During the last year, labor shortages, skyrocketing prices from lumber to steel, and Covid restrictions dramatically impacted construction industry trends. Owners and developers delayed or canceled projects while existing work faced challenges from supply chain disruptions, inflation, and more stringent regulation. These obstacles highlighted the industry’s need to fully harness technology and consider sustainability strategies to widen thin profit margins and stay competitive.
While some of these issues will not disappear overnight, there is a lot to be optimistic about in 2022. With the ongoing housing market boom and many employers embracing the work-from-home model, Dodge’s Data’s Chief Economist, Richard Branch, predicts residential home building will modestly grow this year. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) forecasts nonresidential building construction spending will expand 5.4% in 2022, likely due to the American Rescue Plan Act, which has $10 billion earmarked for community infrastructure.
As the sector grows this year, these four construction industry trends are prominent and escalating.
1. Modular and Prefab Structure
(Assembled components or whole structures manufactured in factories rather than at the jobsite)
With no signs of letting up, off-site construction has experienced a surge in the last few years, primarily driven by benefits such as improved labor productivity and construction cost reductions. Modular or prefab construction presents a host of advantages, including enhanced safety, more accurate scheduling, and faster builds. Prefab can cut timelines in half. Assembled wall panels, for instance, may come complete with insulation, doors, and windows, which would take more time to add on-site.
Since workers are building on benches in a controlled environment rather than bending over or reaching up on dangerously high surfaces, accidents happen less frequently. Also, there’s hardly any risks associated with inclement weather, trade crews getting in each other’s way, or supply delivery site disruptions. Sequencing and scheduling are accurate and predictable. Off-site construction is also “greener.” Modular buildings use mostly recycled (and recyclable) materials and produce less waste than on-site work.
2. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Virtual visualization technology has seen and will continue to witness swift growth this year. As the use of BIM has grown over the last five years, our research shows that project managers making the most of BIM can expect a 25% gain, with significant improvement to final project costs and timeline.
A 3D BIM model allows engineers, architects, contractors, and designers to plan, revise, and manage digital platforms using virtual environments pre-build. Models are accessed from laptops, mobile devices, or virtual reality hardware, enabling stakeholders to collaborate and zero-in on flawed or faulty design before the physical building stage. Avoiding rebuilds means substantial cost savings. Since changes and alterations in design are the norm rather than the exception, empowering stakeholders to provide commentary on an initial model, run real-life scenarios, and verify configurations leads to better-produced buildings.
3. 3D Printing
Developed back in the 1980s primarily for product prototypes, 3D printing technology has come a long way and soon will be a leading approach for prefabricated buildings. 3D printing is an additive process that builds up a product or structure using layers. 3D printing offers numerous advantages, including increased speed, design flexibility, less waste, reduced labor, and fewer instances of human error. Recently, advances in concrete 3D printing for structural elements have the construction industry using it for everything from individual cement blocks to foundational walls to complete homes to bridges.
Several next-generation startups, including California’s Mighty Buildings and Texas’ Icon, plan to disrupt traditional home building and employ 3D printing technology. Venture capital backers suggest this technology will end the housing shortage and decrease soaring prices. 3D equipment can do the work of 10 laborers and work 24 hours a day without making mistakes due to fatigue. Concrete printing means building complete homes in a matter of days rather than months like conventional builds. This is good news for a sector that has faced significant labor shortages. In 2021, Ed Brady, the CEO of Home Builders Institute, reported, “We need to place 740,000 people into the industry a year for the next three years.”
4. Sustainability and Green Building
The industry has faced increased scrutiny about its impact on carbon emissions and surface-level pollution. According to the World Green Building Council, the building industry generates an estimated 39% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a massive consumer of natural resources and raw materials. While the sector has complex, conflicting concerns and generally a slow up-take on change, public awareness and government regulation have pressed for greener solutions.
Sustainable construction has compelling positives:
- It saves money. Green buildings use fewer resources, water, and energy than conventional builds.
- Green projects tend to lease or sell for more than their traditional counterparts. Consumers generally expect to pay more upfront for eco-friendly structures.
- Builders can take advantage of new sustainability-focused programs, tax laws, municipality fee reductions, and marketing assistance incentives.
While green building may cost more upfront, contractors, owners, and developers can expect higher profit in the long run. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment by efficiently using energy, water, and other resources. For new construction and alterations of existing buildings, going “beyond code” for items such as building emission limits, renewable energy requirements, and net zero energy targets can lead to both environmental and economic benefits.
For more information about building & construction industry trends, contact us.