Procore Technologies, Inc., a global construction management software company, has released a construction industry benchmark report, How We Build Now: Technology and industry trends shaping Canadian construction in 2023, examining the general sentiment of the industry, the digital maturity and adoption of construction technologies, as well as challenges and opportunities for businesses.

Nine out of 10 of respondents in Canada express confidence, with 44 per cent being very confident, about industry conditions in the next 12 months, with seven out of 10 construction businesses expecting an increase in the number (70 per cent) or value of projects (72 per cent) in the same timeframe.

A study commissioned by the company reveals that 92 per cent of Canadians agree there is an urgent need to build more or update current infrastructure in Canada over the next two years. This new report shows:

  • In the residential sector, 43 per cent of workers expect to build more housing units in 2023 compared to 2022.
  • More than half of the respondents from B.C. (51 per cent) and Alberta (55 per cent) who work in the residential sector expect to build and deliver fewer housing units in 2023 compared to 2022. This is a stark contrast in comparison to Ontario, where 60 per cent of the respondents expect to build and deliver more housing units in 2023.

Labour shortages and supply chain problems are key concerns

The report finds that respondents consider hiring and retaining skilled labour as one of the top challenges they will face in the next 12 months.

  • 29 per cent report they have been unable to take on more projects in the past three to six months due to labour shortages.
  • 27 per cent agree it is hard for construction to compete with other industries for skilled employees.
  • 27 per cent agree there is too much competition in construction for talent.
  • 32 per cent fear that some of their most experienced people will retire within the next few years and take valuable knowledge with them.

Supply chain problems are impacting respondents to a different extent across the country. Quebec-based respondents report the highest impact, with 41 per cent reporting significant delays due to supply chain issues, compared to 35 per cent of respondents in Ontario, and just a quarter of respondents in B.C.

Digital transformation critical to overcoming roadblocks

Construction firms in Canada understand that digital transformation is required to overcome the labour shortage: 22 per cent of construction businesses consider themselves a digital-first business and 51 per cent are “well on the way” to adopting digital formats and workflows.

Decision makers recognize that technology provides benefits, particularly around resource efficiency through less rework, which ties into sustainability.

The survey shows 27 per cent of the total time spent on a project is spent on rework or rectifying issues. Other findings include:

  • Almost half of all projects go over budget (50 per cent) and over schedule (49 per cent) according to respondents.
  • More than 30 per cent of respondents identify needing new technology to improve operational efficiency and cost controls amid economic volatility.
  • Paper remains a common medium for Canadian construction decision makers. About a quarter of respondents (23 to 28 per cent, depending on the workflow) still use paper-based records or non-digital processes as part of their workflows.

Data as a competitive difference

According to the report, the industry realizes the value of data yet they are not able to leverage it to the fullest. Forty-one per cent of respondents feel they would be able to make better decisions if they had better access to real-time and historic information on project performance.

Respondents believe they could save up to 12 per cent of their total spending on projects if they captured, integrated, and standardized data more efficiently.

The future of construction technology

Respondents rate construction management platforms, clean technologies involving green, sustainable, or innovative materials, and next generation building information modelling (BIM) as the top technologies to drive change in the construction industry in the next three years.

  • More than half of the respondents (56 per cent) are either currently using (29 per cent) or plan to adopt a construction management platform (27 per cent) over the next 12 months.
  • More than six out of 10 (62 per cent) of Canadian organizations are either currently using (26 per cent) or plan to adopt (36 per cent) clean technologies over the next 12 months

Sustainable construction is top of mind

Overall, the industry is keen to adopt more environmentally conscious and sustainable building practices. Approximately half of the respondents (50 per cent) have started to focus on strategies such as prefabrication and improved material selection to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects. Four in 10 are either currently tracking or plan to start tracking (within the next 12 months) carbon emissions on their construction projects.

Workplace diversity and inclusion in construction are critical

Currently, women make up a minority of the construction workforce, particularly in executive roles (24 per cent). Subcontractors have the lowest ratio when it comes to having female members on staff. Only 22 per cent of executive staff at trade contractors are female, compared to around 25 per cent as owners and general contractors.

  • Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) of construction decision makers believe there is a need to improve diversity and inclusion in construction workplaces to attract women, minorities, and historically underrepresented groups.
  • Only 41 per cent of respondents have a diversity and inclusion policy in place, with another 45 per cent planning to implement one in the next 12 months.

Many organizations recognize the need to improve the well-being of their. Four in 10 (41 per cent) report having a wellness and mental health practice or policy in place to reduce the likelihood of burnout; 46 per cent plan to implement a process in the next 12 months.

Despite some fundamental labour challenges, respondents are optimistic about the future. Approximately eight in 10 are confident they will have enough people to meet their organizational needs (79 per cent) and the necessary skills to meet demand (80 per cent) over the next 12 months.

For more information, download the How We Build Now: Technology and industry trends shaping Canadian construction in 2023 report: