The resilience required to tackle the challenges of 2021 has become a solid foundation for building in 2022. So how do we turn lessons learned into something that makes us smarter, more strategic builders?
With some economists calling 2022 the year of “consolidation and rebalancing,” the road ahead may not be without speed bumps, but at least we’ll have a better sense of how to navigate them.
We asked recognized leaders, technologists, and industry strategists from across the globe to share their top trends and predictions for future-proofing a construction business in 2022 and beyond. Here are some of the most revealing insights, organized by the topics that matter most right now. Names appear alphabetically below each category.
- Brian Roche, Autodesk
- Christopher Mills, Plaza Construction
- Jenny Moshea, Sellen Construction
- Thomas Koruga, Tirol Kliniken
- Alex Turner, Oktra
- Amr Raafat, Windover Construction
- Ann Blanchard, Arcadis
- Chris Schoneveld, Alkondor Hengelo
- Michał Zając, Blue Projects
- Peter Waywell, Datum360
- Randy Norton, Multigreen
- Sidharth Haksar, Autodesk
Global & Economic Construction Trends
Increased tech adoption in US due to “Infrastructure Deal”
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is an historic opportunity to transform what infrastructure we build and how we build it. Digital design and construction tools can help the AEC industry meet the goals of the legislation, including building and constructing more cost-effective, safer, resilient, and greener infrastructure that improves quality of life and economic opportunity for all communities.
Notably, the legislation included a new program to accelerate adoption of digital design and construction tools in transportation projects – making clear that this is a priority for infrastructure development. Initial funding to states is already flowing with much more to follow, including through a broad range of new and expanded grant programs. AEC firms should be ready to position themselves as leaders in using technology to meet the legislation’s goals when bidding for projects that will define the next generation of U.S. infrastructure.” –David Ohrenstein, Director of Government Affairs & Senior Public Policy Council (national) at Autodesk
Key US growth opportunities ahead despite significant challenges
“Looking forward, as the economy continues to recover, we’ll start to see a much more balance restored in the construction sector. Single family and residential will be strong markets next year. Warehousing will continue to show strength with the demand for ecommerce. Especially in light of supply chain issues, building out of that logistics infrastructure will certainly take precedence.
I also think healthcare will be a strong market in 2022, particularly, as it relates to inpatient care. In the past decade, a lot of the healthcare market has been focused on urgent care types of construction. I think we’re going to start to see a shift back to the more inpatient side, as well as multifamily, given the challenges facing the single family market with higher prices and shortages.
Finally, another offshoot of the pandemic is manufacturing. Again, with logistics issues, the shortages of goods have created an opportunity for producers to bring the manufacturing process back on shore. We are seeing more manufacturing projects start to pile up in our planning database.
But of course, with every good side of the market, there will be downsides as well. I think when we look at construction sectors that particularly rely on folks congregating, those markets will remain weak. For instance, office and hotel construction. This would likely include casinos, convention centers, and possibly even transportation like airline and terminal construction. Those might continue to be weak markets, but we are very optimistic about where we expect the sector to go. Our own leading indicators of construction activity and macroeconomic data are telling us this. But even as that significant hope takes hold, we do need to recognize that the construction sector faces very significant challenges in 2022.
I’ve been referring to these as the three Ps: people, prices, and productivity. One thing to keep in mind is that even though these challenges are significant and could certainly restrain activity next year, there are key opportunities to capitalize on some of these challenges and to still grow your business in this environment.” –Richard Branch, Chief Economist at Dodge Data & Analytics
Recommended listening: Richard Branch discusses the construction outlook for 2022 on episode 24 of the Digital Builder podcast.
APAC construction industry transforming at a rapid pace
“Considering what we have faced as a global community over the past two years, providing any form of a prediction is certainly a challenging prospect. However, I believe the APAC construction industry will help the economy rebound in the region and transform the industry at a rapid pace in 2022.
First, we will see companies being increasingly data driven. We are aware that a staggering research statistic found that 96% of data generated in the engineering and construction phase of a project goes unused. So we would expect increased focus and scrutiny on unlocking the value of their data to drive better decision making both at the project level as well as the firm level.
Second, the ongoing labour shortages in APAC will drive the need for increased automation to augment human processes both in the office and on the jobsite.
Third, we expect to see companies explore alternative business models such vertical integration, DfMA and offsite construction amongst others as they look to uncover scale economies.
Finally, given that our industry generates the most amount of waste compared to any other industry, and on the back of the outcomes from COP26 in Glasgow last year we expect to see a renewed focus on sustainability. Throughout the region a number of construction firms have pledged their intention to become net zero emission companies. There will be a significant opportunity to partner these firms and assist the industry transition to a low carbon future.” –Sumit Oberoi, Industry Strategy Manager, APAC at Autodesk
Business Model Construction Trends
Key principles will guide accelerated technology adoption
“Our sector will continue to face an uncertain operating environment in 2022. In the face of this uncertainty, the industry must address the climate crisis and work towards a net-zero carbon future. The people within our industry and their talent will serve as the fundamental force guiding our industry’s next steps.
The sector has been swept up by an irreversible change in the past two years, leading to a significant acceleration in technology adoption. From file-based working to connected data, software applications to digital platforms, in-situation methods to productization and product platforms, and BIM/CDE to digital twins and industrialized construction, embracing technological innovation will drive our industry forward.
As a sector, we are seeing many changes, but our guiding principles must remain unchanged:
- Investing in people with diverse backgrounds and career aspirations
- Promoting “whole-of-life,” “whole-of-asset,” and “whole-of-industry” thinking
- Demanding data-enriched processes and systems for our projects and built assets
- Adopting and adapting superior digital and physical technologies
- Encouraging product and platform thinking across project teams
- Driving horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal integration in our projects and our organizations”
–Anil Sawhney, Director of the Infrastructure Sector at RICS
Industry disruption as the data economy goes mainstream
“Looking at 2022 and beyond, we will witness the end of the construction industry as we know it today. Already present, hybrid players using new business models will gain importance. Disruption through digital platforms and innovation through business models will become an indisputable reality.
Data-Culture-Platform will be recognized as the trilogy for a successful digital transformation. Data will emerge as a new raw material, and data-related activities will become increasingly instrumental. We will watch the emergence of data miners, data controllers, data brokers, and data wholesalers. Firms and organizations will buy, sell, and trade data: the data economy will go mainstream in the construction industry.” –Olivier Lepinoy, Sr. Global Business Development at Autodesk
People & Culture Construction Trends
Hybrid workforce in EMEA offers meaningful advantages
“2022 will be about companies adapting to the hybrid workforce, which is here to stay. But businesses can also embrace the advantages. This opens up a wider talent pool, as remote working means it’s less relevant if people are based in Cork, Dublin, London or beyond.
Connectivity can also be completely transformative for inclusion. If someone has a physical disability and can’t get on site, or caring responsibilities that limit time away from home, they can work virtually. Construction can benefit from much more diverse teams and access exceptional talent that was once locked out of our industry.” –Brian Roche, Account Executive, UK & Ireland, Autodesk
Recommended reading: Discover what might lie ahead for Europe and the Middle East’s construction businesses in 2022.
Trust’s growing influence on human and project potential
“As I look out onto the horizon of the construction industry, I can’t help but wonder how much the future industry could benefit from project stakeholders having the courage to trust in their alignment with other participants in the mutual success of the project? Sure, technology is ever improving, but I have always felt that the power of technology has been hampered by an increasing lack of trust between the many team members of a project.
Anyone who has been in the trenches long enough recognizes that true collaboration is challenging in the current environment. It is discussed and striven for, but a rarer and rarer find these days. I firmly believe that a return toward trust, combined with the allocation of team member responsibilities based upon each professionals’ expertise and not simply upfront cost, will leverage technology with the human potential to move the construction industry forward into the future.” –Christopher Mills, President of Plaza Construction
Uncertainty gives rise to expansion of leadership expertise
“To build resiliency, construction companies will need to expand leadership expertise at all levels to bring about new ways of thinking and solving problems. Uncertainty is inevitable and we manage continuous change at a tactical level on construction projects all the time. However, leaders are needed to enable modern organizational change, unleash innovation, and to inspire the hearts and minds of everyone doing the work so that strategic lifts can be achieved.” –Jenny Moshea, Chief Information Officer at Sellen Construction
Drive change or be driven by it
“We are currently living in a world of unprecedented change.
135 years ago the first automobile was patented.
52 years ago Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon.
30 years ago the World Wide Web was created and from then on innovation and change exploded all over the world.
Today more than 80% of the world’s population own a smartphone and 60% have the ability to access all of the world’s knowledge instantly. Only 20 years ago this was completely unimaginable for most people.
Leaders in today’s business world have to learn to deal with constant innovation and disruption. The most important question becomes: Are you driving change or are you being driven by it?” –Thomas Koruga, BIM Manager, Tirol Kliniken
Sustainability Construction Trends
Technology will help businesses meet environmental commitments
“Climate change is the key driver to build resiliency in any business plan to future proof their business. Businesses need to be mindful of the importance of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) to stimulate green investment; starting from committing to a Pledge to Net Zero, based on a Science-Based Target initiative to reduce the environmental impact of construction activities in cities, by reducing air pollution and improving waste management.
Invest in smart plant equipment, which produce low carbon emissions, encourage hybrid working, use of public transport, and invest in innovative technologies like digital twin and Augmented Reality, which helps the construction process to be leaner. All of these initiatives are tied back into technologies—software tools which help the business to achieve their targets. It is vital to employ environmental and digital champions, and associated groups, to help deploy new initiatives to the site teams, and incentivise sites who engage proactively to achieve targets and objectives.” –Aravindh Rajendiran, Head of BIM at J Coffey
Technology & Data Construction Trends
Enthusiasm for digital transformation requires looking inward
“The construction industry has faced a lot of difficult challenges over the last couple of years due to the pandemic. However one positive that has come out of this adversity is that it has made construction companies rethink the way they use, implement and manage digital technologies. Some companies have had to start their digital transformation journey from scratch and it has made others completely rethink their existing digital technology adoption strategy altogether.
Construction companies have had to face these challenges head-on and have been forced to increase the capital they invest in the development of digital design and construction technologies. This increase in funding has created a greater knowledge and trust of these digital technologies leading to a greater spike in the adoption of technology across the whole construction industry, from large contractors to even small construction firms.
It has now been well documented across the media and there are test-cases that can prove increasing investment in construction technology will lead to increased company efficiencies, reduced overhead costs and help companies build a scalable and sustainable future.
Looking beyond 2021 and into 2022, even if companies want to increase their digital transformation timelines the big questions are:
Is a digital technology strategy implementable?
Creating a digital technology adoption strategy will mean creating a company vision with clear, practical and achievable objectives and goals. One of the key ingredients to making the strategy successful is the need for the buy-in of people at all levels of management within the company. I can’t stress how important this is, as it helps build momentum and drives the initiative forward.
Do companies have an IT infrastructure that can support the demands of these new technologies?
Successful digital transformation requires a solid and robust IT infrastructure. Companies need to be prepared to invest heavily, not just in user hardware and software, they also need to think about future- proofing their IT infrastructure to cope with their ever- evolving digital labour force and the increase in the amounts of data flow.
Do companies have the resilience to tackle the ‘resistance to change’ attitude that has been a part of the industry since the introduction of the computer 40 years ago?
One of the biggest challenges faced by the industry is the re-educating of existing staff, this takes time and money. However once the permissions have been given by upper management this can start a landside of workforce enthusiasm which will in turn help fuel future employee efficiencies.
Can the smaller firms truly embrace digital transformation?
The key to this is to first use digital technology to improve inefficient processes, the likes of which have been a thorn-in-the-side of the industry for years. Improving project communications and the way in which we manage and store project data are two key goals that can be achieved with minimal investment.” –Alex Turner, Group BIM Manager at Oktra
Tech-first approach will shield from procurement challenges and risk
“Model-based-estimates, additive manufacturing, mixed reality, and prefabrication will be the key assets to transform the way we build in 2022 and beyond. These technologies will optimize the procurement strategy for long lead items in construction and mitigate risk of schedule delays.
Through BIM data, offsite construction, and reality capture, we will take information-rich models directly into fabrication. This tech-first approach will streamline productivity, quality, and communication between designers, builders, and owners, empowering us to shape the most sustainable, safe and efficient built environment.” –Amr Raafat, VP of VDC & Technology at Windover Construction
The achievement of a single source of truth
“The excessive amount of non-productive man hours spent searching through emails and multiple data sources must be relieved. 2022 will be the year of discovering and configuring one software solution that allows immediate access to real-time data as a single source of truth. This achievement will reduce employee stress, streamline workflows, and increase profitability.” –Ann Blanchard, Senior Client Project Manager, Arcadis
The crystal ball of sensor data and an automated future
“With the use of sensor data and Forge as a software foundation, we are able to predict future product failures. So for a maintenance task, we could analyse the use curve of a building and protect our products against future failures. And doing multiple tasks on a single maintenance job benefits our company’s eco footprint due to a minimization of traffic movement.
As for the inside of our factory, humans and robots collaborate on creating high quality windows, doors and facades. With the increasing lack of human manpower, robots could take over simple default tasks, so people can concentrate on more challenging tasks.” –Chris Schoneveld, BIM Manager at Alkondor Hengelo (The Netherlands)
The need for cloud-based tools continues
“2021 was a year dominated by COVID-19, which globally affected the labour market. It is a time that has forced a change in the approach to the tasks performed, mainly by moving to remote working.
It is also the year which, in my opinion, has made us realize the power of working on the basis of cloud-based tools and this trend will continue next year, 2022, if only due to the pandemic which is still ongoing.
What we have been able to do at Blue Projects is to enhance the quality of the services we provide by using technology to enable remote working and connect teams regardless of where they work.
It is the right combination of technology, remote project processes, people experience and effective response to change that allows us to satisfy our clients.
The trend of cloud-based information flow management tools will continue to grow strongly and become a standard for work. The capabilities of tools such as BIM 360, which go far beyond a simple online data repository, will also become more important.
In terms of technology, mechanisms for remote communication between team members on site and coordinating teams in different locations around the world will become much more important. The use of regular 3D laser scanning and 360 panoramas, as well as the possibility of combining them with project data – this will affect the effective tracking of changes and the possibility of quicker reaction to emerging problems.
What is equally important as technology is the team without which even the best tools will not be fully used. The challenge, despite the continuing social distance, will be to bring such a team together and maintain its effectiveness, which at Blue Projects we deal with every day.” –Michał Zając, Senior Architect & BIM Manager, Blue Projects
Data demands to be understood and acted upon
“The trend forecasts for 2021 rightly highlighted key areas around technology and innovation, and the emergence of the converging, connected and integrated digital ecosystems that support both capital projects and, of course, operations.
This convergence is enabled with what we see as a continually developing platform capability. For these developments to truly deliver value to both engineering contractors and operators, which they will, there needs to be a greater focus on the foundational data that supports this digital ecosystem.
Being digitally precise, being able to communicate in a common and connected language, and being able to easily integrate, connect and collaborate with data will become essential during 2022. The eventual nature and value of a digital twin will become better understood, and most businesses will recognise and start to act on the fact that the data that underpins this is of primary importance and demands more understanding and attention.” –Peter Waywell, Industry Consultant at Datum360
Technologized builders are paving the way
“Construction has officially entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technology is improving productivity. Capital allocation is more efficient. The problem in 2022 and beyond? Skilled labor. Historically, markets respond. The need for process automation and virtual collaboration is now. A technologized builder will retain earnings and induce skilled labor.” –Randy Norton, Chairman of the Board for Multigreen
Technology critical to overcoming industry setbacks
“The construction industry will look to technology to address challenges associated with ongoing labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and associated material price escalations.
To that end, reducing risk, increasing productivity, margins and cash flow will be critical to the success of construction companies going forward. We see automation, jobsite intelligence & productivity, supply chain and payments as some of the key technology trends that will play a pivotal role in helping advance our industry in 2023.” –Sidharth Haksar, Senior Director, Head of Construction Strategy at Autodesk
Share your 2022 construction trends
Are there any 2022 construction trends that you think will be critical to future-proofing your business or building industry resilience? Share your thoughts in The Big Room, our community of construction professionals.