3 Megatrends Transforming the Future of Construction

It’s normal to hear people saying they know what the next big thing in construction is going to be, but how often do those predictions really play out? Whether it’s the lastest on-site robotics or cutting-edge hardware, it’s hard to know what will really happen in the future and how those trends may transform the field as we know it today.

Trends come and go, but megatrends can make a huge ripple effect that lasts. Megatrends, or driving forces that define the world now and in the future, tell us what we can expect as time passes. They show us global patterns that influence the environment, mobility, and behavior. 

Interestingly, there are some trends that could truly transform the industry for many decades to come. Here are the biggest megatrends to keep an eye on in the future.

Sustainability: A Shift Towards a Circular Economy

Sustainability is the first megatrend to discuss as the world looks for ways to help protect the environment and become more efficient and sustainable. To become sustainable, the culture of construction has to change into one of a circular economy.

What’s a circular economy? It is one that tries to replace the take-make-waste systems with a circular system instead. That system helps keep products and materials in use, designs out waste and pollution, and focuses on regenerating the natural systems that may be impacted during construction or demolition. 

With this concept, the construction industry can move forward in several ways. Some ideas for working towards a circular economy (and one of better sustainability) include:

  • Source reduction, which helps reduce the amount of new materials needed for construction. For example, trying to preserve parts of an original building being renovated rather than demolishing it could help minimize the use of new materials.
  • Salvage/Reuse, which would look at ways to reuse or repurpose materials during a build
  • Waste separation, which takes care of waste that cannot be eliminated during construction but makes sure it is disposed of property or taken to recycling facilities for processing
  • Recycling, which targets materials that may be reused again post-demolition or when there are extra parts or materials available after a build

How does this work in the real world? Consider this example of sustainability. Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer at Compass Datacenters, says, “At Compass, we approach new builds and material selection with repurposing in mind…we favor those that may balance the site’s environmental impact.”

Watch now: Building a Restorative Future Through Material Reuse

Data Visibility + Literacy = Workforce 2.0

The next megatrend to look out for is the adoption of digital products and services. Digital adoption is still in the early stages with data strategy, but it could make a huge difference in how projects are handled. 

Some of the world’s leading construction firms are assessing how they can leverage data and make it into actionable information. To get to that point, though, there has to be transparency and a willingness to share the data that’s collected. 

Alan Muse, Global Director of Built Environment, RICS, poses an interesting question. “We need integrated data and systems. To achieve that, we need common standards and a much greater propensity to share data. How can we encourage the sharing of data, including cost data, in the industry?”

One way is through building better trust in data itself. 

Why don’t companies trust their data? For one reason, data and analytics have typically been seen as cost centers, rather than information that could provide a meaningful impact on the business’s outcomes. Data is often seen more as a risk-mitigation tool instead of part of a larger strategy to boost profits. 

On top of that, how data is collected can lead to bad data and incorrect numbers, leaving people wondering if they can trust their data at all. 

To get data back where it needs to be, front and center, it’s going to take firms getting assistance with educating their teams and subcontractors, since the way they input and interact with data directly impacts enterprise knowledge sharing and operational efficiency.

Of course, data literacy also has to be addressed. Bad data is problematic and leads to poor decision-making and outcomes. In one study, it was found that 30% of respondents thought half or more of their project data was “bad” at least 50% of the time.

Building better data strategies and training teams on how to use data correctly could have a lasting positive impact through increased trust and transparency. Additionally, firms that can improve their data literacy are going to have the leading edge and a better ability to improve their predictability, performance, and ability to attract and retain digital natives looking for roles using data-driven processes.

Watch now: Using Data to Make Construction Predictable

According to Mallorie Brodie, CEO and Co-Founder at Bridgit, “Not all data is created equally. When it comes to innovation through tech, the competitive advantage won’t go to the GCs that capture and use more data, it’ll go to the ones that are capturing the right data and sharing it with the right people.”

Collaboration Without Boundaries

In the best-case scenario, construction should be highly collaborative. Over the last several years, there have been real strides made to improve transparency and collaborative efforts, but there are still pain points and disconnects to deal with. 

Another megatrend to look for is stronger collaboration by migrating to cloud-based platforms. Through these integrated work environments, anyone working on a project has better access to data and can see opportunities and challenges as they crop up. 

Cloud-based platforms create the ability to centralize information. Whether it’s the design of the project or operations, everything is in one place. 

According to Andrew Anagnost, CEO at Autodesk, “The critical part of a platform is data flow. Data comes from different places, and we’re never going to have a construction universe where everything comes from one pipeline. Your platform needs to be prepared to pull in data from multiple places, rationalize it, and make it visible and actionable. Additionally, other people will need to extend it, connecting that data to other things. They may need to connect it to downstream financial systems or third-party applications that add additional value. A platform does that.”

A platform has the potential to improve collaboration in a way that removes boundaries. That has incredible potential. 

Ryan McMahon, general Manager of Manufacturing Informed Design at Autodesk, believes in the power of improved collaboration without boundaries. “Currently, the industry cannot meet this demand and will never get there without transforming the way we design, engineer, fabricate, and deliver.” 

The lack of boundaries may help improve sustainability, as well. 

“I believe some key ingredients are introducing digitization and connectivity into our workflows and elevating the incorporation of productization in construction. These are foundational methods that help companies reuse designs, manufacture at scale (thus reducing waste and improving quality), and improve collaboration to ultimately accelerate, deliver and improve results.”

Keep Informed on Megatrends in Construction

These megatrends aren’t going anywhere any time soon and could change the way you work in construction. If you want to stay apprised of all the latest trends and developments, you can subscribe here.

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.