A year in Review: How did 2020 affect the global construction industry
2020 has by no means been a kind year. With COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuing public health crisis and lockdowns there was a heavy toll on diverse communities, people’s mental health, small business etc. The emotional and economic fallout of the pandemic is surely going to be felt for years to come and, it is apparent that we are not going to go back to living the way were. This holds true for all the sectors, as none of them have really been immune to changes which have occurred in 2020. The construction sector has, due to many challenges like consequent lockdowns, scarcity of materials, social distancing norms etc., seen low output and numbers. Below we look at how the construction sector has fared in 2020 and try to predict what will be the driving forces of this sector in 2021.
The impact of COVID-19 on Construction Sector:
Every major country in the world has seen its construction industry suffer in 2020. In USA a recent study conducted by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that more projects had been canceled than started in 2020, which goes to show the unfortunate state of affairs. The number of projects canceled in US kept on steadily rising as 32% of contractors reported cancellation of at least one project in June, a figure which rose to 60% in August and 75% in November. It has been estimated that the industry has lost $60.9 billion in GDP along with a significant amount of jobs. The situation in UK has been a little different with month-to-month outputs showing both levels of growth and that of decline.
Considering the scale of COVID-19 it is apparent that there would low numbers but the sector has shown tremendous resilience. The construction industry in the difficult times looked at modern technology to continue working from home and finish time-sensitive projects. The prime example of which is the Crown Sydney which due to the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia was completed with the aid of digital collaboration.BIM Services has been nothing but a boon in the pandemic situation. Its cloud based collaboration tools have allowed multi-disciplinary team members to work on the same project. Moreover, any changes made in the 3D model are instantly uploaded and available for everyone to see ensuring all the stakeholders are on the same page. Along with this the digital twin technology even allows to create 3D models which are the exact functional and physical representation of all the characteristics of the building. It detects clashes, allows to gain exact quantities and cost etc. This all reduces onsite construction time and cost, meaning that when the actual construction begins it is smooth and no additional time is wasted.
The Government’s Investment in Infrastructure:
Given the fact that the construction sector is a huge part of any country’s GDP and its infrastructure is a key indicator of the country’s success; a lot of countries made significant investments into the construction sector. It was also an effort to accelerate major construction projects and counter the looming recession. China poured major money into investment projects. They announced their plans to double the size of their railway network in the next 15 years. This could be a strategic plan as it could potentially redistribute the financial prosperity from the coastal cities to the more struggling inland regions. The French after a fall of 11% in national output has invested USD $122BN in the country’s infrastructure. The money is to go towards retrofit projects, extension of railway networks as well as a thought for future by the way of investment in renewable sources of energy. UK has invested $800BN into infrastructure projects for construction and renovation of roads, courts, hospitals and schools. Even the Australian government has approved some major projects like 101-storey, Green Spine tower in Melbourne and the 90km long “Suburban Rail Loop” which would be the largest infrastructure project in Australian history. It is expected to create around 800 direct jobs and 20,000 jobs during its peak construction period.
2021 and the future of construction industry:
Human beings by nature are resilient and possess the unique capability to evolve with their surroundings and situations. 2020 has proved that completely. We have today understood and figured out ways in which we can operate and live around this ever changing COVID virus. Construction industry has similarly adapted. The construction workers have started finding innovative ways of adhering to social distancing norms. Video Monitoring, increased safety regulations like thermal sensors, remote collaboration tools etc. have all become the norm. Perhaps this is what we will see more in the coming year, more digitization and automation in the construction sectors. Robots and automated cars might start taking over manual and repeated tasks. Modular Construction with its various time and cost saving advantages might become mainstream.
Another defining factor of the construction sector’s future is the demand and focus on sustainability. In fact, since COVID-19 outbreak people have been more conscious of their actions and the demand of green buildings has been rising. Sustainability is going to have a huge effect on all the parts of construction, from materials, to the onsite construction process and the building’s environmental impact during its lifecycle. Moreover, when it comes to green building design it is not just necessary to make changes in the design and construction but all through the building’s lifecycle. It means that the MEP systems must be regularly monitored and any new environmentally beneficial green designs implemented. It is here that BIM Facility Management can be used for effective maintenance of buildings. These information rich BIM models have all the data that could help facility managers regularly monitor and update MEP systems and control the building’s energy consumption.
As a tumultuous year comes to an end, it is apparent that rather than 2020 just being a year of a global pandemic and an unprecedented change it will also be one that lays testament to man’s capacity to thrive under any odds. The year might have been difficult for the construction industry but surely it is just a temporary setback and the coming decade will bring new opportunities reach new heights.
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