Man is a prolific builder and is capable of incredible feats of engineering. That is why we have so many structures and buildings today. This is also the reason why the construction industry exists and why it continues to boom. And the latest statistics show that there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
In this article, we will look at the trends driving the construction industry. We will see in what direction it is headed in terms of technology, design, and workforce movement. In the end, we will look at some tools that can help workers in the construction sector to finish their tasks with a flourish.
21 Construction Industry Trends & Forecasts for 2020 to Watch Out For
- Construction Goes Green
- Modular Construction Takes Off
- Autonomous Machines
- Equipment Communicating with Each Other
- Use of Renewable Biofuels
- Electrified Machines
- Drones for Better Visibility
- Cloud-Based BIM
- More Dimensions to BIM
- Increased Use of Artificial Intelligence
- Augmented and Virtual Reality
- Collaborative Workspace
- Entire Cities as a Market
- Low Profitability
- Public Facilities Spearhead the Green Change
- China Leads the Green Evolution
- 3D Printed Materials Becoming Commonplace
- Shortage of Hourly Craft Workers
- Construction Employment Going Up
- Regulation-Driven Price Increases
- Worker Safety
In 1919, there were 1,036 construction firms in the United States. By 1998, that number grew to 5,965. Interestingly enough, between 1901 and 2000, the US used 4.5 gigatons of cement. In comparison, China used 6.6 gigatons from 2011 to 2013.
At the beginning of the 20th century, 31% of the workforce were in goods-producing industries like manufacturing and construction, before the dawn of the 21st century, that went down to 19%. Female participation went up over a hundred years, too. In 1900, only 19% of working-age women worked. This grew to 60% by 1999.
But labor was not limited to adults. The 1900 census showed that 1.75 million children between ages 10 and 15 were gainfully employed. They made up 6% of the total workforce. Additionally, the nonwhite workforce comprised 14% of the whole workforce. There were around 3.8 million of them in 1900.
Overall, craftsmen, foremen, and kindred workers made up 27% of the entirety of the workforce from 1910 to 1920. But the number dipped to 10% below the 1910 figure by the turn of the century.
Craftsmen, Foremen, and Kindred Workers: Employment Trends in the 20th Century
Source: US Bureau of Labor StatisticsCreated by CompareCamp.com
Meanwhile, the American steel industry, which is crucial to the construction industry, produced 11.4 million tons of steel by 1900. This was more than what their British and German counterparts came up with. This number rose when the United States joined the fray during World War I. In 1914; the country produced 23.5 million tons of steel. This was twice more than its output in the past decade. And to put that in perspective, the construction of the Empire State Building took 60,000 tons of steel from United States Steel.
Emerging Design Trends in Construction
Steel contributed a lot to the growth of the construction industry. It also pushed forward other industries, such as food canning. But in the 21st century, construction firms have become more versatile and creative. In particular, green or sustainable building is taking off. And based on the numbers, it continues to be a popular construction option.
1. Construction Goes Green
The global efficient building design market drew in $23.61 billion in 2018. Meanwhile, the worldwide efficient building envelope industry had a revenue of $28.96 billion in the same year. The movement has become so popular that in 2019, there were 69,066 registrations for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in 2019. In contrast, there were only 41 projects registered in 2000 and 32,396 in 2010.
Leading the way are commercial offices. These are the largest green building market in the US at 21.2%. Industrial and manufacturing buildings are the smallest at just 1.5%. In the middle ground are health care and government offices or buildings at 11.1% and 8.5%, respectively.
Source: Advanced Energy Economy
When it comes to homes, though, sustainable single-family homebuilders had a market share of 22% in 2019. This is projected to go up to 31% in 2022. On the other hand, multifamily homebuilders owned 31% of the market in 2019. By 2022, it is predicted to reach 40%. Meanwhile, single-family home remodelers had 15% of the market in 2019 and are expected to gain 23% of the share in 2022.
2. Modular Construction Takes Off
Aside from the green movement, construction is also moving towards modular materials. It is understandable why modular projects are becoming more popular. After all, they get completed faster by 20% to 50%. It also saves 20% on construction costs. And at this point, the US West Coast, the UK, Singapore, and Australia are likely to become the next hotspots for modular construction. This is due to the lack of labor and housing in those regions and countries.
Moreover, 65% of building professionals reduced the costs of a project with modular materials, while 40% of them reported doing so by 6% or more. On top of that, it reduces waste. Considering that the construction and demolition waste account for 135 million tons every year. By going modular, this can be halved because of optimized fabrication. This means fewer or no errors and accidental damage.
Design trends highlights:
- Green building is currently and will continue to be popular.
- Modular construction materials are becoming commonplace.
- Markets all over the world are ripe for modular buildings.
Advances in Construction Equipment
Even construction equipment are changing—they are now adopting some of the latest technologies that are being used in computers and other industries. Certain manufacturers are already leading the way.
3. Autonomous Machines
Though Google and its cohorts, as well as other tech giants and auto industry names, are struggling to put automated machines on the road, companies working on construction equipment are having more success. Indeed, the world may see construction machines on sites faster.
4. Equipment Communicating with Each Other
The previous trend relates to this one. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), devices have become connected. These allow them to communicate. Thus, there is no need for people to adjust one device to accommodate the settings of another.
The same applies to construction equipment when they are connected to IoT. This will maximize their efficiency and promote better safety on sites, too.
5. Use of Renewable Biofuels
Diesel is on its way out of construction machines. Fleets are now turning towards renewable biofuels for power. This trend is most pronounced in California, as the state subsidizes the move. With this, the construction industry can lower its carbon footprint.
6. Electrified Machines
Electrified machines can become more commonplace. When it goes into action, it could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 95%. So far, there have been 15,325 confirmed orders or deployment for electric commercial vehicles. Out of all countries, the USA has the highest percentage of orders.
Source: Interact Analysis
7. Drones for Better Visibility
When Amazon announced it would be using drones for parcel delivery, it opened up the doors for more drone use cases. The construction field is also looking to utilize the device to gain visibility into work progress. This way, construction professionals could spot issues from above, if any, easily.
Construction equipment highlights:
- Machines connected to the Internet of Things pave the way for greater efficiency.
- Diesel is out; renewable biofuel is in.
- Drones will be present in sites to provide enhanced visibility to construction professionals.
Innovations in Software Solutions for Construction Professionals
Equipment is not the only one getting a makeover, however. Software solutions are also changing. As with machines, they integrate some of the avant-garde technologies available today. Nowadays, for example, businesses have a wealth of construction estimating software or construction management software to choose from.
8. Cloud-Based BIM
It used to be that BIM was confined to on-premise installations and use. But with the advent of cloud-based software, even such a powerful tool became more accessible. This allows users to get ahold of relevant information in real-time in all construction phases.
9. More Dimensions to BIM
BIM is seen to move towards 4D, 5D, and even 6D. These will add construction schedule, cost and materials, and more details to the software. Moreover, users will have access to geometrics, thermal and acoustic properties, and aesthetics. With these, they can see how such properties impact a building even before construction begins.
10. Increased Use of Artificial Intelligence
AI is projected to be used more frequently, mainly because of its ability to reduce construction costs. It can also come up with forecast models, which allow project managers and team members to determine whether their time frame is realistic. Additionally, using AI in construction software solutions can promote safety. This is possible by running scenarios and stress testing.
AI is also being explored as a powerful tool to reduce construction site injuries and deaths, which adds to business and human costs of the industry.
Source: Futurithmic.com, 2019
11. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Speaking of safety, construction teams are now deploying augmented and virtual reality to keep workers safe. This will allow them to identify weak points in a structure before they pose a significant danger. On top of that, they can use the technologies to be ready for accidents to minimize damages.
AR and VR can also revolutionize the construction industry with remote control. For example, in China, a company demonstrated how operators could control machinery from afar. This is especially beneficial when dig-work is involved, as they no longer have to deal with adverse weather conditions. Thus, their safety is guaranteed.
12. Collaborative Workspace
What other things can an online BIM offer? Apart from the fact that it is more accessible, it also enables team members to work seamlessly. This means that even if some are in the office and others are on-site, they can still communicate their ideas, not just through phone, email, or text. But they can do it graphically and interactively through a collaborative BIM.
Furthermore, by coordinating, construction teams can meet the requirements of time, cost, and quality.
Innovations in Software Solutions Highlights:
- BIM is evolving to present construction professionals with more sophisticated software solutions.
- Augmented and virtual reality promotes safety through hyper-realistic training programs and remote-control machinery.
- BIM becomes more collaborative.
The Construction Market
As has been mentioned earlier, there is quite a market for green and sustainable construction. Aside from that, there is a growing interest in modular construction, too. But market trends go beyond these.
13. Entire Cities as a Market
Urban planners, with the backing of city leaders, are slowly but surely transforming cities. More than ever, they are ensuring the sustainability of communities. What’s more, they are making certain that these communities are resilient in the face of calamities. And by developing smart cities, groups of people can optimize their resource consumption.
14. Low Profitability
Construction firms in the US are experiencing low profitability these days. This is largely due to fierce competition from their Asian counterparts, complexities of projects, and supply chain issues. Nevertheless, companies are adapting by being better at managing projects from the planning to the execution stages.
15. Public Facilities Spearhead the Green Change
Earlier, we mentioned that commercial facilities are the biggest market for sustainable building. This is true not just for the US but for other regions like Asia and Europe as well. This is due mainly to industrial expansions and is also driven by the burgeoning Asian population.
16. China Leads the Green Evolution
With 320 million square meters of green buildings, China surpasses the United States, which has 310 million square meters. The country accomplished in a decade what took the US 20 years. By the end of 2020, it is expected to have 50% of the global green building floor space.
17. 3D Printed Materials Becoming Commonplace
It is not just prefabricated materials that are attracting construction firms; 3D printed materials are creating a buzz, too. Because it is a computer-aided process, it is automated. All construction professionals need to do is input their design into the system of a 3D machine and click print. This is changing the way we do construction, especially amid a worker shortage.
Construction market highlights:
- The smart city movement opens up entire cities as a market for construction firms.
- Public facilities and commercial offices are leading the way in green transformation
- 3D-printed construction materials, and even entire houses, can become the future.
Labor and Employment
The labor market of the construction industry is in a precarious place. Even as early as 2017, almost 80% of survey respondents reported that their firms were having labor shortages.
18. Shortage of Hourly Craft Workers
Companies are having a difficult time ensuring that they have enough people to fill in hourly positions. Apart from that, there are almost 250,000 positions that need to be filled. Due to the lack of workers, firms have turned to prefabricated and modular materials.
19. Construction Employment Going Up
Despite the lack of craft workers, construction employment from 2019 has been on an upward trend, with the exception of the October 2019 figures. However, it cannot yet be said how the impending recession will impact this trend. That remains to be seen as the pandemic situation unfolds.
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Labor and employment highlights:
- Hourly craft workers are difficult to find.
- But more people are becoming employed by the construction industry.
Like any other industry, the construction sector has to adhere to different sets of standards and regulations as well. This has been a burden to the entire industry and is a driver of the surge of construction prices.
20. Regulation-Driven Price Increases
Regulations drive up the prices of construction. It makes up 24.3% of the final quote for a single-family home and 14.6% of the final house price. This is due to the 9.2% increase in the number of building codes. However, construction professionals believe that most of the code additions are changes that are not even necessary.
21. Worker Safety
Apart from codes covering construction, firms have to take note of regulations for workers’ safety. In this regard, employees have been using wearable trackers increasingly. Even work boots now have sensors. With these devices, supervisors can track the locations of team members. On top of that, these will alert them when workers are feeling fatigued or have met an accident.
- The regulatory burden is something that homeowners or building owners also carry.
- Workers’ safety is in focus with more standards.
Building for Tomorrow
The construction industry is not immune to changes in other sectors. In particular, it has been impacted by advances in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and even machine learning and robotics. The advent of more advanced collaboration software and project management software has also impacted the industry greatly.
It is also not immune to trends, such as the rise in demand for green and sustainable materials. These things have changed the way the industry works—it is now more efficient, much safer, and less costly operation-wise.
Customers may not be feeling the reduction in cost, however, as regulation fees mount up. Entire projects can also become more expensive when factoring in complexities. Despite this, the demand for buildings is not ebbing. Commercial structures and public facilities continue to be some of the largest markets for construction firms.
Concerning where the demand is great, the US West Coast, Singapore, the UK, and Australia are rife for more projects. Specifically, the people in these areas are looking for modular buildings.
And, of course, the green trend is still ongoing. China now has the largest floor space of green buildings, followed by the United States. The rest of the world is at their heels. With this movement, carbon reduction is stronger, and international environmental agreements may yet come to fruition.
- 20th Century Statistics
- How China used more cement in 3 years than the U.S. did in the entire 20th Century
- American Labor in the 20th Century
- Occupational changes during the 20th century
- The Entire History of Steel
- Advanced Energy Now 2019 Market Report
- Country Market Brief
- ENR – The Green Sourcebook
- Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes 2017
- Modular construction: From projects to products
- The Advantages of Modular Construction Shown in Three Statistics
- Eliminating Waste in Design Phase
- The Potential of Prefab: How Modular Construction Can Be Green
- Six Innovations Impacting the Future of Construction Equipment