Following a weak January, nonresidential building surged in February with a 42-percent increase in construction starts, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $724.3 billion, new construction starts as a whole advanced 16 percent compared to the previous month.

Nonresidential building registered a sharp gain partly as the result of a $3-billion petrochemical plant in Texas. Residential building also strengthened in February, as growth for multifamily housing outweighed a loss of momentum by single-family housing.

The February statistics produced a Dodge Index reading of 153, compared to a revised 132 for January. For 2014 as a whole, the Dodge Index averaged 123.

“[T]he first two months of 2015 have shown several noteworthy features that point toward the continued expansion for overall construction activity,” says Dodge chief economist Robert A. Murray. “For commercial building, both office buildings and hotels are continuing to track upward, supported by the increasing amount of private financing directed at real estate development. For institutional building, school construction is now seeing the benefits of large school construction bond measures that were approved in recent years, while healthcare facilities registered an unexpectedly strong performance in February. For residential building, multifamily housing continues to show brisk development activity in major cities.”

The manufacturing building category was a major contributor to the spike in nonresidential building, soaring 663 percent. However, even if the manufacturing building category is excluded, nonresidential building in February would still have registered a 19-percent gain. The commercial building group grew 19 percent in February, with a varied performance by project type. Hotel construction bounced back 83 percent after a depressed January, and the institutional side of the nonresidential building market rebounded 20 percent in February, also following a lackluster first month of 2015. Educational facilities, the largest nonresidential building category by dollar volume, grew 14 percent as it regained the upward momentum that was established in 2014, and healthcare facilities in February jumped 92 percent after a weak January. Meanwhile, multifamily housing jumped 46 percent.