College of Business Administration Construction Center Wins

$9.3 Million Contract from U. S. Labor Department


The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center (CIRPC) is a unit of the College of Business Administration at UT Knoxville. Construction Resources Analysis, the predecessor of the center, was an outgrowth of continuing efforts under four secretaries of labor, beginning with Secretary John Dunlop in 1975, to obtain more accurate information about the construction industry in order to enhance the operation of various government programs concerned with construction. Historically, the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), funded development of a system of econometric models and databases that provided detailed information, both historical and current, on construction activity for each county in the nation. This system was the foundation of Construction Resources Analysis, established in 1981 at the University of Tennessee, and continues with the Construction Industry Research and Policy Center created in 2001.  

CIRPC is organized four units: Occupational Safety and Health Administration Services (OSHA), Statistical Analysis and Special Studies, Computer and Data Processing Services, and Davis-Bacon Wage Surveys. Work in the area of construction safety and health is conducted by CIRPC's directors, staff from several departments, and faculty.

The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center has received a $9.3-million, five-year grant to assist the U. S. Department of Labor in measuring prevailing rates for construction workers working on federal construction throughout the nation. The Center will conduct wage and benefit surveys of construction labor markets throughout the nation. The contract will require the center to add seven permanent wage analysts to its staff in addition to six temporary employees to assist the Department of Labor with implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Research Director William Schriver, who founded the center in the early 1980’s, said the Department of Labor will use UT's results to set local pay rates for local tradespersons and laborers. Schriver said the Davis-Bacon Act (1931) requires the payment of locally prevailing rates, established from surveys of contractors working on private projects in the area, to all mechanics and laborers performing construction work on federally funded projects.

"There is a common misconception that Davis-Bacon rates are merely union rates," Schriver said. "But union rates are said to prevail only when more than 50 percent of local construction is performed by union workers. Otherwise, union and non-union rates are averaged to create the prevailing rate for as many as 30 trades and laborer categories. Based on the surveys conducted by the center, prevailing rates are established by the Department of Labor staff for every county in the U.S.”

Nancy Mason, a center coordinator, will supervise the wage survey activities, according to John Moore, acting director of the center. Other UT research conducted under the Department of Labor contract will include studying industry compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established overtime wages for work exceeding 40 hours per week, a minimum wage, and laws prohibiting many forms of child labor.

Assisting the Department of Labor in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2007, the center was awarded a $7 million contract by the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to design and operate OSHA's construction targeting system. Each month, the center randomly selects about 1,400 construction sites from their file of over three million active sites for safety inspections by OSHA compliance officers. This contract also requires the center to analyze fatal construction events, identify direct and related causes of each event, and suggest intervention strategies.

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