February 2, 2016|

Trend Report: Coping With The Labor Shortage

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9795c24d34506ef6eaa167378479de9dAccording to a report in USA Today, a survey by the National Association of Home Builders in June pointed to a construction worker shortage. Seventy percent of home builders, for instance, said they were experiencing a shortage of carpenters, compared to 63% a year ago. The evidence of a labor shortage is hard to ignore.

In July, a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, the largest U.S. construction-industry association, showed that 86% of commercial builders said they were finding it difficult to fill hourly or salaried positions. Asked which hourly workers are hardest to find and hire, 73% of respondents cited carpenters, 65% mentioned sheet-metal installers and 63% said concrete workers. In terms of salaried and management employees, 55% of respondents said project managers and supervisors are scarce, 43% mentioned estimating professionals and 34% cited engineers.

And according to the Wall Street Journal: While residential construction spending climbed over $36 billion in August — to reach it’s highest point since October 2007 — there were more than 676,500 fewer workers in the residential construction industry compared to eight years ago.

What does this mean? Huge delays. Higher labor costs. Increased safety concerns. And slimmer margins.

And yet, despite these challenges, the industry outlook continues to remain positive as firms continue to embrace new technology and better practices like green building, lean construction, greater collaboration and prefab/modular construction.

At ECHOtape, we believe there’s no better time be a supporting cast member to the building and construction industry revival, so we are paying close attention to the following key trends:

Building Information Modeling has quickly become the most significant and widely adopted new technology method employed in the industry. The process of creating digital models to provide information for planning construction has proven beneficial for both economic and safety reasons. 3D and 4D modeling may be used to model owner’s process flows and discover conflicts in design documents and drawings.

Apps for phones and tablets have also emerged as game changers. A wide variety of apps are available that can help contractors view purchase orders, site plans, schedule appointments, look up building codes, track weather, and more.

Lean construction focuses on eliminating waste and creating predictable, reliable workflows. On projects that develop and maintain a lean program, projects have experienced improvements in design team and trade contractor relationships, communication, coordination, cost and schedule performance.

Attracting more women may also be a viable solution. The article, “The Biggest Untapped Pool of Qualified Workers May Be Women” by Katherine Wiggans and Ninette Turay-Lewis, released by NAWIC last year, explores how women have traditionally stepped forward when there is a shortage of men in the workforce.  With women only accounting for 3% of the construction industry, there is opportunity for growth.

Green building is far from a new concept, but environmentally friendly construction has been picking up steam and likely won’t let up anytime soon. Carnegie Hall, for example, qualified for LEED Silver certification after a massive renovation to make 165,000 square feet of the concert hall’s non-performance space more energy-efficient. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan could also have significant implications for the green building movement in the commercial and industrial space, as his proposed standards include tax credits for electricity generated in 2020 and 2021 from renewable energy plants that begin construction early. The new standards could spur a wave of solar and wind farms across the U.S.

Lastly, builders are also eyeing off-site construction methods, a.k.a. prefab or modular construction. A Kansas City startup is building the city’s first net-zero home using alternative construction processes to reduce costs and build time. To do so, the company plans to ship construction kits with pre-cut structural insulated panels, windows, fixtures and most other building materials, to the local builder who will construct the house.

Has the labor shortage impacted your business? We’d love to hear about it and help you brainstorm solutions!

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