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The construction industry faced a few disruptions this year, from pivoting during a global pandemic to dealing with an ongoing labor shortage, and navigating new regulations and rising construction costs. For 2021, construction industry trends mark the dawn of a new era, as construction innovations and new technology help to shape the future of construction.
Construction companies across the country scrambled to embrace change in 2020, with many trying to figure out how to dispatch a remote workforce, find new resources to fill breaks in the supply chain, and solve cash flow and workflow disruptions. To solve these issues, construction businesses turned to construction industry technology trends to enhance efficiency and gain a competitive edge in the industry.
A new wave in construction technology allows construction companies to integrate technology apps and programs with each other, enabling users to manage all aspects of a construction project—from securing the winning bid to knocking out the final punch list. This means less time spent trying to cobble together multiple apps to create a system that works for your construction business, and more time spent on construction activity that boosts your bottom line.
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Below, we explore the top 13 Construction Industry Trends shaping the construction industry outlook.
1. Construction Project Management Software
Project management software allows construction companies to gain insight on the entire construction project, and easily see what's working efficiently and what's not. It's construction innovation at its finest, and one tool clearly shaping the future of the construction industry.
For instance, ServiceTitan's Construction & Service Software allows you to drill into each job's progress by displaying the construction project budget vs. actuals tracker, eliminating messy spreadsheets and avoiding error-prone, manual data entry. This software also integrates with QuickBooks or Sage Intacct for accurate work-in-progress reporting and improved cash flow management.
Keep all documents related to the construction project in one place with an all-in-one software solution that helps your construction business compile data for RFIs, enforce best practices with techs via mobile forms shared on the job site, closely monitor inventory or change orders, pay subcontractors and handle payroll, and so much more.
2. Smart Contracts with Blockchain Technology
Smart contracts with blockchain technology give all parties more confidence in the construction project by creating a more secure workflow, and an undisputed historical record of all services provided. Essentially providing a shared system to do business, smart contracts digitally record and link all transactions together in one place, with the blockchain enforcing set rules and deadlines.
Rather than overseeing contracts and tracking deliverables from multiple parties, construction companies use smart contracts as an all-in-one tracking system to coordinate project data points from all parties in real time—from task completion and schedule changes to daily transactions and final payments.
User-verified blockchain technology helps the construction industry achieve faster closeouts, order building materials through an automated supply chain, and increase overall security to buy, track, and pay for construction services.
3. Mobile Technology
The Covid-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in nearly every industry, including the construction industry and other skilled trades. While some businesses came to a screeching halt, construction firms and other home service companies using mobile technology like ServiceTitan's Pricebook Pro performed better—even during a pandemic.
Cost-conscious consumers appreciate the ease and simplicity of viewing good-better-best options on a technician's mobile app, comparing prices, product descriptions, and images for best value. Construction companies use mobile technology to manage job scheduling, technician dispatching, customer communication, on-site accountability, and more.
From job site to off-site, the right mobile technology helps to streamline efficiencies throughout the entire construction process and better meet customer demands.
4. Drones in Construction
The construction sector utilizes drones in various ways, from surveying and mapping construction sites and accurately estimating quantities of building materials needed, to making the job site safer for construction workers and providing progress updates to clients and other stakeholders.
Visual data gleaned through drones helps construction companies streamline decision-making on project needs in real time, reduce labor costs, and minimize theft risk.
5. Incorporating Artificial Intelligence
Construction project managers know the importance of data collection throughout the life cycle of any construction job, but many fall short when it comes to properly analyzing that data and using it to gain a competitive edge.
While late to join the artificial intelligence game, construction trends show increased use of AI and other analytic engines to interpret company data, and leverage it to drive day-to-day operations, improve marketing reach, and win more work.
From automating mundane tasks to improving workflow efficiencies, AI definitely plays a role in construction industry growth for the foreseeable future.
6. Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and even Mixed-Reality tools and devices available in the construction market today add a whole new dimension to construction technology trends.
Users of VR, AR, and MR operate wearable technology on the construction site to gain critical data, such as:
3D modeling to see future construction projects on residential and commercial real estate
Accurate building measurements via automation
Easy simulation of architectural and structural changes
Better insight on building mechanicals by "seeing through walls"
Better safety and hazard training for construction workers
7. Building Information Modeling
BIM software gives construction professionals an intelligent 3D modeling tool to design and manage a construction project from start to finish.
Producing digital images of buildings and infrastructure to help describe all elements of the project, construction teams use BIM digital files to make more informed decisions on scheduling, materials, and labor costs for complete project management.
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8. 3D Printing
Does the future of construction rely on 3D printing of houses and other buildings? Some in the construction industry believe 3D printing offers endless possibilities to save labor costs and material costs by building prefab structures off-site or directly on the job site.
The technology uses additive manufacturing on construction sites to build walls and process cement, for example. It reduces costs and waste, speeds up construction time, and lessens injuries on the job. By automating the construction process, 3D printers work around the clock until the job is finished, and give companies a competitive edge over construction firms that rely solely on human labor.
Despite uncertainty over how states will regulate 3D printing use in the construction industry, the 3D printing market is projected to reach $1.5 billion by 2024.
9. Modular Construction and Prefabrication
Constructing permanent modular buildings and prefabricated homes grew in popularity in recent years, especially since both trends offer energy efficiency and cost savings through reduced labor costs.
As construction companies deal with the ongoing lack of skilled labor and increased material costs, prefab structures promise faster turnaround times and higher quality, standardized builds.
Market experts expect the modular construction market to grow from $82 billion in 2020 to more than $108 billion by 2025.
10. Sustainability and Green Construction
In new construction, building with sustainability means designing small changes into a structure so it requires less natural resources or uses recycled materials. For instance, allowing natural light to reach the middle of the building as a way to reduce electrical costs, or designing structures with greywater systems to reuse water from sinks, laundry, and toilets.
Green construction, on the other hand, focuses on erecting energy-efficient structures that work to lower a building’s carbon footprint by using renewable resources to construct it. Some examples of green construction include earthen materials, like wood, bamboo, cork, stone, and others.
Both construction innovations focus on optimized energy efficiency and low-to-zero carbon emissions. Companies also reduce construction time and get paid faster by sourcing materials locally and applying modular building techniques.
11. Better Safety Equipment
In the midst of a pandemic, addressing safety issues for construction workers became top priority for many in the industry. The demand for teleworking, social distancing, and adequate Personal Protective Equipment continues to shape the future of many industries in the United States, for at least the short-term.
Besides necessary PPE, construction firms can now invest in Wi-Fi-connected wearables or work boots, which send GPS coordinates to supervisors to alert them when workers fall or show signs of tiredness. Other advancements such as cooling vests or PPE designed specifically for female construction workers also help keep workers safe.
12. Labor Shortage
The ongoing labor shortage certainly impacts the construction industry, with labor costs outpacing other project costs well into the future. Interpreting the data produced by various new technologies further compounds the issue, with a growing need for more educated workers to analyze the information.
On the bright side, more women are stepping in to fill the construction labor gap. The industry saw a 30-percent growth in women-owned companies over the past five years, and experts attribute the increase to more women taking interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
13. Material Costs
Material costs continue to drive up prices in the construction industry, especially in light of reduced manufacturing during Covid and an increased demand for new housing starts.
A strong demand and low supply caused lumber prices to soar since mid-April, with a 130-percent increase, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Likewise, construction companies experienced material price increases for concrete, asphalt, piping, steel, and more.
To fend off rising material costs and increase productivity—despite a labor shortage—construction companies must embrace new technologies centered around data collection and analysis, digitization, and quality prefab construction to find ways to work smarter, not harder.
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.