Englewood Construction‘s Hard Hat Chat blog has been going strong for 10 years — and rightfully so. This commercial general contractor specializes in the construction of retail, restaurant, shopping center, hotel, office and industrial projects throughout the United States — and the blog rightfully reflects the company’s market focus and interests.
Consider this recent post: Commercial Construction Trends: Three Headlines That Won’t Die In 2019, which starts with these words from Chuck Taylor, the company’s operations director.
After nearly 10 years of publishing Hard Hat Chat (more to come on our blog’s 10th anniversary later this year), we know there’s never a shortage of fresh topics and trends to discuss in the commercial construction industry. At the same time, some subjects seem to come up again and again, whether on this blog, in the news media or in conversations with clients and colleagues.
He writes that “there are three topics in particular that we just can’t quit talking about – primarily because they are having such a big and long-lasting impact. Here they are: the commercial construction headlines that just won’t die – and why” — and goes on to explore the labor shortage issue, commercial construction technology, and the reshaping of the retail landscape with the rise of e-commerce.
Regarding the labor shortage, he writes that “based on what we’re hearing, seeing and experiencing ourselves, there’s just no end in sight.
It’s the result of a perfect storm stemming from the economic downturn, when not only did many construction firms and subcontractors go out business, but a number of workers left the industry permanently. Add to that the subsequent economic recovery when construction activity rebounded, and many construction firms just didn’t have the manpower to meet the upswing in demand.
The good news for subcontractors is the labor shortage means higher profitability, because they are working at-capacity and able to charge a premium for their services. But for general contractors and our clients, the result is higher project budgets and challenges in construction scheduling.
There’s no magic bullet that will resolve this issue, but I am certainly optimistic when I see the number of young workers entering the field at all levels – from laborers up to a new crop of building construction management graduates. And when construction activity levels even out, as they are sure to do, this industry’s labor pool will find a new equilibrium.
He continues with his observations about commercial construction tech, noting that the industry is slow to evolve, but there is increasing interest in new technologies,” from the usage of BIM and drones on job sites, to new software options that streamline project management, to wearable tech for construction workers.”
As hard as it is for a veteran guy like me to admit, there’s a new generation of younger workers in this field who want and expect to use technology in their workplace. Technology is second nature for them, and they are increasingly taking on decision-making roles in evaluating which innovations to implement. As these workers move into leadership positions, and a new wave of high-tech solutions is developed, we’ll see exponential growth in technology use across construction firms of all sizes.
At the same time, it’s not always practical in business to be an early adopter. Sometimes, the latest software, drone or robot is simply too expensive for us to invest in or to justify passing the cost along to our clients. But it’s always important to stay abreast with what’s out there, particularly as new innovations become part of our industry’s best practices.
Finally, he explores the issues relating to changes in the retail landscape as e-commerce takes a bite out of traditional retail brands’ market share.
The shifting retail landscape continues to drive conversation in the CRE industry as developers and landlords discuss ways to fill shuttered retail space, such as this vacated grocery store Englewood converted for a big-box brand.
From a construction perspective, we love these conversations because of the opportunities they represent. Certainly, we’ve had less traditional retail construction work come across our desks as a result of changing dynamics in the retail sector, but on the flip side there are many creative ideas and new concepts being pitched to fill vacant retail and drive more foot traffic to existing shopping centers – all of which leads to new construction jobs and clients for us. As retail finds its way in this new landscape and as developers and landlords pinpoint the right strategy for filling available space, I’m confident those retail headlines will become increasingly positive.
These are truly useful and insightful thoughts, and this is just one of many posts from the company in its decade of blogging. It truly is a worthy entry in the 2019 Best Construction Blog competition.