2020 Construction Trends

Dec 2, 10AM


Where things are headed

Industry trends

It’s important for companies to stay on top of construction trends every year because they hint at what is coming that could affect the business. Change is inevitable, even in the construction industry. For the longest time, the industry lagged in construction technology advancements.

Research from McKinsey and Company shows that construction labor productivity trails overall economic productivity. That’s finally changing especially as scores of Baby Boomers retire over the next few years. Taking their place are tech-savvy millennials and Generation Z’ers who have grown up with technology.

How Construction Trends Affect Your Business

Not only is change expected but it can also bring new and emerging business opportunities. Considering construction companies tend to slowly adapt to change, it could mean the difference in getting ahead of your competitors.

Companies that do not prepare for change could go out of business or lose opportunities to competitors who stay abreast of trends and adjust.

This isn’t to say that you should jump in headfirst into the construction trends for 2020. Rather, the smartest construction companies study the trends to look beyond the fads for longer-lasting trends. Trends don’t always refer to things that last only a year. Some trends go on for years.

As you study 2020 construction trends, identify two or three micro-trends. They may provide clues of a bigger trend that’s coming. Effective construction companies continuously evolve by reviewing trends and adopting the ones that make good business sense.

Construction Trends May Help Solve Challenges

While the construction industry isn’t going anywhere, companies must take a proactive approach to help drive business and profits. This is especially true at a time in which it faces labor shortages and rising costs. According to the Commercial Construction Index, more than half of those responding say they struggle with finding skilled workers.

Moreover, almost 80 percent of contractors surveyed indicate they have steady or growing backlogs. Between the shortage and backlogs, it’s not a surprise more than half plan to spend more on tools and equipment.

The best way to fight rising costs and labor shortages is by streamlining construction processes and finding construction automation solutions. These technologies can cut costs and save time. That’s one reason why advancing technology has finally arrived in construction.

Watch these nine 2020 construction trends closely and think about how they may help your business get ahead and overcome challenges.

1. Modular and Prefabrication Projects

One of the biggest trends is the use of offsite prefabrication and modular construction methods. Modular construction takes a prefabricated approach to building repetitive structures such as offices, apartments, and hotels. “Modular Construction Market” forecasts it will reach $157 billion by 2023.

What’s the reason for the rise? It saves time, costs, and energy. The way it works is that parts of the building are built offsite. They arrive onsite ready for the crew to incorporate into the project. You avoid the costs involved with weather delays and longer working hours. They recycle leftover materials, which cuts waste and increases sustainability. Any construction company that invests in it could completely change their business.

2. Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Drones

Robots, AI, and drones aren’t looking to replace jobs. Rather, the automated machines can improve productivity and accuracy while lowering waste and overhead. Considering the labor shortage in construction, they fill in the gaps allowing workers to focus on other tasks.

For example, an average bricklayer can put down roughly 500 bricks per day. A robot bricklayer can do 380 bricks in one hour. Construction Robotics’ Semi-Automatic Mason, or SAM collaborates with the mason. Working with SAM100 allows the mason to reduce lifting by 80 percent and boost productivity by three to five times. Robots like SAM can take on repetitive tasks while workers manage it and load it. A Robo-Carrier can move heavy pallets and a Robo-Welder can weld steel columns.

Artificial intelligence works in the same way. It can take over the mundane tasks for greater accuracy, speed, and productivity. Also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), construction sites use drones to survey the site, collect information for survey data, and verify workers stay out of potentially dangerous situations. Robots, drones, and AI create as many new jobs as they displace per World Economic Forum. SupplyChain 24/7 reports robotics and drones can yield an ROI within three to six months.

3. Safety Equipment

Safety is always tops in the construction industry because of the high risks of injuries. More technologies help increase worker safety. One up-and-coming trend is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) as wearables. Pants, boots, and vests can integrate GPS, radio frequency identification (RFID), or Wi-Fi to track the worker and notify management if someone falls.

For example, Cat Detect for Personnel from Caterpillar incorporates RFID tags into personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats or a safety vest. It can communicate with equipment and notify the operator when a worker is behind the equipment. Moisture wicking and cooling clothes can help alleviate overheating.

4. Building Information Modeling (BIM) Enhancements

The definition of BIM according to National Building Specification is “a rich information model, consisting of potentially multiple data sources, elements of which can be shared across all stakeholders and be maintained across the life of a building from inception to recycling (cradle to cradle). The information model can include contract and specification properties, personnel, programming, quantities, cost, spaces and geometry.” BIM use has grown because it can model complex work processes from the start, beginning with design. Think of it as intelligent 3D modeling that helps engineering, architecture, and construction professionals find a way to effectively plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and their infrastructure.

For instance, a team uses BIM to review the HVAC system. BIM can display the entire HVAC system and run simulations to verify it works as planned. It lets them tweak it virtually and shorten construction time, avoiding time and costs of making fixes during the building stage. It offers more details than 3D CAD such as requirements for personnel, quantities, and performance.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Cat Detect for Personnel is also an example of using IoT in construction safety. Companies can integrate IoT into equipment, machinery, materials, and structures to keep track of inventory. Management can receive an alert when they need to order supplies. Another way they rely on IoT is with sensors that check the temperature, pressure, and conditions.

One way the sensors come in handy is their integration with a video surveillance system. Trained operators watch the construction site. On that site, there are flood detectors and other sensors that can notify the operators of flooding and other problems. The sooner the company knows about it and does something, the fewer chances of the problem causing serious damage.

6. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and augmented reality isn’t new, but the industry finds new ways to apply it in a construction project. Virtual reality makes it possible to visualize a complete building with an interactive 360-degree model. All it takes is a camera lens and the right software. In doing this, management can plan their project and identify potential problems before breaking ground.

You can now overlay the virtual model onto a physical setting for context. Another advantage of this mixed reality technology is that you can share it with people in remote locations.

7. Sustainability and Green Technology

Sustainability means taking actions to meet current needs without compromising future needs such as lack of natural resources or causing ecological damage. Green technology involves using methods and materials that alleviate or reverse the effects of human activity on the environment. In construction, sustainability refers to the preservation of the environment by efficiently using resources. In sustainable construction, architects design environment-friendly buildings to be cost-effective, longer-lasting, and energy-efficient. It considers environment-friendly solutions in everything from planning and construction to maintenance and demolition.

One example of this is incorporating natural light or more efficient LED lighting to lower electrical costs. Recycling cigarette butts into new construction materials creates durable, lighter, and energy-efficient bricks. Just using one percent of cigarette butts in bricks cuts production costs. It’s also a way to recycle cigarette butts, which reduces their negative impact on the environment.

8. Blockchain Technology

Construction projects that involve many parties and money exchanges are complicated. Blockchain will help ease the management of transactions, whether they are financial or data related. What makes it different is that it’s a decentralized process. No one entity owns or manages the money and data.

Blockchain technology streamlines project delivery and payment in construction projects. It also saves money by taking a third-party intermediary like a bank out of the contract bids, processing, and payment procedures. It cuts costs because you reduce the number of transactions and documents.

9. Construction Project Management Software

No longer is it acceptable to track projects on large complicated spreadsheets. Newer project management software contains more user-friendly interfaces to ease adoption. They can track and manage far more things than they used to such as equipment rentals and change orders.

Construction project management oversees the planning, design, and building of a project from start to finish. The right software will cover project objectives, scope, budgeting, scheduling, and performance requirements. It helps keeps costs under control to maximize projects and reach deadlines. It’s also possible to keep all project-related documentation in the project management software. Management can find everything related to the project in the software. Part of the reason for the rise in these trends is to battle labor shortages. It forces the industry to explore new ways of doing things more efficiently. That’s why many of the trends are related to technology. Change is hard. No doubt about that. Investigating these trends could mean the difference between finishing on time within budget and late with cost overruns.

One construction trend that has been around for a long time and will not go away soon is the use of video monitoring cameras. Live security cameras can put eyes on your construction site to help deter theft, vandalism and trespassing, as well as help mitigate liability issues.

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