In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption for the construction sector. However, this also forced many stakeholders to adopt new practices. We look at the key trends that the construction industry will witness, in 2021
The COVID–19 pandemic, has changed the way people are likely to react and conduct themselves, be it in personal or social life, or in business. Thus, the way we build is also undergoing an unforeseen transformation – in terms of planning, procurement, and execution. While many business sectors were ordered to close temporarily, to flatten the curve of COVID-19 outbreaks, construction was largely deemed essential and carried on.
In 2021, the key aspects that an industry player will be required to handle well, to the benefit of the client, include identifying and sharing verified and accountable data/input/ information, accountable and traceable communication to collaborate well as a team, and skilled monitoring through the life cycle of a project. These become more relevant, as many stakeholders opt for remote working practices. In this backdrop, we examine the key construction trends that are likely to dominate 2021.
The use of prefabricated construction methods will lower the project cost, reduce wastage, ensure more efficient use of materials, cut production time in half and eliminate weather delays. Such technology keeps the entire construction cycle predictable and within a controlled environment – the two critical parameters throughout the duration of the execution of a project. Adopting pre-engineered construction will also help, in case of shortage and availability of skilled labor. The current scenario will make this method a new trend that will be extensively used in the coming months.
Modular, prefabricated bathroom pods
The use of prefabricated bathroom pods will increase. These project-specific manufactured units, which will be built in factories, within a controlled, quality-focused facility, will be engineered and assembled as per the project’s design and specifications. Each prefab unit will be equipped with fixtures, finishes, mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and other wiring and piping, ready to be installed in the project.
The use of drywalling systems for internal partitions, with certified fire ratings, acoustical properties, and wet area applications also, will eliminate the requirement of plaster and curing effectively, thereby, reducing manpower requirement. We will witness their demand in the coming months.
Insulated blocks/spray insulation between two adjacent layers of block/bricks to reduce heat ingress and Insulated walls, will offer better performance and less load on HVAC systems.
Climate-responsive façades, movable shading devices, and solar panels can be used, to maintain environmental conditions and reduce building loads.
The use of AI will improve construction planning, sequencing, and task management. It could thoroughly detect possible crashes, delays, and changes within the construction process. In these times of uncertainty, AI can be used to obtain centralized and consistent inputs, for building design, project risk, cost overruns, labor shortage, construction safety, etc.
Drones have already improved the way the construction industry operates. We are likely to witness extensive use of drone technology, in the near future. It will be used for various activities, such as land surveying, infrastructure improvement, security, site inspection, and progress and maintenance inspection, to mention a few.
Improved hygiene standards
While COVID-19 has been disturbing in many ways, one positive outcome is the increased hygiene standards on construction sites. Social distancing, frequent sanitization and washing of hands, and better bathroom facilities will bring improvements in health and safety policies, to tackle the pandemic.
With the continuous decline in the labor force at construction sites, mechanized equipment will increasingly be used, to deliver projects with high quality and within the specified time and cost.
Building information model (BIM)
Although BIM is available and in use in the construction industry for many years, it is still used on selective projects. This is likely to change and BIM will become an integral part of the construction industry, in the coming months.
3D scanning has the potential of documenting and capturing the data of any built structure accurately, which can then be used for review and analysis. It can also be effectively utilized in tracking the physical progress of the building, as it creates a virtual walkthrough model of the constructed building. This can be used to perform visual inspections, to identify defects, dimensional correctness, etc., from a remote location.
Overall, methods of construction that ensure fewer interface-points, predictable procedures, controlled environments, and coordinated procedures for traceability of information, will improve the pace of construction in the industry.