2020 has been a year of unprecedented change and challenges with the novel coronavirus causing global shutdowns and impacting all major industries. Fortunately, most U.S. businesses have now been permitted to reopen, albeit with new restrictions and requirements in place.
While the coronavirus has certainly caused some disruption and changes within the construction industry, there are still several industry trends that maintain constant and continue year-after-year. Staying attuned to industry trends will help you maintain a competitive edge by knowing what to expect and help you to prepare accordingly.
Below we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most noteworthy and must-watch construction industry trends of 2020.
1. Supply Chain Disruption
For builders that rely on Chinese-made goods and materials, 2020 has been an especially challenging year with Chinese government containment efforts and quarantines stalling—or, in some cases, completely stalling—production in factories across the country. While the economic giant has begun to recover, the long-term impact to the U.S. construction industry is still yet to be fully recognized.
Fortunately, because materials sourced from China typically arrive in the U.S. by slow-moving ship, most projects underway likely already had their materials ordered and in transit months ago. However, given that China is the world’s largest supplier of construction materials—with U.S. companies sourcing everything from steel to plumbing fixtures—any production or supply chain disruption felt on its end will undoubtedly impact the U.S. as well. While we can assume there will be some impact to future projects, the extent to which is still to be determined.
2. Labor Shortages
Prior to COVID-19, the construction industry was already facing a labor shortage due to a boom in projects and high demand for workers with the necessary skills to complete them. Now, the industry faces new labor challenges. Many U.S. businesses adapted to the coronavirus closures by shifting to a work-from-home model. However, for many construction companies, this model isn’t feasible and healthy workers are required to be on-site.
School closures and public transportation disruptions have also created a myriad of new challenges for construction industry workers that impact their ability to show up to work on time, if at all. In anticipation and preparation for increased absenteeism—whether due to illness or other factors—supervisors should begin to cross-train employees to handle multiple functions, and utilize technology to streamline operations such as construction management solutions.
3. Improved Safety Equipment
Aside from the new health and safety protocols implemented as a result of coronavirus, the construction industry is witnessing a rise of machines that are capable of increasing jobsite safety and reducing risk. For example, some work boots can now automatically connect to Wi-Fi and alert others if a worker has fallen. Another example is environmental sensors that can detect workplace conditions (like heat, wind, noise) and assess risk.
These machines are changing the jobs humans do by augmenting the decision-making process and creating room for higher-level jobs to use the data to decipher and translate findings into actionable insights.
4. Augmented Reality
Although virtual reality (VR) has been an emerging trend over the past few years, experts say it’s quickly growing outdated as augmented reality (AR) becomes the new “it” trend. VR is strictly a digital experience, whereas AR combines digital and physical views to create an immersive experience in real-time.
Benefits of AR for builders and developers include 360-degree video to enable fast and affordable simulations, 3D visualizations of future projects and automated measuring of buildings, just to name a few. For clients, AR can provide more efficient project staging and make pre-construction projects tangible for buyers and tenants.
Drone usage continues to be one of the fastest-growing trends in the construction industry as the technology advances and becomes more affordable, and the capabilities of drones continue to expand. Drones are commonly used to produce heat maps and thermal imaging, but the advancing software now makes it possible for them to provide real-time and actionable data that can be used for rapid decision-making and to streamline the entire construction process.
Drones can also be used to improve workplace safety and reduce injury. For example, drones can be used to survey job sites to ensure workers are kept from potentially dangerous situations. They can also reach heights unsafe for the human worker.
6. Cloud & Mobile Technology
Not that long ago, most people didn’t understand what “the cloud” was—let alone a cloud-based operating system. Today, most mobile devices can access information anywhere, any time, and from any device. Cloud-computing has become integral to the construction industry for a number of reasons, including powerful data processing, connected job sites, easy sharing, and data storage, just to name a few.
Given its ease of access, Software as a Service (SaaS) has become a leading way to get the most benefit from cloud computing with minimal investment. There are SaaS offerings for almost every construction task, and Premier Construction Software offers the most powerful, all-in-one cloud-based software solution on the market to help you streamline accounting, job costing, project management, document management, approvals, electronic signatures and more.
7. Modular & Prefabricated Construction
Another growing trend is a shift toward modularization and prefabricated construction because of the time, energy and cost savings. Modular construction is a prefabricated approach to building repetitive structures like hotels, apartments, and office buildings.
Because modular units are built off-site, companies do not have to deal with construction barriers like inclement weather or limited working hours. Prefabrication can save companies a lot of money because they can get bulk discounts on materials—which, in turn, also saves time (and time equals money). These processes are also considered more eco-friendly because any leftover materials can easily be recycled.
8. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Given the emergence of an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem, it should come as no surprise that BIM continues to be one of the hottest trends in the construction industry. BIM allows users to generate computer representations of buildings and utilities, and brings more accuracy to the building process by empowering the exchange of important project information between key stakeholders.
BIM’s further evolution—like 4D and 5D BIM—will be the catalyst for fundamental change within the industry. Improved technology is anticipated to make construction projects more productive, affordable, eco-friendly and safe.
9. Green Technology & Sustainability
Every year, green construction grows in popularity as more companies look for ways to incorporate sustainability into the construction process. Green construction entails building projects in an environmentally responsible and resource-efficient manner to reduce carbon footprint. Sustainability construction includes the preservation of the environment, with a focus on social responsibility.
A few green trends gaining traction in the construction industry include bricks made of recycled cigarette butts, self-healing concrete and thermally driven air conditioners.
10. Construction Management Software
Construction software plays an important role within the construction industry, but many companies are using multiple disjointed systems that don’t speak to each other in real-time. This creates disconnect between accounting and project management which, in turn, causes bottlenecks, errors, and inaccurate reports.
Premier Construction Software empowers businesses to work smarter by providing modern, powerful and easy-to-use construction software. Our all-in-one software solution features accounting, job costing, in addition to project and document management to ensure the data syncs real-time, making it easy for businesses to trust the data to make more informed decisions.
To learn more about Premier Construction Software and to speak to a representative, click here.
As the construction industry continues to evolve, it’s imperative to stay informed about trends that are shifting the business and global landscape. Adapting to these changes and leveraging technologies to maximize efficiency and reduce risk will help business owners stay competitive, offset additional costs and increase profitability.
Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.