The construction industry in the U.S. has been in recovery mode since 2010, when the nation began to climb out of the so-called Great Recession. With a few exceptions, construction starts rose steadily each year, peaking in 2018.
Construction starts dipped a tiny bit in 2019, and will likely dip a little more in 2020, but the numbers are still amazing. It is predicted that construction starts in all sectors will total $776 billion in 2020. That includes 765,000 new contracts for single family dwellings.
So, the need for construction workers should remain close to the record highs of a few years ago. Carpenters, framers, electricians, plumbers, concrete finishers, steel workers, masons and more will still be in demand nearly as much as in the recent record-setting years.
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While an increase in worker demand would be nice, the projections still paint a productive year for construction workers, and for the trades that support construction workers. One of the less-heralded jobs is that of the concrete worker, who often lays down the foundation – literally – for the rest of them. While conventional construction is projected to fall off the pace ever so slightly in 2020, infrastructure construction – primarily road work – is expected to remain at all-time high levels. That should come as good news for iron rebar workers and concrete workers.
A job associated with concrete work is rebar tying, where sections of iron rebar are tied together with loops of wire at critical points. Aiding immensely in this task is the rebar tier, which can make a monotonous task less tedious and more productive. We’ve created a list of rebar tiers that are worth a serious look. Also, don’t forget about rebar benders.
Another growing trend is the increase in fiber cement siding. When it first came out over a decade ago, people were lining up in droves for fiber cement. Five years later, only 1/3 as many people were lining up for fiber cement siding. Now, fiber cement siding is more popular than it was when it first came out.
This is important for residential construction workers, especially if you aren’t outfitted with the right tools for dealing with fiber cement. While you can use a traditional table saw with the right blade, the risk of fiber cement dust inhalation is too great to take any chances. Instead, take a look at fiber cement shears. Fiber cement shears create very little fiber cement dust and also cut down tremendously on the noise level at the jobsite. They’re also more efficient to use and more practical to move around from place to place.
New Construction Technology
1. Self-Healing Concrete
One of the coolest inventions to come out in recent years is self-healing concrete. Self-healing concrete, is just as it sounds, when it cracks or breaks, it fixes itself. There are two main types that are usually discussed, one which heals itself through organic means (bacteria) and another that uses tiny capsules.
The first type of self-healing concrete, bio-concrete, used bacteria to heal itself. When water enters a crack, microscopic bacteria capable of producing limestone “reawaken” and fill in the cracks.
The second type uses capsules filled with sodium silicate. If a crack or break forms, the capsule ruptures and fills in the break with a type of gel that quickly hardens [source].
While self-healing concrete is great in theory, it hasn’t seen widespread adoption. It will likely take years before any significant amount of self-healing concrete is seen in construction use. It’ll be decades before even the possibility of replacing standard concrete mix occurs. That said, it’s still something to be on the lookout for.
2. 3D Printed Houses
Another interested trend is 3D printed houses. The way they’ll work is that individual parts of the houses will be printed off-site and then brought on-site to piece together, sort of like giant Lego blocks.
The printer, which is about the size of a small crane, uses different mixtures of concrete which is set in layers [source]. If 3D printing of houses is ever widely adopted, it’ll make building housing much more efficient as well as cost-effective for an individual homebuyer. However, it won’t be good in terms of construction jobs.
3. Aerogel Insulation
Aerogel is a material which is among the lest dense materials on earth. In fact, the material is almost as light as air [source]. Aerogel is made by taking a silica gel and removing the liquid portion of it. The liquid portion is then replaced by gas. The end result is a block of very lightweight sand composed mainly of air filling in the tiny pores of the material.
While it has been around for almost 80 years, more people are starting to take notice of it. One of the best applications of this aerogel is in insulation. Since it is composed mostly of non-moving air, and since stagnant air makes an excellent insulator, aerogel makes for one the best insulators in the world.
This insulation has been used for around a decade in construction and has seen widespread use in the commercial market. It is mainly been used in areas with limited space as well as the preservation of historical buildings. Due to high cost, it has not been seen in many other types of applications.
Cost is also the problem preventing this insulation from spreading into the residential construction. It’s about 100 times more expensive to install aerogel insulation compared to regular insulation, so most people are not going to opt for it. As competitors creep into the marker and the cost lowers over time, it is expected this insulation will find its way into more markets and wider spread use in the commercial market as well.
Construction Industry Products
Whether it is jobsite radios or lunch boxes, the construction industry is an interesting market to see the latest consumer product innovations. One of the coolest, and most handy products, is the Mag Shim by Fastcap. The shims lock onto each other allowing you to get the perfect height when sawing or using a drill press.
Another cool product innovation is quiet air compressors. Many models are now available which can run while staying at a noise level as low as 60 decibels. This is less noise than a typical household vacuum. With how loud it already is at the jobsite, there’s nothing quite like using a these new air compressors.
Fingerprint locks are also a great innovation to find their way onto the jobsite. They’re also waterproof, so no need to worry about it being damaged. If you have a crew that uses the same toolbox, but you’d like to keep it locked tight, you can store multiple fingerprints on one lock. The benefit is obvious, no more stolen tools. And, if a tool is stolen, well, you know it’s someone with access to the box- and you already have his fingerprints.
Last, but not least, are industrial endoscopes. Why should doctors be the only ones to have use of endoscopes? Well, now, they are for construction workers too. These endoscopes are great for using to see down a tight crevice, inside a wall or beneath a floor board. They’re also great for working on heavy machinery.