As November comes to a close, we shake off our Thanksgiving food comas and prepare for a frenzy of last-minute work before the holidays. Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing storylines in November as we inch toward the year’s end. Among them: the continuing push for safer worksites, the advancement of innovative construction technology and a look ahead to what could be a very competitive 2019.
Dodge Data & Analytics released its 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook Report at the end of October, forecasting that total construction starts in 2019 will inch up to $808.3 billion, compared to the $806.8 billion predicted for 2018. This represents a stabilization of the construction market, following double digit increases of between 11 percent and 14 percent from 2012 to 2015 and increases of 7 percent in 2017 and 3 percent in 2018. The report does note that commercial building is expected to see decreases in square footage across all categories in 2019.
The takeaway: Despite concerns of recent stock market slumps, a possible recession or market correction, the tightening construction labor market, a contentious political environment that could delay some construction funding and tariffs that could lead to uncertainty in construction costs, it appears the industry is on track to weather most storms. That’s a good sign for bottom lines, but it also means the time is ripe for contractors to upgrade their technology to help them realize better productivity and profitability in what could be a very competitive construction market in the years ahead.
For the third straight year, nonfatal injuries and illnesses on the job declined in the construction industry, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report, showing the 2017 figures for injuries and illness, noted an estimated 198,100 cases during the year — a 2.7 percent decrease from 2016 levels. The nonfatal injury rate of 3.1 per 100 full-time workers was also down slightly from 3.2 in 2016.
The takeaway: It’s great to see safety incidents continuing to decline. New technologies like wearables and software to better track safety compliance are helping curb these issues. However, as more and more new and untrained workers enter the industry, that vigilance will need to be stepped up even further. Associated Builders and Contractors Vice President of Health, Safety Education and Workforce Development said it best in this ENR article, “While we’re encouraged to see these numbers ticking downwards, the only acceptable number of workplace injuries on a construction jobsite is zero.”
The FBI is assisting the Prince George County’s police department to determine if contractor flaws can be blamed for the electrocution of a 6-year-old girl this past summer at the MGM National Harbor hotel-casino on the shores of the Potomac River. The incident occurred with a lighted handrail and caused life-threatening injuries to the child. Officials will be looking at whether a number of corners were cut in the installation of electrical systems in order to speed the completion and subsequent opening of the $1.4 billion project, leading to safety issues.
The takeaway: This is one of those stories you never want to read, but it underscores the need for rigid accountability on construction projects. Contractors need to ensure that measures are in place to confirm that work is being done correctly, and to code. They also need to be able to fully track work and present documentation showing that work was done correctly should cases like this arise. Having the right people, tools and software solutions in place can go a long way when it comes to preventing potential problems from arising in the first place and protecting the organization after the job is complete.
A 145-foot wide Tybot, a rebar tying robot developed by Advanced Construction Robotics is one of the latest autonomous technologies that could change how construction projects are built. The company, which recently patented Tybot, has already netted awards for its creation, which it says could reduce labor by up to 50 percent, bringing down construction costs while enhancing safety.
The takeaway: Construction robotics is already seeing a ton of interest from contractors and is considered one of the emerging technologies that could overcome the skilled labor and productivity gaps facing construction organizations today. Though an expensive option for most contractors now, the Dublin, Ireland-based research firm Research and Markets predicts that construction robotics will be a $166 million industry by 2023, and that could result in more competition and lower costs for robotic solutions.
Want to hear more about what’s happening in our industry? To help you fit construction news into your schedule, we put together a list of construction podcasts worth checking out.