Top 10 Construction Trends of 2020

Written By Soyica Lyles, AMAST Content

The traditional construction industry standards and processes as we once knew them are now becoming confinements of the past. The new expectations for architecture, engineering and construction are placing industry workplaces in this post-COVID environment on a collision course screeching towards the intersection of rethinking, re-imagining and restructuring.

As many return to work, here are 10 game-changing construction trends that will usher the industry into the next normal.

Construction Management Software

No matter the company size, construction management software moves your business forward. It’s an essential construction tool that moves away from the time-consuming spreadsheet allowing for more streamlined and efficient processes.

From budget, project submittals and approvals, change orders, punch lists, scheduling, milestone tracking, document management and client communication to worker tracking; management software bundles your solutions from the desktop to the palm of your hands.

Some top-rated CMS include: Procore, BIM 360, PlanGrid, eSub Subcontractor Software, Buildertrend, and Houzz Pro

Robotics

The use of automation and robotics in construction is not an unfamiliar idea. Since the 1990s, there have been arguments for its advantages. These include precision, higher accuracy, rapid construction and usability in environments considered dangerous for humans — such as extreme heights, uncontrollable weather and tasks over bodies of water.

As a necessary vehicle for safe construction, drones provide crucial information in real-time. Drone technology affords the opportunity for a bird’s-eye view of the site before, during, and after construction.

It monitors changing conditions from site to site, performs quicker and safer surveys throughout structures, and tracks progress. The drone’s data provides 3D imagery to ensure proper installations as well as perform site inspections that may be critical to finding problems quickly.

Green Technology

This sector of construction involves utilizing green building materials and technology that’s not only environmentally responsible, but also improves resource (water, energy, gas) and financial efficiency throughout a home or building’s lifecycle.

Environmentally friendly solutions designed into new or existing buildings may be covered at all stages of a project; planning and design, construction, maintenance and demolition.

Sustainable construction technology includes:

  • Solar Power
  • Biodegradable Materials
  • Green Insulation (Sheep’s wool, cotton, denim, ThermaCork, cellulose)
  • Zero Energy Building Design
  • Cool Roofs
  • Smart Appliance
  • Water Efficiency Technologies
  • Electrochromic Smart Glass
  • Self-Powered Buildings
  • Sustainable Indoor Environment Technologies
  • Rammed Earth Brick

Modular & Prefabricated Construction

Earlier this year, prefabrication and modular components enabled the construction of a 645,000-square-foot makeshift medical facility in Wuhan, China in only 10 days.

How exactly was this accomplished? “ Instead of first building the foundation and then following up with the superstructure (- i.e. the steel frame, the building, and the cladding), prefabricated units allow the construction of the foundation and the building envelop to take place in parallel” (Ankel, 2020).

As the foundation is being prepared, the modular components are being fabricated off site. Its popularity is rising due to time, energy and cost savings, as well as not dealing with the usual barriers to construction.

Safety Equipment and Health & Safety Regulations

In November 2019, The New York Times reported that there were 11,484 violations found as a result of surprise inspections on New York construction sites. Additionally, 2,523 stop-work orders were issued. Lack of coordination between contractors, deadline pressures, and lack of supervision and safety training enforcement were among the culprits of these violations.

Additionally, COVID-19 has forcibly changed the health and safety landscape on workplaces and jobsites. It begins with the use of better safety equipment products. We should also expect changes in health and safety protocols, ranging from staggered, less crowded shifts and temperature checks to sanitizing stations and daily disinfection of tools, machinery, and workstations. “If you don’t take the right precautions, it will cost you your life”(NYT, Hu 2019).

The responsibility for workplace protections becomes even more onerous for employers as “contractors can’t be thinking that they can bring workers back after all this dies down and it will be the same as always.

“They’ll have to include a lot more health and safety measures so that employees are comfortable returning to work.” Also, at some point we should expect to see enforcement on the local, state, and federal levels.

Project Management Solutions

Away with old time-consuming routines and on to the future of construction and its reliance on digital management solutions. Project-management software provides better options and solutions than were available before. Work from your mobile phone or tablet, improve work processes, collaborate digitally, and keep all documents related to the project in one central location.

Most importantly, whether essential or non-essential construction workers, software solutions help contractors and subcontractors get paid at the end of a project. Not all project-management software is the same. Find the one that’s right for your team and work model.

Sustainability

Arguably a matter of concern for all of humanity, the construction industry has a profound responsibility to build sustainably. Sustainable construction entails starting from the source and constructing a building which cohabitates with its natural environment as it functions as a responsible user of resources.

AMAST stays up-to-date and further empowers the construction industry as it highlights sustainable materials and vendors.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

In existence for over 50 years, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is becoming more critical and beneficial to the construction industry.

Through computer-generated 3D imagery, it provides invaluable detail and insight which allows architects, engineers, contractors and clients to visualize what the building will look like before it’s built.

BIM authors a more intelligent process from project start to finish. It facilitates efficiency in timing, worker scheduling, and ordering and scheduling delivery of materials. This in turn reduces project risks and improves timelines and cost saving.

Augmented / Virtual Reality

Virtual and augmented reality combined provides a visual three-dimensional model of the project’s characteristics. It is the Netflix of a real-world environment mixed with digital or virtual construction renderings that brings the design to life before building work begins.

Rising Cost and Labor Shortages

Well before COVID-19, the industry faced increasing materials costs and labor shortages. For nearly two decades, construction companies have been plagued with the inability to attract and retain its workforce. The diminishing workforce has negatively impacted construction costs associated with materials, capital improvements, and new developments.According to the Associated General Contractors of America 2020 Construction Outlook Survey, 81 percent of those asked described the current situation as having a hard time filling salaried and hourly craft positions. Even with increased pay for salaried or hourly personnel, it is expected to remain difficult to hire over the coming months.

Overall

By definition, trends gain notoriety and then disappear over time. Yet, amid the next normal along with the increased digitization and collaborative culture, modeling, modular components, and workplace safety protocols, these trends are poised to lead us into the second half of 2020 and well into 2021 and beyond.

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