We made it to July. Before the year began and then flew by, we listed our four favorite trends for 2019: repurposing old buildings and giving them new life, the growth of women in construction, the growing adoption of lean construction and the attainability of sustainable materials.
As we hit the halfway mark to the year, it’s time to check-in and see what’s hot now, how our trends are doing, and what’s in store for the rest of the year.
What Surprised Us
We listed this as “One to Watch” for 2018, and all we can say is “wow” to how much modular construction has taken off this year. From big name hotels embracing the process, to new companies that specialize in manufacturing the components and modules, modular construction has entered the mainstream. According to the Modular Building Institute, U.S. modular construction business has doubled in size over the last five years. And now a new report from McKinsey & Co. says that modular building can deliver projects 20% to 50% faster than traditional methods.
How Our 2019 Trends Check-in
Re-purposing old buildings
We’re happy to see this trend growing. It’s refreshing to see older, iconic buildings being given new life, including a recent example where an old public works building was transformed using green technology. This year, however, we’ve also seen more projects taking a spin on refurbishing buildings by adding a contemporary spin.
Even more . . .
Many new projects, like Boston’s Congress Square and Portland’s historic Providence Park stadium, strike a balance between restoration and demolition to build something new. These new projects take an existing, iconic building or facility and add a contemporary expansion. The result is an upgrade to meet today’s modern world standards without disrupting historic elements. We look forward to seeing more of this trend in the future.
Women in Construction
This trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, it keeps picking up steam and is growing exponentially. Not only are there now several conferences dedicated to Women in Construction (WIC), there are numerous special programs and training opportunities to encourage women to join the construction workforce. The effect is even trickling down to schools and creating demand for appropriately fitting clothes and safety gear for women. As a result, more companies are springing up that are designing and selling work wear specifically for women.
Even more . . .
In addition to engaging women, the AEC industry has become more active and creative in courting younger generations. With initiatives that include rebranding construction and the trades or using technology advancements to position construction as a tech job, the industry is hoping to engage younger, tech savvy workers and show them that construction can be interesting, safe and rewarding.
Sustainable building becomes more attainable
It might be time to take this out of the trend category. With sustainable materials becoming more affordable and available than ever before, using at least some green products in buildings has become standard operating procedure. Not only is this spurred by corporate social responsibility, but business benefits including lower operating costs and higher value at point of sale for the building owner are also motivating factors. In fact, according to the World Green Building Trends 2018 report 47% of those surveyed expect more than 60% of their projects to be green by 2021.
Even more . . .
The sustainability trend is now being transferred to the interior of the building and focusing on improved occupant health and well-being. Where sustainable materials focus on the structure, wellness buildings focus on the occupant. But it’s more than interior design; it’s using safe, environmentally friendly materials during design and construction of a building. Wellness buildings have become popular enough that a Well Building Standard has been developed to optimize how design, operations and behaviors within work and living spaces can promote health and well-being.
There is definitely room for this trend to continue to grow. While more firms are seeing the benefits of lean construction principles, the number of companies actually implementing the practice still remain low. It may seem daunting to start, and high-level buy-in is key, however, like our advice for implementing construction technology and construction management software, we suggest starting small (identify one area that needs improved efficiency) and add more functionality as you learn and master each element. Each small improvement adds up. Just take that first step.
Even more . . .
Another trend that falls in line with lean construction is using data on a project. With construction technology rapidly expanding it’s easier than ever to collect data across an organization and project. As contractors see the benefits of using data (budget, productivity and profitability), tech companies are working to build better tools to collect, measure and analyze data. Bringing it back to lean construction, the information distilled from these tools can be used to help pinpoint areas where lean construction principles can be applied and make an impact. Together, a powerful combo that we will be hearing more about.
What We’re Still Waiting For
Another “One to Watch” from late 2017, we’ve been anticipating 3D printing’s breakthrough, but it still seems far off. There are plenty of articles touting mass use in the not-too-distant future, and one-off trials and projects, but not many mainstream use cases. The good news is, the research hasn’t slowed down, so we still do see a future for 3D printing in construction.
The safety and health benefits of Exoskeletons are well known, yet the industry hasn’t taken off. With the initial buzz about exoskeletons coming from their use in the military and medical fields, they seemed poised to take off in construction. But progress to mass use has been slow. Companies point to price and a lack of standards and guidelines as barriers to adoption, but changes to aid adoption may be coming soon.