The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting construction projects, but the arrival of a vaccine brings promise to the industry.
During 2020, construction progress moved slower than usual, and many projects were put on hold or delayed due to economic uncertainty. However, industry professionals hope that by the end of 2021, things will look a lot better. Even with a brighter outlook, much has changed in the past year, so it’s important to stay on top of the latest construction industry news.
In this article, we’ll share three key trends for the construction industry and how software can help you gain an edge to stay competitive. That way, as an independent construction firm hoping to grow your business, you can be ready to jump on any 2021 opportunities.
One of the most important construction industry trends we’re seeing is an increase in the number of apps construction workers use on a regular basis. Since construction company owners and employees are often away from a desktop computer, many construction professionals rely on their smartphones to help them while at a job site.
According to the JBKnowledge ConTech 2020 report, 92% of construction industry workers use a smartphone on the job. These construction industry workers also report an increase in apps on their smartphones with 21.7% of respondents using three apps in 2019 and 22% reporting using six or more apps in 2020. However, for the most part, these apps don’t integrate with each other.
Why is integration important? Ultimately, it helps you save money, reduce errors, and keep projects moving without unnecessary delays. When efficiency is key and every penny counts to maximize profit, it can make a difference to your bottom line when your apps integrate rather than spending extra time manually combining data outputs from your apps.
For instance, if your construction apps are integrated, it can be seamless for an employee or contractor to enter their timesheets directly into the app, and their hours can be simultaneously recorded in a project management app to track progress at the construction site.
Here’s another example of how integration can benefit your firm: If you run into a building error or issue, like shipping materials to the wrong site, it can be reported in real time and then taken care of quickly. You can also keep track of construction equipment and know where a tool is at any point of time, so you can easily transfer it to another site without delay.
If your apps aren’t integrated, you could have multiple versions of documents and serious lags between when errors are spotted and corrected. On top of that, it can be a headache to follow your paper trail when you’re auditing your construction work.
Because the other two 2021 construction trends we share also involve software, you need to make sure you stay on top of integration. If your company has also increased the number of apps you use, make it a priority to see how you can integrate your tools, or look at purchasing a fully integrated platform.
For instance, you can do an audit to see if your apps have similar functionality and if you can eliminate some of them. If they don’t have overlapping functionality, then you have a few options: You could work with the vendors to see if they allow for integrations with one another to consolidate information and reduce the potential for duplicate or incomplete data. Or, you could also look at a single solution that may allow you to have one comprehensive app take the place of your multiple apps.
According to Contractor Magazine, BIM adoption is on the rise. Building information modeling, or BIM software, is a construction technology that has gotten a lot of buzz, but isn't quite mainstream in the construction industry, yet. However, there are a lot of upsides to using BIM software for virtual planning, which we’ll talk about.
BIM software allows businesses to create a “digital twin,” which is a digital version of a physical structure. That way, before beginning any physical project, you can make your adjustments to the digital version first and see how it will affect your structure so you can better avoid running into unexpected issues or events, and ideally save money.
One perfect use case is modeling out adjustments to floor plans. Because people are spending more time at home due to the pandemic, many homebuyers are looking for more flex space or office areas as opposed to purely open floor plan concepts. With BIM software, you can experiment with converting extra bedrooms into offices, or adding flex spaces that could work as a classroom. You can easily share those models with potential homebuyers so they can visualize what their future home could look like.
Of course, any investment in new software takes a lot of planning and requires a business case so you can make sure the investment will be worth it for your firm.
BIM software can be costly, so if you determine the ROI is not there for your company, one alternative you could look at is outsourcing BIM to another company where you’re able to use their resources without being on the hook for purchasing the entire platform. However, one thing to keep in mind is you’ll still need to invest in training your staff so they understand the data and how to use it.
Another 2021 construction industry trend is a continued rise in virtual home tours and sales, according to Builder. In 2020, more buyers wanted the option to take a virtual home tour, and this is something only likely to increase in 2021.
If you haven’t already added virtual tour software to your construction tech stack, now is the time to do it in order to offer your clients an additional value. Construction firms predict this is one of the construction trends that will continue even after the pandemic, so if you act now, you can be ahead of the curve. But know this will likely come to be an expected offering, rather than a nice-to-have in the construction industry.
In addition to virtual tours, 2020 buyers also demanded more virtual options for signing documents. Electronic signature software can give your buyers the option to sign documents remotely, especially if they’re out of state or prefer to participate in virtual meetings.
One thing to keep in mind is that virtual tour software is often geared toward the real estate or property management industry, so it’s important to vet any vendors by asking them to share some examples of clients they have in the home building space. Many platforms do offer features and capabilities geared towards home builders, so it’s simply a matter of doing your due diligence to make sure the platform will accommodate your needs. You can compare options and look at pricing on GetApp’s virtual tour software catalog.
The good news is, we said goodbye to 2020 and all signs point to a brighter 2021. Staying on top of construction industry trends can help you seize opportunities for your independent construction business to excel.
Plus, the digital economy has shown it’s now table stakes to get your construction technology as integrated as possible so your business can be more efficient and you can stay competitive in the construction industry. GetApp has tools and resources to help you find the right software and integrations.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.