As the construction industry continues to evolve, it challenges norms and seeks to solve many issues that have plagued the industry for years. However, with big transformations come more potential risks.
Advancing technology is changing how the construction industry functions and has already initiated a major industry-wide transformation. With such a significant shift already in progress, we wonder what the next decade might look like for the construction industry. We will review ten future construction trends to anticipate and the impact they will have.
Engine emissions regulations have always existed in construction; however, increased demand for alternative energy sources will most likely lead to new mandates and restrictions. As the United States progresses to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, we already see changes across several industries.
We see investments in developing alternate power solutions and the infrastructure that would be required for each new power source. As more power solutions are approved, the construction industry can expect many options to choose from to leverage their fleet.
Over the next decade, the hope is to reduce carbon emissions by transforming heavy equipment fleets and building new infrastructure to support these changes.
The pressure is on to reduce carbon emissions, so the industry as a whole has begun to shift toward renewable energy. This creates a higher demand for newer, greener infrastructure in both the private and public sectors.
The DOE created the Clean Energy Corps using investments from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It helps the United States achieve its goal of having a carbon-free sector by 2035, with the ultimate goal of creating a decarbonized economy by 2050.
While progress has already been made, urgent government interest and private-sector investments are hastening this process. For example, Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, which provides wind, solar, and backup power for over 1,000 U.S. projects, is expected to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030.
Other energy industry leaders, such as Shell and ExxonMobil, have joined in and are making great strides in shifting toward renewable power sources. Shell has been investing in solar, wind, hydrogen, EVC, and biofuels. In contrast, ExxonMobil has increased its purchase of renewable diesel by up to 5 million barrels a year.
Additionally, more project owners are making net zero pledges for new buildings and infrastructure, using alternative materials and reducing carbon emissions. This means that contractors in the construction industry will play an important role in achieving these sustainability goals. The construction industry will adhere to new regulations to reduce greenhouse gasses. They will also build the new infrastructure needed to help renewable energies take charge of energy consumption over the next decade.
Most new compact construction vehicles will come with some form of electrification. Manufacturers will decide how to incorporate electrification based on each machine's type, size, application, and workload. Some equipment, such as compact skid loaders, excavators, and wheel loaders, may even go fully electric to maximize decarbonization efforts.
The automotive industry has already started paving the way, with nearly 100 electric model vehicles expected to be released in 2024. In fact, by 2040, Honda anticipates 100% of sales to be from electric cars.
As more electric vehicles come to market and their reliability is confirmed, construction companies will begin taking advantage of these newer models. This will reduce operating costs and meet the social and regulatory expectations of decreasing carbon emissions. With a goal of slashing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, we can expect to see a booming electrification of compact construction equipment within the next ten years.
As technology advances with fiber optics and 5G networks, we see a boom in our connectivity. As a result, construction job sites will experience enhanced connectivity to improve efficiency through real-time data sharing. Access to diagnostics, utilization, and performance can improve safety, reduce fuel consumption, and reduce preventative maintenance needs.
Connectivity is the key to transforming your job site, providing better insight between equipment, employees, and materials. By offering a central hub of information using cloud technology, these connections can help improve scheduling, billing, and decision-making to increase productivity and efficiency on the job.
As existing technology advances, connectivity capabilities will only increase, allowing for endless possibilities.
As job sites improve their connectivity, it will pave the way for autonomous machinery. Although full autonomy will likely take longer than a decade to achieve, we can expect to see an increase in situational automation in the coming years. The construction industry is known for being slow to adopt innovative technology, although there are many tasks within the industry that would benefit from automation.
However, construction began adopting this new technology by taking advantage of features such as automatic grading control and remote control operation. Robots are available now for various tasks, including painting, plastering, trenching, bricklaying, hanging drywall, rebar tying, and platooning trucks and autonomous cranes.
With such a positive impact already, construction companies are expected to continue embracing this automation in the next decade to solve issues with efficiency, safety, and labor.
Using wearable devices such as watches and helmets, construction companies can gather insight to improve safety and efficiency on job sites. They can track the movement of employees, monitor exposure to excessive noise, heat, and harmful gasses, and even track workers' heart rates and body temperatures.
Additionally, data-generating sensors can help predict component failures and predict maintenance needs, reducing overall downtime and repair costs. Visual recognition technology will continue this trend toward autonomy as the technology advances and learns to mimic a human's ability to smell, hear, and see to keep job sites safer and more efficient.
As the baby boomer generation retires, we expect to see fewer workers on construction job sites. The continuing worker shortages mean construction companies will need to embrace new technology and equipment to reduce their reliance on human labor. While the industry will always have a demand for skilled workers, they will also need employees to be technologically savvy to keep up with the more technology-focused equipment.
Additionally, utilizing off-site techniques, including pre-fabricating, pre-assembling, and pre-casing, will help improve efficiency and balance out the shortage of skilled workers. The workers who join the workforce will be expected to leverage technology and have a broader skill set to keep up with ever-changing technologies. Construction companies must adjust their marketing demographic to deliver the right message to the right candidates at the best time.
As construction embraces innovative technology, they will begin shifting their business model to reduce capital outlays and diversify risk. Rather than purchasing a core fleet and supplementing with rentals when needed, they will convert from capital expenditure to operating expenditure to improve budgeting, cash flow, and estimating. This will free up more capital for other business expenses and make it easier for businesses to scale and keep up with continuously advancing technology.
An example of an operating expense is SaaS -- a web-based software that would prevent construction companies from having to purchase a multitude of servers and software that would have to be paid for and managed separately. Utilizing Saas simplifies installation, management, and budgeting, for one monthly fee rather than juggling a variety of services.
With more room for flexibility, individual construction companies can decide which equipment would most benefit them and get the best ROI. In the coming decade, we can expect to see a wider variety of acquisition options that will allow construction companies to utilize the latest technology to optimize safety, efficiency, and profitability.
In the coming years, we will begin to see data in the construction industry become monetizable and actionable as data is being stored from various sources, including ERP systems, IoT devices, BIM, estimating software, and parts databases.
Since sensors are being utilized on both equipment and workers, companies get real-time insight that allows them to make quicker and more proactive decisions. They get immediate safety alerts, laser-focused maintenance, and less downtime.
Equipment that is on the job site around the clock can monitor and track key factors, including ground conditions, vibrations, noise, weather, and potential hazards, which create robust data and valuable insight. This data, along with improved connectivity, will assist with decision-making and offer even more benefits that come along with sharing and selling data. The true value of this is still yet to be revealed; however, we can anticipate seeing its full potential in the next decade.
As the construction industry gravitates toward more technologically-driven equipment and strategies, we expect to see more companies investing in cybersecurity. This shift protects the infrastructure and required technology that powers their organizations.
Although the construction industry has not been a prime target for cyber attacks, it is still a vulnerable target that would benefit from increasing its security efforts. We know that 74% of construction companies are not equipped or prepared for cybercrime. With the increasing connectivity, the entry points for cybercriminals continue to grow. This vulnerability has led to the construction industry being the third most common industry to deal with ransomware attacks in North America. A 2019 article published by Forbes reported that cranes are easy to hack, which means all of this newly connected equipment on job sites may make construction a more appealing target.
Cybersecurity has become so essential that $1 billion of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has been allocated for cybersecurity funding. The National Institute of Standards and Technology supports developing new guidelines and tools to better protect connected devices.
We will see manufacturers adopting a Zero Trust approach for IoT device security and will require authorization and authentication before any devices can be connected to an enterprise resource. Additionally, the FedRAMP initiative is a government-wide program that will use NIST standards to implement security requirements for cloud services that agencies in the federal government use. Once a cloud service earns FedRAMP approval, it can be trusted as a reliable resource for businesses to utilize.
We are seeing positive trends in cybersecurity in the construction industry, such as a 188% increase in security spending between 2018 and 2019. While this is good news, we will need to see even more improvements in the coming years. Cyber security must be a top priority as construction sites become more connected and reliant on technology.
The construction industry is at an exciting yet sensitive juncture. There is an increased demand for building while the industry deals with a shortage of skilled workers. In the midst of all of this, there is regulatory and social pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, further putting stress on construction companies.
Now is the time to jump on board and begin leveraging innovative technology to help create a productive and positive future. With the right resources and strategies, we can improve the safety of connected job sites, reduce carbon emissions, improve productivity, reduce costs, and optimize operations. Construction companies will expand and develop their fleet as renewable energy becomes more commonplace, creating the opportunity to build new infrastructure in the United States. The next ten years are critical to this transformation, and the technologies that are already leading the way will prove their value and significance.