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Construction Trends Contractors Need to Know in 2019

Technology
 Reposted with permission from constructionexec.com, February 6, 2019, all rights reserved. Copyright 2019.

As many contractors may know, construction has long been a profitable, high-revenue market. In 2018, the industry experienced significant growth across many of its sectors. Spending on private construction projects grew to more than $951 billion, as the workplace continues to become more diverse than ever. Companies are also more open to experimenting with new technology and solutions to make their process more efficient.

The industry is not without its challenges. The shortage of skilled workers—a prevailing challenge from 2018—and the rising costs of building threaten productivity and profitability. This year, contractors will need to consider sustainability, hiring, new technology, prefabrication construction and the market. Despite a few areas of concern, most contractors and construction firms are confident in their abilities to rise up and meet the challenges of 2019.

STABLE MARKET GROWTH

Construction has been a very stable and lucrative market for the U.S. economy. In 2017, a total of $1.23 trillion was spent on construction projects in the United States, accounting for 7 percent of the GDP.

Although most people associate construction spending with large-scale commercial projects, private construction on home improvement projects and single-family households accounted for 77 percent of construction spending in 2018.

While the average backlog for general contractors is around 9 months—indicating stable market growth—construction costs will continue to rise by 4.3 percent in 2019. It will be important for contractors to be familiar with the industries that best position them for growth.

REPRESENTATION AND LABOR

In 2017, more than 10.6 million people were employed in the construction industry. As companies continue to grow in size (15 percent of firms have more than 1,000 employees), the workforce is also becoming more diverse. The number of female employees grew by 15 percent in the past year, as nearly a third of construction firms promoted women to senior positions.

In addition, Hispanic and Latino workers now comprise 30 percent of the workforce with African Americans and Asians making up 6 percent and 2 percent respectively. The industry still has a long way to go toward equal representation, but the employment opportunities for contractors are now more diverse than ever before.

Unfortunately, the industry is still struggling with a labor shortage problem. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 57 percent of contractors report having trouble finding skilled workers. The increasing gap in labor is pushing contractors to evaluate their current methods and employment practices and consider new technologies to keep up with demand.

TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS

Current technology trends seek to harness tools to streamline the project lifecycle and increase worker safety. Last year, 37 percent of construction firms reported experimenting with drones to improve surveying and project management on the site. Wearable technology is used by only 11 percent of general contractors. This presents an opportunity for contractors to consider wearables to set themselves apart from their competitors.

With the ability to create valuable 3D models and generate building information, BIM is becoming the future of the industry. Despite the growth in its use, 70 percent of contractors also expressed that BIM is still not standardized sufficiently across the industry. To combat this barrier, contractors can consider training, in-house expertise and hiring an IT staff.

With innovations such as drones, BIM, wearables and augmented reality, contractors also have the opportunity to bring in a new workforce interested in technology trends, which could help to combat the shortage of skilled labor.

BUILDING TRENDS

Contractors will also be experimenting with new building methods this year. In 2018, 91 percent of off-site construction was prefabrication. Interestingly, however, a survey by BuiltWorlds found that 86 percent of contractors believe they need improvement in prefabrication construction.

For contractors to make effective use of prefabrication, they will need to develop a strategy across their team. This involves investing the time to plan a prefab project upfront and pinpoint the areas that will bring the most efficiency to the team.

In addition to prefabrication, contractors will also need to keep with demand for sustainable construction. In the past three years, 56 percent of contractors have reported registering or certifying their project with either the U.S. Green Building Council or LEED. As more contractors are reporting that their clients request energy efficient materials (such as solar panels) and healthier building environments, this presents an emerging area of opportunity for contractors.

AREAS OF GROWTH

According to BuiltWorlds, 20 percent of construction occurs in major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Houston alone. These markets should prove profitable for contractors looking to relocate or to expand their services.

Contractors are also increasingly looking to rental equipment, with rental sales expected to reach $59 million by 2021. Renting equipment provides many benefits, including less upfront investment and maintenance costs as well as greater convenience and on-demand needs. This allows contractors to better allocate their finances while experimenting with new technology.

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