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COVID-19 plunged the business world into one of the most challenging times not seen since the Great Depression. The construction industry, deemed an essential business, had to quickly innovate to find new ways of working to weather this storm. Several of these seemingly temporary solutions have spawned positive trends that are here to stay.

Not Just Green, But Healthy Too

The safety culture that exists on today’s jobsites helped contractors stay productive through the pandemic. However, because of the pandemic, project owners and construction firms are evaluating their sites from a new perspective. In a recent meeting, the construction head for a healthcare system stated he knows a safe jobsite but doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about a healthy site. 

The incorporation of healthy buildings has expanded the concept of green buildings. A healthy building verification means the building has reduced the potential risk of contracting COVID-19 indoors to the best ability. This concept can be applied to new construction or existing buildings and presents a tremendous opportunity for construction firms in this space as building owners evaluate air quality, water quality, lighting, thermal comfort and the overall environment of the building.

Single Family Home Building 

Home building continued to be a bright spot through early 2021 as Americans responded to the change in traditional workplace environments. Lockdowns revolutionized the workplace environment to accommodate remote work, which prompted buyers to consider living options outside daily commute restrictions into a commercial office space. The housing market opened opportunities in new geographic areas and brought competition to local builders as they respond to demands for more luxury features. 

Repurposing of Commercial Buildings

A rise in the adaptive use of existing buildings in several sectors presents an opportunity to the construction industry for remodeling and major renovations. The pandemic intensified online shopping and, therefore, the need for industrial centers and warehouses. More shopping malls are vacant and a shift from reusing these buildings for entertainment, such as movie theaters, has now shifted to senior living communities. Building owners are looking to repurpose and renovate wherever they can, including some office buildings into data centers.

Deeply Needed Infrastructure Improvements

Public authorities are attempting to advance a spending bill on infrastructure. States have a laundry list of critical infrastructure improvements needed to address deteriorating bridges, roads and other aging infrastructure. At the time of this writing, there is hope the parties will come to an agreement to approve infrastructure funding. Should this bill come to fruition, potentially billions of dollars will flood into the industry as companies compete for project contracts. 

Increases in Technology Can Increase Risk 

Construction firms that have capitalized on advances in AI, "Internet of Things" and cloud technologies have begun to reap the benefits of improved efficiencies. Some of this technology was used to assure workers were wearing masks and socially distancing on sites during the pandemic. This form of technology can be repurposed to ensure other safety protocols are in place moving forward. Remote collaboration during and after the pandemic also adds to the growing exposures in cyber security. Construction firms will need to rethink ways of handling a multitude of connection requests from a range of new sources by project managers, subcontractors, employees, etc. while deploying measures to ensure computers are secure.

The Future of Plastics in Construction

Construction is not alone in facing environmental challenges, specifically the prolific use of plastic materials in a wide range of solutions. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used in seals, windows and doors, pipes, cables, floor coverings and insulation. The industry also uses plastics for packaging materials.

The need to protect corporate environmental reputation is moving up the risk agenda within the construction industry, says Donna Thomas, managing director in Marsh’s Energy and Power practice. “There have been high-profile cases where construction projects have caused damage to the environment, or, with projects that have not yet commenced, the public has concerns over the potential for damage; we know these circumstances can negatively affect the reputation of companies involved.” 

The construction industry persisted despite the global pandemic. Expect more change and persistence in the future. 

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