How COVID-19 Transformed the Construction Industry For Good
COVID-19. It caused a global pandemic that impacted the entire world’s economy. And the construction industry certainly wasn’t immune.
It’s estimated that the virus caused a nearly $61 million loss in gross domestic product in the world of construction and over a million jobs lost [Deloitte]. Despite these significant losses, the age of COVID-19 brought some much-needed change to the way construction work is done. Here’s an in-depth look at how the pandemic transformed the industry for good.
Mass Adoption of Technology
Social distancing. Limits on the number of people that can gather. Quarantine requirements. These changes made construction planning and work difficult. So, like in other industries, it propelled a widespread adoption of technology to get the work done.
Meetings done over video conferencing became the norm. Construction firms started collaborating remotely using multi-dimensional simulations and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Support staff worked successfully from home, sharing information digitally through cloud-based software. The massive adoption of technology made it possible for work to continue as planned while simultaneously keeping workers safe and healthy.
Offsite construction, or prefabrication, has been gaining traction steadily in other parts of the world. But the U.S. has been slow to adopt to this method of work. Roughly 20% of the single-family homes built in Germany and Japan in 2018 were built using offsite construction. Meanwhile, the U.S. hovered around 2% of new homes using prefabricated materials [Boston Consulting Group].
So, what is it about offsite construction that has many countries utilizing it so readily? The Boston Consulting Group found that prefabrication can cut costs by 10%, reduce the amount of defects in building materials to less than 5%, and complete projects before the deadline nearly 100% of the time [BCG]. Shorter building times. Lower risk of complications. Higher quality and fewer defects. Lower cost. Reduced impact on the environment. Improved working conditions. It’s no wonder that the construction industry quickly adapted to the events of 2020 by utilizing offsite construction.
Repurposing Existing Structures
How often do we see old, dilapidated buildings knocked down to make way for a new structure? It’s not uncommon. Prior to the pandemic, it was rare to see a building repurposed. But COVID-19 has changed the propensity of our society to rebuild rather than repurpose.
Many companies found they can successfully operate with their employees working from home, leaving thousands of office buildings empty. Construction workers have answered the call to repurpose these existing structures to hospitals, life-science labs, apartments, and e-commerce fulfillment centers [American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy].
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