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As the new decade begins, many trends that have shaped the construction industry in recent years continue to be relevant in 2020.

In this two-part blog series, Mid-City Lumber highlights the opportunities and challenges awaiting contractors in the year ahead. 

This month’s article summarizes the ongoing influence of digital technologies, modular building and labor shortfalls. 

Augmented & Virtual Reality

The global augmented reality market is expected to grow from $10.7 billion in 2019 to over $72 billion by 2024. AR and VR technologies have already made a significant impact on construction as projects increase in complexity. 

AR generates more realistic site planning before the shovel hits the ground. This results in better designs, superior modeling and virtual walkthroughs from anywhere in the world.

Workers can “see through walls” without creating a single hole, and errors are discovered and fixed earlier in the process. 

 

Robotics & Drones

The World Economic Forum predicts that 2020 could be the “year of the robot” in the construction industry. The industrial robotics market is expected to grow 175% in the next decade.

Robots can take on a number of tasks such as demolition, bricklaying and tying rebar. Benefits include faster completion times, improved quality and safer job sites. The commercial drone market is expected to surpass $129.2 billion in the next five years, driven by demand in construction and other sectors. Drones can perform surveys and inspections in mere minutes, yielding significant cost savings.

 

GPS & Wearables

The global GPS market is expected to reach nearly $129 billion by 2025 according to one estimate. That’s a 20.3% CAGR, driven by military and civilian demand in many industries including construction.

GPS enables surveying, prospecting and even locating lost or stolen equipment. It powers fleet management applications, such as driverless bulldozers and other construction vehicles. 

The wearable technology industry is expected to reach $54 billion by 2023, with GPS-enabled items improving safety and efficiency at the job site. Wearable exoskeletons help with strenuous activities, while smart helmets measure worker fatigue to combat the risk of injury. Other examples include trackable belt clips and safety jackets.

 

Building Information Modeling & Smart Project Management

Already widely adopted by architects, engineers and contractors, BIM continues to integrate augmented reality, 3D modeling and other technologies. 

Emerging BIM systems facilitate collaboration and information management on a project. The result is quicker communication, affordability, sustainability and safety. 

According to some estimates, over 90% of construction data is thrown away. Smart project management software combines real-time actionable data on a single platform for tighter coordination and fewer errors throughout the life of a project.

 

Modular Building and Prefabrication

The brand new $65 million AC Hotel by Marriott International is set to become the world’s tallest modular hotel when it opens in New York in the fall of 2020. The 26-story, 168-room marvel features prefabricated hotel rooms completely outfitted with beds, bedding and even personal care items.

The global modular building industry is projected to reach $157 billion by 2023, spurred by increasing use in commercial and residential projects. Constructing individual modules in a factory setting saves time and money. McKinsey and Company estimates that modular construction may cut production time by as much as half. 

Modular construction also promises to make projects both greener and more affordable. Factory production facilitates easier recycling of construction materials, reducing the nearly 40% of landfill waste that currently comes from construction. Faster, more cost-efficient projects also generate savings that can be passed on to residents, helping to address the need for affordable housing in cities across the country.

 

Labor Shortage

A recent survey from Associated General Contractors of America found that ⅘ of contractors are having trouble filling job openings

The chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders says the industry is short by 300,000 to 400,000 construction workers. That shortfall has wide-ranging effects, including artificially depressing the number of housing starts. 

Industry efforts to attract more young talent include outreach to high schools, recently discharged military veterans and at-risk youth organizations. The Home Builders Institute, the Home Depot Foundation and the National Housing Endowment recently teamed up to donate $700,000 for skilled construction trade education in high schools across America. 

Policy-based proposals include increased federal funding for trade education and employment-friendly immigration policies. 

In spite of the continuing labor challenges, most contractors remain optimistic about growing demand for services in 2020. Next month, we will take a closer look at building and remodeling trends that are shaping both commercial and residential projects. 

If you’re looking for the best materials, tools and guidance for meeting client expectations, contact Mid-City Lumber today and speak with our helpful construction experts.