Due to the blows to the economy last year from coronavirus impacts, undertaking mega-sized construction projects presented owners with riskier decision-making.
The number of big-dollar projects (i.e., of a billion or more each) fell dramatically, to only 11 from 70 in 2019. The number of big footprint projects (i.e., of a million square feet or more), however, stayed about even in 2020 with the year before, at 26.
In this article, we’ll look at the nature of 2020’s mega projects according to the two definitions and discuss some interesting contrasts. For example, billion-dollar projects, especially when they’re in the energy or transit fields, don’t necessarily have enclosed flooring of a million square feet.
Nor is it the case that million-square-footage projects run up a billion dollars in capital expenditures. Many ultra-large low-rise structures are fulfilment or data centers that are assembled in the same manner as light industrial or commercial buildings, at a low cost per square footage.
There’s a good reason it’s important to know about the projects enumerated in accompanying Table 1. They are so massive in scope that while ground may have been broken on them last year, work will be proceeding onsite well into this year, and possibly into 2022 as well. ‘Megas’ provide a base for jobs, material supply and ancillary services.
2020’s mega-sized undertakings according to the billion-dollar definition were dominated by transit, steel mill, and motor vehicle projects. In transit, there were high-speed rail systems in Los Angeles and Washington state; in steelmaking, new mills in Texas and Kentucky; and in automotive, a GM electric battery plant in Ohio and a Tesla ‘giga-factory for cyber-trucks’ in Texas.
The steel capacity expansions are welcome as they’ll relieve some of the supply shortages and pricing pressures that have concerned builders recently.
2020’s mega-sized ‘go-aheads’ according to the million-square-footage definition were heavily weighted towards distribution centers, data centers, car plants and stadium projects (the latter being in Missouri and California).
While so many other companies, caught up in the pandemic, have taken a wait and see approach to capital spending commitments, the high-tech giants, with their coffers full of cash, have been considerably bolder.
Amazon in 2020 ‘green-lighted’ vast square-footage projects in Mississippi, Texas and New York.
Google in Nebraska and Facebook in Tennessee launched new data center work.
Wegmans hopped aboard the distribution center shopping cart in Virginia.
Tables 1 and 2: 2020 U.S. Mega Starts Defined in 2 Ways:
(1) $1 Billion or More Each = 11 Projects; (2) 1 Million Square Feet or More Each = 26 Projects
|Start Date||State||City||Type of Structure||Project Name||$ Billions|
|Jan-20||California||Los Angeles||Engineering/Civil||Automated People Mover (APM) Landside Access Modernization Prog, at LAX||$2.00|
|★||Apr-20||Missouri||Saint Louis||Institutional||Next NGA West (New Western Headquarters/National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)||$1.75|
|★||May-20||Texas||Taft||Industrial||Steel Dynamics Steel Mill / Sinton||$1.00|
|May-20||Washington||Federal Way||Engineering/Civil||Federal Way Link Extension (FWLE) Design Build||$2.50|
|Jul-20||California||San Dimas (east L.A.)||Engineering/Civil||Foothill Gold Line Light Rail Extension – Glendora to Montclair||$1.40|
|★||Aug-20||Ohio||Warren (near Akron)||Industrial||Ultium Cells Manufacturing Campus (batteries for electric vehicles) GM||$2.30|
|★||Sep-20||Texas||Austin||Industrial||Tesla Cybertruck Gigafactory – Austin||$1.10|
|★||Sep-20||California||Sacramento||Institutional||Richards Boulevard State of California Office Complex||$1.00|
|★||Oct-20||Kentucky||Brandenburg||Industrial||Nucor Corporation Manufacturing Mill (Steel)||$1.70|
|Nov-20||New York||New York||Commercial||One Madison Avenue Office Addition||$2.30|
|Nov-20||Texas||Dallas||Engineering/Civil||I-635 LBJ East Section||$1.74|
|Start Date||State||City||Type of Structure||Project Name||Sq Ft Millions|
|Jan-20||Maryland||Bethesda||Institutional||P114 Medical Center Addition/Alterations at Naval Support Activity, Bethesda||1.0|
|Jan-20||Tennessee||Memphis||Industrial||Project Iris, Seefried Industrial Properties||4.2|
|Jan-20||Mississippi||Olive Branch||Industrial||Amazon Fulfillment Center, Legacy Park, Hillwood Investments||1.0|
|Feb-20||Nebraska||Omaha||Commercial||Project Wizard – Google Data Center / Omaha||2.5|
|Feb-20||Washington||Bellevue||Commercial||555 108th Avenue Office Tower||1.0|
|Apr-20||New York||Bayberry||Industrial||Project Eagle Distribution Facility / Clay (thought to be for Amazon)||3.8|
|Apr-20||Illinois||Chicago||Commercial||Salesforce Tower Chicago (Wolf Point South Tower)||1.5|
|★||Apr-20||Missouri||Saint Louis||Institutional||Next NGA West (New Western Headquarters/National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)||1.9|
|Apr-20||Texas||Pflugerville||Industrial||Amazon Fulfilment Center – Project Charm / Pflugerville||3.8|
|★||May-20||Texas||Taft||Industrial||Steel Dynamics Steel Mill / Sinton||1.0|
|Jun-20||New York||Liverpool||Industrial||Amazon Distribution Center – Liverpool||3.7|
|Jun-20||Texas||Richmond||Industrial||Project Miriam – Amazon Fulfillment Center||3.4|
|Jul-20||North Carolina||Durham||Residential||Alta Davis||1.1|
|Jul-20||Indiana||Lafayette||Industrial||Subaru of Indiana Automotive Expansion / Lafayette||1.0|
|Jul-20||Missouri||Saint Louis||Commercial||Major League Soccer Stadium / Saint Louis||1.0|
|★||Aug-20||Ohio||Warren (near Akron)||Industrial||Ultium Cells Manufacturing Campus (batteries for electric vehicles) GM||2.8|
|Aug-20||Tennessee||Gallatin (NE of Nashville)||Commercial||Project Woolhawk / Facebook Data Center||1.0|
|Aug-20||California||San Diego||Commercial||San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztec Stadium||1.0|
|★||Sep-20||Texas||Austin||Industrial||Tesla Cybertruck Gigafactory – Austin||4.0|
|★||Sep-20||California||Sacramento||Institutional||Richards Boulevard State of California Office Complex||1.5|
|Oct-20||Virginia||Beaverdam||Industrial||Wegmans Virginia Headquarters & Distribution Center||1.1|
|★||Oct-20||Kentucky||Brandenburg||Industrial||Nucor Corporation Manufacturing Mill (Steel)||1.5|
|Oct-20||Texas||San Antonio||Industrial||Project Star / Fulfillment Center, Seefried Industrial Properties||3.8|
|Nov-20||Tennessee||Gallatin (NE of Nashville)||Commercial||Gallatin Industrial Data Center||1.0|
|Nov-20||California||Visalia||Industrial||Visalia Logistics Center / Warehouse||1.3|
|Dec-20||New York||Brooklyn||Residential||625 Fulton Street Mixed-use||1.8|
★ Indicates project appears in both listings. The importance of these projects is that while they may have been initiated last year, onsite work will be continuing in 2021 and perhaps beyond.
Data source and tables: ConstructConnect.