Any conversation about construction industry trends in 2017 will have to consider the impact of the coming Trump administration in the United States. The uncertainty that plagued the construction industry last year while awaiting the election results could give way to cautious optimism. This is due to Donald Trump’s promises to cut regulations, his background in construction and development, and his massive infrastructure proposal.
On the other hand, some predict that material prices could rise due to possible trade conflicts with other countries, including China. In addition, stricter immigration policies could certainly affect the industry’s labor forces. Some simply feel that Trump’s unpredictability could cause trouble for an industry that’s desperately seeking some stability.
So while we wait to see how the coming administration will affect the industry as a whole, here are five specific construction industry trends we think will have a big impact in 2017:
- Lack of Qualified Workers: The dwindling labor pool is a continuing trend that started as far back as 2006. Between April 2006 and January 2011, almost 2.3 million jobs were eliminated from the construction industry workforce. A smaller pool of workers coming into the industry, coupled with an aging workforce, is creating a hardship for construction firms needing employees for managerial roles in the skilled trades.
- Offsite/Modular Construction: Prefab or modular construction isn’t new; however, experts believe this building method will grow in 2017. This alternative to traditional construction methods can save on scheduling time and material costs. In addition, if a module is built in a factory, it becomes much easier to maintain quality and reduce the impact of weather.
- Implementing More Technology: The rate at which technology is changing and advancing is unprecedented, and the construction industry can certainly benefit from this. Consider the drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. These are quickly becoming the safest and most effective way to complete a project survey, both pre- and post-construction. Drones can allow for easy 3D mapping of an area without endangering employees, and recent legislation has made it easier for construction companies to put drones in the air.
- A Growing Economy: The chief economist for Associated General Contractors, Ken Simonson, said that the economy will keep growing in 2017, and so will the construction industry, especially in office and apartment construction. He also believes there will be continued growth in power construction, including pipelines and renewables. The economist predicts that private non-residential and residential construction will also see growth this year.
- Internet of Things (IoT): As contractors look to cut costs and improve overall efficiency, many are looking to IoT technology – such as employee and equipment tracking – to improve worksite operations. In addition, wearable technology can ensure that workers are aware of hazards on the job site, and equipment sensors can alert staff when machinery maintenance and repair is needed.
Overall, construction industry trends indicate that business is growing in some aspects and declining in others. This year, technology will play an important role in cost savings, operational efficiencies and worker safety, but a shortage of labor is sure to cause issues on various project worksites. While the effects of the Trump administration will not be known for some time, it is hoped the impact will be positive enough to keep construction on the rise in 2017.