The economic downturn and housing slump has been hard on the construction industry and many professionals have left to seek employment in other sectors. With construction picking up in the first quarter of this year, labor shortages are becoming a growing concern. A National Association of Home Builders survey showed that there is an increased shortage of professionals in the industry. 23% of companies reported roofer shortages, 38% reported carpenter shortages with similar reports for electricians, framers, plumbers and bricklayers. Innovative builders are turning to advanced building methods to overcome these labor shortages.
Paul Emrath, an economist at NAHB: “It’s highest in categories of carpentry—rough, finished, framing—but the thing that really stands out is that the trend is just consistently upward. These are all labor local markets. In some cases people have moved away, so now if activity is picking up, you’ve got to recruit new people into the industry and train them, or persuade [workers] to come back from wherever they’ve moved to,” he says.
While labor shortages are yet to have a major impact on the industry, many innovative construction companies are already seeking alternatives. Labor shortages mean increased training expenses as employees retool as well as increases in the price of professional services and trades. Streamlining builds is the first step in reducing build times and costs. Technology is a great way to manage a project more efficiently and many builders are integrating project and site management apps and software into their planning. With new outdoor-friendly laptops and tablets, builders are able to access all the information they need 24/7.
Modular construction is also enjoying somewhat of a boom as builders turn to the prefabricated suppliers to expedite builds. The upturn in new builds has also led to lumber shortages and as building material prices increase, builders turn to alternative construction options like ICFs. ICFs have long been a practical solution for residential construction because they take a fraction of the time to put up and have enormous benefits in terms of strength, durability and energy efficiency.
Tilt-up building methods are also gaining traction. This technology helps companies to reduce costs and construction time. This advanced technology sees walls built horizontally on the home’s floor slab or on a casting bed at the job site. Once the home’s foundation is poured, the walls are cast on the slab. Once set, each wall slab is then raised by a crane and placed into position where it is secured by steel braces. The technique makes building faster and easier and requires fewer skilled workers.
While the worst of the labor shortage is expected to hit the construction industry in 2014, many companies are preparing for the lack of labor and increased materials costs by finding ways to reduce build times and costs.