It’s hard to believe, but 2017 is almost over.
Some impressive things have happened this year in the construction world.
Did you hear about the world’s longest bridge, set for completion in 2017 and opening to traffic in 2018? The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will stretch 34 miles and link the peninsula of Hong Kong with Macau in China.
What about Apple’s new, sprawling 175-acre headquarters in Cupertino, California, which opened in April 2017 and has been nicknamed “The Spaceship” due to its circular design?
Chances are, you’ve accomplished quite a bit yourself this year, and are now turning your sights to bold new challenges in 2018.
As we head into the new year, it’s important for you to understand the construction industry trends that may affect your business. We’ve got seven projections for 2018 to help you and your business put your best foot forward.
1. More 3D printing and drone usage
Technology is always the future, but exactly what type of technology are we talking about in the construction industry? The most likely candidates are 3D printing and drones.
Just a few years ago, 3D printing was a nascent technology used to create basic plastic models. Today? Its applications include building concrete houses in China. It’s only natural for construction managers to increasingly explore this option, as fierce competition and shrinking profit margins force innovation in building methods.
On the other end of things, just a few years ago drones were considered little more than toys. Now, they’re being used for surveying remote areas and construction projects, among other things. Drones allow construction managers to more effectively and efficiently survey sites that are difficult to examine on foot either due to their size or accessibility.
If you haven’t looked into either of these technologies yet, 2018 is the year to do it. You don’t want to fall further behind the curve.
2. Increase in popularity of modular/prefab structures
We’ve talked before about the benefits of building modular homes. In 2018, expect the trend toward using more modular and prefabricated structures to continue.
Prefabrication has come a long way in recent years and is no longer limited to cheap, poorly constructed cookie-cutter designs. Top architects are getting involved in the prefabrication and modular construction business.
Similarly to the use of 3D printing, prefab and modular structures can help construction managers facing decreasing profit margins who are seeking innovative ways of lowering construction costs (and boosting profits).
3. Greater emphasis on green projects
Green is the new black in the world of construction. This trend is already a few years old, but expect it to continue past 2018.
A recent U.S. Green Building Council study found that green construction was outpacing overall construction growth and would add more than 2.3 million jobs in 2015 alone.
The study predicted that by 2018, green construction would account for more than 3.3 million jobs in the United States, and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The green construction industry was also projected to reach $303.5 billion over that same time frame.
4. Slowdown in growth
Construction growth has been explosive in recent years, reaching double digits from 2012-15. It looks like those numbers will settle into the low single-digits in 2018. Considering the brutal collapse suffered only a decade ago, slow and steady growth might be the best kind.
Not everyone agrees that we’re due for a slowdown, however. In November 2017, Building Design+Construction surveyed 356 architects, engineers, and contractors, and found that six in ten respondents expect 2018 to be a very good or excellent year for business.
The only thing to do here is wait and see.
5. Improvements in safety
Construction continues to be an extremely dangerous industry for workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 924 deaths in 2015—the most recent year available—in the “construction and extraction” category, the second-most of any industry, falling behind only “transportation and material moving” (1,301).
Fortunately, technology is tackling this challenge head-on. A number of innovative concepts are giving construction managers new and interesting ways to mitigate safety risks on the job site.
Virtual reality simulators can help workers get the thorough training they need before using dangerous heavy equipment. Drones can be used to make construction sites safer by conducting inspections and keeping workers out of difficult-to-reach areas. There are even safety-focused software options, such as iAuditor (which is devoted to site inspections and safety audits) and FallSafety Pro (which detects falls and sends alerts to emergency contacts).
6. Rising materials costs
Outside of labor costs, materials are the top expense on your job site. Unfortunately, they’re trending upwards.
Between February 2016 and February 2017, material prices rose by 4.8%, despite falling the prior two years (falling 3.5% in 2015 and 2.7% in 2016).
The strength of construction activity in recent years has led to a tremendous increase in demand for materials, and in 2018 we’re really going to feel associated effects in the form of higher prices.
7. Even more construction management software will hit the market
We’re still adding new software options to Capterra’s construction management software directory, and there’s no sign of slowing down. We have 369 options listed as of December 2017.
In 2018, more software companies will produce their own construction management options, seeking to meet the growing needs of construction managers who want to better organize their businesses.
Tell us your predictions
You’re the one in the trenches, constructing homes, facilities, and office buildings on a daily basis. We want to hear from you! What trends have you noticed over the past year, and what are you expecting in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.