Construction Industry Trends (2022): Current and "Building" Trends
As we approach the end of the year, it's a good time to look back at the construction trends in 2022 and look ahead to the developing "building" trends, if you will, of the future.
Safety Tech Trends in Construction
What's a discussion of new trends in construction without the tech of the future?
And safety is an area of construction that's ripe for technological improvement.
Construction has been one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S. for years. Almost 1,000 construction workers died on the job in 2020, which makes up about a fifth of all workplace fatalities in the country.
Some of the most promising safety innovations involve wearable tech. Examples include wearable tech that:
- Monitors vital signs like heart rate, respiration rate, and skin temperature
- Sensors that alert users to dangerous gases, temperatures, or other invisible hazards
- GPS & locating tech to track workers' locations and monitor for lack of movement
- Alarms to push emergency information or evacuation orders to all individuals immediately
Wearable tech can be integrated into hard hats, boots, watches, vests, or other solar or kinetic recharging items. Tech can send data to supervisors' mobile apps in real time when needed.
Site sensors are another possibility. Sensors can be placed around construction sites to monitor noise levels, temperatures, and gases. When dangerous conditions are detected, the same tech can alert nearby employees.
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Labor-Saving Trends in the Construction Industry
The labor shortage is not one of the new trends in construction – it's been plaguing us for a while, but it is growing worse as recruitment fails to replace the losses to retirement, much less keep up with escalating demand.
Many hope that technology and automation can bridge the gap and make workers' labor go further.
While robots are unlikely to be a widespread construction trend in 2023, we're seeing more working models that prove the concept. Options are being explored for autonomous machines and collaborative robots (called, adorably, cobots) that are designed to assist humans.
Examples in the works include:
- Automating and improving the efficiency of repetitive tasks like bricklaying and flooring
- Making dangerous tasks like welding and trenching into remote procedures
- Transporting heavy materials across worksites, including multiple independent return trips
- Reducing repetitive stress injuries by absorbing the impact of heavy-duty tools
Of course, the rugged nature of construction sites is a difficult environment for automation, which is why modular construction – which transfers the early stages of construction to a more traditional and controlled factory environment – is on the rise.
Hiring Change Trends in Construction
Brick-laying robots or not, the construction industry will need human solutions for the labor shortage. And traditional recruiting strategies have been failing for years.
Recently we wrote about how diversity is the future of the construction industry. Female, black, and Asian workers represent hugely untapped labor pools to fill out construction labor shortfalls. Still, leadership will have to work hard to make their companies a more welcoming place for these employees.
Worker surveys have revealed that racist incidents are common on construction worksites, and only 3.7% of tradespeople are female. Construction workers report that harassment and discrimination are frequent and that their bosses have done little to address the problem.
Efforts to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) won't just boost numbers through recruitment and retention of traditionally underrepresented demographics. Research shows that Gen Z – regardless of race or gender – is attracted to a fair and welcoming work atmosphere.
Materials Shortages and Growing Costs
No one said the current trends in construction are always good.
We've been experiencing supply shortages and rising materials costs for a few years now, and the forecast is more of the same. There's a sand shortage that's compounding the concrete shortage. Semiconductors are still hard to find, which is affecting HVAC products.
Supply chains are still a mess. Wait times can be as long as 40 weeks for some materials. Scarcity and delays, coupled with general inflation, are taking their toll. Some materials level off or drop slightly but remain above their pre-COVID costs.
New Construction Materials
Developing new building materials is one of the most exciting ongoing trends in the construction industry. The most recent breakthroughs involve reducing the environmental impact of construction and finding new ways to improve upon a construction staple: concrete.
Carbon sequestration and carbon-negative materials are a common theme:
- Biochar – made from forest and farm waste – sequesters carbon from decomposing biomass into a bioplastic that will remain stable for hundreds (or even thousands) of years. It's cheaper than other bioplastics and can be used to make cladding materials for buildings. Plus, the material will continue to absorb CO2 from the air over time.
- Hemp rebar is a low-cost alternative to steel. It's low-carbon (because hemp is one of the most efficient carbon-sequestering plants), and since it doesn't corrode like metal, it can extend the lifespan of concrete. And hemp rebar requires less energy to manufacture than other corrosion-resistant concrete reinforcements like glass fiber.
- Carbicrete uses waste slag from the steel industry plus industrial-captured carbon as an alternative to calcium-based cement. Tradition cement emits a lot of CO2, while carbicrete sequesters it. It's suitable for precast concrete masonry.
Other innovations for concrete include:
- Self-healing concrete – still in research phases – solves concrete's longevity problem by introducing microorganisms or biological elements like enzymes to the mix. These added elements typically get activated by water seeping through cracks, triggering a reaction that produces limestone or calcium carbonate to fill the cracks.
- Bendable concrete, sometimes called Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC), uses a polymer microfiber to keep concrete strong while drastically increasing flexibility. Polymer-fiber reinforced concrete is not just crack-resistant but can hold structure even if cracks occur, making it superior for construction in earthquake-prone areas.
- Geosynthetic cementitious composite mats (GCCM) are initially-flexible, easy-to-install rolls of concrete best used for erosion control, slope protection, and lining channels, ditches, and pipes. You unroll the mat where needed, drape and mold it into the desired contour, and add water to set. Once hardened, GCCM is waterproof and five times more abrasion-resistant than traditional concrete
Safety Training: A Forever Trend
Construction trends come and go, but OSHA training is timeless.
Regular safety training is the most effective way to keep your crew alive and intact. It's also cheaper than a robot.
We've been an online OSHA-authorized training provider for over 20 years. Our courses are self-paced, interactive, and mobile-friendly. We offer bulk discounts, a free LMS, and dedicated account management for our enterprise clients.
We have an extensive catalog of OSHA Construction courses – in English and Spanish – as well as NYC SST courses, EM 385 training, and other safety and construction training essentials.
Enroll today or reach out to learn more!