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.
In Part II, we will continue to look at some of those more important trends, those that might have the biggest impact on your business.
Let’s face it, construction firms and companies serving the industry have the tendency to be risk-averse. Given the extent of their work, this resistance to the “next big things” is understandable. When your revenue often relies on the success of one or two major projects, you can’t afford to tinker with tried-and-true formulas.
Regrettably, this mindset also influences how quickly the construction industry adopts new technologies. Compared to other sectors, those in the construction industry are particularly slow to incorporate high-tech solutions such as advanced GPS, high-tech wearables, augmented reality, and cloud technology, among others.
Now, more than ever, firms in any industry must keep on top of the groundswell of emerging technology or run the risk of being left behind. Truth is, construction-related firms are not exempt to this rule. In fact, their success might be determined on how quickly they adapt.
Here are several additional tech trends that we didn’t discuss in Part I of our blog on Emerging Trends.
Rise in popularity of project management software
Efficiency and waste due to lack of project management was detected by a recent Project Management Institute report. In it, they outlined the costs of low performance linking it to poor project management planning.
That said, many industries are now embracing project management software, and this includes construction. This software has made significant progress over the past several years resulting in plenty of specialized programs to suit assorted jobs – from designing a building to running a construction site. There are, however, different variations. It can be simply home building software, or a construction app, or perhaps scheduling software, and so on.
Project management software affords construction companies three major advantages: transparency, accountability and efficiency. As more people are involved in using the same software, it will be easier for them to understand their role which will help make construction sites more efficient and safer.
At present, project management software offers real-time communication, trackability and project overview. Interestingly, this could result in an increase in IT budgets since most construction managers only spend less than 5 percent of their budget on IT.
Advanced uses for GPS
Construction World says while GPS tracking solutions certainly aren’t new, they’re now being used in more creative and resourceful ways, including:
- Surveying has seen a remarkable improvement since crews no longer have to use outdated surveying equipment.
- Data for potential project sites can be collected more precisely, without delay.
- Project managers now use GPS in fleet management. Vehicles are equipped with a tracking device, letting everyone know each vehicle’s location at any point in time.
- It’s easier to find lost or stolen equipment since managers can now produce maps that pinpoint their exact locations.
Moreover, construction industry professionals believe we haven’t come close to seeing the benefits of GPS technology. Many see, for example, the eventual use of GPS technology in driverless vehicles.
Speaking of driverless vehicles, there are companies currently working on autonomous vehicles that will make job sites even more efficient. For example, both Caterpillar and John Deere are working on dozers that will have automatic blade control and, in due course, might take this even further and look to create fully autonomous and driverless versions of these vehicles as well.
Using vibration-proof lidar sensors, GPS and roof-mounted on-board computers, Silicon Valley’s Built Robotics has created a front loader that can automatically move earth in coordination with the plans for a building’s foundation.
Unlike consumer-focused self-driving vehicles, which must deal with other cars, drivers and road rules, autonomous construction vehicles work in a somewhat controlled environment. This permits design engineers to concentrate on more challenging tasks, like digging a foundation, rather than just trying to avoid collisions and staying within the painted lines.
Until recently, the possibilities of smart building technology were only doable for large real estate companies with budgets in the millions of dollars. The Internet of Things (in which a network of physical devices, appliances and software connect and exchange data to support automation) has been ridiculously complicated and costly for most building owners to explore.
As such, most commercial real estate companies still use manual methods to collect and confirm the data they rely on to manage building temperature, layout, and maintenance schedules.
Today, high-tech devices embedded with smart, wireless sensors are drastically altering the smart building industry. Reasonably priced, low-maintenance devices mean real estate developers of any size can now take advantage of the benefits of the Internet of Things – cost savings, improved margins, and better tenant relationships.
If a building owner knew when essential equipment such as an HVAC system was about to crash, he/she could cut unexpected, costly repairs, not to mention sidestepping downtime and tenants’ gripes. Sensors can measure and report on equipment usage, overheating, or unexpected changes so building owners can get ahead of problems before they happen.
This might seem like a no-brainer for construction managers. After all, we have Fitbits, wearable 3D glasses and even football quarterbacks who now wear an armband that enables them to communicate with the coach calling the plays.
Perhaps the most familiar type of this technology on job sites today, wearable trackers are intended to improve worker safety and cut workmen’s compensation costs. They can notify supervisors when a worker is injured, getting help to them faster. But they also execute ergonomic functions like keeping an eye on body position while lifting, reaching, bending and twisting.
Other wearable technology can track heart rate and body temperature to signal if a worker is overheating. Some measure elevation – data that might come in handy during the investigation of a fall. Still others can log visual data and send it to a site supervisor on the ground, facilitating communication should a problem arise.
VR and AR
Construction World reports that although virtual reality (VR) has been an emerging trend the past few years, it’s quickly becoming outdated, particularly when compared to augmented reality (AR). This is the ability to visualize the real world through a camera lens. It’s something that’s bound to open many new opportunities for the construction market.
It’s not cheap, but for construction firms that can afford it, this is a revolutionary step forward in how things can be projected and built and is a trend that will no doubt grow exponentially in the coming years. We can throw away the plastic glasses and, instead, plan and plot our sites well before the ground is even broken.
Cloud and mobile technology
Just a few years ago, most people either didn’t know or couldn’t describe what a cloud operating system was. This is no longer the case. In fact, most mobile devices can leverage cloud technology from anywhere, at any time.
Today, virtually all mobile devices are capable of taking advantage of cloud technology, with the ability to use and operate cloud-based software from most anywhere, at any time. The sky is the limit with practically infinite amounts of data that can be stored and shared instantly with the mere touch of a button and at about one-tenth the cost of old sharing technologies.
This technology will no doubt go from being preferred in the construction industry to becoming mandatory in order to remain competitive.
Connected job sites
This particular trend goes hand in hand with a number of other trends we’ve discussed in this blog but can’t be overstated.
Often, if not always, engineers, managers, surveyors, architects and construction workers are nowhere near one other at the same time.
However, with could technology, for example, all of these people can stay connected with one another, and at the same time. For example, there is a mounting landscape of various software solutions that allows graphics, measurements and instructions to be dispatched much more efficiently and in real time, as well.
Let’s now take a further look at several non-tech trends that will have an impact on the way you’ll do business in the next year and beyond.
Increasing material costs
Increasing material costs in the construction industry are one of the trends that should continue into 2019.
An Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data has shown that there has been an increase in cost from the beginning of this year to the present. To be specific, it comes in at about 1 percent per month with the biggest increases in iron and steel, steel mill products and softwood lumber. This trend will likely continue as long as there is decreased supply and increased demand for that supply.
Improved safety procedures
Most people are aware that construction isn’t the safest job in the world, especially when compared with a typical office job. After all, the industry suffers far more workplace accidents and fatalities, and this has brought about a mounting level of scrutiny for the industry.
This scrutiny has given rise to the development of technology intended to make construction sites safer. As prime examples, new mobile apps and computer programs make it easier for employees to adhere to safety measures when they’re working.
Investment in public transportation
Former transportation secretary under President Barack Obama, Anthony Foxx, said the focus now is on integrating infrastructure because end-to-end systems already are in place. “We can’t look at modes of transportation as separate and distinct anymore,” he said. “It’s all one whole.”
Among the more ambitious projects is Minneapolis’s $1.9 billion light-rail system which has overcome a number of obstacles and when completed, will extend a 14.5-mile route between Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis.
Boston recently broke ground on its $2.2 billion Green Line light rail extension which will add nearly 5 miles and seven stations to the system.
Beyond traditional rail and bus systems, the country is also exploring higher tech options. Examples include high-speed maglev trains and hyperloop systems, several tunnels of that having been okayed in Maryland and California.
Giant companies expanding spaces
While in previous years, the addition of new high-tech campus facilities from the likes of Google and Apple have hyped the construction world, this year’s publicity around the second Amazon headquarters in the New York and Washington regions could likely fuel increased momentum for similar expansions in 2019 and beyond.
For example, it was just reported that Apple is building a another $1 billion campus in Austin, TX, that could support up to 15,000 employees in departments like customer service, research and development and operations.
Moreover, as more companies continue to build out their facilities, many are also likely to add the indispensable infrastructure to sustain their operations. Data center construction should continue to take off as companies increasingly gather unprecedented amounts of information in their servers.
Wrapping it up
Without a doubt, the next few years are expected to be breakthrough years for the construction industry. A data-driven sector with emphasis on collaboration and real-time communication is hopefully around the corner. With a bit of luck, construction stakeholders will see higher productivity rates and fewer painful project delays.
PDDM has the experience to manage construction projects across a variety of markets and tailor each project to meet our clients’ requirements. Why not contact us before you take on your next construction project. We’re eager to advise on how we can best handle any project needs. 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