The construction industry did not quite live up to full expectations in 2016. However, in 2017 the industry is predicting a 5% growth. There are many aspects that will come into play. Any time a new administration starts in the White House there can be a level of uncertainty. As well, new technologies and workforce management will be trends that can make or break the industry during the upcoming year. Here are the trends to watch this year!
Collaborative project delivery methods
Collaborative approaches are becoming more and more popular in the construction industry. The design-build process will bring together the design and construction phases into one contract. Whereas before the design and building processes were separate. This new collaborative process will help get the job done faster.
The labor shortage
This is not going away any time soon. Firms across the U.S. are struggling to staff skilled labor on their sites. Due to the recovered economy and it remaining strong, the demand for labor is higher than the supply. Between April 2006 and January 2011 the construction industry reduced its workforce by more than 40%, cutting nearly 2.3 million jobs. Many of the workers have not returned, having found employment in other industries. The present labor pool is either nearing retirement age or the younger generations lack the trade skills for skilled labor jobs. General labor pool can easily be built up, however skilled labor and up to management positions have been and continue to be difficult to fill.
Uncertainty and cautious optimism under a new administration
Any time a new administration begins the construction industry waits to see what will happen in regards to regulations, taxes, and labor policies. This uncertainty is putting contractors on edge and preventing the go ahead on the beginning of new projects. Some experts are concerned with potential trade conflicts with China affecting the U.S. economy and raise material prices. On the other hand some are more optimistic. President Trump proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan over 10 years. However, the lack of details leave the industry wondering what, when, and how. Those in the industry are optimistic because this would put the go ahead on many projects that have been postponed. Time will tell how this administration will affect the industry.
Offsite/modular construction gaining a foothold
Offsite/modular construction is not new to the industry, however its use is not wide spread. The benefit of creating and building pieces offsite is that it condenses the construction schedule, saves money, and creates uniformity in quality control. The prediction is that this will gain a foothold in 2017. However, since the construction industry’s evolution is a slow one, it will take some major contractors to set the pace and begin making this a steady practice. An example of where this is already a standard in the industry are creating HVAC assemblies offsite. This practice can be used for far more other aspects of construction.
“The Internet of Things” and Virtual & Augmented Reality
The world has never been more connected and that is thanks to the Internet. Devices and “things” from coffee makers, to washing machines, to your smartphone can all be connected. This potential for endless connectivity has a great opportunity in the construction industry. The greatest impact of using more connected technologies on the construction site is reducing cost and improving efficiency. On top of that, safety can be increase. For example, wearables can track workers so contractors know where their workers are for any potential hazards. Also, another kind of wearable to use are equipment sensors that can monitor machinery in case they need repair.
Some of the biggest up and coming technologies are virtual and augmented reality. The uses on the job site can be detecting errors ahead of time as well as improving job safety. The cost of these technologies are still on the high side and out of range for all projects. However, as the technology lowers in price this can be a benefit for all sites, large and small.
Construction costs on the rise
The relative plateau on building costs over the last few years has created a concern for the upcoming year. Costs will eventually have to go up. Some in the industry have already begun to see material prices go up. On the labor side of things, because of the shortage of skilled labor, contractors have had to raise their pay for these positions.
Sustainable construction movement may change its message
To keep the advances in sustainable construction moving forward, proponents may need to change their message. Putting less of an emphasis on the climate change implications and more emphasis on the bottom line, resilience, and high-performing buildings that will lower energy cost and create jobs. This way the message of sustainable construction will reach more people.
Safety and fraud incidents will face increased scrutiny and prosecution
In 2017 the industry will see more attention placed on safety and compliance with OSHA regulations. The reality is that all accidents are preventable, so deaths on the job site are unacceptable. All accidents, large and small, will be put under strict and severe scrutiny. Many construction contractors are getting ahead of the game and putting in place more comprehensive safety programs for their sites. Accidents may face criminal prosecution, especially when involving a death.
There are several trends in the construction industry that we should be watching this year. Funding and the labor shortage remain concerns. On the other hand, new technologies and attention to safety bring opportunities for saving money and improving efficiency.
Original source: Construction Dive
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