To get perspective on the year ahead, Yaron Dycian, chief product and strategy officer at WINT, Tommy Linstroth, CEO of Green Badger, and Cameron Page, founder and CEO of Extracker, shared their insight on emerging trends and the role of technology in a Q&A. The following contains their thoughts on the year ahead.
Looking ahead into 2021, what emerging (or sustained) trends do you see impacting new business, project management/flow, and the jobsite for contractors and construction companies?
LINSTROTH:The newfound focus on health is not going away, and it’s going to impact a variety of factors, from how jobsites and workers are managed to increasing the use of remote working environments, which will result in the increased use of online collaboration tools. While this will certainly include a focus on building technologies to improve health inside the building, it will now impact jobsite practices as well.
DYCIAN: Two megatrends will impact contractors and construction companies in 2021:
- Insurers are growing weary of the claims on construction projects, and the insurance market is hardening, with a significant rise in premiums and deductibles. Water leak damage is becoming a specific area of concern as they account for over 70% of claims. In some places, premiums have more than tripled, and the trend is expanding worldwide. Contractors should proactively identify risks and implement mitigating measures.
- Sustainability is growing in importance, and the new U.S. administration is likely to expedite this trend. Owners and developers will increase their interest in sustainability, and will require sustainability solutions to be incorporated in new buildings.
PAGE: With uncertainty caused by the pandemic, one thing that often gets overlooked is how costs will be scrutinized more closely than they were before. When owners and general contractors have tighter budgets and the next project isn’t promised, costs, particularly change orders, will be looked over with a fine-tooth comb. sitting down in person to review and negotiate these costs may not be possible. so, it is paramount that subcontractors and general contractors are organized and clear when presenting change order costs to their clients.
Given these trends, what role will technology play in shaping new solutions for contractors facing both ongoing challenges and new ones introduced by the pandemic?
LINSTROTH: Technology will continue to play an increased role. What 2020 demonstrated is how much productivity you can have even when remote. But that was based on the incorporation of technology, from video meetings to document-sharing to virtual site inspections. Technology will continue to enable those workflows and will likely result in some of these pandemic practices becoming standard practices moving forward.
DYCIAN: Advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are being applied to a variety of challenges facing GCs. The pandemic has specifically accelerated the need to mitigate water leak damage due to the increased risk of extended closure times and partial availability of staff. Automated, remote-controlled mitigation technologies are proving extremely effective and can practically eliminate water leak damage. Moreover, these same technologies can carry over to the operational phase of the project where they not only protect against water damage but also save 20%-25% of ongoing consumption, contributing hugely to water savings and sustainability goals.
The short of it: Forward looking contractors are now using water intelligence solutions to protect their projects from water damage as well as serve the owner/developer’s long term sustainability goals.
PAGE: The ability to communicate change order costs in real time with clear and organized documentation will be increasingly important. Processing extra work costs can often take weeks or months with traditional methods. Owners will no longer accept those delays or confusing documentation. With the use of cloud-based workflows, contractors can process these documents instantly and share them in a collaborative way for their customer to review and approve. Tracking these on paper and email simply adds too much friction.
Do you believe the industry will maintain the increased rate of tech adoption from 2020 into and beyond 2021?
LINSTROTH: Definitely. Technology enabled a ton of remote productivity in 2020 and those “pandemic practices” will become best practices moving forward. While obviously the actual construction process will continue in person, the host of associated meetings can remain virtual as both meeting technologies and workflow/documentation management technologies eliminate the need to sit in the same room as someone else to review progress or solve challenges.
DYCIAN: Technology adoption in construction is only just starting. As an industry, construction has not benefitted enough from the computer revolution. This is now changing rapidly as funds are being allocated across the tech industry to build innovative solutions. “Construction Tech,” a term that did not exist only 2 years ago, now returns millions of Google results. These technologies will revolutionize construction as they did every other industry and will re-define the leader and laggards. Developers, owners and contractors should monitor and adopt this trend wisely to stay competitive in this new era.
PAGE: Yes, we believe the mindset shift towards technology had already started even before 2020, but the events of the past year only added fuel to that fire. Contractors are now realizing that even small competitive advantages that tech can offer will help them win more work, perform the work more efficiently, and protect their bottom line. In a more competitive world, contractors simply cannot afford to lose out on those gains.
Are there any new technologies (or new applications of existing technology) that will have a significant impact on the construction industry in 2021?
LINSTROTH: While the pandemic shifted attention from some of the trends happening in the design and construction industry, I think we’ll see those re-emerge in 2021, and technology will be the backbone of implementation. Specifically, I see the importance of carbon management growing—beyond just what a building will do when occupied but moving downstream to managing carbon emissions from the actual jobsite and construction processes to the embodied carbon of materials going into buildings.
DYCIAN: AI and IoT are two key technologies to closely watch. Internet of Things technologies will become extremely impactful as they enable distribution of smart sensors for tracking critical attributes across the jobsite. Coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, these devices enable real-time analysis and detection of critical situations such as adherence to safety standards, detailed planning, and water leak prevention. Innovation continues rapidly and new and exciting capabilities will continue to emerge.
PAGE: Extracker is a change order communication platform intentionally built to help subcontractors, general contractors and owners bring clarity to the change order process by giving teams the tools to process changes in real time, collaborate around approvals, and summarize costs between parties. What makes Extracker truly unique is that it is built for contractors in every single trade and companies of all sizes, from small two-person operations all the way to enterprise subcontractors and general contractors.
From the viewpoints expressed in this article, it’s clear that the adoption of technology will continue to be an emerging trend for the construction industry. New and improved ways to use technology to streamline processes and provide greater safety will continue in 2021.
For More Information
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2021
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.