U.S. construction trends to watch in 2018

13 March 2018 Kingspan Group
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Last year, the U.S. construction industry grew by 35% adding 210,000 jobs to the American market. Contractors are predicting a further industry expansion in 2018, with Dodge Data & Analytics projecting a 3% increase in construction starts.
 
2018 is going to bring sizeable changes to the U.S. construction industry while it adapts to accommodate new concerns. Labour shortages, social justice trends and technological advancements all encourage the rise of new approaches and technologies.
 
Below, find our top three U.S. construction trends forecast for this year.

Modular Building

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With the projected expansion of the construction industry, the sector is currently facing a shortage of skilled workers. Baby Boomers are retiring and young people are opting for college educations instead of learning a trade. This, along with a decrease in available foreign-born construction workers, has left a labour shortage in the sector.
 
To offset this issue, the industry is seeing a rise in off-site production methods—modular building and prefabrication. They also offer significant advantages over traditional construction methods.
 
Off-site construction typically runs simultaneously to on-site construction often halving build times. Using off-site production methods, weather conditions can’t impede construction as it takes place under controlled factory conditions. The advanced factory machinery is also used to reach a level of precision that can’t be achieved on-site.
 
All of these benefits make modular building and prefabrication more cost effective and as it is produced off-site it also reduces on-site waste.
 
Off-site production generates new opportunities for labourers lacking traditional construction experience. These methods create new positions for engineers, technicians and machine operators. By improving cost-efficiency and reducing construction times, off-site production methods will plug the gap left by the sector’s labour shortage.

Holistic Accountability

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As social and ethical responsibilities come to the forefront of the construction industry, contractors and developers are facing mounting pressure to commit publicly to wellbeing and environmental sustainability. This pressure is trickling down to architects, builders and manufacturers, who are expected to adopt designs and materials that support these commitments.
 
Brent Trenga, Kingspan’s Director of Education and Sustainability NA, believes the construction industry will face mounting scrutiny in 2018 with regards to its approach.
The construction industry can expect more direct and specific questions on its holistic approach to sustainability. In particular, owners and developers will expect architects to produce buildings that promote wellness and sustainability.
 
To respond to this increased interest, construction practitioners will adopt a more holistic approach to the projects they work on. As part of this approach projects will be assessed as parts of a broader picture, rather than as separate components. The goal is to design and operate high-performance buildings with a greater understanding of how they impact people’s health and the planet.
 
The increasing popularity of this approach is evident in the arrival of new holistic certification standards, including WELL launched in 2014 and Fitwel established in 2015. These standards not only indicate that the trend is gaining traction but also that construction companies will be held accountable for their commitment to both wellness and sustainability.

Internet of Things

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One of the biggest technological trends in the construction industry for 2018 could be the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is the integrated network that connects smart devices together. Connecting these smart devices allows for the collection and assessment of data while also providing opportunities for automation. For example, the IoT can be used in the home to connect lighting, heating and security systems and to automate these systems to activate at specific, set times.
 
In the construction sector, the IoT is used in remote operation and monitoring, supply replenishment, construction tool tracking and in equipment service and repair. For example, connected monitoring tools collect, record and upload data on carbon dioxide levels, utility usage and on-site orientation routes. Once assessed this data can be used to optimise building conditions. If on-site traffic is regularly congested at a particular pinch point, this data can be used to develop a different route.
 
Sensor-equipped smart devices can also be used to remotely monitor high-end construction equipment. If this equipment begins to vibrate excessively, or fluctuate in temperature, an alert can be triggered by the device to dispatch maintenance workers. They can then repair the equipment before it fails, preventing costly delays to construction.
 
The IoT will have a huge impact on Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is a 3D modelling process used to plan and manage construction products. The IoT will revolutionise BIM by providing it with live sources of data before, during and after construction. This data will be integrated into the 3D models, transforming BIM into a central hub with far-reaching applications, from schematics through to building operations and maintenance.

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