Change is inevitable. You can either sit back and let the chips fall where they may, or you can step up, take charge and make change happen. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve never been one to sit back.
The construction industry is plagued by a slow rate of change. Productivity in construction has remained flat while other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing and technology, have seen exponential productivity growth. Dr. Barbara Bryson, author of The Owner’s Dilemma: Driving Success and Innovation in the Construction Industry, drove this point home at a recent gathering when she said, “There’s a freight train of disruption headed our way so designers, builders and owners better change the way they work, and fast.”
At McKinstry, we want to be driving that freight train and are preparing to do so. I’m personally inspired and energized by the innovations we see on the horizon in the next five, 10 and 15 years. These innovations will significantly reframe how we design, build and operate the built environment, and will define the cities of the future. McKinstry is already hard at work defining our pathway to this future.
Let me share with you some of the ground-shaking trends we see roaring down the tracks.
Modular everything. Three-dimensional printing, cross-laminated timber and five-dimensional building information modeling (adding time and cost to the three spatial dimensions) are a part of our industry today. Hyper-prefabrication (think of the 57-story building in China built in 19 days), wood-scoped high rises (a 12-story wooden building is under design in Portland) and four-dimensional printing (where a three-dimensional printed object can transform over time) are fast approaching. McKinstry is already creating a pathway using these advances to perform 75 percent of our construction work offsite by 2035.
Robotics. Advances in robotics will automate construction methods and processes and in doing so, redefine safety and productivity in the industry. This is a big one, especially for an industry heavily dependent on labor. In the Economist article titled Least Improved, they cite the industry’s lack of capital investment in automation – in favor of investing in a more fluid labor force – as one of the main reasons for lost productivity. The other reason is fragmentation in the industry. For years, McKinstry has been advocating for the silo-busting idea of integrated delivery and the industry is responding. We believe this move toward collaboration is essential to driving waste out of the construction industry.
Living and resilient cities. The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) asks us to think not merely of how to be less bad, but instead to dream of what good looks like. Buildings will be designed for public health, resiliency and balance with nature. Imagine that—in just two decades—buildings will have a variety of mechanical and electrical systems that will change the way we design and engineer buildings. We cannot wait for more stringent codes to force us to change, which is why McKinstry’s engineers are constantly pushing forward new, more efficient solutions.
For anyone in design, construction and building operations and maintenance, these innovations represent a profound shift in how we conduct business. For McKinstry, this shift is in line with our belief that the built environment is an engine towards our mission of together, building a thriving planet. And for that, this bumpy, disruptive ride will be worth it.
Ash Awad is McKinstry’s Chief Market Officer.