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IFS’s Global Industry Director for the construction sector, Kenny Ingram, predicts how key trends will be impacting the industry during 2016.

Within five years we will see an increase in graduates in the construction sector by at least 20%

It’s easy to think that as an industry, construction hasn’t changed much over the years as we continue to build using bricks and mortar, steel and smelting. Yet it is one of the most innovative sectors, leading the way in the adoption of technology to drive new ways of designing and building to change the landscapes and infrastructures of cities and communities worldwide. We now hear terms like Building Information Modeling (BIM), the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and digitization mentioned in the same breath as construction, and this focus on innovation is attracting an increasing number of high-caliber graduates. Those with an interest in making their mark on next-generation housing and digital cities are choosing the construction sector as their career choice.

Take the UK as an example. It has an aging construction workforce (like many other countries) with 25 percent over 50 years of age and 15 percent over 60. Coupled with an expected investment of £620bn into the infrastructure and property development of London over the next 15 years, it is in dire need of bright young graduates. The engineering, construction and infrastructure industry accounts for over 6 percent of the world’s largest economies from a GDP perspective and therefore must not be underestimated as a great career opportunity for young people. They have the opportunity to be involved in the development of some incredibly impressive assets, including airports, high-speed railways, tunnels under the ocean, and sports stadiums. We need to show graduates that it’s hugely rewarding to see one of these assets being completed as a direct impact of their efforts.

Within 20 years 50 percent of all buildings will use 3D printing technology

With housing shortages around the world and huge increases in the population being predicted, technology can play a huge role in new ways to approach the construction of housing. Using technology like 3D printing, houses can be built at a fraction of the cost, showing that you cannot solve the housing problem by simply deploying traditional building practices. In one fell swoop, you can reduce the cost of building and speed up the rate at which houses are completed.

For example, in China, they produced 10 3D-printed buildings in 24 hours. With this rate of production, it’s impossible to overlook the impact it could have on housing shortages and increasing populations. Other areas of technology such as BIM, in particular, can facilitate greater use of 3D printing in construction. At the heart of BIM is a CAD-driven, 3D design model that enables you to visualize assets in three dimensions. Many working in construction see BIM as a way to deliver projects faster and at a lower cost, similar expectations to those connected with 3D printing. As with 3D printing, the crucial thing here is to demonstrate the capabilities of BIM to encourage the construction sector’s uptake of the technology.

Telecommuting will increase by at least 100 percent in the next 10 years and by 300 percent in the next 20 years

In every large city around the world you have people living on the periphery who spend many hours commuting to and from the metropolis, and in some cases, this isn’t sustainable or healthy. As more and more young people come into the construction sector, particularly high-caliber graduates, we will start to see a trend toward more telecommuting and flexible working. This will have a direct impact on the need for more infrastructure outside cities, for example, more hospitals and schools, and further advances to water and electricity in the areas.

As mobility increases in the workplace, it will have a further impact on the need to create housing outside of cities. In turn, this will change the landscape of cities and suburbs. Population growth and changing working patterns result in a need for technology to drive fundamental change. For example, Skype has made video conferencing possible for meetings with colleagues working remotely. In the next few years, we expect to see many innovations that support telecommuting and mobile working. The next generation of managers will have been brought up with technology their entire lives, and will see the working environment in a new and different light to the generation above them.

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