Yes, the warmer weather is on its way and that means increased commercial construction activity across Canada and the U.S. (We’ve been busy all winter, but that’s because we construct off-site in climate-controlled conditions, so building is a year-round business for us.) Here are our five predictions to help owners, architects, contractors, and builders’ representatives prepare for the developments that will influence commercial construction in the coming year.
#1 Sustainability and “green” construction will increase in importance
Commercial construction customers maintain an interest in green construction and the use of sustainable, renewable materials. Project stakeholders and some municipalities are requesting, and sometimes requiring, construction firms to use recycled materials, materials that come from sustainable sources, and easily renewable materials in projects. Energy efficiency, water conservation, and zero-energy buildings that produce all the energy they consume are also likely to be more prevalent in 2016. Off-site construction in climate-controlled manufacturing facilities with warehousing to store and reuse surplus material can help eliminate waste.
#2 Construction technology will continue to advance and improve
Technology maintains a constant presence in almost all areas of business and personal life, but its continued development will be among the commercial construction trends of 2016. Emerging construction technologies will enhance the functionality and usefulness of existing technologies. Smart technology, such as phones and tablets, will become more useful as monitoring, planning, and communication devices. Construction software such as building information modeling (BIM) will enhance the ability of architects, designers, and builders to plan, make changes, and communicate with each other.
#3 Modular construction will become a more popular choice
Industry experts believe that modular construction will become even more widespread in 2016. Stakeholders at all levels of the construction process are expected to become more knowledgeable and supportive of off-site construction methods. The benefits of modular construction, including improved building efficiency, reduced construction costs, faster completion times, and reduced waste, will become significant factors in the decision to dedicate more resources to modular construction activities.
#4 “Small is beautiful” trend in residential construction will continue
The trend in some areas toward “micro-apartments” and “tiny homes” is expected to become more mainstream. These smaller dwellings provide all the features of a standard living area but in a much smaller space. Their compact nature makes them an increasingly popular choice in areas where available real estate is limited or where demand for residential space is high, such as in densely populated downtown and urban areas. In some locations, construction of tiny homes and smaller living spaces is seen as a potential solution to social issues such as homelessness or lack of affordable housing. Pursuing this line of construction may help a company promote its social responsibility and community interest.
There is significant overlap between trend #3 and trend #4, with modular building being used recently to erect a 57-storey 800-apartment skyscraper in China. Check out the Business Insider article and an astounding time lapse video here.
#5 Skilled labor will likely still be in short supply
Though the commercial construction industry is showing strong recovery from the slowdowns caused by the recession and downstream economic effects, companies are having trouble finding enough skilled laborers to sustain their position in the recovery. Some sources believe that skilled laborers left the construction field when jobs became scarce and that these craftsmen have simply not returned.
A survey conducted by Building Construction + Design, cited on the Construction Dive website, indicates that mid-level skilled labor, represented by individuals with six to 10 years experience, was the most difficult category to hire within. Higher-level workers with more than ten years of experience, as well as project managers, have also been scarce among potential employee pools.
This shortage in skilled labor is having widespread effects, with some firms reporting that they have had to delay or even turn down projects, and pay skilled laborers more, because they didn’t have enough skilled labor to do the job. Off-site construction can solve the skilled labor availability problem by ensuring construction happens in areas with plentiful skilled labor instead of on job sites where there may be a labor shortage.
Interested in learning more about off-site construction? Check out our recent post “What is Permanent Modular Construction” here.