Where is the Construction Industry Going in 2017?

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Robison Wells
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I got the itch to write this post after reading a piece in Construction Business Owner called “State of the Industry: Trends and Changing Barriers Your Business Will Face This Year,” by Hank M. Harris. The article is a good look at overall statistics, but there isn't much in the way of predictions—or, at least, any predictions that he doesn't temper with a heavy dose of doubt.

The article goes on to say that rapid population growth is coming (9 billion people by 2030), but there's no suggestion how we should (or must) have to change to accommodate it, and, after highlighting a few big issues, like the growth of the green and sustainable movement, he finally moves onto an issue that he seems passionate about: who will run the companies when Baby Boomers retire? He says that “We see a dramatic failure to plan adequately for these issues.”

In the end, Harris concludes with “Meanwhile, short-term conditions are good, and we believe they will stay that way for a while.” And, finally, he admonishes readers to “Make hay while the sun shines.” You can’t really argue with that.

On the other hand, Construction Dive has a very good list of, well, not predictions, but trends. Many of them tend to embrace an uncertainty of the future. Under a picture of President-Elect Donald Trump, the article uses phrases like “cautiously optimistic” and “fear of the unknown”. They have some well-argued ideas, such as “Offsite/Modular construction will gain a stronger foothold in the market” and “Labor shortage will continue to plague the industry.”

More noteworthy is something that Construction Dive and other articles (Inc.’s “18 Tech Predictions for 2017,” and New Statesman’s “The Best New Technologies (Probably) Arriving in 2017”) all cite one major area of growth: The Internet of Things. For those not familiar with IoT, it refers to the interconnectedness of the internet and normal, household products. A few examples you may have seen on TV: using your smartphone to start the heater of your car, or to answer the doorbell while you’re away from home. In construction, the IoT means you can remotely turn on the air conditioner, play music, start the sprinklers, or turn out the lights.

I asked our President and CEO, Devon Dorrity, what trends and predictions he would make for the upcoming year. He immediately said the IoT will be a major player, but he said that was a smaller aspect of a larger trend. He sees the larger issue as movement toward the cloud and interconnectivity. Citing the IoT, he says “All those [devices] used to be proprietary. There was nothing standardized in the system. But now standards are being put into place, enabling your phone to talk to the lights, or the thermostat, or the speakers.” He went on to say that “the cloud gives us the ability to communicate on-demand, at any time, from any place.” So, ultimately, there’s not a single new trend that Dorrity sees on the horizon, but “doubling down on interconnectivity.”

What do you think is on the horizon for 2017? Do you see new trends? A return to the old? Let us know what you think, and we’ll share your answers in an upcoming blog.

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