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February 3, 2020


For a competitive and splintered industry that from time to time can be hesitant to revolutionary changes, the construction world has continued to see gradual changes. Read on for the seven biggest factors to watch for in 2020.

  • Modular construction heights increasing - The modular construction market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.9% from $112.4 billion to $157 billion by 2023. Buildings being constructed offsite by prefabricated modular units are stacking taller and taller. The drive in this movement has been tied to the lack of skilled labor, lack of affordable housing, rising and unpredictable material costs and the constant pressure to deliver on time and on budget.
  • Technology supplementing, not replacing, human workers - Automation is allowing the opportunity to create better and more meaningful work by taking away redundant and repetitive tasks. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is expected to be on more job sites within the upcoming years and as a result, more firms will realize its benefits to the construction workflow, money savings, time savings and the increase in worker safety. According to Midwest Economic Policy Institute, automation could potentially displace up to 2.7 million construction workers by 2057, however as long as 100% of the tasks cannot be automated, there will still be a need for human labor.
  • Design-build popularity growing - The method of contracting a single entity to both design and construct a project is growing. Companies are aiming to hire contractors with the “master builder” approach due to lower costs, better timelines and clearer contractual remedies. FMI Corp. predicts that the spending on design-build projects will increase by 18% the next three years, coming in around $324 billion.
  • Building lean, cutting waste in all forms - Lean principles, along with automation, helped grow manufacturing global labor productivity by 3.6% annually over the past two decades compared to construction at 1% productivity growth. With an expected downturn in our economy for 2020, it would be beneficial now for the construction industry to reduce inefficiency and improve productivity levels. The philosophy of eliminating waste from excess materials delivered (just-in-time deliveries) to overlapping tasks in workflow. McGraw Hill Construction survey found 84% reported higher quality projects since transitioning from traditional methods, 80% saw greater customer satisfaction, 77% experienced greater productivity and 77% improved jobsite safety.
  • More drones taking flight - Drones have evolved from just capturing photos to mapping capabilities, volumetric analysis, and thermal heat imaging, with more capabilities to come. Drone technology can gather and analyze information that human workers either couldn’t collect or wouldn’t notice. To encourage increased use, the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) opened 99% of U.S. airspace to drones and reduced flight approval time from 90 days to just seconds.
  • Private firms leading high - speed rail projects ​- Some projects have decided to move from public funding to private funding due to public funding limitations. One of the benefits of using private investors is that developers are able to use the best technology for the project, even if that means outsourcing from a foreign country. Multiple bullet train projects throughout the U.S have moved to private funding, as this has helped keep projects up to speed.
  • Gen Z growing up - Recruiting of Millennials (born 1981 – 1995) is coming to the end of the road as recruiters are focusing on Generation Z (Gen Z) born after 1995. Gen Z has witnessed their Generation X (born 1961 – 1981) parents weather the recession and have been spooked by the increased debt of Millennials, therefore they have started looking for alternatives for getting a good education. Construction companies could attract these Gen Zers with earn-as-you-learn programs along with career advancement paths. According to a recent Barna study, 66% of Gen Zers want to start a career before the age of 30 compared with only 51% of millennials. Gen Z could also help construction firms utilize more technology.


To keep up with the competition, it is highly encouraged that companies in the construction industry consider these seven expected trends of 2020.

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