Construction pros make predictions for how tech will affect their business
By Jenny LescohierDecember 07, 2022
As we look ahead into 2023, construction projects are still moving at a brisk pace yet higher interest rates and talk of a recession are top of mind for many in our industry.
Meanwhile, more recent findings on growth in construction spending show some early signs of slowing yet are expected to continue to grow over the next six months. As the construction industry remains at an interesting inflection point, we asked several leaders at construction and engineering firms for their predictions on what the new year will bring in terms of rapidly advancing technology and its effects on productivity and safety on the job site. Here’s what they had to say:
What issues are you most concerned about in 2023?
- “Staffing and training new personnel to handle the forecasted workload. It takes time to hire and train new people on our processes and operating software systems. The key is to utilize the most user-friendly and intuitive apps and programs to facilitate more streamlined training programs.” - Zach Hoffman, director of field operations at Prevost Construction, Carlsbad, CA
- “The construction labor shortage – it means the days are longer, projects take longer, and there’s the likelihood of more accidents.” - Crissy Ingram, executive director, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)
- “There’s a slowdown in renovation spending and services. With talk of a looming recession, anyone on the fence about investing in real estate and improvements is probably pausing to think about it a bit more before jumping into new commitments.” - Corey Weiner, founder of C2.A Studio, an as-built laser scan measurement service
How do you see the industry changing? How do you feel about those changes?
- “GCs operate with more technology than they did 10 to 15 years ago. Good, qualified field staff must be adaptable to these new operating and reporting techniques. I believe that we are moving toward these changes so rapidly that we will lose about 10% of people that can do their job well on the more manual or traditional method of reporting, but won’t cut the new expectations because of the insistence on using technology.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction
- “I think in five years, there will be a safety officer on every job. Today, safety requires a full-time person but I don’t see GCs investing the money. This puts the burden on field teams and dilutes standards and models an unhealthy focus. However, I’m seeing subtle trends as more general contractors push in the direction of standardizing programs and people.” - Jon Broyles, corporate safety officer, AMG & Associates, Santa Clarita, CA
- “In 2023, expect to see the insurance industry’s incentives for digital transformation get real. Using digital tools to improve safety and reduce premiums will be a key driver for general contractors increasing their investments in digital transformation.” - Ward, Safe Site Check in
In what ways can an investment in technology help contractors?
- “Strength in numbers used to be the formula for a successful project but technology has shown us that one person can do more on the administrative side of the
- “Anytime technology can improve the capture of reliable data and distribution of it, it’s worth considering. That’s why we saw an opportunity with laser scanning. While Autocad was launched in 1982, the input data most likely came from someone spending a few days on site with a tape measure. Laser scanning technology remained too expensive for most architects until the first BLK360 was launched 35 years later. Now, we can measure the same project in a few hours with better accuracy and more distributable data formats.” - Corey Weiner, founder of C2.A Studio, an as-built laser scan measurement service
- “Next year, we can expect to see large contractors focus on using technologies that manage the design lifecycle (virtual design and construction, and BIM) along with prefab as those areas are where the biggest cost risks can be controlled. When it comes to medium-sized contractors, they will increasingly adopt cloud suites for project management.” - Ward, Safe Site Check In
What role will tech play in safety on the job site in the new year?
- “We’ll see more frequent on-site safety meetings (tailgate style). Also, more accountability and control of who is where and when on the job site. Safety zones will be limited to the people required to do the work and not allow others to pass through while critical operations are underway. Awareness is the most important part of improving safety results. If we can use more tools that can be accessible to all workers, then we can have better accountability and that should drive safety results in the right direction.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction
- “With the development of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, we’re going to be able to do things never dreamed of in the past. With wearable devices and
- “Job sites will be more safe and productive. One of our recent surveys found that 95% of construction workers report being more productive and have fewer accidents when they use newer technologies designed specifically for our industry.” - Ingram, NAWIC
- “Digital technology tools make our work environments safer, allowing individuals to sign in, answer safety questions and verify manpower. We use these technologies to always know who is on site, their location, project they’re working on, and supervisor. We can easily reach workers and have private, digital records that are useful for other departments including safety (meeting OSHA standards), payroll, project management, and even the CEO.” - Broyles, AMG & Associates
Is an investment in technology worth it?
- “Yes, I see it more of a necessity to the new demands and standards than I do a choice to improve. The costs of equipment and software are easily absorbed and accepted in the cost of the build because of the benefits to the clients. The effect is most likely going to cause an increase in the efficiency of coordination and communications, decrease the schedule time of the project, minimize the labor burden of field management, or just add better accountability to each party involved. In most cases, more than one or all of these can be achieved.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction
- “Investing in technology is only worth it if it saves time, money or sanity. A few years ago, we scanned a room for a home theater designer who did a beautiful redesign. We bought an Oculus VR headset and used it to present the design to the family. They absolutely loved it. However, the effort it took to get the design into the headset and resulting ‘wow factor’ was not enough to make this technology useful to us, our process or our client. So, the designer went back to presenting 2D renderings on a flat screen.” Weiner, C2.A Studio
- “While there has been an increase in the use of technology on job sites, with 95% of construction workers reporting higher productivity since adopting newer technologies, these tools will only be adopted if they deliver immediate payback or if they’re required by the project owner or local regulations.” - Ward, Safe Site Check In
What do you believe are the traits and/or tools that can best help a construction business overcome the challenges facing the industry right now?
- “Portable tablets and more powerful smartphones, and the most user-friendly software systems with great support. As user friendly as a software program can be, there will always be situations and questions to be fixed or answered. If we can’t get a resolution quickly, then we’re down and the schedule can be stalled. Even a slight delay can cost a lot of money to everyone involved.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction
- “Creating a safety culture. Company leaders won’t get there until they understand that it’s more than being compliant. Being excellent takes enthusiastic commitment from all levels of leadership. The next evolution will be to make safety part of a company’s DNA. Safety is like breathing - it needs to be part of who you are. Also, corporate sustainability is here to stay. Like workplace safety was in the early 70s, sustainability is going to change the landscape of our industry over time. Sustainability is not an objective; it’s about making quantifiable progress toward a cleaner world. It’s also not just an idea. It’s a commitment to renovate action requiring new ways of working and new ways of collaborating.” - Courtney, Ampirical
- “The use of more digital technology to manage workers, streamline and update processes, and stay ahead of any potential safety issues. The construction industry (generally) is behind and we’re working hard within our company to not only streamline our processes but also limit our environmental impact the best we can.” - Broyles, AMG & Associates
- “Creating a centralized base of information which can be easily accessed and updated by individual team members seems to be the biggest challenge in most construction projects. There’s an old saying about how there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ project management. There’s either management or there isn’t.” - Weiner, C2.A Studio
As we enter a new year with cautious optimism, it’s clear there will be a continued uptick in the use of technology in construction to improve productivity and safety. As budgets tighten and the construction labor shortage continues, contractors will be keeping a closer eye on the return on investment of every investment in people, processes and technology.