Some building projects in Iowa are experiencing delays and higher costs due to a labor shortage in China. Tim Hickman, an architect from Des Moines, says many Chinese-made electronic components are becoming harder to get and they’re more expensive. Hickman says it’s difficult to predict how what’s happening in other countries may impact the bottom line on some of his projects.
“As these economies become more interwined and our materials are coming from wider and wider circles, a change in the economy around the world can change the reality of a budget on a project down the street,” Hickman says. It’s hard enough to wait for materials from just one country, but Hickman says several of his projects involve a number of international suppliers. For example, the new transportation center at the University of Northern Iowa has solar panels from China.
“But then the piece that it critical to take the power from the panels and make them usable, changing the power from DC to AC, those inverters had components from China and Korea and are assembled by a company in Germany and sold through a company in Kentucky,” Hickman says. “…It’s kind of a complex process.” Hickman says the exterior windows in the relatively-new Central Library in downtown Des Moines are another example of how construction managers here must navigate the globe to complete their projects.
“It’s glass that has copper embedded inside the glass. The glass was manufactured in Spain. The aluminum extrusions were manufactured in China. The copper and the assembly of the glass happened in Germany. The engineering of the whole system was in Korea,” Hickman says. “All of these materials got sent to Iowa and put together, but on the way the aluminum had to get anodized, which was done in Minnesota.”
Hickman is the owner of the “Substance Architecture” firm in Des Moines. He’s worked on a number of projects at the state-supported universities. According to his company website, Hickman is currently leading the design for a new athletic training and practice facility for the Iowa Hawkeye football team.