Check out some of this month’s top construction headlines, including growing employment numbers and new OSHA requirements.

We know contractors are always looking for ways to gain a competitive edge. To do so, they’re adopting new technology, trying out BIM, and exploring integrated software solutions. At Viewpoint, we work with contractors every day to help them find the best solutions for their organizations and we know these professionals are committed to improvement.

To get ahead, it’s also important for contractors to keep up with what’s going on throughout the construction industry. We’ve compiled a list of stories from March worth paying attention to.

Contractors Turning to Alternative Construction Solutions Amid Workforce Shortage

The ongoing labor shortage in construction is leading some contractors to try out new ways to boost efficiency. According to the Q1 2018 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, a quarterly report about the construction outlook, many contractors are turning to prefabricated and modular building designs and materials—often assembled indoors. The report notes that 50 percent of contractors are now using prefabricated and modular building materials to improve jobsite efficiency. This practice is especially popular in certain regions of the country like the New England region where weather can often impact work on jobsites.

The takeaway: Contractors should pay attention to what technology and efficiency improvements their peers are trying—especially in their region—and whether they’re seeing success.

Construction Employment Growth Surges in February

Despite the shortage of skilled workers, construction employment has seen significant gains recently. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released February employment data, which shows the construction industry added 61,000 net new jobs in February, bringing the industry’s unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, a full percentage point lower than this time last year.

The takeaway: This employment growth is positive news for construction. Contractors are hiring. This doesn’t mean contractors can relax, though, because the skilled labor shortage is still an issue. The growing construction economy does present an opportunity, however, to attract new talent to the industry.

Majority of Worksites Could Be Violating OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

OSHA’s new electronic recordkeeping rule requires employers to submit a 300A form, a record of the company’s recordable injuries and illnesses for the year, by December 31 every year. 2017’s compliance numbers were poor, with nearly 200,000 jobsites not filing forms. Legal experts offer several opinions about why compliance rates were so low, including confusion about the requirements and an expectation that the rule would change.

The takeaway: Contractors who do not comply with OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule risk receiving a violation and a fine as high as $12,934. Those who aren’t sure about the requirement should consult OSHA or a legal expert to ensure they’re following federal law.

Survey: Small Construction Companies Lukewarm on Tech Investment

While many contractors, especially larger ones, have been on the forefront of adopting new technologies, a recent survey from small business funding site Kabbage found less than 35 percent of small contractors said they’ll invest in new tech like big data solutions and mobile technology this year. The survey also revealed investment in tech security and online advertising were low.

The takeaway: Small contractors may not have the same resources large companies do to try out new technology, but that doesn’t mean they can ignore it altogether. Getting advice from others in the industry about what’s worked for them is a good first step, and exploring construction-specific solutions like integrated software can help small businesses grow and thrive.

Nearly 50 Percent More Zero Energy Buildings Underway in 2017

Green building continues to grow in popularity, and data suggests net-zero commercial buildings are really starting to take off. These buildings produce no less than 100 percent of their energy on site from renewable sources. The numbers themselves aren’t huge—415 buildings are underway or being evaluated for net-zero performance in the United States and Canada—but some predict the market for these buildings will grow tenfold to $79 billion by 2025.

The takeaway: Net-zero projects won’t affect most contractors yet, but it’s worth paying attention to trends like this one. More architects are proposing these types of projects to prospective clients, and net-zero is getting more attention than ever.

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Posted by Andy Holtmann

Andy is Marketing Content & PR Manager at Viewpoint. He has worked in the construction software arena since 2011. Previously, he netted multiple awards as a newspaper and trade media editor.