Surveying the 2020 design/construction landscape

BIM and green projects

The use of building information modelling (BIM) has dipped this year. This time, only 26 per cent of participants say their firm uses it on more than a quarter of all projects. Last year, that number was 38.

In terms of sustainability, only 11 per cent of respondents said they work on projects directly related to green design targets more than half the time, down from
27 per cent from last year.

Predicting the future

How do you think the next five years will be for your company?
How do you think the next five years will be for your company?

Judging by the survey, many in the design/construction industry have a right to be cautiously optimistic despite the economic downturn COVID-19 has caused—only 21 per cent see the next five years as particularly troubling. Further, 55 per cent say the last half-decade meant either increased or steady profitability.

That is not to suggest there are not any concerns, of course. The pandemic has paralyzed the economy, and a lot of projects are therefore not in development.

Additionally, “oil and gas, a big driver of western economy, took a hit without any replacement industries,” said a Saskatchewan architect.

“A lot less companies are looking to undertake a large scale construction project,” said a contract administrator from the Prairies.

“We have had eight major industrial businesses close around our area in the past 15 years due to globalization and U.S. firms buying out Canadian firms then closing them,” noted a project manager from Atlantic Canada.

“Some areas (prairies in particular) have seen dramatic decreases in both private and public investment due to regulatory policies that discourage investment. Coastal areas are still seeing an influx of off-shore investments in real-estate that is keeping the land values high,” said a material supplier form Alberta.

“An increased number of projects are not getting started past feasibility, or with substantial reductions in scope. Businesses, developers, and government appear to be forecasting a downturn and are reluctant to move forward,” sums up an engineer from Ontario.

On the bright side is this note from an Ontario architect: “The local market is very strong, especially for housing.”

“Our company still has maintained a strong workload through the change in the economy and we will be stronger once it comes back. Right now we are in an economic correction period,” said a specifier from Alberta.

We also asked what could be the single biggest factor impacting design/construction firms over the next few years. Here are some of the important considerations:

  • COVID-19’s negative impact on the economy;
  • oil and gas prices;
  • the push to develop in a sustainable manner (i.e. lower energy costs and embodied carbon);
  • retirement of baby boomers and the resulting leadership gap;
  • general market activity (such as growth in sectors like the housing market or infrastructure spending);
  • Canada’s political landscape;
  • advancements in technology including BIM; and
  • the United States (including upcoming elections).
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