NEWS | July 03 2019
Construction is changing. With a skilled labour shortage and other industry pressures, it is more important than ever to innovate and become a future-forward construction company. New technologies that help us become more productive and efficient are critical to moving the construction industry forward, but can also feel overwhelming at times.
This year, we reached 320 construction companies in all eight economic regions of British Columbia. While Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland dominates the survey as expected with 60% respondents, the Southern Interior and Northern Region are both fairly well-represented, with 25% and 10% respondents respectively. Below is a further breakdown of survey respondents.
Where did the idea of integration between Construction and Technology stem from?
Construction and Technology has been apart of the strategic alignment for the BC Construction Association for a few years. We want to create new inroads and awareness for the adoption of technology within the construction sector. Furthermore, as technology moves at such a rapid pace, especially in BC, it is wise to be prepared for the opportunity for future-forward innovation. The BC Construction Association is confident through the deployment of our State of Construction Technology survey, that we can better align this huge industry, construction in British Columbia, with the innovation and attitudes that exist within the tech sector.
Why is there a looming skills shortage in the construction industry?
The predictors of the skills shortage indicates we will have a skilled labour shortage just shy of 8,000 people by 2028. The construction industry has an aging workforce, many of whom will retire in the next 15-20 years. We aren’t replacing these skilled workers fast enough. We aren’t doing enough through our K-12 systems, our immigration systems, and through our recruitment process. There is a lot to do in workforce development across British Columbia’s construction sector, and changing the current culture. One of these culture points is the way we want youth, the construction sector, and the tech sector to work together. The youth eventually replacing our aging-construction workforce will have certain expectations of the tech available to our industry. Helping the construction sector become faster adopters of new technology available.
Why has the construction industry not adopted tech as fast as other industries?
Despite a number of members throughout all our regions embracing technology to some extent, the vast majority are small to medium sized businesses that are busy, working, and building. They don’t allocate the time or resources to invest, or research in new technology that will help them be even more productive, efficient, and successful in their businesses. The construction industry is building $115 billion worth of projects now, and $260 billion on the horizon. There is an opportunity for the tech sector to pay attention to our industry. There is a need for better alignment from administration to job-site technology, and emerging construction project technologies.
With automation forthcoming, what about the concerns for those 242,000 British Columbians currently employed in the construction sector?
There will always be a need for the hands on, physical, and inspection component. The technological advancements will not remove the work for highly skilled tradespeople. They have been builders for centuries, and will continue to be builders going forward. But nevertheless, the construction industry needs to align where there are areas that can reduce stress on the physical nature of the job or just prolong the careers of those people who are already involved in the industry. The construction employers will be ready for the job when moving forward with these types of inroads and efficiencies. Our industry needs assistance in understanding how these technologies can best serve their productivity and safety. We are a resilient sector, and we believe that a technological alignment with the tech sector and construction will facilitate that.
Can automation offer the same benefits to smaller companies as it does to larger ones?
The construction sector is highly competitive, there is an element of competition that will help drive technology as it’s being adopted. Once implemented, it will force other companies to adopt to stay competitive. There is an element of competition that can serve this partnership, between tech and construction, that can only serve British Columbia better.
What did the State of Construction Technology survey find?
The survey was 320 companies across 8 economic regions, it was a small sample of all companies involved in the construction economy in British Columbia. But nevertheless, those companies surveyed were aware of some construction technology, had some implementation issues, and were of an older demographic. The adoption strategy or willingness to change is a challenge in the industry. Some tech exists, but the need for more integration and harmonization between the tech sector and the construction.
The younger generation that will be replacing our aging industry, are coming with technological expectations. We have vested interest in keeping the construction workforce vibrant, at full capacity, and inspiring for our newcomers to the industry to want to be part of it. The thought process of the tech sector, who are building for tomorrow, are thinking ahead by implementing strategies and technologies that are going to transform our world. Construction is instrumental in that discussion as we continue to build our world.
What types of technology tools are available to the construction industry?
In terms of administrative technology, there’s estimator software, online construction materials, equipment marketplaces, labour and professional marketplaces, customer relationship management, and enterprise resource planning software.
Tools for job site technology include, off site fabrication modularization, 3D printing, robotics, automation, and drone usage.
In smart green construction, there is a lot of attention to announcements and investments that are going on by the province in Queen BC and the green economy.
In terms of the construction project technology, there’s building information modeling, 3D/4D modeling, bid depository, document management tools, human resource, and safety management tools. There are all sorts of opportunities with this type of greater awareness and adoption, and the alignment would serve that well.
Who is responsible for a large unawareness among the various construction companies that these new technologies and tools exist?
Neither sector is responsible for the large unawareness. This an opportunity for both our sectors to come together. By raising this issue, it’s a call out to our entire industry for the adoption and for investment in technology and our own future. As the leaders of the BC Construction Association, we will continue to seek inroads and BC Tech to make sure that they have the full awareness of the need for more tech integration, more tech research, and more tech alignment with this huge economic driver of the province of British Columbia.
How can tools such as 3D printing, robotics, and drones play in the conversation for the construction industry?
There are many applications throughout the globe where there is a greater adoption of drone technology and robotics. BC will be moving forward, it is inevitable, as we have our large general contractors and sub trades that find these applications serve them before adopting. From the tech sector perspective, we need to continue to seek out areas where we can introduce some of these technologies. There are ways where they will absolutely work and are transferable technologies into our sector.
Where can technology, such as drones, be helpful on the job site?
On vast sites, there are examples where drones are utilized to provide video imaging of the site so workers are aware of dangerous situations. Drones can be sent with a camera that can check the site to confirm everything is operational and safe.
How might technology impact the overall cost of construction?
Companies want to be efficient, productive, and safe. When building at a world class standard, there is a competitive requirement to build structures that don’t compromise integrity. If we continue to invest in our future, then British Columbia will continue to thrive.
Construction Project Technologies
Construction project technologies have seen some advancement in recent years, but adoption has remained fairly slow. This could be due to only large-scale projects really utilizing the full site of modeling and tools; that said, interest remains high for companies of all sizes to begin tracking their projects to increase efficiencies.
Survey Results Summary
The survey found the construction industry found 3D/4D modelling as the highest satisfaction among companies. Building Information Modelling (BIM) striking as the highest interest. Estimating Software was the most used. Off-site fabrication, modularization, and 3D printing is the up-and-coming that has the largest potential. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) was found as the sleeping giant.
It looks like 2018 was a strong year for management software throughout the construction project cycle – from estimation and procurement through to HR, safety, and project completion.
While awareness is growing for construction methods such as modularization and smart/green building, adoption is still fairly low for technologies that assist us on the job site.
As BIM and 3D Moduling continues to grow in awareness and adoption, we are seeing high satisfaction rates when these technologies are used in projects – especially for larger projects and companies with this expertise.
We’re excited to see what the technology landscape looks like for 2019, and how these trends in awareness, interest, adoption, and satisfaction shift as the demographics of the construction workforce shifts to become younger and more diverse.
In the meantime, if you are a construction or software company using or building technology to benefit the construction sector, we’d love to hear from you – send us an email or share your story on social media using the #ConTechBC hashtag. There’s never been a better time to be in construction than now, and we’re willing to be that ConTech in 2019 will prove to be even more exciting!