There are plenty of ways to go green when designing or remodeling commercial buildings, but it helps when sustainability equates to more money. The 179D tax deduction, first established with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, enables building owners to deduct all or part of the costs associated with the installation or retrofit of energy-efficient buildings or the systems within them. The tax deduction allows up to $1.80 per square foot for the installation of energy-efficient systems that reduce the building’s total energy and power costs by 50 percent.
The Energy Policy Act originally was set to expire in January 2009, but the 179D tax deduction was extended for five years with the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. It now extends to energy-saving improvements made to commercial buildings that are completed on or between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2013. (The provisions of 179D can be applied retroactively.) In addition to extending the deduction’s deadline, the rescue package eased some of the requirements for energy-efficient building envelopes. Continue »
In December 2011, the Treasury Department issued temporary and proposed regulations—commonly referred to as the “repair regulations”—that provide guidance on the tax treatment of costs incurred by acquiring, repairing or improving tangible property. Tangible property includes building components, machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures and land.
The temporary regulations adopt many of the standards included in the 2006 and 2008 proposed regulations; however, they also include significant changes that will affect most taxpayers. Companies should determine the extent to which they will be required to change their current accounting methods to conform to the new regulations. Even if an accounting change is not necessary, companies should analyze whether adopting the new standards will be more advantageous than their current methods. Continue »
Ethics programs have been praised for their positive effect on the engineering and construction industry, shoring up the reputation of firms and bringing stricter oversight and regulation of work practices. But all ethics programs are not equal. For firms dedicated to promoting lasting cultural change, reporting rates will be higher and incidences of ethical violations will be lower. Conversely, it is possible to implement the façade of an ethics program, yet harbor a dishonest and retaliatory culture that discourages reporting. In this case, the last line of defense is an anonymous hotline. Continue »
The claim of labor shortages in construction has a tendency to fall on deaf ears. After all, since peak industry employment was achieved in April 2006, the number of construction jobs has declined by 2.2 million, or 28.6 percent. Specialty trade contractors shouldered a disproportionate share of the loss, with the segment shedding nearly 1.5 million jobs (30 percent) since August 2006. As of March 2013, U.S. construction industry unemployment stood at 14.7 percent.
But labor shortages are on the way due to a combination of retirement demographics, the challenge of attracting younger workers and the anticipated rapid growth of certain key segments. A 2012 McGraw-Hill survey revealed 60 percent of respondents—particularly architectural and engineering firms—are concerned about the loss of knowledge associated with retiring baby boomers. Continue »
The U.S. Department of Justice adopted the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design on Sept. 15, 2010. During an initial transition period, covered public and private entities starting new construction or performing alterations had the option of following either the old 1991 Standards for Accessible Design or the new 2010 Standards. But as of March 15, 2012, all construction projects and modifications must comply with the 2010 standards. Continue »
In a recent decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) banned blanket confidentiality policies as they relate to employer investigations of workplace violations, such as sexual harassment and safety concerns. The NLRB determined that policies requiring confidentiality among employees during an investigation violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) affecting “concerted activities.” Under Section 7, employers in both union and nonunion private sector environments are not permitted to interfere with or restrain employees from engaging in concerted activities which, by definition, are two or more employees acting together in furtherance of matters of mutual interest, such as compensation, benefits or workplace conditions. This decision could have a chilling effect on employers and employees across many industries, including construction. Continue »