Large general contractors must look to operational strategies to offset expenses due to workforce shortages, budget uncertainties, and unforeseen delays.

Retain and Attract Skilled and Quality Labor

The construction industry continues to struggle with a shortage of skilled and quality labor. This is a result of dwindling interest, an aging population, and talent demands in competing sectors like technology and trucks. Many workers, especially younger ones, look for positions that are less physically intensive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of all construction workers are now older than 45 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the construction industry will employ 4% more workers in the 2022-2033 period – “About 167,800 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”

Perpetual labor shortages and turnover can hamper upcoming infrastructure and building projects. To meet the growing demands, companies should focus on the following to retain and attract skilled and quality labor:

  • Create training programs, certification programs, and apprenticeships
  • Offer bonuses and performance-based incentives
  • Initiate customized career paths
  • Pay competitive wages
  • Encourage workers to use innovative technology
  • Target diverse talent groups

Monitor Material Costs

Another trend that the construction landscape is tackling is the cost of materials. After Covid, and an evolving economic landscape, supply chain disruptions have led to a rise in commodity prices and global inflation driving up construction project input costs by 40.5%.

Though material costs are getting back to normal, construction material budget uncertainties are likely to persist. Unforeseen delays could result in higher final costs and longer lead times.

Project owners need to closely monitor costs and delivery schedules and find creative ways to mitigate risk. For example – hiring a construction management firm that manages several projects at once, can provide purchasing power to get better materials prices.

Sourcing out alternate building materials can be a viable and sustainable option for construction projects. Such alternatives can also decrease labor costs and expedite the project timeline. Examples are:

  • Graphine, stronger than steel, can coat buildings and protect them from weather damage. Its excellent thermal conductivity can increase energy efficiency.
  • Calcium silicate board is formed from organic components like sand, clay, and lime. It is pest, fire, and moisture resistant as well as non-toxic and sustainable.
  • There’s also a growing shift toward recycling construction and demolition (C&D) wasteinto aggregate and engineered wood. These initiatives reduce the overall amount of construction materials winding up in landfills while adhering to sustainable norms.
  • Modulated or prefabricated construction – contractors are increasingly turning to prefabricated construction in the U.S. and across the globe to reduce costs and boost delivery speed. Materials are durable, quality of materials can be controlled prior to construction, and there are less onsite accidents.

Greater Adoption of Technology

As with every other sector, technological advancements have increased efficiency on the construction site. While investing in these advancements can come with frontloaded expenses, the time and money saved down the line should provide a positive return on investment.

The following technological adoptions will gain prominence this year:

  • Augmented Reality: AR technology that creates a digital layer of information and visuals over an existing physical object can prove invaluable on the modern construction site. AR helps with 3D visualizations of upcoming projects, affordable architectural simulations, automated building measurements, and safety and hazard training simulations.
  • Digital Twins: Digital twinscreate real-time virtual construction models that support thoughtful decision-making. They simulate various scenarios for decision-makers to determine efficient ways to construct buildings while avoiding costly mistakes. Contractors can use this technology for maintenance and repairs post-project completion.
  • Building Information Modelling: BIM allows everyone to work from the same models which reduces errors, increases the accuracy of construction bids, facilitates better communication, and makes it easier to share audit history and other information. It offers a glimpse into the future of a project and a chance to remedy issues before they become reality.
  • 3D Printing: Creates entire building structures with large printing setups capable of pulling from blueprints which can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and construction waste in much less time.
  • AI, loT, and Robotics: AI and robotics applications speed up work and increase safety. They can assist in risk reduction while conducting primary tasks like bricklaying. IoT sensors and geofencing help site leaders manage the use of approved tools and machines at appropriate times to enhance worker safety.

Construction sites can also use IoT devices to monitor their materials. Concrete sensors are one of the most prominent examples. By placing connected sensors in concrete, construction teams can remotely check in on the curing process or see if it needs repair. Theft prevention is another growing application of IoT in construction. Construction sites are prime targets for thieves, given their expensive equipment and relatively low security. Now, as construction material costs are rising, this theft could grow, but IoT devices help fight it.

  • Construction Management Software: Comprehensive construction management software helps home builders, contractors and architects manage ongoing projects. Construction project owners can also consider working with a reliable construction management and consulting firm to help deliver their project efficiently and on budget.

In summary, whether it’s investing in your workforce, negotiating material prices, or embracing the important role of new technology – construction companies can find ways to prioritize efficiency and cost-saving to stay ahead of the curve.