There are many tried-and-true formulas to the construction industry. For centuries, contractors have toiled to turn meticulously sketched blueprints into a brick-and-mortar reality. But it seems that the building business may finally be evolving in the years to come, thanks both to some fast-moving innovations and some less encouraging turns in the economy.
Let’s take a look at the construction industry’s biggest current disruptors, from the good to the bad to the interesting.
1. Bad: The Fallout of the Recession
If you saw last year’s The Big Short, you probably have some idea of the general shape the U.S. construction industry took in the years leading up to and directly after the housing bubble pop of 2007 to 2008. For years, loosened mortgages meant everyone could get a house. Then, when people stopped being able to afford their homes and put them back on the market, supply suddenly far outweighed demand. Unfortunately, this effected the jobs of many construction workers. Canada’s own situation naturally saw a quiet, delayed echo of this American trajectory, albeit with nowhere near as significant a drop.
A figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited by an article in The Atlantic, says that countrywide, the number of people employed in construction fell by 1.4 million since 2007; that’s about 0.4 per cent of the entire U.S. population. Other sources put that number as high as 2.3 million.
The industry is now on the mend, but the workers are gone. After so many employees have been understandably scared off, the only solution is for more people to get educated and enter the field, with the faith that jobs will continue to rise. Many sources cite that Canada needs at least 250,000 more construction workers by 2021.
2. Interesting: 3D Printing Continues to Grow
A recent headline claims a “Giant 3D printer builds 10 houses in just 1 day.” While surely a little sensationalist, this does a fine job of condensing both the amazing and the concerning aspects of a world where gigantic products can be whirred out from a machine like a 3 a.m. college essay. 3D printing is now a reality, one which allows for the efficient and relatively cheap construction of buildings (great news for displaced refugees and victims of disasters), but which could also hypothetically reduce the need for expert assemblers to do the work by hand, another burn to a scorched work sector.
Let’s be optimistic about this one. One of the biggest and most consistent obstacles to the construction industry is a scarcity of materials. While it may be some time before 3D printers can churn out a full-fledged home comparable to that of human handiwork, it’s a safe bet we’ll soon be seeing an influx of printed walls and foundations, which will actually ensure construction workers are able to do their jobs in the first place.
3. Good: Construction Is Going Green—And Tiny
Have you heard of microhomes? They’re just one exciting peek at how the construction industry is adapting to the times. The fact is, after a mega-recession and new fears about climate change, the housing market isn’t what it used to be.
And that’s okay! Construction workers are adapting to change in a variety of future-savvy ways. Building these diminutive abodes for travelers and minimalists, or refurbishing houses and buildings to take advantage of renewable energy, are just a few of the ways contractors are not only creating new jobs, but also helping to reduce their carbon footprints.