The construction industry faces a number of serious challenges that, if not addressed, will hamper its growth and hurt the global economy as building demand increases. Many of these challenges are interrelated and don’t have an obvious solution. However, emerging technology offers a lot of promise to solve specific problems within the industry.
This blog overviews some of the top construction challenges today and exciting technology solutions aiming to address those problems.
Challenges facing the construction industry
There are several challenges facing the construction industry today; here are the ones we see as most impactful and in need of solutions.
As construction project demand increases, firms are finding it difficult to fill open positions—many of them well-paying. 75% of construction firms planned to expand their payrolls in 2018 but face challenges in recruiting and hiring qualified workers. As of May 2018, the NAHB and BLS report that there are about 243,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S.
Project management/communication challenges
Despite advances in communication-based technology, managing projects and job sites among all stakeholders continues to be a challenge. Frequent travel is still necessary for job site collaboration, adding costs and time to the project. Important data isn’t easily accessible by all stakeholders, slowing down productivity.
Worker safety concerns
To fill the labor shortage, firms are hiring new, inexperienced workers, who are more susceptible to injury and accidents. According to OSHA, 991 construction workers were killed on the job in 2016 (the most recent year data is available). In addition to those tragedies, nonfatal injuries totaled 24,650 in 2016, resulting in countless days of lost work, reducing productivity. Unfortunately, these numbers turn many qualified workers away, further contributing to the labor shortage.
One of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry today is stagnant productivity, as global demand increases. Construction industry productivity has remained nearly flat for decades, while many US industries like agriculture and manufacturing have increased productivity 10-15 times over that same period.
The first three challenges discussed are problems individually that should be addressed, but also contribute significantly to stagnant productivity.
Tech solutions to transform the industry
The construction industry has been extremely slow to adopt emerging technology, but will need to in order to solve these problems and prepare the industry for the future. There are countless exciting emerging tech solutions now and on the horizon, and it will take a combination in order to transform the industry and keep up with demand. Here are some of the key areas to watch in construction tech:
- AI and mixed reality solutions improve job site and stakeholder communication through remote collaboration. Mixed reality technology allows individuals to virtually visit the job site, access all data related to the project, and make quicker decisions in real-time to boost productivity.
- Many tech solutions seek to reimagine the design and engineering processes themselves, for safer and more efficient projects. These solutions include modular construction, 3D printing, robotics and increased automation.
- A number of emerging tech solutions focus specifically on improving worker safety by giving workers more assistance with tough or repetitive tasks that lead to injury. The latest worker safety solutions include drones, automation, wearable tech, better safety equipment and exoskeletons.