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3 Important Trends for Construction in 2020

Construction Trends

In kicking off the New Year, we’re taking a look at the top trends for construction firms in 2020 and beyond. 

First, let’s recap. Last year, we cited some major trends that are still hot and gaining momentum. In 2019, offsite construction gained traction with firms as a way to speed project completions, eliminate materials waste and save money. We also saw buildings getting smarter and greener, as firms continued to leverage IoT connectivity in their building designs. The Smart Buildings market size will continue to grow and could reach 635 million by 2022.

Last year, we also noted a trend around using construction cameras to simplify project documentation and perform 360-degree interior walkthroughs, and increased use of AI and machine learning helped firms improve efficiencies on the jobsite and behind the scenes. 

These trends continue to impact the construction industry in 2020. Additionally, the following trends will dominate the spotlight:

1. Social responsibility will increasingly influence building practices.

Media attention on the threat of global warming and other factors are behind the trend for social and environmental responsibility in construction. 

Green construction, for instance, is here to stay and now perceived as common practice. According to 2019 STO Building Group Sustainability Survey findings, none of the respondents think that green building is a passing fad, and 89% believe that green building is becoming a code requirement. 

The use of smart building technologies plays into this trend, as well — 60% of respondents plan to use sensors and other smart technologies over the next two years to track sustainability measures. 

Construction firms are also more concerned about embodied carbon — the carbon dioxide emitted during the manufacture, transport and construction of building materials. Embodied carbon can account for as much as half of a building’s total carbon footprint over its lifetime. Concrete, iron and steel alone produce about 9% of annual global GHG emissions, and embodied carbon emissions from the building sector produce 11% of annual global GHG emissions. 

According to the Sustainability Survey, 52% of respondents have a good understanding of embodied carbon and nearly half — 48% — say they will require embodied carbon accounting on future projects. There’s also a growing awareness of the need to create “resilient” buildings that can withstand intense natural and manmade disasters.

Construction firms aren’t the only ones pushing for socially responsible building practices — their clients are, too. The Sustainability Survey found that 82% of clients say it’s important to them that service providers have a robust environmental sustainability program.

As more builders adopt green building and other sustainability practices, expect to see the number of net-zero energy buildings increase. The Net-Zero Energy Coalition estimates that there are currently 5,000 net-zero single family homes and over 7,000 net-zero multi-family homes in the U.S. but that number could increase to more than 100,000 in 2020, based on construction trends in California. And it will be less expensive to go green, as well. In 2020, onshore wind and solar PV will be cheaper sources of new energy than fossil fuel.

2. Digital Transformation will usher in more new jobsite technologies. 

More firms are undergoing digital transformation as a way to run more efficiently and cost-effectively. Digital transformation enables the use of new jobsite technologies such as cloud-based project management software, connected cameras and drones, and mobile devices, to name a few. These technologies are gaining traction with construction firms today:

Ernst & Young, surveyed numerous companies along the engineering and construction value chain and found a whopping 98% agree that digital solutions are critical to the future viability of their company. For firms who have a plan for digital transformation in place, the main area of focus is on organizational structure, tools and processes for collaboration, communication between employees, company culture and workspace design. 

For most firms, however, complete transformation is a long way off. The biggest hurdles cited include lack of appropriate skills and necessary resources, commitment on the part of workers and other stakeholders, and funding. Making digital solutions easy to access and use, and providing adequate training to help workers develop technical skills will be essential to enabling digital transformation.

3. Artificial Intelligence and robotics will bring efficiencies and safety.

Although to date, adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the construction industry has been modest, that’s likely to change. A recent report from Reports and Data predicts the global market for AI in construction will reach $4.51 billion by 2026, bringing about efficiencies in design, planning and other processes. 

AI and machine learning enable complex data processing that can simplify daily tasks such as issue resolution and change orders, improve safety monitoring and assist with forecasting. Construction firms can leverage AI to process huge amounts of historical productivity and performance data, to make accurate predictions for spending and scheduling.

Here are a few practical use cases for AI in construction, as cited by McKinsey

  • Project schedule optimization. AI can process millions of alternatives for project schedules, and adjust as needed, depending on what happens throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Image recognition and classification. Video data from construction cameras can be processed to pinpoint unsafe worker behavior. The data can be aggregated to inform training programs. 
  • Sensor data analysis. AI-fueled analytics platforms can collect and analyze data from sensors to identify patterns that lead to operational improvements. In this way firms can cut costs, prioritize maintenance and prevent unplanned downtime.

AI is also fueling the development of robots that can perform repetitive tasks such as bricklaying, painting, loading and bulldozing. According to ABI Research analyst Rain Whitton, robots can help protect workers from hazards on the jobsite and workplace industries, and alleviate the pressure of the ongoing labor shortage.

Meet the Challenges of 2020 Head On with TrueLook

Whatever 2020 has in store for construction firms, TrueLook construction cameras are an essential addition to the jobsite, providing cutting-edge technology for jobsite monitoring, documentation and collaboration. They help reduce operational costs and improve communication throughout the project lifecycle. Try a live TrueLook demo to learn how we can help you capitalize on trends in the construction industry in 2020 and beyond.