The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) Vision Team and Futures Council recently detailed ten future construction trends.
1 Increased regulation of carbon-based fuels spurs adoption of alternative power solutions.
Further pushes for alternative energy sources are likely to add complexity to the assembly of construction fleets through new restrictions and mandates. Case in point: the United States’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by over 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. A recently finalized GHG emissions rule from the EPA will dramatically affect passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks with 2023-2026 model years. The EPA has also addressed plans for various rules relating to heavy-duty trucks, hoping to further reduce GHG emissions.
2 Renewable energy production booms.
With an accelerating shift toward renewable energy, new and modernized infrastructure will become more important. Data from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions shows that renewable energy has increased 42% from 2010-2020. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that renewable sources of energy account for around 12% of energy consumption in the United States.
Project owners are already releasing net-zero pledges for new buildings and infrastructure. Contractors will contribute to this effort by providing more efficient equipment and operations while existing buildings will need other means of sustainability.
3 Compact equipment trends electric.
New construction equipment will gradually become more electric to continue with ongoing efforts to decarbonize. As these new products prove reliable, construction companies will expand toward electrification to meet regulatory and social expectations and reduce operating costs.
4 Connectivity leads to jobsite transformation.
Decision-making and efficiency on construction jobsites will improve as digital connectivity expands. “Real-time visibility into machine utilization, diagnostic information and performance helps construction fleets improve asset management, reduce fuel consumption, increase safety and improve preventive maintenance scheduling,” reads the report. Through ubiquitous connectivity, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has potential use a jobsites, enabling the AI to grow and improve its functionality for data analysis and problem-solving.
5 Pathway toward autonomous machinery.
Autonomous equipment and components will become more beneficial and prevalent at connected jobsites. While the construction industry historically is slower to adopt technological innovation compared to others, there are many operations and tasks that prove the potential usefulness of automation.
In recent years, the development of AI and machine learning-related technologies has become a major priority of the federal government. In 2021, an estimated $6 billion from the government was invested in autonomy R&D.
6 Sensors improve efficiency and safety.
A shift from singular devices to a multitude of sensors to track and report people and equipment will help improve efficiency and safety on the jobsite. Some construction companies already use wearable devices, such as watches and helmets. Such devices will continue to improve to “monitor the movement of workers to detect falls, breaches of secure zones, exposure to heat, noise and dangerous gases, as well as worker’s body temperature and heart rate,” according to the report.
7 Fewer workers, different skillsets.
McKinsey & Company released a report stating that nearly 41% of the workers in the construction industry in the United States are expected to retire by 2031. According to Bal-four Beatty, investing in new technologies will work toward rewriting outdated perceptions of the construction industry, in turn providing greater opportunities for companies to attract young workers with more diverse skillsets.
To prepare for this shift in the workforce, the construction industry must leverage implementation of new technologies as a selling point, marketing to those with the right skillsets. Jobs such as machine learning technicians, autonomous fleet supervisors and IoT architects will land in a similar place as project estimators, heavy equipment operators and superintendents.
8 Business models shift toward subscriptions.
Construction companies will accept new ways of accessing equipment and technology through “Software as a Service” and “Equipment as a Service.” Companies can pay as they go while cutting out any maintenance and up-keep costs. This simplifies the processes and keeps them affordably up-to-date on the latest and best software and equipment.
9 Construction data will reveal its value.
The construction value chain collects and stores seemingly endless data through sources such as building information modeling, enterprise resource planning systems, estimating software, IoT devices and more. Because of how rapidly it is collected, new ways to monetize this data will emerge.
10 Cybersecurity becomes central to corporate strategy.
Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important, even for an industry that has not historically been a primary target. Studies show that around 74% of construction companies are not prepared for a cyberattack, even with the expanding use of connected devices on jobsites and in offices. This gives cybercriminals a seemingly endless selection of entry points to attack.