Construction is one of the biggest sectors in the world in terms of value, but maybe even bigger in terms of its impact on our lives. We live and work in buildings, and the output of this industry surrounds us at almost all times. Very few can deny, though, that 2020 has been a year full of challenges not only for construction but for the entire world. The Coronavirus outbreak pushed for a lot of readjustments on the way we work and communicate with each other. Business activities had to continue with limited face-to-face contact, and some processes were a bit slower or even interrupted, because of precautions. Under such circumstances, the need for seeing exactly what is happening on-site, preventing loss of time, detecting mistakes early, and delivering successful projects faster has become bigger. This is why understanding what 2021 has in store for the industry is important. Despite its ongoing transformation, construction is still haunted by cost and time overruns, excessive admin burden, and a strong culture of blame. On the bright side, construction is maybe for the first time among the industries that actively drive digital transformation. As a result, new trends are emerging and pave the way for a more agile and data-driven way of working. More specifically, here are the top five trends you want to look out for in 2021:
  1. Implementation of construction-specific tools
  2. The use of a single source of truth
  3. More sustainability and standardization
  4. Increased focus on quality and safety
  5. Integrated planning
It quickly becomes clear, then, that the new year has just begun and many exciting opportunities are waiting for those who are ready to transform their construction processes and push for more visibility and better communication on the site.

A breakdown of the top 5 construction trends for 2021

Now that you have a first taste of where your focus should be for 2021, it’s time to dive a little deeper into each of these five trends and understand the impact that they can have on the industry moving forward. Without further ado, let’s take a look:

1. Construction-specific tools are taking over

Back from the beginning of 2020 even, we have repeatedly referred to the importance of finding the right tools for your construction projects. It is no secret that the industry is addicted to Excel and WhatsApp. And we get why. They are both very useful tools that can make your daily life much easier and allow you to connect with different people just in a few clicks. However, when it comes to managing a construction project they are not enough. And the reason is simple. They can’t connect the planning to the updates that you receive from the site. More and more players in the industry start to understand that and they are actively looking for digital solutions that are tailored for construction. If you want to keep up with the competition, now is the time for you to do the same.

2. A single data source for the entire project

A single source of truth is a single source of proof. By collecting all project information in one place, you are able to see more and communicate better. Knowing what’s happening on the field at all times is one of the main keys to regaining control over your project and avoiding time-consuming claims. Furthermore, by centralizing all project communication you can considerably reduce admin workload. Project managers tell us they have to spend up to 40% of their time every day attending meetings, making phone calls, or writing reports that are outdated the moment they have been issued. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that the success of implementing a single data source is vastly dependent on the tools you are using. In other words, construction-specific tools are again of paramount importance if you want to improve the communication between your teams and deliver faster and cheaper without compromising on quality.

3. Sustainable and standardized processes under the spotlight

Moving towards a greener industry is another ambitious goal for 2021. In the fight against climate change, construction has to offer a lot by reducing waste and by supporting projects that can pave the way for more sustainable societies. Minimizing waste during production is another big challenge for 2021. This is where standardizing (or at least industrializing some parts of the process) could play a decisive role. By adding the element of repeatability, you can now add more predictability to the way your projects unravel and avoid wasting time and resources.

4. Bigger focus on quality and safety

Quality and safety have always been two of the biggest buzzwords for the construction industry. In 2021, this focus is expected to increase as more project managers will try to find ways to connect their quality and safety processes directly to the planning. In that manner, they will be able to detect critical problems quickly and resolve nonconformities as they go. That can help in a number of ways such as improving the quality of the build, making handovers smoother, and minimizing waste and delays. When it comes to safety, mental health is another area that is attracting growing attention on the site. studies show that construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than from a workplace accident. In the UK, two construction workers take their lives every day. In Australia, one commits suicide every other day. Construction claims the highest number of suicides in any profession. And that’s something we need, as an industry, to talk about more during this year.

5. Integrated planning to reduce downtime

Integrated planning is expected to be one of the main areas of interest for 2021 in construction. But what do we mean by integrated planning? This serious fragmentation of data opens the way for excessive administrative workload and, even worse, significant downtime between activities. As a result, both budget and waste increase fueling disputes and a toxic culture of blame across the supply chain. For that reason, it is believed that those who will be able to start integrating their different plannings will immediately be in an advantageous position against their competition. Simply put, they will be able to always maintain an accurate overview of all project activities and planning. For instance, by connecting their procurement and their short-term plans to their master schedule they will have all the information they need to act fast and fix problems (e.g. reordering materials that have been damaged) with a few clicks instead of getting lost in a sea of disconnected information. So if you are aspiring for a year with fewer delays and budget overruns, integrated planning is definitely something you want to look out for.   Source: Let’s Build/ Anastasios Koutsogiannis

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