On-Site Magazine

Top 10 construction trends in 2018

By Saul Chernos   



Michael Atkinson met in late summer with a group of Canada’s top construction leaders to gauge the state of the industry. With another year-end in sight, the now-past president of the Canadian Construction Association recounted a range of concerns — some naggingly familiar, others coming to the fore. These are trends that stand to influence construction in 2018:

1. Aging Workforce

We’re not getting younger. As workers retire, they’re taking vast stores of knowledge with them.

2. Relentless Technological Change

Augmented reality, 3D printing, driverless equipment and more stand to change the way we plan, design and build. New skill-sets are constantly needed.


3. Project Size and Complexity

Bigger isn’t always better, but it’s going that way, especially with massive hydroelectric and mining projects involving broad consortia in far-flung, remote locations.

4. Globalization

Firms from outside Canada are increasingly getting in on the action here.

5. Gobble-ization

Mergers and acquisitions are involving all segments of the industry. These pressures are contributing to the slow death of the small and medium size firm.

6. One-Stop Shopping

Clients often want to integrate the entire plan-design-build process, plus property maintenance.

7. Deteriorating Designs

Documents, specs, drawings and plans are becoming increasingly ambiguous, contradictory and lacking specific important details and coordination.

8. Deteriorating Payment Practices

Contract terms are being extended, with 30 days becoming 60, 90, even 120 days. Will this lead to a new trend — demand for legislation reform?

9. Procurement Helter-Skelter

Owners are turning to non-traditional ways to obtain design and construction services. Because of the growing lack of capacity, knowledge and experience within their own ranks, some owners and clients are looking to be less involved in the process. The risk? New practices might not be appropriate or even applicable.

10. Risk Adversity

Risks and responsibilities traditionally borne by clients are being transferred to contractors.

“A lot of these things are related,” Atkinson explained. Compound Canada’s aging workforce with rapid technological change, for instance, and companies might find it challenging to anticipate the skills new personnel will need.

Atkinson attributed deteriorating designs, in part, to a general lack of experience, with more knowledgable workers retiring. But technological changes tie in, too. There are also links between project size and complexity, increased foreign competition and a rise in mergers and acquisitions. “They manifest themselves in different ways but they’re all trends our members are seeing.”

By Saul Chernos


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