Top Construction Trends to Watch in 2018

The construction industry is constantly evolving and in 2018, experts must be comfortable with change in order to succeed. According to JLL’s new U.S. Construction Outlook report, the construction sector is in the mature stages of economic expansion, with 2017 spending up 1.9 percent over 2016 levels. However, the volume of skilled workers is narrowing. What does that mean for the industry?

Experts who stay on top—and ahead of—these two trends will be well-positioned for 2018 and beyond.

The labor shortage isn’t going anywhere, so it’s time to get creative

The ongoing labor shortage continues to deepen nationally, which is evident by a historically low unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. There has been no minimal growth in the workforce over the last nine months, with no sign of an increase. Because of this, project timelines will be extended, wages will increase at a faster rate, and all eyes will be focused on construction technology to offset these challenges.

The takeaway? Construction costs will continue to go up as a direct result of personnel decisions, making a case for more creative human resources strategies. Whether it be holding laborers on the payroll even if they aren’t currently needed, or supporting training programs and recruiting outside of their geographical area, there is a need for more innovative responses to the skilled worker shortage.

Does technology equal productivity for the construction industry?

A variety of new construction technologies have emerged over the last two years, but adoption has been low. If the industry implemented these changes, it could have a profound impact to efficiency and productivity.

  1. Building information modeling (BIM): BIM is the facilitator and enabler for which many technologies are based. 3D printing, cloud based collaboration, robotics and artificial intelligence all stem from a central BIM platform. Companies like Autodesk and GRAPHISOFT both have products that offer innovative uses of BIM.
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data: Gathering, storing and analyzing large sets of data has become increasingly easier and cheaper over the last several years. Big data and AI is already being used to drive autonomous equipment, track and optimize worker positioning, and schedule materials delivery—all working towards more efficient and timely jobsites.
  3. Prefabrication and offsite construction: General contractors are turning to prefabrication and offsite construction facilities that allow them to create building product with semi-skilled labor in a weather controlled, safe manufacturing atmosphere. Prefabrication facilities now have the capabilities to tackle everything from individual walls, to fully built bathrooms and offices offsite.

All in all, the outlook is bright for the construction industry in the New Year. Staying alert of changing market dynamics and embracing new opportunities is the key to having a strong year.

By Todd Burns, Americas President, JLL Project and Development Services

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