We have entered a new decade, so has the AECO industry. We saw a good 2019 and the overall market growth is expected to continue throughout 2020 even though the challenges that the industry has faced in the last five years remain relevant. Among those are rising material costs, bad communication among industry stakeholders, and material wastage. Most of those hindrances are connected and continuous adoption of digital technologies will ease some of the pain points.
In 2020, the construction is ready to benefit from the significant opportunities that innovation and technology provide. In this article, we are summarising three of the top industry trends you need to know of.
1. The search for efficiency
Since 2018, the industry has experienced a steady rise in construction material prices which results in further pressure on construction actors in terms of lower profitability and margins. The input costs for key building materials such as steel are rising, largely driven by limited supply and tariff uncertainties.
The overall perception of limited resources and materials is naturally leading the decision-makers to seek methods and opportunities for productivity improvements and efficient use of the materials.
The overall perception of limited resources and materials is naturally leading the decision-makers to seek methods and opportunities for productivity improvements and efficient use of the materials. A trend related to this search for efficiency is the transition towards modular and prefabricated construction which is expected to gain even more speed over the new year.
It cuts down labor costs and might also ensure better quality and shorter project schedules due to less labour required on-site and fewer materials used. Consequently, this helps to improve safety and can drastically speed up the whole construction process. A recent example of using prefabricated units is the extraordinary work done in Wuhan, China. The whole world was left in awe after witnessing the construction of the fastest built 1,000-bed facility in just 10 days.
Back in Europe, another interesting trend also touches on the sustainability of materials. Construction is moving back to natural materials like timber, straw and even hemp. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French government considers introducing a sustainability law which states that at least 50% of the materials used in the construction of public buildings should be bio-based. This approach is in alignment with the country’s initiative to become carbon-neutral by 2050.
Another solution that increases efficiency in the sector is related to the further implementation of new technology in construction. This leads us to the next trend that we must highlight:
2. New technologies empowering construction
In 2020 and beyond, the disruptive new technologies have the potential to provide the efficiency, productivity, and safety breakthroughs the industry has sought for decades.
Robotics is seen to have impressive integration in construction and is expected to have a significant impact on the industry. This includes smart robots ranging from autonomous rovers that increase the quality of site inspections to mechanical arms that automate the highly competitive tasks such as bricklaying.
Drones are also set to become increasingly widely used on construction projects. They offer not only aerial photography but can also map large areas, producing valuable heat maps and thermal images that could be useful in the decision-making processes. Exoskeletons are also stepping in the construction world. Those are wearable machines with motorized joints, aiming to minimize strain and injury by providing lift support, weight dispersion and other capabilities. In construction, the exoskeletons enable the workers to carry a heavier load and increase the safety on the sites.
3. The rising importance of standartised data
There are numerous appealing high-tech innovations available, but one aspect links them all: the power of data.
2020 is expected to witness a major shift towards better data management in construction. The further adoption of BIM (Building Information Modeling) and construction management software that are aligned with it, will reach new levels. The use of cloud technology will become a must as it makes information about every aspect of a project available to all the relevant parties, anywhere in the world.
No one would dispute that those are essential for an organisation to remain competitive and master its operational efficiency.
But to create conditions for the sector to benefit from those technologies, first, we need to structure product data in a universal digital format and make it “interoperable” between various software systems and devices. This is the main prerequisite for bringing the sector to the next level of digitalisation.
The standardisation of data and its transformation into meaningful, machine-readable information is a key ingredient for the further adoption of new technologies in construction.
The standardisation of data and its transformation into meaningful, machine-readable information is a key ingredient for the further adoption of new technologies in construction. A recent video, published by the global standardisation bodies CEN and CENELEC, explains the importance of standartisation in the digital journey of construction and how digitalisation will lead to better utilisation of technology.
The structured digital data and the connectedness that digital technologies provide, will create conditions for a technology ecosystem that streamlines interactions between people, software, data, systems and services. This will improve collaboration significantly and will allow companies to work together more efficiently. These alliances can drive the future of connected construction, creating systems that link physical and digital assets beyond individual construction sites.
Moving further ahead in 2020 and beyond…
The challenges that the construction industry is facing will certainly not disappear. However, they are driving industry leaders to look for more efficient methods for planning, managing, and executing the projects.
Despite the industry’s traditional resistance to new technologies, adopting them has now become crucial for surviving on the market. The potential that they can unlock will bring not only added value for all businesses but also improve the overall built environment and create favorable conditions for the sustainable future of construction.