The COVID-19 pandemic was quite a challenging start to this decade. It brought in a “new normal,” complete with health and safety concerns, an interrupted chain supply and material shortages, rising construction costs, tighter regulations, and labor shortages—just to name a few.
Like every other industry these days, the construction sector has needed to change how it does business and develop creative ways to survive. This article discusses nine of the top construction industry trends for 2022.
1. Finding and Retaining Construction Workers
For many complicated reasons, the country is currently experiencing a concerning shortage of construction labor. And nothing slows down a construction project like a lack of workers. According to Home Builders Institute CEO Ed Brady:
The construction industry needs more than 61,000 new hires every month if we are to keep up with both industry growth and the loss of workers either through retirement or simply leaving the sector for good. From 2022 through 2024, this total represents a need for an additional 2.2 million new hires for construction. That’s a staggering number.
Solutions will include:
- Competitive wages and benefits
- Increased worker training
- Better, safer tools to work with
- Deployment of new technologies
- Encouragement of women to join the industry at all levels
2. Wearable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Safety must always be a critical concern in construction. Those concerns have been enhanced by the need to emphasize mask-wearing compliance, distancing protocols, and more stringent cleanliness standards.
One of the more progressive trends is wearable technology, which is gaining traction at modern construction sites. According to a 2018 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, only six percent of contractors used wearable technology that year; however, it projected that that number would increase to 23 percent by 2021.
There are a variety of protective wearables in use today. Here are some examples:
- Smart Watch: Construction workers can check their vital signs while they work. The watches detect abnormal heart rhythms and can also alarm if a worker falls.
- Smart Boots: These can detect if a worker falls. Also, they contain GPS technology that allows a construction manager to pinpoint a worker’s location.
- Smart Helmet: These have sensors that can alert a worker to potential collisions. In addition, they measure vital signs and send a GPS location signal.
- Augmented Reality (AR) Glasses: Besides protecting a worker’s eyes, these glasses provide additional job site information, such as alerts to hazardous materials and other safety hazards.
- Smart Clothing: This clothing can detect a worker’s temperature, alert to signs of fatigue, and warn of exposure to harmful gases.
3. New Construction Materials
The construction industry is looking to integrate new materials that are more sustainable and reduce costs. Examples of these new materials are:
- Mass Timber: Solid wood panels are laminated for increased strength equal to that of concrete or steel but are more lightweight. These panels can be used for load-bearing walls, floors, and roof construction.
- Self-Healing Cement: Small, water-permeable capsules that contain spores are mixed into wet cement. When a crack forms in the dried concrete, water eventually seeps into the crack, and the spores produce calcite—a calcium carbonate found in marble and limestone. The calcite fills the gap and hardens, repairing it and preventing it from getting larger.
- Flexible Concrete: This process adds materials, such as polyvinyl alcohol and super fine silica sand, to cement mixes to make concrete more flexible. Flexible concrete is stronger, longer-lasting, more durable, and 20 to 40 percent lighter than traditional concrete.
- Transparent Aluminum: This product is a polycrystalline ceramic made of nitrogen, oxygen, and aluminum. It can be used to make things like domes, tubes, transparent windows, rods, and plates.
Modular and prefabricated materials are high quality, less expensive, and have less construction waste than more traditional construction styles. In addition, they can be completed in almost half the time.
5. 3D Printing
3D printing will be a hot topic in 2022. Its many uses include:
- Building basic or emergency housing
- Building replacement parts for construction equipment
- Building detailed construction models and updating them as changes are made
6. Digital Transformation
According to Patrick McCowan, COO of Gray Construction, a leading Kentucky construction firm:
A growing trend is the use of collaboration technology to connect site and office teams. From quality audits to smart construction software, processes are trending toward digital job sites.
Traditionally, construction has been one of the least digitized sectors. However, this is changing. Firms are trending toward digitizing their various business processes, such as time-tracking and payroll, paperwork (going paperless), billing hours and invoices, health and safety training, etc.
A crucial part of the construction industry’s digital transformation is Building Information Modeling (BIM). This is a highly collaborative process “that allows architects, engineers, real estate developers, contractors, manufacturers, and other professionals to plan, design, and construct a structure or building within one 3D model.”
7. Drones and Robots
According to online construction equipment rental company, BigRentz, construction drones have increased 239 percent since about 2006. Dan Burton, founder of DroneBase, says:
Drones have become the go-to tool for construction firms to track, map, survey, inspect, and manage worksites more efficiently and safely. Through aerial imagery and data, builders can map projects, report progress updates, and gain insights through advanced analytics to make better, faster, and more reliable decisions.
In addition, construction in 2022 will include increased use of construction robots. This 21st-century equipment can be used to:
- Paint structures
- Load equipment and materials
- Lay brick
- Tie rebar
- Install drywall
- Complete work during a labor shortage
8. Green Building
Green construction is becoming a standard expectation, especially for commercial buildings. Although it is still expensive and somewhat of a luxury, 2022 will continue the trend towards:
- Sustainable construction
- Energy conservation
- A lower carbon footprint
Although the pandemic has presented the construction industry with many challenges, the outlook for 2022 is positive. There is an expected upswing on the horizon—and never before have so many efficient and safe construction methods and equipment been available.
9. Smart Cities
Large tech companies (such as Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft) are investing tons of money into building smart, sustainable cities. Per ResearchAndMarkets.com, the smart city market is expected to grow to $2.51 trillion by 2025. The most noteworthy megaprojects that are currently in the works include:
- Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (India)
- Hudson Yards (New York City)
- Masdar City (United Arab Emirates)
- Songdo International Business District (South Korea)
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- Digital signage
- LED lighting
- PTZ cameras
- Wireless networks
- And much more
The convenience, flexibility, and affordability of delivering both power and data over a single Ethernet cable make PoE a compelling technology for smart, connected cities.
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