Surveying the 2022 design/construction landscape

by brittney_cutler_2 | May 25, 2022 3:00 pm

For 12 years, Construction Canada has conducted an annual survey asking readers about the state of the country’s construction industry. It is a brief snapshot into the life and times of the sector responsible for designing, creating, and maintaining our built environment, whether it is condo towers and mixed-use mid-rises, or hospitals, schools, and offices.

Construction Canada is the official publication of Construction Specifications Canada (CSC). An interdisciplinary association, CSC brings together professionals from across the building industry. Its membership includes architects, specifiers, engineers, project managers, product manufacturers’ representatives, contractors, and other experts across the architecture, engineering, and construction spectrum.

Our readership extends beyond just CSC members. In fact, more than 80 per cent of survey respondents do not have a CSC professional designation—an increase of more than 10 per cent from last year. However, having such a wide cross-section of participants offers a bigger perspective on the current state of the industry. We asked questions on everything from income and social media to job satisfaction and future predictions. From coast to coast, hundreds of you answered, offering insight into where we are now… and where we might be headed.

Once again, we had responses from all over Canada, including every province and even readers from the territories. With 166 respondents, Ontario is home to most of our readers. This is followed by British Columbia and Alberta. The gender gap remained flat, as women represented 27 per cent of participants—a number unchanged from 2021. Similarly, 22 per cent of female respondents reported earning a salary of $100,000 or more, compared to 51 per cent of male respondents.

A significant age gap still exists, with very little shifting. More than half of those surveyed are over 50, while 12 per cent are under 35 (an increase of only one per cent from 2021).

Changes are visible in the occupational longevity category. Nearly half of the respondents (46 per cent) have been in the business for 10 to 29 years, which remains unchanged since 2021.

New entries into the industry remain flat: 12 per cent of respondents have been in the industry for more than 30 years versus 13 per cent last year.

The bulk of respondents continue to be architects. Specifiers, engineers, and project managers are well represented, too.

Cutting out the commute

The majority of readers reported the ability to work from home or remotely, or at least have an office/remote work hybrid model at their job. Interestingly, many respondents cited this arrangement as the reason for their positive work-life balance, as remote work gave them opportunities to “unplug from work,” or to just save time otherwise spent commuting.

“Working from home allows me to manage my time more freely and greater interaction with my family,” said one response.

Another stated, “Working remotely has removed the burden of commuting time, stress (and expenses).”

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been limited to work from home. Although it has created a certain imbalance in the work schedule, the lack of losing multiple hours a week in traffic is a big ‘perk,'” said a third.

Another response even observed an extra benefit from cutting out the commute, beyond saving time and avoiding stress.

“I’m eating better because I eat at home instead of eating out.”

A delicate balance

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian works 39.9 hours per week and 44 per cent of our survey participants are on the job more than 40 hours. This is down 11 per cent over two years from 2020. Interestingly, 72 per cent of the respondents are happy with their work-life balance, down five points over a two-year trend.

Many respondents noted how they work too much, not leaving enough hours for personal or family life. Many of the dissatisfied respondents cited overtime and lack of opportunities to use vacation days as reasons for their response. Those who were happy with their work-life balance cited flexible hours, choice of projects, and relative ease of getting time off as reasons for their response.

Green and Bim

The use of building information modelling (BIM) jumped significantly in the past year. A majority of 51 per cent of readers said they utilized BIM in more than a quarter of projects they worked on, up 12 per cent from last year. Another statistic which illustrates the increasing importance of this kind of software is of readers who said they used BIM in more than 85 per cent of their projects. This statistic leapt from zero per cent last year to 23 per cent today.

The prevalence of sustainable projects saw little movement from last year. The number of readers who worked on green projects more than half the time was 20 per cent—unchanged from the previous survey.

Relevance of social media

The percentage of readers harnessing social media for networking or research had bumped up to 62 per cent this year, continuing a three-year trend.

One reader gave a simple reason for this trend. According to this reader, “[social media] increased networking opportunities, which really became crucial during covid lockdowns.”

Another explained how useful social media was as a tool for researching potential employees, partners, and clients. “You can find out some background on people you are dealing with regarding years with knowledge of the product they represent as well as their background education,” read the response.

Despite social media’s upsides, readers also identified several fundamental problems they found with the phenomenon.

Some explained how the prevalence of misinformation on social media made them wary.

“Unregulated social media can lead to erroneous misinformation with no accountability or potential repercussions. Proprietary information can also fall into unauthorized hands or be utilized for non-billable use by unauthorized parties,” said one reader.

Others simply said they saw social media as a “time suck.” Another reader wrote, “I simply don’t have time to engage on social media platforms, which tend to have rather low-quality content.”

Predicting the future

Over the last five years, your company’s profitability has:

Optimism appears to be returning, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to fade away across the country. More than half of readers said they believe the next five years will be better than the last five—up four per cent last year. The survey saw an identical four per cent increase in the number of readers who said their company increased or remained the same over the past five years.

Readers reflected this cautious hope for the future in their comments.

“[I’m] hopeful that the lockdowns are over, resulting in more reliable working conditions; likely opportunities for renovations related to companies/organizations re-working their spaces to meet post-COVID changes to the work/education environment,” said one reader.

“We are living a new normal working from home; we will have more of a hybrid approach between working from home and working from the office. New technologies will always arise,” said another.

One reader wrote, “barring a meltdown, new construction will lead growth in the economy.”

However, some readers were more apprehensive about the future.

“Given the unprecedented past two years of dealing with a pandemic, labour shortages, supply chain interruptions, and the state of the global economy, it is very difficult to analyze and predict the future,” said one reader.

Another reader echoed this sentiment. “The inflation cycle we are in will affect decision-making negatively on projects proceeding, which in turn will affect our revenue and growth potential.”

“It’s hard to know, going into the sixth wave, what’s going to happen. I think the last two years have demonstrated that we really don’t know what’s coming so it’s important to be flexible and adaptable to allow for the unforeseen,” wrote a third reader.

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:

Source URL: