The Future of Construction

From changing demand to technology, to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the construction industry is changing. Companies are facing longer project completion and even cancellation of projects, and there’s the concern over the health of employees and subcontractors.

According to PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey released in June 2020, 81% of Chief Financial Operators were considering cost reductions, and 56% were planning to defer/cancel investments.1 The current crisis has struck the engineering and construction industry harder than other economic downturns.

Here is a look at what the future of construction might look like amid current trends, the pandemic, and the economic crisis.

Cleaner Jobsites

Asian male and female engineers wearing mask protect with helmet

Worker health and safety have become even more important. Companies are implementing policies such as staggered shifts to practice social distancing, routine disinfection of jobsites (including tools and machinery), and even employee temperature checks. Many employers are requiring the use of masks and gloves. Others have even been producing their own sanitizing soap.

Cleanliness is and will continue to be a top priority. Construction companies are following the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recommendations for construction work by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These health and safety measures are necessary for compliance purposes and to ensure employees feel safe returning to work.

In particular are standards regarding:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators, masks, and face coverings
  • Handwashing procedures/installation of hand sanitizing stations
  • Workplace cleaning, disinfection, and sanitizing
  • Hazard communication
  • Social distancing
  • Jobsite pre-access health questionnaires
  • Temperature checks

Remote Communication

Social distancing doesn’t only mean staying six feet apart. Many contractors are permitting telework, using video conferencing platforms for virtual meetings focused on construction management and project updates.

In the past, picking materials often required travel, especially on the part of the customer. Identifying and verifying materials can now be accomplished virtually. Virtual Design Construction (VDC) simplifies the pre-construction material selection process and helps reduce the amount of waste. Also, potential issues can be found in advance to save time and cost.

While physical project completion must be done in-person, many personnel can work remotely in construction jobs, including:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Project managers
  • Safety managers
  • Account managers
  • Directors
  • Analysts
  • Dispatchers3
  • And more

Employee Recruitment

Recruitment strategies vary depending on the market and project type. Some employees may hire within select local markets to find talent that fully understands the needs of contractors in the region. Interviews have traditionally taken place in-person, but virtual interviews may become more commonplace to minimize contact. The hiring process could increasingly involve orientations and briefings on company safety guidelines, crisis response plans, and various response protocols within the workplace or on the jobsite.

Longer Project Times

Major safety measures, donning/sanitizing PPE, and staggered work shifts are expected to prolong project completion times. Some construction companies may allow only one trade on a site at a time. New guidelines may drastically alter construction schedules, and it may not be possible to fast-track a project. Contractors will need to consider these time constraints, as will subcontractors, architects, owners, and other members of the project team and supply chain.

Demand for New Project Types

The coronavirus outbreak is changing the demand for different types of construction projects. For example, it’s less likely contractors will see as much retail, entertainment, and hospitality construction. However, healthcare construction and manufacturing projects are more likely to be in demand.

It is also uncertain how a decrease in travel will impact road and bridge construction, amid declines in states’ Department of Transportation revenue and possible shifts in Congressional funding toward COVID-19 support for struggling businesses and unemployed individuals.

Rising Material Costs

Project suspensions, increased delivery times, and other factors are driving up material costs. Some reasons for rising costs include damage to stored materials during suspension periods, uncertainty as to the availability of contractors for restarting projects, and costs incurred for a supplier holding materials during a suspension period. Various other costs may apply beyond the initial contract.

A rise in demand for eco-friendly materials may impact costs as well. Examples include using salvaged or reclaimed wood instead of cutting down new trees, environmentally sustainable materials for flooring, low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints, recycled drywall, and recycled glass or paper composite materials for countertops. Demand vs. cost in this area may impact construction in the months and years to come.

Technology

Construction Worker Planning Contractor Developer

Technologies proving beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the future of construction include:

  • Offsite Construction: With modular construction, homes and other structures don’t need to be built from scratch. Pre-fabricated materials and 3D printing are making modular construction practical and affordable.
  • Augmented Reality (AR): No longer just for gaming and consumer gadgets, AR is being used in construction. Imagine project updates and safety warnings, temperature, and pressure data delivered via a worker’s helmet or goggles.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Machine learning can help analyze millions of scenarios to make predictions, improve scheduling, and streamline the entire process. Artificial intelligence can also identify high-risk worker behaviors and analyze photos of at-risk materials.
  • Digital Connectivity: Construction managers can receive important information without having to travel, thereby making decisions faster. Employees also receive faster responses. Digital forms can be used to communicate information.
  • Building Analytics: The Internet of Things (IoT) has prevailed everywhere and suits the construction industry, as sensors can be installed to manage everything from heating and cooling to security, to energy usage. Various building systems can be tested, installed, and implemented with the available data.
  • Drones: Remotely controlled drones have become mainstream and make it possible to safely inspect and analyze parts of the jobsite without sending people into the field. This helps reduce hazards and the number of individuals on the jobsite.

Contact Cross Construction Services

Drone inspection. Operator inspecting construction building turbine power plant

A leader in construction management in the Houston area, Cross Construction Services handles all aspects of the process, including planning and design, construction, and project delivery. We coordinate all construction activities with the appropriate entities, including owners and architects/engineers. Our expertise is executed in conjunction with the latest COVID-19 guidelines and knowledge of trends shaping the future of the industry.

For help with residential and commercial concrete driveway construction and pavement services, a free estimate, and to get started, call us today at 713-254-1703.

Sources:

  1. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/crisis-solutions/covid-19/global-cfo-pulse.html
  2. https://www.simplyhired.com/search?q=remote+construction+manager&pn=3&job=h0iK8nhjusbB7f7mzWWYdcuweHwQJxhQACb5dVkI-pG1SI1x4wosWA
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