New construction projects are projected to hit $76.5 billion in 2018—an anticipated 3% increase over last year. Fueled by an increase in single-family home projects, commercial building construction, institutional building projects and public works construction, architects and construction leads are looking for new ways to create sound—and often, environmentally friendly—buildings.
Steady growth in the construction industry over the last several years, and the need for improved safety, have made it a prime landscape for transformation. Now, as the industry deals with an aging workforce facing retirement in the next decade, construction companies are looking to technology to improve efficiency and create a safer environment. As the digital and tech revolution takes hold, it brings with it the possibility of attracting a younger workforce to the aging industry.
Here are 6 of the biggest trends that savvy construction teams are getting on board with in 2018—and that are changing the face of construction as we’ve known it.
Advanced construction materials
The smart revolution has infiltrated many industries, and now it’s construction’s turn to experience a tech transformation. How? With futuristic materials that seem like they stepped straight out of your favorite sci-fi film.
Take self-healing concrete, for example. This innovative material contains pods of certain bacterial spore and calcium lactate. When the elements start to break down the material, the pods are activated by water to create limestone. By filling its own cracks and reinforcing its weak points, this material maintains itself, which translates to cost savings.
Robots and automation
Construction has remained a largely manual industry, despite the rise of machines and equipment. Until now, the digital transformation had been relegated to B2B and B2C businesses. But even that is beginning to change as the $10 trillion construction industry looks to enhance efficiency and safety. 4,500 construction workers are killed onsite every year, making it one of the top ten most dangerous professions, and robots may just provide the perfect solution. Delegating dangerous tasks to robots could just hold the key to increasing safety and efficiency in what’s become an understaffed industry.
And the staffing gap? Self-driving vehicles have the potential to enhance efficiency on jobsites that lack manpower.
Over the next few decades, many countries have pledged to minimize or eliminate gas-powered vehicles. Construction sites are now priming for an eco-friendly facelift with heavy-duty electric vehicles. By 2028, the market for heavy-duty electric vehicles is expected to reach $87 billion.
Companies in Scandinavia and Norway are already making major strides and pushes toward a cleaner construction zone. In the U.S., John Deere, in partnership with National Renewable Energy Laboratory Power Electronics researchers, is slated to soon release heavy-duty, electric hybrid construction vehicles.
Precast concrete infrastructures
Precast concrete offers a more sustainable solution to life in the concrete jungle than its standard concrete counterpart. In the U.S. alone, we spend upwards of $65 billion to build and improve our infrastructures—and yet they continue to crumble.
Concrete is by far the most used material for building. It’s affordable and durable. But it’s also a major pollutant that still falls victim to the elements. But as architects, engineers and construction teams increasingly go “green,” precast concrete is shaking up the industry. The resource-efficient composition has a long life, and is easy to build with, maintain and repair.
Wearables have been all the rage in the tech industry, and now they may just be coming to a construction zone near you. Despite their seemingly other-worldly fusion of man and machine, exoskeletons can be game changers when it comes to preventing onsite injuries.
Three million construction workers are injured every year on the job. These wearable mechanical suits improve and enhance a person’s biomechanics for extra support and protection when lifting heavy equipment or doing other back-straining work. Though wearables aren’t yet widely used in construction, 82% of those who use them give positive reports, making them a trend worth noticing.
Traditional concrete solutions are poured into molds onsite, then left there to cure. But for an industry already struggling with underemployment, this process uses up too much of the much-needed manpower, and can quickly push a project out of budget and timeframes. With the advent of offsite solutions like precast concrete and prefabricated building components, teams are streamlining their workflow for maximum efficiency.
By enabling construction teams to save time and costs, offsite solutions are becoming the go-to construction method for companies savvy about budgets, timeframes, quality and saving the planet.
The construction industry is prime for transformation. As innovation takes hold, this industry may just become the highest-tech and safest of them all.