How Tectonic Shifts in Construction are Shaping the Future of our Cities

The world is moving to the city. Each day 200,000 people move to urban areas causing huge challenges around housing affordability, infrastructure and transportation.

Many of these people will be living in so-called megacities — and to keep up with this growth the built environment is moving faster than ever before. Growing urbanisation has helped create large, stable middle classes in the first world, and the hope is that technological advances will allow us to keep up — from the way we procure and design through to how we construct and deliver.

In our upcoming two-day conference Urbanity ’17, we’ll be delving head-first into the challenges and opportunities impacting the future of the construction industry, convening our industry’s foremost thinkers to help us tackle this year’s theme: the next decade of urban disruption.

Joining the panel discussion moderated by Warren Mcgregor, CEO of prefabAUS is Caitlin Shields, associate and 5D quantity surveyor at Mitchell Brandtman; Chris Stevenson, construction manager at Hutchinsons Builders; Dean Willemsen, chief executive at DNW Group and Dr George Quezada, innovation scientist at Data 61.

The transformation of the construction industry plays a pivotal role in both the environment and the economy. By reducing construction costs, utilising more efficient methods of construction and making buildings more eco-friendly, minor adjustments could boost economic and environmental behaviour on a greater scale.

According to Willemsen, increasing downward pressure on costs, the connectedness of our industry and a changing workforce means that the time to evolve “business as usual” is well and truly here.

“Our challenge – is to evolve in a direction that creates authentic value for our customers, our staff and our supply partners.” 

These are sentiments shared by Stevenson who perceives the future of construction to be in a healthy and comfortable position as we face new challenges.

“To this day the main generators for building design progress have been to meet basic needs (structural, fire, weather protection) – and respond to energy and water resource limitations in availability physically or as a cost.

“In Australia, Part J has been the largest change to the building codes in the last decade. Reducing consumption, improving building services performance and cost – rated by sophisticated tools like greenstar and wells.” Stevenson said.

In the same way other industries have endured considerable change over the last decades, the construction industry must follow suit and promote and embrace innovation.

Quezada believes that amongst the many considerable points a few of the key variables impacting the evolution of the industry are:

  • New delivery models, ecommerce and online platforms for builders / construction companies
  • More transparency and control over an asset’s lifecycle
  • Rise of the ‘disaster recovery market’
  • Better tools to make work safer and more productive
  • Decline of overall workforce, including traditional jobs but shift towards digitally based work (programmers, designers, systems integrators).

With new technologies reaching market maturity such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), advanced building materials, drones, autonomous equipment, 3D scanning and printing and augmented reality, the industry has reached a crossroads. 

For a sector that has the lowest productivity gains of any industry globally, adopting new technologies could boost productivity, streamline management and procedures and enhance safety. Not to mention the opportunities new technologies create to provide more socially-conscious development that meets higher standards around both physical and mental health.

“For too long we’ve created buildings for generic low level needs but we’ve now had the benefit of seeing the impact of this and how it’s just not good enough.

“The future is creating environments that recognise and provide alternative spaces for the people with different needs to optimise performance. We are talking about careful study of people and needs – including psychological barriers to productivity and participation in current environments – anxiety, depression, ASD, creative individuals  all looking for more sensory sensitive interiors.” Stevenson said.


 For more info on Urbanity ’17 head over to our website: www.weareurbanity.com.au

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