Construction spending failed to delight analyst expectations in 2016 so a 5% growth prediction in 2017 starts (according to Dodge Data & Analytics) is welcome news. There is still a sense of uncertainty with the new year and how policies and agendas could impact the construction industry, but new technologies and an infrastructure-spending boost have given the industry a lift as we start 2017.
Here are a few trends VIP Structures is following for 2017:
Rise of Design-Build Initiatives
The design-build concept blends design and construction into one source to facilitate project completion with more efficiency and context. All project stakeholders are finding the process to be very focused and collaborative while improving processes and adding value. As high-profile projects completed under the design-build premise increase, states that haven’t always welcomed the concept (New York, for example) are seeing legislative activity and more interest as its benefits become more obvious.
“Design-build is taking hold,” says Michael Vardaro, managing partner at New York construction law firm Zetlin & De Chiara. “It allows more collaboration and gets you to the completed product much faster.”
Modular Construction Continues to Gain Momentum
There’s really nothing new in modular (offsite or prefabrication) construction, but what has the industry enthused are its attributes of saving time and money in project completion. Builders and customers are warming to the fact that it can look as good as onsite building, but can be completed in a fraction of the time. This radically compresses timetables because much of the work is done offsite before it reaches the job site.
Modular components can also be added to major construction projects to help facilitate completion without sacrificing style and value. Modular construction reduces accidents because it’s completed on the ground and timetables aren’t impacted due to weather delays because of inside module construction. These efficiencies and safety measures are attractive and, when added to the lower costs of prefab construction, will grow in adoption as the year extends.
New Technologies Will Change Building Creation and Execution
Let’s start with the Internet of Things (IoT). You may have a cursory understanding of this digital phenomenon but it’s about to shake up the construction world, so get ready. The IoT brings together collected data from several aspects of construction (i.e. drone surveying, wearables, equipment, employee tracking) to give builders a better picture of how and where to cut costs and create efficiencies. For example, equipment sensors will be able to monitor when machinery is in need of repair, while special wearables can monitor workers on the job site to help ensure that they are protected from hazards and serious injuries.
Garrett Harley, director of engineering and construction strategy for Oracle, combines the concepts of IoT and business intelligence. “It’s the aggregation and collection going into a central repository where you can make intelligent decisions based on what you’re collecting,” he said. “All those decisions are just a way of moving something from a manual process to seeing that information in real-time.”
Seeing construction projects in real-time is one thing, but envisioning them in an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) world is something else entirely. While IoT is data-based, AR and VR are visual representations that allow you to project visually even before a project begins. In addition to the wow factor, augmented and virtual reality let project managers pick up on errors ahead of time, as well as indicate where potential job site hazards may occur. The inherent value of cost savings and scheduling efficiencies alone are worth taking a look at these new tools.
Infrastructure Spending Due to Get a Boost
The federal government has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, a welcome initiative for many major metropolitan centers in real need of renovation. This would be welcome news to many construction companies who can’t plan their next projects due to unsteady federal funding. Many of these projects are still on the board and will necessitate some rethinking on infrastructure design, but just the assertion that improvements need to be funded opens up more optimism and opportunities than seen in several years.
Not all news for the 2017 construction industry is as shiny as these elements. There are some concerns over materials costs skyrocketing if foreign relations do not remain strong. There’s also a concern of the impact on the labor market with regards to construction. The simple fear of the unknown can stall projects or kill those on the drawing board. Only time will tell but we’re choosing to focus on the bright spots and let the rest settle in as we kick off another year in the construction industry.