A look back on Innovative Construction Trends in 2022

Frank Griffin, PE Texas Principal Engineer, Construction; Envista Forensics
Donna Friis, PE Construction Practice Leader; Envista Forensics

Modular Construction, Mass Timber, and 3D Printed Construction have all been around for at least ten years; but, their market share is expanding at a faster rate than ever before. These building methods and materials have already affected the construction sector, and undoubtedly will have an even larger impact on construction in the years to come. The forecast of such construction technologies, materials, and methods is catching on for a variety of reasons, given the economic state of the globe, sustainability initiatives, the shortage of qualified and skilled labor, as well as supply chain issues globally.

Modular construction technically dates back to England in the 1600s and were also employed through the California Gold Rush. Efficiency was greatly increased with modular construction and this appeal still remains today. Times have changed since modular construction was first introduced, with proponents of modular construction touting reduced project costs, accelerated schedules, consistency, and sustainability. With the global push towards more resilient and sustainable construction, coupled with the emerging supply chain issues, modular construction is gaining traction.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) was first introduced in the early 1990s in Austria and Germany. The engineered timber has been slow to gain wider adoption and use, but recently has seen a significant increase in the construction industry. Experts have predicted the number of mass timber buildings to be completed will continue to rise, with over 24,000 estimated in 2034. In support of the widespread adoption of mass timber, the International Building Code (IBC) expanded its building code provisions in its 2021 release. This is a significant step in expanding mass timber’s influence on the construction industry.

Full scale buildings were completed around 2006 but these prototypes and one-off attempts to 3D print structures (of all sorts) were not quite a true construction methodology. The world’s first 3D printed neighborhood began in Tabasco, Mexico in 2019, with the first “net zero energy” neighborhood started in Southern California in 2021. Lennar and Icon Technologies have partnered to build a 100-home community in Austin, Texas. The global 3D printing market is expected to grow at a 87.3% compound annual growth rate of 87.3 from 2022 to 2031. It is clear that these three construction technologies have already started to make their impact on the construction industry. So how far into the future do we need to go to feel their impact in insurance claims and litigation?

Resource Links:

  • https://www.modular.org/HtmlPage.aspx?name=MA-oi-History-of-Modular
  • https://www.constructiondive.com/news/mass-timber-101-understanding-the-emerging-building-type/443476/
  • https://research.cnr.ncsu.edu/blogs/clt-panels/history-of-cross-laminated-timber/
  • https://bim360resources.autodesk.com/connect-construct/a-history-of-3d-printing-in-construction-what-you-need-to-know
  • https://www.iconbuild.com/updates
  • https://bit.ly/3PRZqmE