What kind of changes have you seen in the construction industry over the last year? Now, what about the last decade? The construction industry of 2010 looks dramatically different than the one at the end of 2019 – and for a good reason. Today’s jobsites are filled with more technology and talent than ever, and projects are being delivered at accelerated rates.
But, as in years past, more change is on the horizon. So, what can we expect to see in the construction industry over the course of the next year – and even the coming decade?
My crystal ball predictions for 2020 construction trends? Considering that the building industry needs to increase output by 30% to meet demands, the pressure to deliver is mounting. I anticipate there will be concentrated focus in these three areas to alleviate the pressure:
- Off-site Construction– Better initial planning, site constraints, and tightened schedules will only be met with off-site construction.
- Skilled Labor Shortage – Programs and companies will be investing in creative ways to fill this shortage. This will come by increasing investment of government, education, and company resources.
- Increased Technology Investment – The above two points need technology as a leverage to accelerate these changes.
But this is just my perspective. Recently, we also turned to experts, thought leaders, and innovators in the industry to get their thoughts on 2020 construction trends and predictions. What we heard was a powerful mix of big trends, new strategic focuses, emerging innovations, and even internal cultural shifts. We’ve compiled their insight below, organized by prediction round ups like mine, and the categories that matter most in the industry today:
You can use the navigation links above or scroll down to read the list in whatever order you choose. But if you’re looking for even more in-depth insight on the must-know 2020 construction trends, I recently moderated a webinar: “Tomorrow’s Construction: 2020 Trends and Predictions.” In our webinar, we hosted industry experts to discuss some of the biggest topics sure to drive buzz across the industry in the next year and future. Watch now!
We hope these 2020 construction trends and insights below will inspire you to take a fresh approach to all your upcoming projects and work.
These 2020 construction trends and predictions summarize a range of the hottest topics and challenges facing the industry today.
Josh Cheney, Customer Outcome Executive, Autodesk Construction Solutions:
“2019 was an incredible ending to an incredible decade.
The jobless rate dropped from 9.6 to 3.5%, M&A/investment activity has been tremendous, and value added to the U.S GDP from construction activity is at a ten-year high.
What does 2020 hold in store? Here are my five predictions:
- Labor Shortages – Assuming construction continues to grow at its current pace, I expect the pain of skilled labor shortages to become more of an issue.
- Rise of the Machines – Boston Dynamics, Dusty Robotics, Built Robotics, CivDrone, etc. are all making significant progress to offset the labor shortage pain. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think robots will play an ever-increasing role in construction.
- Mixed Reality (AR/VR/MR) – Mixed reality is another potential bandaid for labor shortages. Visually understanding a project in precon will help to reduce design clash and change orders, and hopefully, this savings is passed on in the form of higher wages and better benefits for industry workers.
- Sustainability – Resources are finite, and our population is only going to grow. Software like BuildingTransparency.org‘s EC3 will begin to address carbon usage. Younger generations are also going to hold older generations more accountable for environmental effects.
- Industrialized Construction – I expect to see continued growth in modularized construction and offsite prefabrication. There are too many efficiencies to ignore.”
Allison Scott, Director, Head of Construction Thought Leadership & Customer Marketing, Autodesk Construction Solutions:
“2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the construction industry:
- Increased commitment and investment in new business models – compression of the market with additional mergers and acquisitions as firms seek to gain more market share and increase bottom-lines; including more firms adding additional services upstream – like architecture / design services – and downstream, like fabrication or trade contractors in-house; or operations/facilities management services. Additionally, as technology adoption grows, we’ll continue to see more firms add technology and innovation services like VR/AR, drone capture, and laser scanning to their list of in-house capabilities.
- Continued focus on Digital Twins – the industry has been toying with the notion of Digital Twins for a long time. Creating a digital twin of a piece of equipment, like an air handler, is real today but is not yet fully functional for an entire facility. As BIM models become more sophisticated, the use of integrated smart sensors (IoT) grows, and AI come into focus, the industry will heighten its focus on the Digital Twin concept and start to put some elements into deeper practice. It will still be many years before a full DT is realized, but it will get exponentially closer in 2020.
- Transformation of data analytics to business intelligence – putting data at the center of the project and the business has been of strong interest for the construction industry in the last year and will continue to become increasingly important in the future. As firms continue to get their hands around capturing, organizing, and analyzing their data, there will be an intensified focus on transforming those data points into actionable intelligence – takeaways that can help a business make better and more accurate decisions. We will see increased use of dashboarding tools, increased development of new analytics capabilities, and the desire to create new KPIs where once there were none. Additionally, as technology adoption grows, we’ll continue to see more firms add technology and innovation services like VR/AR, drone capture and laser scanning to their list of in-house capabilities.”
Ryan McMahon, Director Product Manager, Industrialized Construction at Autodesk:
“Significant changes and opportunities are on the horizon for the construction industry in 2020:
- Firms will tap into new labor pools to address the skilled worker shortage: The industry will continue to be impacted by the skilled labor shortage. As a result, construction firms will need to learn how to access and utilize different and diverse workforces.
- Increasing costs of mistakes and delays will require better planning to de-risk: Opportunity and material costs are on the rise. As waste is becoming more expensive, and project delays are resulting in lower project turnover, companies will look to enhancing planning and preconstruction to reduce overruns.
- Standardization will become more commonplace: Every project has activities that are more repeatable and standard and can benefit from more automated processes. Companies have started to see more value when designing from a standard platform, including more confidence in estimation, de-risking projects, accelerated time to start and delivery of key portions, as well as the capture of intellectual property. Designers will start to see industrialized construction as enabling, allowing them to spend more time designing and less time on those tedious, error-prone tasks. Today, professionals know that utilizing IC accelerates projects and reduces costs, but they aren’t always quantifying these results. In 2020, expect to see a focus on real metrics to drive industry change.
- Digital thread for projects will change the way that teams work on projects: Small, incremental improvements are no longer enough. Project economics are forcing firms to reassess their tools and processes to find significant gains. Digital Twins, which represent the project lifecycle from design, engineering, quoting, fabrication, project status, and operations, will help to improve coordination dramatically. New tech ultimately provides new opportunities; we must look at how it can be used to make larger improvements.”
What are the biggest 2020 construction trends impacting labor and workforce? Find out.
Construction companies will look closer at their culture to drive change and innovation.
Chad Holbrook, VDC Manager at W.E. O’Neil:
“Technology adoption in the construction industry can be painful. In order to remain competitive in 2020, we’ll see companies increasingly look towards culture change to drive digital transformation. Little successes here and there are essential to creating big momentum in the long-run.”
Sean McGuire, Director, Innovative Technologies at Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA):
“While companies are increasing spending in technology, they’re not spending enough in personnel development of their labor force. Companies can’t really buy themselves out of a labor shortage; they need to invest in labor too. It’s the reason why more companies need (and are starting) to create roles for construction technologists (ConTechs). To future proof your company, you need at least one person focused on the productivity and the business side of innovation.”
Ariel Castillo, Construction Technology Specialist at BIMnomad:
“When it comes to Latin America, we expect construction tech adoption rate to increase in 2020. Mostly due to AEC professionals interested in replicating the success of the international firms where standard operating procedures have adopted the use of BIM. Also, we must consider a high demand from government institutions (Chile, Brasil, Argentina, Perú, among others) interested in exploring how BIM can help projects use resources more efficiently. As a consequence, firms bidding on government projects will have to embrace the culture shift.”
To increase diversity in the industry, companies will shift their focus from creating equality to building equity.
Lauren Sugerman, Director of the National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship & Employment at Chicago Women in Trades:
“When you look at equity in construction, you see it has historically neglected women. Fortunately, we are starting to see a gender lens applied to some aspects of health and safety. In the coming years, I expect that there will be more change in this space helping to work towards equity. We now have spaces and groups for women to collectively share the challenges they face, and companies will have to change practices as usual to give women a full and equitable career in this industry.”
Purvi Irwin, Practice Manager for Architecture at CADD Microsystems:
“We’ll see technology helping to remove some of the barriers to diversity. For someone in my role, for instance, you don’t necessarily need to be in an office. If you’re building a Revit template, for example, you could have the freedom to work from wherever and control your own schedule, as long as you are done by the deadline. Technology will help empower everyone to have a more flexible work-life balance. This will definitely help to create equity across the board.”
The tides of construction’s productivity crisis will turn.
Az Jasat, Senior Customer Success Manager at Autodesk:
“In recent years, we’ve been quick to criticize the construction industry’s safety record and low productivity trend. However, new evidence suggests the situation is improving; projects are becoming safer and the labour force is becoming more productive due to a commitment to innovation and process change. Furthermore, companies are showcasing their improving capabilities on even the most complex projects. While it continues to be a challenging industry, I expect there to be more attention on both digitization and industrialization of construction methods, bringing them up to par with, if not ahead of, similar advancements in manufacturing.”
Construction firms will invest more in career development.
Angeline Gleason, Director of Preconstruction at McCarthy:
“With a young workforce replacing seasoned professionals, it’s imperative that we develop our new preconstruction generation as quickly as possible. One strategy that will become essential in 2020 and in the future will be to cross-train by cycling individuals through the various phases of a project—from pursuit to estimating to design management to construction. This encourages teamwork and a better understanding of a project’s lifecycle to help prepare preconstruction professionals to develop a successful plan. It’s difficult to plan construction when you haven’t been in the field managing construction, and it’s difficult to construct/build when you don’t understand the plan or how to develop one.”
Simone van Loon, Head of Product Management at ITANNEX:
“The construction industry is evolving; we are more aware we have to digitize our processes and change the way we traditionally think about design, plan, build, and operate. All our processes can be transformed to more efficient, but to change, we need to align people, technology, and processes. Aligning the first one, people, is sometimes harder than we think. I think 2020 will be a lot about people. Give them attention, look at them, and listen to them, evolve both their hard skills and soft skills; they will be the key to success.”
Collaborative delivery methods will gain popularity and build stronger project relationships.
Sarah Tenpas, Assistant Superintendent at The Boldt Company:
“The biggest trend for 2020 is the call to action of transparency in construction seen through the embracement of Integrated Form of Agreement (IFOA) contracts by owners. IFOA contracts are not a new concept, but more owners are beginning to allow this option for project delivery. This is challenging all parties involved in the contract – owners, contractors, architects – to be more collaborative and transparent. High, emotionally intelligent individuals are critical for the success of this project delivery method. It is an uncomfortable transition in our traditional industry. However, the reward is stronger OAC relationships and opportunities to streamline design, cost, and schedule by eliminating confiding contractual language.”
What are the hottest emerging 2020 construction trends when it comes to technology? Read what industry influencers have to say, below. You can also read about the 7 technology innovations expected to disrupt the construction industry in 2020 on this Redshift blog.
Artificial intelligence will make a very real impact.
Jenny Moshea, Head of Technology at Sellen Construction:
“The technology that will have the biggest impact in the AEC industry in 2020 will be the emergence of artificial intelligence, especially when it comes to autonomous data capture and processing. Sellen is always looking to incorporate emerging technology into our workflows, and we make sure we do that in careful doses, but autonomous, frictionless data capture will make the journey more fluid and allow our people to focus on the day-to-day work while creating a safer environment.”
Amr Raafat, Vice President of VDC and Technology at Windover Construction:
“Robotics will definitely have the biggest impact in construction in 2020 and beyond. At Windover, we are experimenting with different applications of robotic technology such as laser scanning, and wall and utility layout, to enhance construction and minimize time on the jobsite. And, here’s the thing; robotics are not replacing anyone’s work. They’re just helping us focus on what really matters.”
Alejandro Mata, Automation Manager, Ramboll Denmark:
“One of the trends for the future is the coming together of AI, IoT, and blockchain. When you look at blockchain, companies should not be just looking at that one technology by itself. You need to look at it in integration with IoT and AI. With the combination of these technologies, you can begin to build better cities and more programmable societies.”
“As an innovation manager at BAM, there are different technologies that I really am passionate about. One of them is 3D printing of concrete or 3D printing in general. If you combine that with something called parametric design, or generative design, it becomes even more powerful. Generative design opens up the potential for many different design possibilities. In the past, these possibilities were expensive, but 3D printing allows you to create and build something, with minimal extra cost.
The Dutch labor market suffers a shortage of trained staff, and the cost of labor is increasing not only in Holland but everywhere in the world. It’s technologies like 3D printing that we’re looking into to alleviate the impact of the shortage, and I’m absolutely certain that because of these drivers, this is something that we have the responsibility to adopt.”
Practical applications for immersive technology will grow.
Paul Godwin, BIM Manager at MAREK:
“Virtual and Augmented Reality will have the biggest impact in 2020. That type of technology will give people the ability to visualize, not only on the jobsite, but before they ever get on site, to visualize and see mistakes and clashes before construction begins. It saves on time and mitigates issues and design flaws before you get into the field.”
David Fersh, Visualization Technology Leader at SmithGroup:
“The ability to easily create a high-quality virtual reality experience has increased dramatically over the last couple years, and I expect that this technology will continue to gain traction in 2020. As VR becomes ubiquitous for both industry leaders and our clients, it will open up opportunities to change the way unbuilt work is experienced and become a vital tool for decision making. I also expect augmented and mixed reality to make huge leaps in adaption over the coming year. As technology improves, AR use will grow on the construction site as a reliable and intuitive method for viewing 3D data at full scale, beginning to change the way we think about delivering projects.”
“Today, we’re seeing more contractors pick up more services. GCs are taking on more risk in general and in turn, there are more opportunities for them to leverage emerging technology to increase efficiency. One of the technologies that have taken off is lidar scanning for as-builts. It’s absolutely fascinating and incredibly useful to capture everything. It’s only going to pick up momentum in the coming year and beyond.”
The future of construction will be much nearer than we think.
Saniye Öktem, BIM and Technology Coordinator/ Board Member at Prota Engineering Design and Consultancy Services Inc.:
In 2019, we talked a lot about visualization technologies, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. And now, a year awaits us where we will feel digitization thoroughly by using much more virtual reality and augmented reality with much better quality in the construction industry. I expect to hear more about 3D printed buildings this year and AI will become more common in the design phase. Hopefully, we’ll get a little closer to the concept of “smart cities” with good case studies. I’m not sure if we’ll be talking about substantial increases in the use of robotics in the construction industry next year, but I’m sure we’ll be talking about it in a few years.
What will be the 2020 construction trends that accelerate business processes and strategy? Scroll down to learn more.
New business models will drive digital transformation.
Olivier Lépinoy, AEC Sales Development at Autodesk:
“Fostering innovation through technology alone is not enough. True and sustainable innovation comes from new business models. Everyone understands that digital transformation means putting data “at the centre” and developing a data-centric approach to designing, planning, building, and delivering projects. To be truly successful, this approach needs to focus on the bottom line (modernization of operations, cost-saving, higher productivity, etc.) as well as the topline: transformation of the business portfolio, intense innovation, and consistent growth. This type of transformative change cannot happen if the way you do business remains the same. For AECO firms, inventing alternative business models is a survival mechanism. Currently, most companies launch a strategic initiative by making small tweaks to their existing business model until the initiative becomes financially sustainable, at scale. This tweaking is no longer enough, and companies must now look at a widespread overhaul of their business model if they are to create the necessary conditions for change.”
Technology decisions will become increasingly process-focused.
Tomislav Žigo, Vice President of VDC at Clayco:
“Our world is changing. In the context of these changes, it’s more about the process and the way of thinking that will have an impact, rather than a specific technology. We predict that the population growth will be at the rate of roughly 200,000 people per day, and that is quite significant. For us, optimizing our resources and focusing on how we deliver our projects are the key components to our success. This yields to a greater alignment between construction and manufacturing paradigms. Clayco is being very proactive toward modifying our procurement cycle and preparing our workforce for design and construction processes that will embrace the strategically positioned advancements in technology.”
Doug Heinrich, Estimating Director at Mortenson:
“Today, there are so many niche systems out there that will continue to evolve and expand their reach. In the coming years, managing the data flow through all the systems so they can talk and use the same data will be one of the biggest challenges facing construction firms. In 2020, I expect that we will see further vertical integration, and firms will treat construction as a product instead of relying on mass customization. We’ll design as if we are manufacturing the product—it’s really an extension of prefabrication.”
Construction firms will invest more in preconstruction.
Robert Bray, Senior Director, Preconstruction Solutions at Autodesk Construction Solutions:
“Right now, many companies are not investing in the preconstruction process. However, there are a lot of opportunities to integrate automation and machine learning technologies into this critical project phase. This will enable the industry to move from being reactive to proactive and eventually predictive in preconstruction– all helping to create a competitive advantage in 2020 and beyond.”
Construction will take big steps to reduce its carbon footprint with new industry initiatives and alternative building materials.
Ryan Hoyt, Assistant Project Manager at Webcor Builders:
“I think one thing that’s really exciting is this new technology related to Embodied Carbon in Construction (EC3). Instead of just looking at the sustainable impact of our buildings after they’ve been designed and built, we can start calculating and predicting our carbon footprint before designs are finalized. By inputting all proposed materials like concrete, steel, and drywall with the designs, companies have the knowledge to make better decisions around the selection of more sustainable materials and building methods.”
Austin Rosso, Assistant Project Manager at Webcor Builders:
“In the next year, I’m really excited about cross-laminated timber which will enable the construction of wood high rises. This is important from a sustainability perspective, and even when it comes to minimizing work on the jobsite by pushing more towards prefabrication. I think the material will have a very positive impact on the industry.”
Offsite prefabrication will remain on the rise.
Jason Waddell, Director of Construction Technology Development at Batson-Cook Construction:
“There’s a lot of momentum with technology, robotics, and prefabrication. It’s where we need to go not only to be more efficient, but to be able to build for the future. Cost and waste in construction are only increasing – the time is now to start mitigating. Offsite prefabrication is going to be a big part of this change. It’s already starting, but I think we’re going to see a lot more of an Ikea-style kit of parts where we would just open up a container and start building with a leaner team.”
Nicolas Ortiz Abello, New Frontiers Technologies Lead at Build Change:
“2020 will definitely be a milestone in the AEC industry. As BIM is becoming a common solution used across many disciplines, new tools and approaches are emerging from other fields. For instance, AI and Machine Learning will surely change the current workflows for design and operation of buildings. On the construction side, it’s fascinating how manufacturing is starting to replace some of the typical works done in site through modular and industrialized construction. I believe 2020 will have more construction happening on fabrication plants rather than on actual sites, producing more efficient buildings with less environmental impact.”
Cloud collaboration will become the standard for all coordination and communication.
Russ Dalton, America’s BIM Director at AECOM:
“As far as technology, I think the biggest impact to AECOM moving forward into 2020 is cloud collaboration. In large design-build and construction projects, you have to spend a ton of money to mobilize the team and get infrastructure in place to be able to communicate and collaborate. It’s a paper-driven process through years past. But cloud collaboration is becoming more standard on all of our projects and it will help us move forward very quickly. When I look at construction project jobsites and the lights are off in the plan room with drawings rolled up and untouched because our team understands that paper is out of date as soon as printed and the lights are on in the BIM room, monitors are live, I know we’ve evolved and trust the digital information – it’s more reliable and current.”
Data will transform workflows and provide new levels of industry-wide insight.
Kelsey Stein, National Preconstruction Technology Manager at Skanska:
“The biggest impact to the AEC industry in 2020 is going to be big data and the way we incorporate it into our workflows. There is so much untapped potential in the industry with respect to big data, machine learning, and AI. We can draw parallels from other industries to jumpstart the effective implementation of these technologies. I’m really looking forward to exploring what’s possible in the future.”
Justin Levine, Head of Risk Strategy for BuildingConnected:
“If companies utilize technology that provides feedback loops and insights in real-time, then we can start to become more proactive about how we’re mitigating risk. But we need to take data across the industry – across general contractors, designers, owners – and start surfacing insights from the aggregate so everyone can take action and build more successful projects. In 2020, I expect that we’ll see new ways to unlock and understand aggregate data that we haven’t seen previously. If we can understand and know what to expect for any type of work, on an aggregate basis, construction firms can leverage these insights to effectively mitigate risk downstream, including financial, safety, quality, and scheduling.”
Josh Progar, Manager of Global Technical Solutions at Autodesk Construction Solutions:
“2020 marks a new, exciting decade of construction. I believe the emergence of data-centric processes along with maturing collaborative technologies will strengthen connections between people, teams, and workflows, across the project lifecycle. The AEC industry will continue to benefit from the digitization of their business processes. This will provide much needed momentum to utilize collected lifecycle data in tandem with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. When connected data is paired with advanced analytical technologies and the IoT strategy, teams will be able to better proactively mitigate risk, increase productivity, and make data-driven decisions to grow their businesses.”
Felipe Alejandro López Valencia, Architect – Director Strategic Development and Innovation at Muros y Techos S.A.:
“The trend in construction in 2020 will focus on moving from BIM to the digital twin, or using technologies that connect through real-time data, documentation, photos, models, task tracking, and interference solutions. Driving this will be collaborative software in the field with mobile devices, drones with scanners, robotics like Spot from Boston Dynamics, and artificial intelligence to recreate predictive scenarios. Ultimately, humans will benefit the most from this, as their quality of life will be improved.”
Companies will drive interoperability of technology with standardization
Matt Lamb, Chief Information Officer at Rosendin:
“I would like to see more interoperability between systems. There are many different tools out there and a lot of different vendors providing a variety of solutions. The further we drive standardization between interoperability, the more everyone will benefit, and the industry will be far more successful.”
Share Your 2020 Constructions Trends, Predictions, and Insight
We’d love to hear your thoughts on these 2020 construction trends! What do you think will be the biggest construction trends and predictions in 2020 and beyond? Start a discussion and share it with us in the comments section below!