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Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

Here is the Abstract and some excerpts of Dr Ali Alraouf’s examining the Discourse on Knowledge Cities as published by Academia. It is of being or planned to being Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines.

The world’s growing cities are a critical fact of the 21st Century and represent one of the greatest challenges to the future. By the year 2050 cities with populations over three million will be more than double: from 70 today to over 150. When knowledge is perhaps the most important factor in the future of city’s economy, there is a growing interest in the concept of the “knowledge city”. Hence, what are the qualities of future cities becomes a crucial question. Leif Edvinsson defines Knowledge City as “a city that purposefully designed to encourage the nurturing of knowledge”.

Knowledge city is not just a city. It is a growing space of exchange and optimism in which each and every one can devote himself to personal and collective projects and aspirations in a climate of dynamism, harmony, and creativity.  There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. The list includes the following cities, for example: Barcelona, Melbourne, Delft, and Palmerston North. On the contrary, Arabcities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities.

I’ll argue in this paper that the concept of ‘Knowledge Cities ‘is rooted in the urban, cultural structure of traditional Arab cities. Therefore, an attempt to foster this concept in today’s Arab cities would not be possible by building isolated technological statement scattered around the city. Alternatively, the rise of the network society, global networks, linked cities, and existence of smart communities should construct the basis for shaping Arab Knowledge Cities.  In addition, the paper will introduce the concept of “Urban Creativity Engines”, and examples of various types will be presented. I’ll argue that this is a more comprehensive concept for constructing and evaluating knowledge cities. Although this concept and its terminology is new, the paper will prove that there are many historical examples, regionally and internationally, of “knowledge cities” and “Innovation/Creativity Engines

Castells (1996 & 1998) has argued that a new type of society is rising in our contemporary cities due to the consequences of the information revolution. From a sociological point of view, Sassen (2000) has argued that cities in the information age should be reperceived as nodes of an immense network of commercial and political transactions.

The Emerging Knowledge Cities: International Attempts

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines
Smart Village project in Cairo – Egypt, is it really smart?

There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities, or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. These cutting edge cities are aiming to win competitive and cooperative advantage by pioneering a new environment and knowledge ecology for their citizens. The list includes some of these cities according to the Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO) classifications: Melbourne, Australia – its strategic plan for 2010 emphasize the path towards enhancing its position as a knowledge city.  Delft, the Netherlands – the city clustered its knowledge intensive projects included in the “delft knowledge city” initiative in 5 themes: soil & water, information technology, innovative transport systems, environmental technologies.  Barcelona, Spain – the activity of Barcelona Forum 2004, which manifests the cultural perspective which Barcelona adopted as a main theme for its knowledge sensitivedevelopment. Accordingly, the city was chosen to host the founding meeting of the distinctive Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO).  Palmerston North, New Zealand – this relatively small city puts education in the heart of its “knowledge city” manifest.  Monterrey City, Mexico – the new governor set the goal of becoming a knowledge city among his top 5 priorities.

Knowledge Cities/Zones: Regional Attempts

In an attempt to actualize the high-performance knowledge city different initiatives took place in the Middle Eastern cities. Experiences and lessons learned from real-world knowledge zone initiatives.  On the contrary of the strategic planning of European and American cities, Arab cities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept of claiming its new identity as knowledge cities. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and newly lunched project Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities. 

Read more in the Academia‘s

Ali A. Raouf, PhD, M. Arch., B. Sc is an Egyptian architect based in Bahrain and interested in research related to architectural and environmental design.

Ali A. Raouf, PhD, M. Arch., B. Sc is an Egyptian architect based in Bahrain and interested in research related to architectural and environmental design.


Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

The Buildings Research Establishment (BRE) has been a trailblazer in its field for a century. Much of the language it uses to describe what it does today is very familiar to chartered accountants. It is in this article mainly about how exporting building-research excellence from the UK could positively affect sustainability throughout the world.

The picture above is for illustration purpose and is of Digital twins in the building industry.

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

23 February 2021

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK
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ICAEW member Andrew Herbert is the Interim Chief Financial Officer at BRE Group Limited. He talks very much in terms of measures, standards and accountability, and says sustainability, safety, security and quality will combine to create a roadmap for building design and construction of the future.

“The organisation was set up by the UK Government after WW1 to look at the built environment and how it could be improved,” says Herbert. “That’s an ongoing journey.”

Perhaps one of the most famous milestones for the Buildings Research Establishment (BRE) was the work undertaken at the Hertfordshire site as part of Operation Chastise, or the Dambusters’ Raid. What BRE brought to the equation was a demonstration of how modelling advances technical understanding of a building and its properties. BRE continues to use models, both physical and software-based, to solve complex construction challenges. Today, that means wind tunnel testing and testing the spread of fire to make sure that building design, and construction, are based on science, and that they harness technology.

“We burn things, we break them, or we blow them up,” says Herbert. “On the site, we do a lot of testing of products related to the built environment. We might do fire safety testing on equipment, we might test to see if the lining to a tunnel does what it’s supposed to do, and also with beams, railways sleepers, and so on.”

On the security front, there is a fair bit of blowing up. “We do a lot of security work testing to make sure that building security works in a whole range of areas, both for UK companies but also internationally,” he adds.

The burning, breaking and blowing up is about half the work undertaken at BRE. The other half is about the impact that buildings have on the environment. “That means setting standards to ensure that when people build, they do what they say they will do, but the standards also to address the impact of the construction sector on the environment,” he says.

BREEAM is a tool designed by BRE that auditors can use to assess the environmental impact of a building. It has become a trusted mark of sustainability for buildings and communities in 77 countries around the world. “We also do lots of consultancy work for governments, not just the UK Government,” says Herbert.

“Another of our products – LPCB – is a standard developed by the insurance industry that we now own and run. This is a standard that makes sure things like suppression systems for fire safety do what they are supposed to do,” says Herbert. “The LPCB standard is actually enshrined in regulations across the globe. For example, a high-rise block built in the Middle East would have to adhere to the LPCB standard.”

BRE teams operate around the world, explaining to regulators the benefit of the BRE standards and tools. “Anyone can convince a building company that their product will achieve a certain result. How do you actually know that is true – particularly with safety products because we hope they don’t have to be used. Nobody wants the fire hose to come out or the sprinkler system to come on because you hope there’s not going to be a fire. But how do you know whether what’s been installed will perform on the day? The only way to rely on it is to have a set of agreed, independent, standards that everybody follows.” Apart from testing products, BRE regularly audits the processes of the factories in which these products are manufactured to make sure they are consistent and create a repeatable product.

BRE itself applies accountancy thinking to its processes. “We operate a risk-based approach ourselves at BRE. Each of our units has risk registers. The internal audit team takes the risk register information when they are preparing their internal audit plans, identifies the high-risk areas and spends more time in that area than in the low-risk areas. My head of risk and internal audit is also a qualified accountant,” says Herbert.

So where will the challenges for BRE lie given that the world is at a crossroads in so many respects, and the built environment will be an outward manifestation of the decisions governments and supranational organisations take now?

“Much of the work BRE has been doing over the last few years is with industry, trying to come up with a better way of building, often referred to as modern methods of construction – or offsite manufacturing methods. We secured a grant for just over £17m to work out what modern methods of construction means and how to get the industry to move in that direction,” says Herbert. “The building industry is very traditional. We still use a small brick, and we lay them, and that isn’t necessarily the most efficient way of building or delivering consistency.”

And traditional methods struggle to deliver that other necessity for change – data. Modern methods have a digital plan, so you always know where all the services are located, the types of materials used, their age and provenance. This makes maintenance so much easier and helps with testing in terms of safety and energy performance.

“Our hopes and expectations are that we will have that digital footprint which will give us a record of a building, that we can actually build more in a shorter space of time. That would help this new wave of construction,” says Herbert.

“There are many major infrastructure projects happening around the world, not just in the UK. The investment other countries are making is phenomenal. And certainly, BRE wants to be part of that process – to make sure that we set the right standards, that we can give people confidence that what’s being built adheres to those standards, and assists with the move to net zero.”

He points out that the UK offers the world really strong technical skills and scientific knowledge. “It would be great to disseminate that information in a much broader way. And we do. But there’s always more we can do,” says Herbert. “We want to be seen as an organisation that works across the globe, improving standards as we go.”

Construction Global Market Report 2021

Construction Global Market Report 2021

Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report “Construction Global Market Report 2021: COVID 19 Impact and Recovery to 2030”.

Construction Global Market Report 2021: COVID 19 Impact and Recovery to 2030

Major companies in the construction market include China State Construction Engineering Co Ltd; China Railway Group Ltd; China Railway Construction Corporation Limited; China Communications Construction Group Ltd and Vinci SA.

The picture above is for illustration purpose and is of Dubai who recently requested a postponment of 1 year of its Expo 2020 for reasons that are not far from those elaborated on here.

New York, Feb. 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The global construction market is expected to grow from $11491.42 billion in 2020 to $12526.4 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9%. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. The market is expected to reach $16614.18 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 7%.

The construction market consists of sales of construction services and related goods by entities (organizations, sole traders and partnerships) that construct buildings or engineering projects (e.g., highways and utility systems). Establishments that prepare sites for new construction and those that subdivide land for sale as building sites are included in this market. The construction market includes new work, additions, alterations, maintenance, and repairs. The construction market is segmented into buildings construction; heavy and civil engineering construction; specialty trade contractors and land planning and development.

Asia Pacific was the largest region in the global construction market, accounting for 42% of the market in 2020. North America was the second largest region accounting for 26% of the global construction market. Africa was the smallest region in the global construction market.

Building construction companies are increasingly using green construction techniques to build energy efficient buildings and reduce construction costs. Green construction refers to the practice of using sustainable building materials and construction processes to create energy-efficient buildings with minimal environmental impact. According to World Green Building Trends Survey 2015, about 51% of construction firms in the UK were involved in green construction projects. Certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) help construction companies to develop high-performance, sustainable residential and commercial buildings, and also offer a variety of benefits, from tax deductions to marketing opportunities. Sustainable construction materials such as natural paints and steel beams made from recycled material are being widely used in the UK. Other green construction techniques such as cross-ventilation for more natural environment, green construction software such as Construction Suite to ensure green compliance, and Green Globes management tool are also being used in the construction industry. For instance, some, Major companies using green construction techniques include Turner Construction Co, Clark Group, AECOM, Hensel Phelps and Holder Construction.

Construction costs have increased steadily due to rising material costs in the historic period. Companies in the industry experienced subdued growth in their profits with rising prices of materials such as crude oil, a key component of asphalt increased by 49%, softwood lumber, a major component used for buildings construction, which rose by 23% during historic period. In 2018, cement prices rose 2.5% and plumbing and fixtures increased by 3% in the US. High material prices adversely affected the construction market during historic period.

The construction market growth in the historic period was mainly driven by the increase in construction activity in emerging markets. Emerging markets which registered robust construction activity included China, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. For instance, China’s construction market grew from $1,653 billion in 2016 to $2,279 billion in 2019. This rapid growth in construction activity contributed to the growth of the construction market.


Read the full report: https://www.reportlinker.com/p06018955/?utm_source=GNW

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Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint

Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint

Sam Bowman back in December 2020 wrote this article on Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint whereby he demonstrates that all construction-related matters do not have to have any bearing on the planet.


Credit: Andrea Piacquadio,. Pexels.com

It seems as though the more we examine our day-to-day actions, the clearer the extent of our environmental damage becomes. Almost every aspect of the way we live our lives has the potential to have a destructive influence. This is why it is so important that we take time to understand how we can more effectively coexist with the ecosystem. Sustainability sits at the heart of this idea.

Many of us are making changes to the ways we work, eat, and travel to have more positive influences on our planet. One of the key ways we can make a long-term difference is in our approach to construction. Whether building a new home is a professional or personal project, there are adjustments we can make in design, materials, and internal systems. These can both minimize the initial use of resources, and make the building itself a more environmentally friendly home to live in. Studies have even found that green buildings can be instrumental in minimizing pollution’s effect on mortality rates and thus reduce pressure on public health services.

So, what do these sustainable construction elements look like? How does the way we design and build our homes have a tangible effect on our planet? The truth is, there are a lot of areas we can improve on. But we’re going to take a closer look at a few key areas of focus when it comes to sustainable construction.

Energy

Our homes are the primary culprits of excessive energy consumption. This is not only important from a general sustainability and cost-saving perspective. One recent study has reported that residential energy consumption is responsible for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Therefore those constructing new homes must take measures that both improve energy efficiency and utilize less harmful forms of energy production.

Some key approaches in this area include:

  • This is one of the primary areas construction professionals focus on when building energy-efficient homes. Taking the time, and a little investment to obtain insulation materials and apply them from the outset of construction can make a huge difference to home sustainability. This is because an airtight home prevents thermal bridging, which is heat escaping through the walls. However, using a large quantity of insulating material isn’t especially sustainable. It’s best to obtain insulation with high levels of thermal heat resistance — known as an R-rating — but lower quantities.
  • Solar Panels. Choosing to go solar at the construction stage is a more sustainable approach for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the ultimate reduction in fossil fuel usage. However, it also reduces unnecessary utilization of construction materials, and the resources used to manufacture them — panels can be arranged to effectively replace these areas of the building. For those on a budget, installing solar panels as part of initial construction can reduce costs in other areas such as roofing materials, and solar water heating installation.
  • Heating and Cooling. One of the areas of most energy expenditure in American homes is heating and cooling. Aside from the aforementioned insulation, choosing the right heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) approach can have a huge impact on how sustainable a home is. This involves understanding what system is most appropriate for the size and shape of the space being constructed. A geothermal heat pump system may well be the most efficient option in colder climates and larger constructions. However, in small to medium spaces, mini-split heating and cooling appliances are less of a drain on energy, and only need to be utilized for short periods to heat or cool individual rooms.

Materials

The real estate industry is finding that there’s a growing demand for homes with sustainable features. However, we should take the approach that sustainability should be a consideration from the outset. It’s not just an additional feature, but an integral part of the home itself. Material choices play an important role here.

From the perspective of the body of the building, concrete continues to be a popular choice. However, it is also one of the least sustainable materials — its production is responsible for around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Alternatives are becoming increasingly accessible. Ferrock, for example, is an iron-based compound that incorporates recycled waste materials, resulting in it being a carbon-negative construction option. Even in circumstances where a concrete outer shell is needed, its use can still be reduced. Tightly packed straw bales can allow for thinner concrete outer walls and even minimal use of plaster and gypsum on the inside of the home.

Material considerations are integral to making how we live with the building more sustainable, too. Thermal mass — a material’s ability to absorb and retain heat — is particularly important for walls and foundations. Understanding these properties help us to make intelligent choices about the most sustainable material for the location of the building. High thermal mass elements like brick and stone allow for those homes in cooler climates to absorb more heat from the sun and spread it throughout the home. While low thermal mass items such as steel and wood can be more appropriate for high-temperature areas where coolness needs to be maintained. This is conducive to long term sustainability, as it is more reliant upon the renewable properties of the natural environment rather than putting pressure on temperature controls that consume large amounts of energy and emit waste.

Architecture

The design of the building itself can have an impact on its sustainability. Architects are increasingly expected to devise solutions that support environmentally friendly construction, enable sustainable occupation, and reduce the negative impact on the spaces these homes inhabit.

One such approach is vertical design. In the U.S., we have vast geography to enjoy, and as such we have developed a tradition of creating large, sprawling homes that extend outward. However, with populations on the rise, particularly in cities, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Increased demand for space means that architects are straying away from looking outward, and looking upward instead. Homes with more floors also have the benefit of being more energy efficient; they have fewer exposed walls, and heat rising from the bottom of the home helps to heat the whole house.

Architects are also considering how to cut down on unnecessary material expenditure and construction emissions. A popular solution to this is learning how we can adapt to what already exists. Cargotecture uses old shipping containers as the basis for construction. This provides a modular approach to architectural design, giving scope for tailoring, and even later additions. It also tends to have a shorter construction process, reducing waste during building. That said, the tiny home movement has also become a popular choice to minimize the use of construction materials. These houses, generally less than 500 square feet, also limit their impact on the environment. As detailed in the linked resource, they also tend to produce 14 times less carbon than the average home.

Conclusion

We have a responsibility to consider how all elements of our lives can be made more sustainable. As such, whenever we build a new home we must put time into making choices that minimize our negative impact on the planet in both the short and long term. The materials, energy systems, and architectural styles that are conducive to sustainability are becoming more accessible. We, therefore, have fewer excuses not to make our environmental and social responsibilities forefront in our construction decisions.

6 trends that will influence construction this year

6 trends that will influence construction this year

Welcome to the year that follows the most turbulent year that all countries and sectors of their socio-economic went through. Here is the 2021 outlook: 6 trends that will influence construction this year.

Several factors – some positive, some less so – are poised to shape the industry this year.

By Joe Bousquin

4 January 2021

6 trends that will influence construction this year
Retrieved from Jeremy Gilbert/Flickr.

Here’s some perspective to ring in the new year: “2020 bad, 2021 good.”

That’s the takeaway from construction observers looking ahead at the turn of the year, even as the bleakness of the pandemic surge and record deaths in the U.S. continue to weigh on their minds.

“My expectation is that the U.S. economy will shrink between 4% and 5% in 2020,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist at the Associated Builders and Contractors during a year-end webinar, where he also made the good-bad prognostication quoted above. “But we’re going to come back hard in 2021.”

There are reasons for hope, such as a second coronavirus vaccine being authorized for emergency use and shipped in recent weeks and the $900 billion relief package recently signed by President Trump. But the drivers of optimism among those who track construction are also more specific to the space, while encompassing fundamental shifts in markets and processes that will lead to more broad-based development activity in 2021.

Just listen to Tom Stringer, managing director for site selection and business incentives at professional services firm BDO, whose job is to find suitable development sites for corporate clients who want to build new facilities and offices.

“Site selection tends to be a leading indicator in the economy that businesses are starting to think about capital investments, and our phones have been ringing,” Stringer said. “So if your readers are the folks on the contracting side, well, they’re about to get busy, too.”

Stringer isn’t alone. According to a post-election survey of engineering and construction executives conducted by Deloitte, 68% of respondents characterized the business outlook for the industry as somewhat or very positive.

“We do see pent-up demand sitting out there as we end out 2020 and come into 2021,” said Michelle Meisels, Deloitte’s engineering and construction practice leader.  

That widespread optimism among construction executives is grounded in the reality of several factors – some positive, some less so – that are poised to shape construction in 2021. Here are six of the top factors that will influence the industry in the new year:

Subs on the skids

The coming months and beyond could be particularly hard on subcontractors, and the contractors who will need them once projects pick up again.

“The market is just getting much more competitive for subcontractors, and therefore, sadly, some will go out of business, especially the smaller guys,” Meisels said. “General contractors may need to self-perform a lot of work they would normally sub out, and build those capabilities in house.”

That’s the road Michael Bordes, president of New York City general contractor AA Jedson Company, is already on.

He said during the pandemic, he’s had to pivot from the restaurants and gyms he built previously to focus on affordable housing projects that were still considered essential. But he’s also flipping the script and limiting his risk from subs by handling more work in house.

“We’re self-performing most of the construction tasks ourselves because the subcontractors that are out there are having a very hard time,” said Bordes, noting that affording insurance is one issue subs are struggling with. “The people we’re dealing with may not be transparent about saying we’re having trouble with assurances or we’re short on labor. If you keep it on your payroll, you at least have 95% control.”

Staying safe

Meanwhile, Bordes said he’s focused on keeping his workers safe and healthy by combating complacency and continually reinforcing mitigation strategies, which has become more challenging as the pandemic has worn on. And while he hopes his workers will sign up to get the vaccine, he says he’s not planning to force them to do so if they have reservations about taking it. 

“We know masks work. We know sanitizing on a regular basis, washing your hands and not touching your face works to not get this disease,” Bordes said. “But while we would suggest to employees that it’s important to get the vaccine, we don’t feel we can force them. Some are still cautious about what the side effects might be in the future.”

While the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, as well as a panel of construction lawyers, recently determined that employers could require workers to be vaccinated with certain exceptions, the implications of forcing workers who object to get inoculated over potential safety concerns is sure to be a challenge for contractors in 2021. 

Hiring for the surge to come

With subs being squeezed, contractors will also surely be challenged to hire enough workers, even in house, when the pent-up demand of mothballed projects are put back into the marketplace once the pandemic is brought under control. At the same time, observers say companies aren’t doing so yet, since many new projects still aren’t coming to market, given the explosion of coronavirus cases going into 2021.

“The story there is that projects are still getting pushed to the right, so companies are not hiring unless they have a job to put someone on,” said Patrick Jones, who leads the architecture, engineering and construction division at Raleigh, North Carolina-based recruiting firm Orion Talent. “They’re not just out there building bench strength.”

He says while experienced superintendents and estimators are still in high demand, companies don’t necessarily want to hire individuals they would have to train and invest in while jobs are still scarce. “We see that hiring for what I would call the entry level roles has slowed,” Jones said.

At the same time, nonresidential construction has only regained 58% of the jobs it lost since the beginning of the pandemicaccording to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. In November, he noted, the industry’s unemployment rate was 7.3%, not seasonally adjusted, with 732,000 former construction workers idled. 

On its surface, that may indicate contractors will have

an easier time hiring coming out of the pandemic. But that’s still not likely to be the case, according to Basu.

During his economic forecast in December, Basu asked his audience of more than 1,000 participants how many intended to increase staffing in the coming year, with more than half responding affirmatively. That’s in line with the ABC’s Construction Confidence Index from November, which indicated a majority of firms intended to increase staffing in the next six months.

Given the demand for projects, along with many firms trying to hire workers whenever jobs are finally released in 2021, contractors may experience labor challenges all over again.

“I would predict that many of you will continue to suffer difficulty finding truly motivated and skilled workers,” Basu told his contractor audience. “One thing that has happened in past recessions is that many construction workers who lost their jobs left the construction industry altogether.”

Infrastructure on the agenda

On the bright side, there should be some increased infrastructure and building projects on the horizon.

This is especially true with President-elect Joe Biden pushing his Build Back Better initiative, which is envisioned as a broad spending program that could benefit contractors on multiple fronts.

“He’s looking for a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure bill that includes a broad definition of infrastructure, whether it’s surface transportation, aviation, waterfront, Army Corps, civil works, flood control mitigation projects, clean drinking water, renewable energy projects, K-12 public school construction or broadband,” said Jimmy Christianson, vice president of government relations at AGC. “There’s a lot in there.”

Meisels also sees opportunity for contractors under that kind of program in 2021.

“Infrastructure and public utility projects could possibly see a sharp rebound,” Meisels said. “If the administration comes through and directs funds toward that, you’d see projects that are driven by this government spending.”

Office, manufacturing, distribution projects ahead

Part of that jump-start may already be happening on the private side. Take the activity Stringer, the site selection executive, has been seeing lately.

His clients are calling and expressing interest in expanding offices in tertiary markets away from where their headquarters are in densely populated cities. But they’re also looking to build manufacturing and distribution facilities, to help alleviate some of the vulnerabilities the pandemic brought to light in the just-in-time supply chain. 

“The supply chain issues that were rampant during the start of the crisis really presented significant business opportunities for the unsexy old ways of things like inventory and building warehouses,” Stringer said. “Hopefully, we’ll never be without toilet paper again.”

Indeed, the explosion of e-commerce has caused a boom in the sector. “The most obvious change of the year has been robust development of warehouse and distribution facilities to meet the sudden rise in e-commerce,” said Robert Smietana, CEO at Chicago-based industrial developer and consultant HSA Commercial Real Estate.

For example, CRG, the real estate development and investment arm of Chicago-based Clayco, plans to identify industrial development and acquisition opportunities in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio. 

“It’s no secret that e-commerce has been a tailwind to industrial real estate over the last cycle,” said Kevin Scott, vice president of investments and developments for CRG. “But e-commerce users still represent just a fragment of the overall industrial user base. Specialized uses such as cold storage and data centers continue to grow, and we are excited about opportunities there.”

Renewed focus on the environment

Data center construction is one of two top-growth industries for Jones, the construction recruiter, to find specialty contractors. The other? Utility-scale solar.

“Big players in utility-scale solar have been on a growth pattern, and are really kind of hitting their stride in this next year,” Jones said.  “Obviously, the new administration would be beneficial to that as well.”

For example, Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Moss Construction highlights several of the utility-scale solar installations it has worked on in recent years in its portfolio, and promotes on its website that it is “helping our nation move towards a cleaner energy future.”

That growth has come as renewable energy is becoming cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, according to sister publication Utility Dive. 

But that opportunity for contractors also illustrates the widening awareness of a broader range of companies focusing on the environment.

For example, contractor giants AECOM and Fluor said on recent conference calls they were experiencing increased interest in their environmental services practices from clients, while Jacobs announced it achieved its net zero carbon goal for its operations and business travel in 2020, with aspirations to be carbon negative by 2030. Balfour Beatty and Lendlease also recently announced carbon-cutting initiatives

“The construction industry is under tremendous pressure to improve their energy use,” said Meisels. “But I also think that construction companies that build capabilities to support green building standards and sustainable efforts by their clients are going to be positioned to thrive. You can’t not address this if you want to be a leader in this space.”

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