Construction Industry Trends to Watch in 2016

Vintage fortune teller

We all love new year’s predictions, or at least I do. This past week, Construction Drive issued its 10 Construction Industry Trends to Watch in 2016. Some are not terribly surprising, while others might surprise you:

  1. A shortage of skilled labor: According to Dodge Data & Analytics’ 2016 Construction Outlook, the construction industry will experience continued growth with construction starts rising a predicted 6% to an estimated $712 billion. This, of course, means a need for more workers at all levels, many of whom left the industry during the recession and never returned, a shortage of younger more technologically savvy workers coupled with a need to replace retiring baby boomers, and a slowdown in immigration due to increased immigration controls and more job opportunities in Mexico.
  2. Increasing use of modular/prefab construction: I’ve seen this in my own practice.  Offsite construction, including modular or prefabricated construction, is gaining ground as an alternative building method touted as reducing construction time, creating less waste and providing cost savings.
  3. Construction companies more cautious project selection: The construction boom and subsequent collapse of 2008 remains a concern of construction companies who managed to survive those dark years, and together with the lingering labor shortage of recent years, have caused construction companies to be more selective on their project selection.
  4. Building information modeling coming into the mainstream: Building information modeling (BIM), once considered a luxury even on the most sophisticated projects, is coming into the mainstream as owners embrace BIM’s ability to provide more consistent, more accurate and less time consuming project document generation.
  5. Green building will continue to grow: You don’t hear as much about green building anymore. It’s not because it’s a passing fad, but because it’s become integrated in state and local building codes, including California’s Green Building Code  (CalGreen) which took effect back in 2008. Green building, like other innovative building trends, is typically seen in commercial construction first, but homeowners seeing the  benefits to the environment, their personal health and, to a somewhat lesser degree, their pocketbooks,  have increasingly embraced green building as well.
  6. Jobsite accidents on the rise: With the shortage of skilled labor jobsite accidents have and are expected to continue to rise. Aware of this, state and local enforcement agencies have increased their enforcement efforts and have begun to dish out severe punishment including criminal charges. OSHA, for example, which hasn’t increased its fines since 1990, will begin adjusting its fines upward on a yearly basis in line with the Consumer Price Index.
  7. Multifamily construction will slow as single-family construction picks up steam: The multifamily housing sector has been hot. Red hot. But industry experts expect that it will cool down a bit in 2016. In its 2016 Construction Outlook, Dodge Data & Analytics predicted that multifamily construction will slow to a 7% gain following several years of double-digit increases and single-family construction will increase by 20%.
  8. Laser scanning technology: An emerging trend is laser scanning, in which 3-D laser scanners create a digital reproduction of the dimensions and positions of objects in a certain space and turn that information into a point cloud image. Benefits include improved planning and design, safety and regularly compliance, and cost and schedule reductions.
  9. Remodeling, particularly in the luxury market, will have a strong year: Paralleling gains in single-family construction, those who already have homes, are expected to spend more on them. This is particularly true in the luxury market where homeowners, feeling more comfortable with the economy (maybe with the exception of the last few days), are beginning to spend money.
  10. Homeowners want simple, walkable communities. The suburb is changing. Architects and builders are recognizing that the “one-size fits all approach” no longer works with today’s homeowners. Access to public transportation, multi-generational housing, walkable communities, and mixed-use facilities are among the things today’s homeowners are looking for.

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