If the construction industry was poised for change before, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed that transformation into overdrive. The industry as a whole has always been reluctant to change, but we’ve reached a critical point where architects, developers, and contractors who fail to evolve risk getting left behind.
The years ahead will present construction stakeholders with a wave of new challenges alongside familiar issues like rising costs, sustainability, and a shortage of skilled labor. At the same time, these compounding challenges offer an opportunity to push the construction industry forward and improve the quality of the built environment.
The solutions exist, so why the hesitancy? Prefabrication has been around for years and spearheading the evolution of the industry as it balances the fight between comfortable traditional construction and intimidating innovational solutions. The reason comes down to the fact that we are creatures of habit. Although a McKinsey study states that prefab is expected to grow exponentially, the industry remains the same. Additionally, Prefabrication remains untaught in universities and one must learn on the job rather than in the classroom or in the field, adding to the comfort associated with traditional construction. The industry is old and although it has blaring flaws, there is a degree of beauty in the disaster and disorder that comes with something that has fought the test of time for so long.
How to Prepare for the Future of Construction
The challenges facing the construction industry may be complex and multi-layered, but there are some solutions that solve multiple problems at once. Here’s what you can do to prepare for disruption and ride the wave of change.
Embrace Collaboration and Partnership
So, what exactly does collaboration in construction look like? It varies. It can be as simple as implementing technology that streamlines internal processes. And it can be as complex as restructuring your organization and go-to-market strategy to be more competitive as the construction supply chain becomes more consolidated.
Both avenues are necessary to keep up with the future of construction, and they both provide tangible benefits. For example, investing in connected construction technologies pays off throughout the construction lifecycle by reducing:
- Engineering hours by 10–30%;
- Building costs by 5-10%;
- Operating costs by 10-20%; and
- Decommissioning hours by 5-10%.¹
Using technology as a foundation, construction firms can not only break down silos, they can also integrate the construction supply chain. McKinsey predicts that construction value and profit pools will shift dramatically, and by 2035, total profit pools may double, unlocking $265 billion in potential new profit for stakeholders who take the lead in embracing change.² But design professionals and general contractors risk getting left behind.
By shifting many construction activities away from the job site and into factory settings, developers and contractors can control costs, improve project scheduling and reliability, and reduce risk. With prefabrication, multiple processes (such as foundation work and manufacturing) can take place simultaneously, significantly reducing building time. It can cut schedules by 20-50%.³ And since fewer workers are needed for onsite assembly, it can reduce overall project labor costs by up to 25%.4
Design firms and contractors who use prefabrication or modular construction report overwhelmingly positive results.
Digital tools and improved logistics networks are improving the quality of prefabricated structures, making them well-suited to tackle the construction challenges of the future. Also, as the construction industry moves towards productization to take advantage of economies of scale and better integrate the supply chain, offsite construction aligns well with that shift. Western states in particular can benefit from prefabrication, as it can deliver the most value to areas experiencing serious housing and labor shortages.
While the future of construction is fraught with challenges, there are also great opportunities for stakeholders to evolve their businesses and capture new revenue. Growing pains are inevitable, but they’re a small price to pay as we strive towards a more integrated, value-driven industry. Homeowners, building occupants, and communities want (and deserve) buildings that can adapt to their evolving needs. The stakeholders who step up to provide that value today stand the most to gain as the industry shifts tomorrow.