As we go into 2019, it’s time to take a good look at construction industry trends and predictions and see which ones are shaping up. Staying on top of new and up-and-coming trends in the construction industry not only helps keep your company from falling behind, but it helps you better prepare for the future.
With the continuing growth and evolution of the construction industry, companies must stay up-to-date if they want to stay competitive.
Resiliency continues to take center stage
Wildfires in northern California are worst ever.
News headlines such as this just above have described major disasters nearly every month, making what used to be once-in-a-lifetime events appear almost commonplace as communities throughout the U.S. routinely face extreme conditions such as increased drought or more intense storms.
Weather-related emergencies such as rising sea levels, heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, windstorms, water surges, and forest fires are increasing in frequency and severity. The result has been construction, electrical supply and transportation challenges never-before seen in our lifetime.
According to the Design Institute: “Resiliency is the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality in the face of distress or disturbance.”
Resilient construction makes structures more adaptable to extreme climatic, natural disaster or other related disruptive events. Resilient construction helps assure a building will be more resistant to damage caused by hazards that destroy structures or interfere with their performance.
There’s little doubt the industry will continue to witness more resilient projects mimic those already underway, like the raising of streets in Miami Beach or the building of earthquake-resistant skyscrapers san rebar in California. Certainly architects, engineers and contractors will be critical to these rebuilding efforts, but business as usual could be a thing of the past.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) makes additional inroads
There is one tool that can increase effectiveness and collaboration like no other tool: BIM.
BIM, or Building Information Modeling, is a way of representing roads, buildings and utilities. It’s a process of generating and managing computer representations of the project before they are built. Architects and engineers can use the models to show how building materials will hold up over time. Moreover, owners can create maintenance schedules with BIM models.
BIM is certainly proving to be a useful tool in construction. Not only can it better predict job costs, but companies that use BIM can tell if the project is even possible. Sometimes, there isn’t enough space for HVAC requirements or predetermined pieces won’t fit and need to be reordered. BIM can be used to build better projects.
BIM not only increases collaboration, it reduces construction costs and promotes a safer building process that will result in faster construction and minimize safety incidents.
Many construction firms are already using BIM technology and it isn’t hard to see why. It makes resource management easier, it helps people stay in touch throughout the project and it enables enhanced collaboration.
A recent national BIM report found that nearly 80 percent of the participants believe that BIM is the future of project management and a further 60 percent believe the technology has the ability to make projects more time efficient.
If you’re not BIM-ready, try to get a sub-contractor that can become your BIM expert.
3D printing likely to continue growing
Another technology that’s been around for a few years, its usage is likely to grow in the coming year.
In the past, the two main struggles to adopting 3D technology were time and cost. The machines were cost-prohibitive and could be overworked easily, and the time to complete a project was very slow.
Truth is, the use of 3D printing technology to produce physical objects has advanced significantly in construction. Accurate design information allows 3D printing to be used for everything from rapid prototyping, component manufacture and scale modeling to full scale printing of house and bridge components.
Moreover, we now have 4D printing (described a bit below) to further enhance the construction process.
Green buildings are a growing global construction trend
In recent years, there’s been a major push to adopt green construction practices, projects and technologies. Building codes continually upgrade green requirements and energy costs continue to soar for building owners.
The USGBC defines green construction as “a holistic concept that starts with the understanding that the built environment can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the natural environment, as well as the people who inhabit buildings every day.” In simple terms, green construction is an attempt to build responsibly, reduce waste and help preserve the environment. It’s an “earth-friendly” alternative for the construction process.
The benefits of green construction are far-reaching, offering significant advantages when used in new facilities as well as existing structures. Green technology makes buildings more energy-efficient and sustainable, so they have a lower carbon footprint and reduce the impact on the environment.
In new buildings, green building construction plays a role in every phase of development. Every aspect of the structure, including siting, design, construction materials and the systems used to run an maintain operations are chosen to be as sustainable and energy-efficient as possible.
In existing structures, green technology is used to integrate the control systems in the already in place. Building automation systems with advanced software features are used to incorporate the older systems that control the electrical, mechanical and security features, networking them into a centrally-controlled solution. As such, even the older legacy systems can work together so owners can realize the benefits of the latest green technology.
The result: builders see an increased demand and a higher market value for their facilities. Building owners benefit from having lower ongoing costs of operation, improved rates of tenant retention and higher building values. Building occupants enjoy more comfortable and healthy working environments as well as the market benefits of being a “green” business.
Along with newer green construction methods, there is an increase in research into green construction. There are new technologies such as carbon scrubbing building facades, bricks made of recycled cigarette butts, thermally driven air conditioners and asphalt that will heal itself.
This increase in green technology is part of the construction industry trends that will continue well into the future.
Robotics to have greater impact
No industry is as labor-intensive as construction. Since construction sites are uncontrolled (open) environments, it’s most difficult to incorporate robotics, unlike in controlled factory environments. However, construction activities such as bricklaying are so repetitive and labor-intensive that the use of robotics is helpful to not only reduce costs, but also maintain quality and precision.
One example of a pioneering product is the semi-automated mason – SAM – a bricklaying robot designed and engineered by Construction Robotics. It’s the first bricklaying robot commercially available and doesn’t actually replace a traditional mason. Rather, it works in collaboration with a mason increasing their productivity up to five-fold.
You’ll see more drones on the jobsite
Unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as UAVs, drones or quadcopters) have graduated beyond the level of “emerging technology.” As you’ve probably witnessed, they’ve been growing in popularity for everyday hobbyists, who like to build, fly and race them, and their indisputable “cool factor” has made them a much sought-after holiday gift.
What is an emerging trend, however, is the use of drones for more than just having fun. Drones have steadily gained a foothold in industries from mall security to industrial pipeline inspection, when they can fly autonomously and use high-def cameras and machine learning to scan their surroundings for out-of-the-ordinary behavior or alleged problem areas. As a prime example, a recent trade advertisement described how a local utility uses drones to help inspect pipelines
In construction, drones serve a number of purposes, including collecting aerial photos for more robust visual documentation. UAVs can also go where photographers can’t safely, helping contractors, developers, inspectors and others to see their building projects from new angles and even reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Data collected from drone footage can also be used to analyze the progress of the project. In short, through drones, construction managers are able to get the job done faster and with less money.
This will continue as a rapidly developing technology in terms of accuracy and precision of their readings, as well as less human involvement necessary. In the past, readings and requiring a controller made companies wary of their use, but they are now much more efficient.
Labor shortages will continue
As baby boomers continue to retire and the younger generation resists construction as a career, the supply of skilled craft workers is becoming limited. Groups in industry such as AGC and the Associated Builders and Contractors have lobbied lawmakers for increased federal, state and local funding for grade school, high school and middle school trade education programs.
In the meantime, the industry is becoming increasingly more creative in their efforts to pull up some of the slack. Techniques such as prefabricated MEP racks which make connections quicker on the job site and require 50 percent less labor are being set in place. Also, modular construction in the hotel and multifamily sphere is particularly important where there is a smaller workforce. In addition, offsite construction can consume up to 60 percent of a project’s labor requirements, making this a much sought-after construction practice.
Let’s look a bit closer at this trend.
We’ll witness increases in prefabrication and modular construction
Prefabrication and modular construction have become quite a bit more popular recently and it isn’t hard to see why. Both trends are energy-efficient and cost-effective, which his an ideal at a time when most material prices are already high.
Prefabricated construction means a lot of the building can be conducted in more of a controlled environment, rather than on a construction site, increasing productivity and minimizing risk.
Prefabricated buildings are growing in popularity as construction companies, buyers and governments seek lower costs. No longer limited to single-story buildings, prefabricated construction is now used in high-rise housing blocks.
Modular buildings also offer the advantages of being developed off-site, reducing the impact of the original landscape, being more efficient, reducing the risk of incidents and providing a faster way of developing residential areas. Moreover, they are cheaper to build, as the crew already knows what to do and how to assemble it, and build times are shorter.
This popularity is likely to increase even more, especially for companies looking to cut overall costs. With the help of such innovations as effective hot melt adhesives and the overall ease of design, the actual construction of these homes is quite quick. So, you can expect to see quite a bit more permanent modular buildings in the future, as well as pop-up buildings and prefabricated homes.
New construction materials to advance at incredible rate
The world of construction materials is advancing at an incredible rate as new technologies enter the sector, enabling further research and development.
In past blogs, we’ve discussed many innovations including ‘self-healing concrete,” which contains calcite-precipitating bacteria which germinate when water enters the cracks in decaying concrete, filling the emerging air gaps.
We’ve also seen “kinetic paving,” which harvests energy from the footsteps of pedestrians to generate electricity, 4-D printed structures that have the ability to re-shape or self-assemble over time by virtue of how they are formed and how different elements of their composition respond in differing conditions, and “smog-eating buildings,” coated in photocatalytic titanium dioxide that reacts with light to neutralize pollutants in the air of some of the world’s most congested cities.
Want to read more about current trends in the construction industry? Read our next blog that will discuss, among other things, investment in public transportation, wearable technology, advanced used of GPS, and VR and AR, among other topics. If you’d like to discuss how PDDM Solutions can help you on your next project, simply call us at (724) 788-4048 or visit us at www.pddmsolutions.com