December 14, 2023

🎄 The End-of-Year Newsletter

What AI considers "Spot the robot construction dog loves the holidays"

Happy Almost-Holidays,

This month's Buildr team bonding activity consisted of a gingerbread house building competition that was pretty lax on rules besides "no using outside candy."

The most challenging aspect wasn't the time limit or the frosting that took some time to set, but the alluring smell and flavor of the gingerbread pieces themselves. As you can imagine, consuming one's own construction inputs weren't as much of a factor for our Lego and puzzle building competitions earlier this year.

Below are some gingerbread highlights—

Buildr's Hannah built a traditional piece complete with M&M-lined walkway. The wreath on the front door was a nice touch. This is an extremely cozy Airbnb that you would get dinged for the entire $350 security deposit because you ate the door.

Buildr's Ed went meta and stayed very on brand for construction. This Lego team was staffed through Buildr's workforce planning tool and their utilization is 100%. If your gingerbread house doesn't have helicopter access, you should try harder next time.

"You can sleep in a car but you can't race a house." Buildr's Dan thought outside-of-the-box and went mobile, an allusion to Buildr's user-friendly mobile app.

This brewery by Buildr's Vince was perhaps the only gingerbread house in the competition that was structurally sound and would pass all certifications needed to become a licensed business. There were multiple accessibility options and possibly working plumbing and air conditioning in that thing.

Buildr's Sully inexplicably treated this like a cookie decorating competition. Here we have Eve from the film WALL-E eating a watermelon because nothing says holiday season 2023 like a reference to a dystopian film from 2008. Eve doesn't have a mouth or digestive system, making the design even less practical on further consideration.


🍂 Infrastructure pads backlog stats in November

From a survey conducted by Associated Builders and Contractors, overall backlog inched up from 8.4 months in October to 8.5 months in November. There’s much, much more to unpack in that seemingly discreet shift, so let’s dive into it. 

There are three key pieces of data to keep in mind with ABC’s backlog survey statistics: Backlog this month, backlog last month, and backlog this month exactly one year ago. As you can see in the chart below, commercial/institutional backlog stayed consistent (though down a full month from November ‘22), heavy industrial shrunk, and infrastructure grew.

Regionally, West took the biggest hit and Middle States grew the most from last month. ACV-wise, the smaller general contractors (<$30mm) had the biggest come up while the big dogs (>$100mm) suffered the most. Other interesting things to note:

  • Large general contractors reported fewer than 10 months of backlog for the first time since Q2 of 2018

  • ABC’s Construction Confidence Index readings for Sales and Staffing went up while confidence in Profit Margins fell slightly (52.3 -> 51.0)

  • “The interest rate hikes implemented by the Federal Reserve appear to be making more of a mark on the economy,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Not only has the cost of capital risen over the past 20+ months, but credit conditions are also tightening, rendering project financing even more challenging.”

🔨 Here's the Thing

With inflation declining, further interest rate hikes are likely kaput. In fact, according to 17 of the 19 Fed policymakers’ assumptions, rates will be lower by the end of 2024 (with 0 of them believing that they’d be higher). When will rates start lowering exactly? It’s still hard to say. US central bank chief Jerome Powell said that discussion of cuts in borrowing costs are coming “into view,” which is the same vaguely optimistic way we describe plans to remodel our porch that we’ve been putting off for years. 

The Fed wants the country at 2% inflation. We’re at 2.8% inflation as 2023 comes to a close and projected to be 2.4% by the end of next year. How will inflation and a dangling decision to slash interest rates affect construction?

We’ll likely continue to see backlog across the different segments, sizes, and regions microscopically shift a few decimal places month to month as we’re seeing now. For those on top of their revenue forecasting (there’s preconstruction software for that), the future is much clearer, no matter when the Fed decides to adjust rates.

💬 Contractor Quote

"2024 is poised to be weaker from a construction demand perspective for many firms, especially those that depend heavily on private developers. Those operating in public construction and/or industrial segments should meet with less resistance on average.” —Anirban Basu, ABC chief economist

⚡️ Punch List

Procore: The future of contech (blog)

Construction Dive: Buildr unifies preconstruction with all-in-one workforce planning & CRM solution (news)

ENR: ENR global best projects awards 2023 (list)

Construction Dive: 2024’s top construction events (news)

Buildr: Why the New Year is the best time to switch CRMs (blog)

The Preconstruction Podcast: Grant Mendeljian, VP of Preconstruction with Moss & Associates talks relationships, estimating, 2024 market sectors and the window of opportunity in 2024. (podcast)

For Construction Pros: Construction materials prices down slightly for month, still 39% higher than pre-COVID (news)

The B1M: The secret architecture of America’s $1 billion fortress (video) 


We're entering 2024 like:

We're entering 2024 like:

Pin the tail: Humane’s wearable pin assistant is this little companion that does it all. But if phones become obsolete, how are we going to look at the weather app when we're pretending to look like we're busy and important? (tech)

SLAB GPT: OpenAI announced GPTs and the GPT store so that anyone can now make a customized GPT tailored to a specific purpose. We’re still working on the SLAB GPT, but it’s difficult to get the AI to understand the nuances of mixing pop culture commentary, construction industry news, and an unquenchable obsession with Spot the robot dog. (AI)

BookTok: Did you know that there’s this woman named Colleen Hoover that has a stranglehold on an entire art form? (books)

Tears of the kingdom: Scientists invented batteries that can be charged by tears that could power smart contact lenses. Dune 2 getting pushed from November '23 to March '24 means we could charge quite a few smart contact lens batteries. (tech)

Bingeworthy: Here are the best seasons of TV from this year. Shout out Beef, The Bear, I Think You Should Leave, Barry and Succession. (TV)

Journalism: The Huberman Lab episode on the 200+ peer-reviewed trauma-journaling protocol that improves both physical and mental health and only takes a grand total of an hour of your time spread across a month. We’ll be journaling about never getting Spot for Christmas. (mental health)

Tis the season: Here are 10 holiday gift ideas for the construction pro in your life. (list)

Vice: The Grand Theft Auto VI trailer that’s been a decade in the making. Expect a productivity drop across all industries in 2025. (video games)

Kondo attitude: Here are 9 ways to keep your home organized. Having a cardboard box in the back corner of your closet labeled “Stuff” is not one of them. (video)

So board: The holidays are perfect for board games—so long as you don't let the spirit of competition create a rift in your family dynamic (looking at you, Monopoly). Here are the best of the best according to Wired. Shout out Ticket to Ride. (list)

Payday: Shohei Ohtani’s insane contract with the Dodgers is so much bigger than the second biggest MLB contract ever that it would be like if someone built a building that was 4,528 feet to the Burj Khalifa’s current record 2,717 feet. Yes, we did the math. No, there's no reason to double-check it. (sports) 

For the birds: In our ultra-adorable fluff news of the week, researchers have found that parrots can learn to make video calls with each other and develop friendships. Pixar screenwriters should be all over this (animals)

Job Site

Louisiana-based Ryan Gootee General Contractors is looking for a Project Estimator in the New Orleans, LA area. If you or someone you know might be interested, here's the link to apply.

Virginia-based Martin Horn is looking for a Senior Preconstruction Manager/Estimator in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. If you or someone you know might be interested, here's the link to apply.

Catch wind of an open preconstruction role? Fill out our job post submission form for a chance for the posting to be featured in a future edition of The SLAB.

Bye for now,


PS: To all our lovely readers, have a safe and happy holidays. Look for us to return to your inbox in 2024 with more construction news, notes, and indisputable evidence that AI is taking over the world while we pretend to act all nonchalant about it.

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