Economy, autonomy, batteries and hydrogen
By Adam FreillConstruction
From economic worries to industry optimism and the push to decarbonize, there is a lot to juggle and navigate in today's construction world.
The past few months have made for busy times. Shows and events were being held ahead of seasonal construction work; federal and provincial governments were making their budget releases and announcements: and all of us have been trying to navigate uncertain economic times, both at home and on the job. As I made my way through some of the trade shows and conferences on my travel agenda, a few themes stood out.
On the economic front, there’s an interesting mix of concern and optimism happening. With the rapid rise to lending rates, the market is still adjusting to the changes, and that has created a slowdown in some segments of the construction world. While mainly impacting the residential side, rising costs and a tighter lending market are increasing worries about project cancellation or delays in all sectors.
But immigration is up, significantly, and several provinces have announced considerable infrastructure plans and spending in their budgets, all of which should help drive construction activities and keep backlogs healthy. As Tooey Courtemanche, CEO of Procore said at last month’s Canadian Construction Association conference, companies are busy.
Of course, busy has not made life easier for contractors in need of skilled workers. Labour continues to be a challenge, although provincial negotiations that have resulted in more say in immigration controls should help.
Here in Ontario, the provincial and federal governments recently announced a structure to double the number of economic immigrants the province selects by 2025. Manitoba’s provincial nominee agreement is also being adjusted. It will see more than 3,000 additional spots in 2023 over its 2022 allocation, and Alberta is expected to have an additional thousand or so spots in its program as well. These moves will allow provinces to better align the selection process to match more immediate labour needs, including those in the construction sector.
Technology is also stepping up to help companies do more with either the same or fewer people on their sites. Our recently held Cameras in Construction webinar took a look at some of the imaging technologies that can be used to help make contractors more efficient on their projects. From drones to apps that automate reporting, tools are available to help reduce time spent on planning, tracking and paperwork.
Being able to walk through a jobsite to create a progress report via a camera mounted on a hardhat, or to map a site in minutes rather than hours or days, are developments that can have a considerable impact on the speed at which tasks can be completed, and it’s becoming easier than ever to dive into the digital stream.
Automation was also front and centre at the CONEXPO show, held last month in Las Vegas, as several heavy equipment manufacturers brought concept machines to this once-every-three-years show that will influence equipment as well as jobsites in the years to come.
Battery technology is top of mind for equipment manufacturers as the move to go carbon-free is well underway and was definitely on display at the show. It was interesting to note that electric vehicles and machinery were not the only green options gaining traction at this year’s show, however. Several manufacturers put hydrogen-powered equipment on display, which might be a solution for contractors whose work tends to take them away from the electrical infrastructure necessary to recharge battery-powered machines.
Now that spring has hit, sites in need of warmer weather are going to be getting busy, but don’t forget to set aside a few minutes to fill out your Canada’s Top Contractors survey for 2023. It’s available at www.on-sitemag.com and will inform our annual look at the leading general contractors in Canada, available in the June edition of On-Site.
Until next time, stay safe and do great work.
Adam Freill / Editor