It’s evident at this point that when the smoke clears after the COVID-19 pandemic, the world will be a different place. It will take time for many industries to recover, and even when they do, they won’t carry on like they did before. This is especially true of sectors like construction, which has lost almost a million jobs as of April.
The construction industry has already undergone some drastic changes to work around new health guidelines and a declining economy. Some of these will fade when the virus does, like keeping workers 6 feet apart at all times. Others, though, will persist, and some new adjustments will come as well.
Here are seven ways construction will change after COVID-19:
1. Revised Safety Standards
It’s almost a guarantee that safety standards will change across nearly all industries, including construction. Given how fast the virus spread, many companies will likely institute more extensive health regulations. These won’t be as dramatic as current protocols, but they will go further than pre-coronavirus standards.
Many construction firms will continue to require frequent handwashing and the inclusion of medical personal protective equipment (PPE). Regular sanitation of all equipment and work areas will also become standard practice. Measures like these will help slow the spread of any future diseases before they become widespread issues.
2. Continued Remote Work
To comply with social distancing regulations, a lot of people have switched to working from home. While this isn’t an option for many construction jobs, aspects like meetings and hirings have moved to a remote setting. Working remotely where possible is another coronavirus-inspired change that’s likely here to stay.
A recent survey revealed almost 75% of companies plan to keep at least some employees remote permanently. In construction, working remotely 100% of the time isn’t viable for everyone, but teleconferencing is. Meetings, interviews and surveys will continue taking place over the internet.
3. New Building Certifications
After the coronavirus crisis, construction workers will likely have to work with new building certifications. This trend started before the outbreak, with companies using recycled materials to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and other similar practices. Additional certifications will probably emerge in the post-COVID-19 industry, like regulations for improving air quality.
The most successful construction companies will be those that can promise cleaner, healthier buildings. Public health will be a more prevalent concern, so more clients will look for these kinds of standards. These new certifications will lead to a change in architecture trends as well.
4. Increased Automation
Industries of all kinds, including construction, have been moving toward automation for years now. This trend has proved useful, too, since many companies have had to work with fewer employees. Since the industry’s become more reliant on automation, it’ll likely increase its adoption rate after the pandemic.
Using collaborative robots, or cobots, that work alongside employees allows construction crews to operate with smaller numbers. Since it’ll take a while for the economy to recover fully, this will be especially beneficial in the early days of restoration. Some companies that were hesitant about automation before have now seen its advantages.
5. Domestic Sourcing
COVID-19 hit the supply chain especially hard. Different quarantine regulations across various countries have caused disruptions throughout the logistics cycle. These disruptions and delays will likely cause some companies to lose trust in international suppliers and turn to domestic sourcing instead.
International sourcing is often affordable, but the pandemic has shown how it can get complicated. The construction industry will turn to local suppliers to avoid delays or shortages as much as possible in future situations. This trend will also stimulate the struggling American economy.
6. Rise of Prefabrication
When the pandemic subsides, construction companies will have some catching up to do. Falling profits and social distancing requirements have put many projects on hold or at least slowed them down. Prefabrication, which is doing part of the work off-site before moving it to the construction site, will help companies regain lost time.
Before the virus, prefabrication only accounted for 3% of construction work in the United States. When economies reopen and companies need to work as quickly as possible, though, they’ll be more likely to move away from traditional methods.
7. More Unionization
As mentioned earlier, almost a million construction workers lost their jobs because of coronavirus shutdowns and cutbacks. It’s not likely that these workers will forget this anytime soon. In the months and years following the pandemic, unions will become more prominent in the construction industry as a result.
Workers who don’t want to be so affected by situations outside of their control again will turn to unions for help. If there’s one thing the virus has highlighted apart from health concerns, it’s an economic imbalance. As more workers realize this, more will take action to protect their rights and livelihoods.
When Will Construction Recover?
It’s challenging to say how long it will take for the industry to recover because there are still so many unknowns. If the outbreak goes on for several more months, it will further delay any economic rebounds. However, with some countries beginning to reopen slowly, some industry leaders are optimistic.
According to one survey, 81% of construction executives expect recovery to start before the end of 2020. Of that group, 66% expect it to happen by October. This survey doesn’t include the opinions of health officials, but this amount of leaders predicting a short-term rebound is promising.
Building the Future
Construction is an essential industry, so no matter how long the pandemic lasts, it won’t end it. Still, the building sector that emerges after the virus will look different than the one that stood before it. Construction in the future will be a more tech-forward, regulated and worker-oriented industry.
Nothing is guaranteed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s highly unlikely that construction will continue the same as it has before, though. The post-COVID-19 industry will be a transformed sector, but one that’s changed for the better.