Tom Noctor, team lead, Procore, shares his thoughts on what is in store for the construction industry in 2022 and why the year ahead will be crucial for stabilising the sector
2021 was a turbulent year for the construction industry. On top of the coronavirus pandemic, the supply chain crisis induced shortages of materials, COP26 made the industry re-consider whether it was doing enough to make construction sustainable and questions around safe construction and the prevention of another Grenfell lingered.
2022 presents the construction industry with an opportunity to blow off the dust of the last year and drive initiatives to ensure that supply chains, the environment and safety are navigated and managed even more effectively.
This will largely be down to finding ways to work smarter in construction. Technology will be at the forefront of this by providing firms with data-driven visibility into their businesses and projects to ensure that when challenges arise, they can draw from data pools of intelligence and make more informed decisions.
Here’s how technology will help the construction industry navigate the three biggest challenges ahead, and turn them into positive opportunities.
Tackling supply chain disruption
Research from IHS Markit shows that the current supply chain crisis has caused the worst delays and disruptions for manufacturers and deliveries in over 30 years of globalisation.
What’s more, with the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place in February, factories will be closed in 64 northern Chinese cities to improve air quality. This is bound to disrupt the supply chain further and therefore should be taken into consideration by commercial cost and procurement management teams.
Disruptions within the supply chain upsets the project lifecycle as materials cannot be ordered on time. To prevent projects running overtime, it is important that project managers have clear, continuous visibility of what materials they require and can readily identify possible disruptions of their supply.
Digital tools, like construction management platforms, can communicate real-time data to all stakeholders, presenting construction managers with an opportunity to manage client expectations and project schedules while alternative suppliers are sourced. As this data is stored online, it is easily accessible no matter your on-site or off-site location. Supply chain disruption can therefore be managed collaboratively as soon as issues present themselves.
Supply chain disruptions also pose a threat to project financials, as changes in materials can make the project more expensive than initially calculated. To prevent projects running at a loss, construction managers need better visibility and control of financial data. Technology can do this by cross-checking actual costs against predicted costs, accessing real-time labour costing and importing cost codes to create accurate budgets. Gaining such market visibility can give firms the ability to make smarter business decisions and help mitigate the financial impact of the supply chain crisis.
Driving sustainable practices
The industry not only needs to devise a plan for navigating supply chain disruptions but also environmental ones.
Project sites produce large quantities of air, water, and noise pollution, contributing to the rise in global temperatures.
McKinsey research shows that in a 2.0°C world, roughly a billion more people would be exposed to climate hazards than in a 1.5°C world. This means that if businesses don’t commit to reducing their carbon footprint, they are likely to experience more frequent interruptions from climate hazards, interrupting the lifecycle of construction projects.
To hold the industry accountable for its environmental impact, the Environment Act 2021 received its Royal Assent to provide legally binding targets for the industry to reduce air pollution, biodiversity, water quality and waste. The Act provides a legal incentive for the construction industry to maintain the resolution made at COP26 to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C over the next twelve months.
Seeing this resolution through to the end can be made easier by project management technologies that can provide data driven solutions to hold construction workers accountable for the energy and resources being used. This allows teams to better identify inefficiency and waste so they can work out what adjustments or substitutes are needed to conserve energy and materials. The ability to monitor site activity can provide valuable intelligence to measure success. Capturing high-quality site data is also essential in making sure teams are in line with environmental industry standards.
Rework in construction is not only an expensive process, but also a wasteful one. Using forward looking data analytics, construction companies can identify areas and processes that are likely to lead to rework and create plans to prevent it. Integrating AI and machine learning into the construction process provides firms with the tools to minimise the environmental impact of construction works in the present and future.
We are fortunate nowadays that technology can help us achieve our sustainability goals. However, digital tools can only support sustainability if the technology is easily understandable and practical to use: if monitoring tools are too complex, they increase the likelihood of data input errors and record gaps which can have an adverse impact on sustainability initiatives. Sustainability is built on visibility but it’s the ease of use that supports both.
Bolstering both quality and safety
Improving quality and safety in 2022 is critical for the construction industry.
The Building Safety Bill, currently making its way through both houses of Parliament, is set to put safety at the heart of the construction and maintenance processes to prevent another Grenfell.
In a post-Grenfell world, the industry also has a greater responsibility to adhere to CDN regulations and safety standards, such as ISO 90001 and ISO 450001.
Operating within these regulations – and proving that you are – is another area where digital tools can help keep track of adherence to safety standards. Self-documenting construction platforms gives teams instant, accurate visibility of project safety measurements, so firms can make sure they’re meeting all their safety targets. It additionally ensures everything is in place for auditors, meaning a business’s upper management doesn’t need to take weeks off before a visit and get their safety paperwork in order. A project platform also helps in creating and adjusting ITPs, again ensuring teams aren’t stuck in data silos and everyone is working with the latest information.
If construction wants to meet the challenges and utilise the opportunities this year offers, it needs to make some new year’s resolutions. The biggest should be improving project visibility. Greater transparency and high-quality site data crucially gives construction businesses and workers more control and it’s this control that’s essential to navigate supply chain uncertainty, work sustainably and improve safety for all.
Let’s build a better future for the industry in 2022.