It’s been a very eventful year for the construction industry, to say the least. In this article, we’ll look at the construction industry trends that have emerged in 2020 and will likely continue to affect business going forward.
14 construction industry trends to watch in 2020 and beyond
This has been the inescapable theme of the year so we might as well address it first. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way construction companies do business in 2020.
For one, as we discussed in this article, only 16% of contractors earlier this year expressed confidence in the availability of projects. Other COVID-related construction trends include:
increased personal protective equipment (PPE) usage
strict disinfection guidelines
close tracking of risks
These trends will likely continue well into 2020 as fears of a second wave plague North America. Even as some researchers reportedly close in on a vaccine, others warn that vaccinations will not end the pandemic immediately. This means that the construction industry (and, indeed, the world at large) will be exercising at least some level of precaution for a while.
Moving on to brighter construction market trends, the use of drone technology in the industry has reportedly risen by 239%.
Drones aid construction in a number of ways, helping professionals get a different perspective of the job site while monitoring things like quality and safety.
Drones are also an effective cost-saving method for surveying land as they can collect data within minutes. This data can then be analyzed remotely, reducing the amount of time some workers have to spend on the job site.
#3. Virtual/augmented/mixed reality
Another exciting construction industry technology trend is the emergence of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. These tools help professionals visualize job sites anywhere, anytime.
For example, companies might use these visualization tools to conduct virtual walkthroughs for clients and stakeholders who are unable to physically visit the job site.
Even when in-person visits are possible, virtual, augmented, and mixed reality programs can provide users with a more detailed view of the project than would otherwise be possible.
#4. Building information modeling (BIM)
Increased reliance on building information modeling (BIM) is another construction industry technology trend to keep an eye on this year and beyond. While BIM has existed in more primitive forms for decades, modern iterations have become a staple of architectural design.
Research has shown that BIM software can reduce errors by 61% and communication time by 55%. The same study also revealed that 82% of BIM users achieve a positive ROI using the software while 13% break even, meaning 96% of users recoup their expenses at the very least.
#5. Construction resource management software
Prior to COVID-19, a surprising number of construction companies were managing resources without software. This has been no secret; consulting firms like McKinsey have long been critical of the industry’s overall slowness to adopt available technology.
Increased reliance on remote workers has forced many construction companies to rethink their lack of technology. In many cases, this means adopting dedicated resource management software. Check out this article to learn more about essential construction software every company should be using.
#6. Prefabricated construction
Another construction industry trend that continues to develop is the use of prefabrication. In case you’re unfamiliar, prefabrication isn’t exactly anything new. Rather, it’s being incorporated in increasingly innovative ways.
A Dodge Data & Analytics report revealed that prefabrication has become increasingly popular in the construction of healthcare facilities, educational institutions, multifamily residences, and hospitality properties.
Roughly 90% of participants in the research indicated productivity improvements as a result of prefabrication. Additionally, more than 80% of respondents noticed their project costs were much more predictable and better results were achieved.
#7. Environmental friendliness
Over the past several years, there has been a persistent march towards environmentally-friendly processes in all aspects of commerce and manufacturing. Construction has been no different.
The previously-mentioned trend (prefabrication) is just one of many ways construction companies have improved the environmental friendliness of their projects. Net-zero energy homes are also becoming increasingly popular, as are improved construction carbon footprint calculators.
#8. Improved safety
Commercial construction trends have included increased safety for some time now. Still, construction workers face some of the highest rates of bodily harm, accounting for an estimated 20% of workplace fatalities.
Thankfully, construction safety has made a significant leap forward in 2020. The technology that has made this possible will certainly continue to benefit workers via enhanced safety.
Systems like the Internet of Things (IoT), safety management software, and aforementioned tech like virtual reality all make job sites safer for workers.
Construction equipment is increasingly wifi-enabled as well, helping supervisors track worker coordinates and create better job site safety plans accordingly.
#9. Infrastructure investments
Experts have consistently identified infrastructure as a key area for investment in North America. McKinsey & Company, for example, pointed out that a partial shutdown of the Hudson River rail tunnel in New York City would cost $16 billion and slash 33,000 jobs. Both effects would be severely damaging to New York’s economy – and, indeed, that of the entire country.
Increased understanding of North America’s decaying infrastructure has led to calls for “closing the infrastructure gap” by raising spending in this area to its higher historical averages.
Construction firms that specialize in infrastructure will need to prepare for the increased demand that such a hike in spending would produce.
#10. Increased hesitation concerning P3 contracts
One construction market trend that may prove challenging as companies look to increase infrastructure spending is increased trepidation towards P3 contracts.
In 2019, multinational giant Skanska announced it would no longer bid on projects using P3s due to, among many things, their fixed-price nature. Construction cost overruns are very common on such large and lengthy projects, which leaves companies making massive write-downs.
Skanska took a whopping $327 million in write-downs in 2018, some of which is reportedly attributable to the I-4 Ultimate Highway P3 project in Orlando.
Several other companies, including Granite Construction and Fluor, indicated similar objections to these types of projects, signaling trouble, particularly during times like these.
#11. Labor shortages
Labor has always been scarce in certain aspects of the construction industry. One of the most pressing construction trends for 2020, however, has been increased numbers of workers staying home over coronavirus fears.
Indeed, construction has been one of the few bright spots in terms of employment growth throughout the pandemic. In April, for example, the residential construction industry in America added 2,000 jobs while most other sectors saw dramatic declines.
Construction companies will have to work extra hard to combat the already-pressing labor shortage.
#12. Mobile technology usage
Gone are the days when construction software was solely relegated to desktop or even laptop computers. Today, these programs are increasingly-used on mobile devices, allowing professionals to track resource allocations and other pertinent things on the go.
#13. Rising costs
The cost of construction materials and wages has risen dramatically in 2020 thanks to everything from trade issues to regulation and, of course, COVID-19.
These rising costs create additional pressure on the construction industry and especially workers tasked with monitoring costs.
#14. Big data
Construction companies have always dealt with massive amounts of data, be it project designs, finances, or worker information.
The past year has been a very eventful one, including for the construction industry. We hope this guide has been helpful in showing you the various construction market trends that have shaped – and will likely continue to shape – the future.
Visit our blog to keep up to date on developments in the construction industry.
Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.