The latest construction industry statistics show a booming and sustainable sector. Yet, rising construction costs and labor challenges in addition to new regulations are reducing the margin for error and waste.

For an industry that remains slower to innovation and adopting trends, the same construction trends persist year after year with slightly different nuances. New technology is continuing to change the construction site, improve the ability to win projects, and increase profit margins. Trends and movements are changing the roles of industry professionals and frontline workers.

As the industry becomes more competitive and the market shifts, harnessing these construction industry trends will prove valuable for any construction firm. Read on for the must-watch construction trends of 2020 to help you can stay competitive and gain an edge in the industry.

1. Efficiency-Improving Technology
The biggest differentiator for builders and developers this year is likely to be technology in construction — specifically, the innovations that can enhance efficiency.

Smart Contracts

Forbes Council member Amir Baluch MD points out the coming impact of blockchain technology on construction. Experts see it as being a powerful component in providing a more secure and fast-moving workflow that gives all parties involved more confidence and productivity.

Smart contracts offer all organizations in a project a shared system to do business, allowing them to buy, track, and pay for services. Rather than getting contracts and tracking deliverables from all separate parties, firms can use smart contacts as an all-in-one tracking system where rules and deadlines are set and the blockchain enforces them. This system will carry make for faster closeouts, increased security, better project tracking, and an automated supply chain.

Drones in Construction

Drone use in the construction industry continues to be one of the fastest growing trends, with usage rising by 239 percent year over year. The technology offers far more uses than just aerial photography for real estate and commercial efforts.

Today’s drones are used for rapidly mapping large areas over long distances, producing valuable aerial heat maps and thermal images. The advancing drone software provides real-time, actionable, data that can be used for rapid decision making, streamlining the entire construction process.

Personal safety and equipment loss continues to be the biggest areas of liability in construction. Drones can be increasingly used to reach heights and do jobs in place of human workers to prevent injury. Between $300 million and $1 billion in construction equipment is stolen each year. As on-site security tools, drones can be leveraged to reduce labor costs and minimize the risk of theft. That keeps projects on schedule and moving faster too.

More advanced future uses include monitoring equipment use and incorporating AI to organize moving construction equipment.

Augmented Reality (AR)

The augmented reality is expected to be worth $90 billion by next year as it continues to provide new applications. On the client front, AR means efficient project staging and making pre-construction projects tangible for buyers and tenants.

For the builders and developers, AR facilitates the use of wearable technology as well as 360-degree video to enable:

3D visualization of future projects on their surrounding environment
Automated measuring of buildings
Fast and affordable simulation of architectural and structural changes
Safety training and hazard simulations
2. Mobile Technology

According to eSub, 80 percent of construction professionals say mobile technology is a top priority. It provides many applications from real-time inspections to on-site accountability and being able to measure spaces with just a mobile phone camera. Mobile apps in the marketplace include AirMeasure and Infotycoon. Those without complete mobile connectivity will be at a productivity and sales disadvantage from this year forward.

3. Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building information technology is helping industry leaders stand out with better efficiency. BIM allows users to generate computer representations of buildings and utilities. The ease of managing these models and sharing data can enable superior prefabrication of parts, leading to on-time and accurate completion. Autodesk describes it as an intelligent 3D model-based process to help professionals manage buildings and infrastructure.”

According to Finances Online, top BIM software solutions available in 2020 include:

Autodesk BIM 360
Tekla BIMsight
4. Construction Management Software

Having great construction management software is a vital component for remaining competitive, building a valuable business, and mastering operational efficiency.

While each software service may have slightly different functions and features, the best holistically tackle end-to-end needs from RFIs to compiling data, sharing files with mobile teams, budgeting, document storage, payroll, and HR, monitoring inventory and project management.

Top reviewed construction management software solutions in 2020 include:

Quick Base
Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate
Choosing the right construction management software is important for your firm. Begin with looking at ease of use and integration with other existing software. Look for scalable software that fits now, and can take you where you want to go. Evaluate customization options, upgrades, and additional features and check for availability of support and training to get up and running.

5. Modular & Prefabricated Construction

Modular and prefab construction has enjoyed a major movement over the past few years. Construction Dive predicts modular construction will continue to grow by 6.9 percent per year and hit $157 billion by 2023, driven by the lack of skilled labor and affordable and growing material costs.

As the technology supporting off-site constructed modular units improves, we can expect to see a lot more activity in this sector. Many smaller builders have developed innovative, green building designs with this method, increasing their market visibility and boosting client trust.

New technology has also enabled these prefab and modular buildings to get taller and taller. An example is the recent opening of the 21-story CitizenM Bowery Hotel in NYC. The 100,000 square foot hotel hosts 300 modular guest rooms, as well as a rooftop bar, lounge, and coworking space. The average modular project square footage has tripled to an average of 200,000 square feet.

Other major international builders say they plan to pare down their on-site construction activity to just 25 percent by 2025 in favor of prefab construction.