The CSIRO’s 2016 Farsight for Construction report on the future of Australia’s construction sector lists the top trends that are driving the way the industry will operate in 20 years’ time.
Loss of skills and labour shortages
Apprenticeships are dwindling and skills are being lost as the population is ageing, which means there’ll be fewer people like roof tilers and stonemasons to service the industry down the track. Trend 2 – the rise of technology – might partially solve physical labour shortages, but in the near future the challenge will be filling the growing labour shortfall as traditional in-demand skills become rare.
Robots, drones and virtual reality
Digital technologies are changing the way construction projects are managed and built. Sophisticated thermal imaging allows workers to locate studs, pipes and gaps in insulation via smartphone. Drones can conduct remote surveys and collect aerial data. Augmented and virtual reality, together with holographic headsets, allows planners to view 3D models in real time in real environments. Exoskeletons – or wearable machines – giving workers superhuman strength may become as familiar onsite as hard hats and high-vis vests.
Off-site modular construction
Prefabricated modular building is having a renaissance, due to its capacity to keep costs down and reduce environmental impact. Demand in Australia is predicted to grow by 5 per cent every year – more than double that of construction as a whole. Take a look at the ambitious142-room Oklahoma City Marriott AC Hotel in the US for proof that even major projects can go modular for a fast build and leaner budget.
Weather is going be a bigger factor
Building design and standards around the world are changing to accommodate extreme weather events – and certain parts of coastal Australia are already proving vulnerable. Note the devastation caused in Queensland by Cyclone Debbie in March 2017, and Yasi in 2011, or houses sliding into the surf at Collaroy Beach in Sydney. Works will involve a lot more retrofitting and expect to see new standards, adjusted for future conditions, in job specifications.
Green is a growth industry
In 2016 the global green building industry was worth a trillion US dollars, and its value is doubling every three years. Australians have always embraced environmentally friendly products and building designs, but the bar is about to be raised substantially. In practical terms that means new approaches to construction and the use of more sustainable materials. Insulation, solar water heating and photo-voltaic cells will be deployed in water conservation, wastewater recycling and energy efficiency.
Is your business operation positioned to adapt to change?