As we celebrate Labor Day in the US, the domestic construction industry continues to be plagued by a big lack of it. Housing construction through July reached its highest level since 1989, according to Commerce Department data released last week, yet the lack of skilled labor continues to threaten the recovery in housing and other sectors of the construction market.
- A WSJ story from early August confirmed that the worker shortage is real, although worse in some areas of the US than others.
- General contractors in the US and abroad are turning to 3D design technology and automated processes to fix errors during design and mitigate the lack of skilled labor by moving production out of the field and into factories for prefabrication.
- Start-ups such as Prescient used prefabrication to automate apartment building and hotel construction delivery, a long-time ambition of eneral contractors.
- BIM and integrated delivery continued to deliver better procurement and scheduling for big projects this year.
- Another way to fight the labor shortage? Robots.
Until the Highway Trust Fund was extended in early August it looked very much like trillions of dollars in road, bridge and other government projects could be shut down, however our construction MMI has remained merely steady so far this year as stagnant steel prices and copper prices are mitigating contractors’ increased costs for exterior aluminum panels and other aluminum products. Construction lending has also not bounced back yet, leaving a market with flat-to-down copper and steel costs, a worsening skilled labor shortage and still only limited adoption of 3D design and integrated delivery. Happy Labor Day.