European construction trends: What will 2020 hold for countries across the continent? 

European construction trends

The European continent can boast some very impressive construction projectsConstruction has begun on the 18-km Fehmarn Belt Fixed Line, which will link islands in Denmark and Germany together through a tunnel under the Baltic Sea 

In the Netherlands, the country’s first off-shore wind farm, Borselle 1&2, is taking shape, ready to power one million Dutch homes. Meanwhile, in Paris the painstaking restoration of Notre-Dame will return a global icon to its former glory. 

Ambitious builds are taking place throughout the EMEA region, and technology is creating whole new possibilities for firms across the continent. But of course, in each country the construction industry will face unique challenges throughout 2020.   

In this blog, experts from five European countries will share their trends and predictions for the year ahead, to explore what 2020 could have in store for the construction industry. 

1. Productivity and quality concerns should give way to optimism in the UK

Poor productivity has been a serious constraint for UK construction in the past, as we explored in our report, Laying the Digital Groundwork. The quality and safety of completed builds has also been under the spotlight, following the Hackitt Review and the Building a Safer Future report. 

But following this period of uncertainty, 2020 will hold plenty of reasons for UK firms to be optimistic, according to Az Jasat at Autodesk: 

“In recent years, we’ve been quick to criticise the construction industry’s safety record and low productivity trend. However, new evidence suggests the situation is improving; projects are becoming safer and the labour force is becoming more productive due to a commitment to innovation and process change. Furthermore, companies are showcasing their improving capabilities on even the most complex projects.  

Az Jasat Autodesk Construction

“While it continues to be a challenging industry, I expect there to be more attention on both digitisation and industrialisation of construction methods, bringing them up to par with, if not ahead of, similar advancements in manufacturing.”

- Az Jasat, Senior Customer Success Manager, Autodesk

If you're interested in learning more about the challenges and opportunities specifically in the UK construction industry, join our webinar, The Digital Groundwork: Beyond Construction's Productivity Gap, on February 14, 12 pm GMT.

2. Technology will maximise the power of people in the Netherlands’ booming industry

The Dutch construction industry was booming throughout 2019 and is set to have another very bright yearBut with the current labour shortage and the continuing demand for more housing, it will be vital for firms to use technology to become more efficient. That’s according to Simone van Loon of technology consultants ITANNEX: 

“The construction industry is evolving; we are more aware we have to digitise our processes and change the way we traditionally think about design, plan, build and operate. All our processes can be transformed to more efficient, but to change, we need to align people, technology and processes. Aligning the first one, people, is sometimes harder than we think.  

simone van loon itannex

“I think 2020 will be a lot about people. Give them attention, look at them and listen to them, evolve both their hard skills and soft skills; they will be the key to success.” 

- Simone van Loon, Head of Product Management, ITANNEX 

For Jeroen Nuijten at construction firm Royal BAM Group, one technology in particular will offer incredible possibilities in the year ahead, particularly as access to labour remains in short supply:  

“As an innovation manager at BAM, there are different technologies that I really am passionate about. One of them is 3D printing of concrete or 3D printing in general. If you combine that with something called parametric design, or generative design, it becomes even more powerful. Generative design opens up the potential for many different design possibilities. In the past, these possibilities were expensive, but 3D printing allows you to create and build something, with minimal extra cost.  

Jeroen Nuijten, Innovation Manager at Royal BAM Group

“The Dutch labour market suffers a shortage of trained staff, and the cost of labour is increasing not only in Holland but everywhere in the world. It’s technologies like 3D printing that we’re looking into to alleviate the impact of the shortage, and I’m absolutely certain that because of these drivers, this is something that we have the responsibility to adopt.” 

- Jeroen Nuijten, Innovation ManagerRoyal BAM Group 

3. Combining emerging technologies will create new possibilities in Denmark

Denmark has been at the forefront of innovation in construction for some years. Danish construction companies have been leading adopters of Building Information Modelling (BIM) – and this progressive approach to technology has helped many businesses to take advantage of the current high levels of demand in the country. 

For Alejandro Mata at engineering firm Ramboll Denmark, it will be the combination of emerging technologies that will create more opportunities for businesses in 2020: 

Alejandro Mata, Automation Manager, Ramboll Denmark

“One of the trends for the future is the coming together of AI, IoT and blockchain. When you look at blockchain, companies should not be just looking at that one technology by itself. You need to look at it in integration with IoT and AI. With the combination of these technologies, you can begin to build better cities and more programmable societies.” 

- Alejandro Mata, Automation Manager, Ramboll Denmark 

4. Visualisation technologies will bring digital to life in Turkey

The construction industry in Turkey faced challenges in 2019. But with signs of recovery on the horizon, it’s the combination of technologies that will again create new opportunities for construction firms. 

Advances in visualisation technologies, like virtual reality and augmented reality, will help to make digital feel more “real”, according to Saniye Öktem at Prota Engineering Design and Consultancy Services: 

In 2019, we talked a lot about visualisation technologies, machine learning and artificial intelligence. And now, a year awaits us where we will feel digitisation thoroughly by using much more virtual reality and augmented reality with much better quality in the construction industry.  

Saniye Öktem, BIM and Technology Coordinator/ Board Member at Prota Engineering Design and Consultancy Services Inc.

I expect to hear more about 3D printed buildings this year and AI will become more common in the design phase. Hopefully, we’ll get a little closer to the concept of “smart cities” with good case studies. I’m not sure if we’ll be talking about substantial increases in the use of robotics in the construction industry next year, but I’m sure we’ll be talking about it in a few years. 

- Saniye Öktem, BIM and Technology Coordinator/ Board Member, Prota Engineering Design and Consultancy Services Inc 

5. The French companies that embrace a disruptive business model will thrive

The French government has an ambitious programme of infrastructure investments set for 2020 and beyond, with 5bn euros allocated for sustainable energy sites and 4bn for affordable community housing. French construction companies can look forward to growth throughout the year, particularly by using productivity-enhancing digital technology. 

But according to Olivier Lépinoy at Autodesk, it’s the companies that embrace a disruptive business model that will really thrive: “Fostering innovation through technology alone is not enough. True and sustainable innovation comes from new business models. Everyone understands that digital transformation means putting data “at the centre” and developing a data-centric approach to designing, planning, building and delivering projects.  

“To be truly successful, this approach needs to focus on the bottom line (modernisation of operations, cost-saving, higher productivity, etc.) as well as the top line: transformation of the business portfolio, intense innovation, and consistent growth. This type of transformative change cannot happen if the way you do business remains the same.  

Olivier Lepinoy, Autodesk

“For AECO firms, inventing alternative business models is a survival mechanism. Currently, most companies launch a strategic initiative by making small tweaks to their existing business model until the initiative becomes financially sustainable, at scale. This tweaking is no longer enough, and companies must now look at a widespread overhaul of their business model if they are to create the necessary conditions for change.” 

- Olivier Lépinoy, AEC Sales Development at Autodesk 

Read more worldwide construction trends and predictions for 2020 from our global experts – or check out our take on the next twelve months in UK construction. 

Amanda Fennell

Amanda Fennell is Director of EMEA Marketing in Autodesk Construction Solutions and Autodesk Ireland Site Lead. She has over 20 year’s marketing experience in IT, including working with some leading cloud organisations. Amanda holds an MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from DCU and is based in Autodesk’s European headquarters in Dublin.