With recent events, it’s difficult to predict how construction and commerce will change. After months of COVID-19, some of the trends of the last few years are no longer the case moving into new construction. To make some specific comparisons, here is a constantly-updated list of construction projects affected in recent months. There are, nonetheless, some trends that have been happening over the last several years that will continue—or increase—into the next decade.
There have been some economic trends, for instance, such as a roughly 4% increase in demand for commercial construction between 2014 and 2019. Technology and increased technological integration are affecting every aspect of construction, too. From when construction season starts, to the costs associated, plus green innovation or building design and architectural capabilities, technology is the driver of current trends.
Rapid Advances in Technology and Increased Technological Integration
Rather than automation and technology replacing workers, it is augmenting them. New jobs, more efficiency, and better construction techniques owe themselves to technological development.
New Technology in Construction
Small flying drones have revolutionized numerous fields in their short time in commercial construction. Photography, sports, delivery, and entertainment are just a few things that are being forever changed by remote drones, and construction is no exception. Drones can be used in all sorts of capacities in building. They’re cheap and easy to use as well.
One of the most cost-effective uses of drones is in building inspection. Rather than have worker in a harness descent a skyscraper over the course of hours/days, a drone can zoom up and down in minutes. Even if the drone moves too quickly for the pilot to see the video clearly, the video can be slowed down for review by humans. Drones can access unsafe places as well, such as asbestos-filled attics, incomplete buildings, and damaged buildings are all fair game for drones.
Commercial drone use went up by about 240% each year over the last few years.
Robotics are changing construction in a lot of ways. Robotic lifters are used to move heavy equipment and materials. Robotic brick layers and rebar tyers have appeared on commercial sites as well. Future construction sites can expect more robotic integration. Workers in powered exoskeletons are also a strong likelihood as time goes on.
As robot tech gets cheaper and more advanced, we can also expect to see wider applications of robots in construction.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
As every industry in the world becomes more digital, construction follows suit. This is especially true of commercial construction sites. Construction for a private house for instance, requires only the owner and builder approval. Commercial sites, on the other hand, require consents from many in order to progress.
Investors, company managers, construction managers, future users/clients/tenants, government officials, and more, have input on commercial sites. And one of the easiest ways to communicate information to large, disparate groups, is digital media.
For instance, a building can be 3D mapped and modeled, with metadata included. The metadata contains information regarding building materials, costs, measurements, and more. Then, a 3D building model can also be explored in VR. Anyone can strap on a headset and check out what the building will look like though they were already inside. As the building is constructed, the same technology can be used with AR to show what the final product will be like. These sorts of technology are great for showing clients and partners the design and scope of a project even when they have no technical knowledge to read blueprints and the like.
Smart buildings use sensors to collect data and manage day-to-day functions. Things like temperature, light level, and security, can all be controlled via automation. The potential of smart buildings is much greater energy efficiency and with it cost savings. Hospitals, schools, and office buildings are at the forefront of smart building technology. Over time, smart buildings are expected to become interconnected, and thus result in not just better building resource efficiency, but better community resource use.
Automation is increasing in use as the younger generations start to go into the workforce. Construction has had a lack of skilled workers for several years now. To attract young, tech-savvy people to the field, expect more construction firms to rely on automation, AI, and technology. New construction start-ups will pioneer technology made and used by young people.
Technological evolution and sustainability go hand-in-hand. As tech improves, buildings make better use of resources, technology requires less energy and input, and more types of eco-friendly construction arises. Smart buildings and smart communities are a perfect example.
The philosophy of eliminating waste makes construction more efficient. Not only is construction cheaper when it’s “lean,” but it is also better for the environment. Use of prefabricated materials, and eliminating oversupply are some examples of lean construction. This survey says that 84% of companies reported higher quality projects after leaving traditional methods for lean construction.
Mass transit and eco-friendly travel
Bicycle travel, infrastructure for electric cars, improved intra-city mass transit and high-speed rail are the trends in US cities. There are several high-speed rail projects and already throughout the US, such as the California Hyperloop and rails between Orlando and Tampa.
Photovoltaic cells in windows, solar panels on roofs, natural light, and plenty of green space are all examples of features in the new trend of ecobuildings. Buildings with negative carbon footprints—that make their own energy—are getting easier to build and more common as renewable technology advances.
Questions about any of these trends? Contact us at Reliable Commercial. We have well over 35 years of experience not only following commercial construction trends, but leading them.