Construction Management

4 AEC Trends Shaping 2017

Published by in Construction Management

Let’s be honest, there’s just no categorizing what you do for living.

Sure, you’re in the construction business, and a lot of other people are, too. But architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) is such a broad term to describe what are, in reality, a million little niches.

You’ve got one construction manager building a 22-story office building that will be the crown jewel of downtown, while just down the road another manager is trying to put together her first blueprint for a small mom-and-pop country store. They’re worlds apart from each other in what they focus on.

That said, they’re still in the same line of work, and each has similar problems facing them. Construction managers want to design and build great structures. They want to get the project done on time. They want organize the work efficiently and drive costs down, thereby increasing the bottom line.

So if you’re in the AEC world at all, you need to be aware of emerging construction trends that can help you accomplish these goals. For some of you, the “latest technology” may seem like a bunch of whiz-bang nonsense, and in some cases you may be right.

But every year, critical technologies emerge as key players in the industry, and if you’re not on board when it happens, your competitors could be reaping the benefits of a new piece of construction management software that, say, estimates the materials you need to order with incredible efficiency, or organizes a team so well that no order gets lost in the shuffle, increasing the rate at which you complete a project on time.

So it’s a good idea to at least be aware of what the major trend lines are in the AEC industry. Here are four AEC trends that we think will be big in 2017.

1. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) will start to make its way onto the market    


(via Oregon State University)

There are so many moving parts in a construction project, and getting them all working in harmony will result in a big boost in efficiency and increase your bottom line. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is all about collaboration. It’s about weaving a beautiful tapestry where all of your people, systems, business structures, and practices work together in one seamless whole. And a good IPD system will be there for the entire process, starting with the design and continuing through to the very end of a construction project.

IPD is the holy grail for any construction manager hoping to get a project done on time and on budget, but it’s a lot easier said than done. Of course, it’s a topic that’s been under discussion for years, but interest in IPD is really starting to grow.

For example, the Nonresidential Construction Index Report released in 2015 by consulting firm FMI stated:

“On the topic of construction delivery method trends, responses surrounding current and future trends for construction project delivery methods indicated a return to more collaborative methods. This indicates a shift toward alternative delivery methods and away from the more traditional approach of design/bid/build popular during the recession as a way to ensure the lowest initial price for projects.”

2. Modular construction will be the new black

(Image via Modulek)

Modular buildings have come a long way this century, and in 2017 they’re going to be the new mainstream way to construct a building. Modular buildings “now look so similar to traditionally-built buildings that you haven’t noticed the popularity of modular buildings,” notes modular building designer Modulek.

Modular buildings are popular among organizations with tight budgets who need more space but can’t afford a brand new custom building. Schools, for example, are trying to expand their education facilities on a shoestring budget and with a quick turnaround time, and modular construction is a good way to do that, Modulek says.

The company also pointed to AFC Bournemouth, a soccer team in the UK that was recently promoted to the premier league and had just six weeks to build new facilities to reflect their new status before their next match, which you can see below.

(via Modulek)

In addition, “pop-up” stores are becoming more popular. These small, temporary retail spaces can be quickly set up and then taken down shortly after, making it perfect for seasonal stores or to test new products and concepts.

3. LEED will lose its chokehold on green development certification

(via Flickr user Mack Male)

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been the gold standard in green building certification programs worldwide, but that appears to be changing. Harvard Business School late last year called LEED “largely ineffective” in reducing the energy consumption of buildings in a report titled “Losing the LEED.”

“LEED has become synonymous with energy efficient buildings in the US. However, the point system utilized has proven to have little effect on sustainability,” the report states. “As a result, several other organizations have become more effective in providing guidelines to reduce energy efficiency.”

That’s good news for some construction managers, as LEED may not quite fit your particular design needs.

Alternatives to LEED include Passive House and Net Zero Energy Building, which are focused on energy efficient design, notes sustainability organization Poplar. You can also check into the Living Building Challenge, which has even more stringent requirements to be certified. Another option is Green Globes, a platform that allows building owners to self-certify online for a small fee. The Institute of Real Estate Management also offers its own green certification program.

4. Construction companies will rely more on 3D modeling and mobile CAD technology

(via DGN Teknoloji)

CAD (computer-aided design) software is awesome. It increases the productivity of the designer and helps create, modify and optimize designs, thereby boosting the efficiency of the construction process. But what kind of CAD tools are right for your company, and what new technologies should you be trying to adopt?

Although cloud-based and open-source CAD technology has a lot of interest, there don’t appear to be a whole lot of good quality options for construction management, according to a recent report from Cadalyst.

What is in, however, are tools such as 3D modeling and mobile CAD tools, the report notes. If you’re not taking advantage of those tools and wasting too much time trying to find a good cloud-based or open-source CAD option, that’s a red flag.

“If your company is doing nothing in these technology areas, it may signal an area of concern that requires attention for your company to catch up,” the report notes. “If your company is way ahead of the marketplace in some areas, it may signal an advantage your company can take advantage of. On the other hand, if your company isn’t yet using a technology that only 8% or 10% of the marketplace has adopted, there is probably no cause for concern.”

Other widely used tools include simulation/analysis, product data management (PDM), and product lifecycle management (PLM). Tools that are not in wide use, in addition to cloud and open-source CAD software, include outsourcing of labor, pay-as-you-go plans, and 3D printing.

Final thoughts

You’ve undoubtedly got your own ideas about what will be big in 2017 for AEC based on what you’ve observed over the past few years, so why not let us know in the comments below? Feel free to disagree with our choices or add your own suggestions to the mix.

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

About the Author

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.


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[…] That said, they’re still in the same line of work, and each has similar problems facing them. Construction managers want to design and build great structures. They want to get the project done on time. They want organize the work efficiently and drive costs down, thereby increasing the bottom line.  Continue reading here […]

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