Greg Winchester

ATLANTA—There’s more than one way to measure the construction industry’s return. One way is to explore a lender’s construction loan administration assignments.

Gauging by Trimont Real Estate‘s pipeline, the return is real. Trimont is reporting a 12.9% increase over the past 18 months. The company says these numbers reflect an hike in construction activity nationwide.

“As development continues to accelerate in urban and suburban clusters, we’re seeing ample opportunities for major markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta,” Greg Winchester, principal at Trimont, tells “We expect this growth to continue trending strongly upward in the coming year.”

During the 18 months ended May 31, Trimont’s portfolio has grown to nearly $6 billion in deals for new developments alone, including large urban mixed-use, trophy office, high-end hospitality, multifamily rentals, and condominiums in both major and secondary markets. The company expects $3.5 billion more to enter its pipeline in the next six months alone.

So how accurate is the Trimont loan administration monitor when compared to other sources? Let’s look at a few statistics that confirm the uptick in construction activity.

From January 2014 through April 2014—a period that included unusually harsh winter weather conditions—non-residential building starts increased 4% year-over-year, according to McGraw Hill Construction. And commercial construction rose 11% from March to April, including a 19-point jump in multifamily.

The Fed’s Beige Book noted increasing leasing activity and vacancy rates, as well as steady non-residential construction, in most of the US through May 23. Smith Travel Research’s May 2014 Pipeline Report, recently published in Hotel News Now, reported a 41% increase in rooms under construction compared with May 2013. Finally, the Dodge Momentum Index, a leading indicator of future construction spending, advanced 8.4% in April to 123.