for designing the energy efficiency project. The ability to transfer the deduction is currently available only for public building projects.

Also, under the new provision the 50 percent energy savings certification would be calculated on energy-efficiency improvements above a new baseline reference. The approved modification moves the baseline to a more current standard.

The Commercial Building Tax Deduction was enacted into law as a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and represented the first performance-based federal tax incentive aimed at energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings. Congress has acted twice to extend the provision. The last extension was for five years and expired on Dec. 31, 2013.