With the number of extreme weather events on the rise, and the possibility that the cost of powering a building with fossil fuels rising as governments aim to combat climate change, net-zero construction could provide future-proofing qualities.
Construction using leading-edge techniques today will result in longer-lasting structures, the reasoning goes. For instance, a home battery system may become more desirable for backup power with more grid outages due to storms and wildfires. Installing them now in new construction would make these buildings more desirable—especially in the long run.
An affordable housing project that tightly seals the building and packs the walls with an extra thick layer of insulation greatly reduces residents’ heating and cooling expenses, improving their financial resiliency. Heat pumps can provide efficient room heating and water heating. These measures create further savings that will make the building more desirable for tenants for many years.
Figuring out the angle of the sun on August afternoons and designing shades that block it then, but also allow sunlight in when it is at a lower angle in the sky in the winter further bolsters energy efficiency.
2. 7 coronavirus-related construction challenges that will continue in 2021
Labor shortage. Pre-pandemic, the industry faced a historic shortage of skilled labor and the issue isn't going away just because COVID-19 has shut down projects and slowed others. Although firms have been calling back workers who were laid off in the spring, some have refused to return to work, citing a preference for unemployment benefits, virus concerns or family responsibilities.
Shrinking backlog. Associated Builders and Contractors' Construction Backlog Indicator fell to 7.5 months in September, a decline of 0.5 months from August’s reading and 1.5 months lower than last year at this time. In addition, the association's Construction Confidence Index readings for sales and profit margins also decreased.
Falling construction costs. A variety of pandemic-related forces have caused construction costs to decline slightly for the first time in a decade, which could lead contractors to feel a pinch in profits.
The Turner Building Cost Index, which measures costs in the U.S. nonresidential building construction market, fell to a value of 1171 in the third quarter of 2020, a 1.5% quarterly reduction from the beginning of the year. This year marked the first time the index from Turner Construction has reduced in value since 2010.
Less work. Various sectors of commercial construction will continue to experience a decline even after the rest of the economy begins to recover from COVID-19, economists say. For instance, experts predict people will continue to work from home more often then they go into a central office, so construction of office buildings remains a gray area in terms of future growth.
Price increases. This year has seen fluctuations in the prices of construction materials, most recently with the skyrocketing cost of lumber. Prices have been rising on most materials since May, according to ABC.
Its September look at prices found that among 11 subcategories, eight experienced monthly increases. As construction comes back online around the world, increasing demand for products could keep prices on the rise, Basu said.
Supply chain issues. "Production is getting back to where it was internationally,” Pomfrett said, “but the strain on supply chains and how to get materials and equipment delivered remains."
Natarelli said his clients are building resiliency into their supply chains so that they’re not beholden to a single supplier for any one material.
Diminished state and local government revenues. Basu said this is one of the top challenges facing contractors right now. A report from the Brookings Institution projects that state and local government revenues will decline $155 billion in 2020, $167 billion in 2021 and $145 billion in 2022 — about 5.5%, 5.7% and 4.7%, respectively — excluding the declines in fees to hospitals and higher education.
This means that state agencies such as departments of transportation have less money to fund infrastructure initiatives like roads, bridges and transit projects. Many will look to the federal government for additional revenue.