Construction Industry Forecast For 2021

There are four key factors to keep in mind when thinking about the future of the construction industry

By John Hakel

It has become almost a cliché that for most, 2020 cannot end soon enough. COVID-19 was a gut punch with shutdowns, layoffs and many cancelling their long-held holiday plans.  

That certainly includes the construction industry. On the one hand, construction has luckily been deemed “essential” in California by Governor Gavin Newsom. On the other hand, it is apparent that business as usual in the construction industry will not be enough. 

So how do we at the Rebuild SoCal Partnership (RSCP) see 2021 shaping up? Here are a few key elements to look out for.

Changes due to COVID-19 – Safety was a key issue in the construction industry during 2020 and that is very unlikely to change as we head into 2021. Construction sites have endured many changes since the onset of COVID-19 including mandatory masks for all workers along with social distancing and contactless inspections and zoom meetings among many other changes. 

In addition, the CDC has issued the following additional guidelines which will remain in effect into 2021 and the foreseeable future. 

Potential sources of exposure include having close contact with a coworker or member of the public who is ill with COVID-19 and touching your nose, mouth or eyes after touching surfaces contaminated with the virus or handling items that others infected with COVID-19 have touched.

Future Federal Stimulus – There seems to be a consensus when it comes to President-elect Joe Biden and that is a federal infrastructure bill. Such an infrastructure bill would be a very welcome Christmas gift and a much-needed bipartisan moment as we begin 2021. 

In terms of funding a long-term infrastructure plan, many believe there will need to be a combination of revenue streams to provide sustainable funding. Currently revenues for the trust fund primarily come from federal taxes on gasoline and diesel — but it is important to remember that federal fuel tax has not been raised since 1993.

This would certainly create many jobs in the construction industry as well as keep up with much needed repairs to our aging roads and bridges which would not only improve safety but cut down on traffic congestion. 

Here in Southern California, Caltrans has taken advantage of less traffic during the pandemic to get ahead of schedule on much needed construction projects such as the Purple Line expansion which will get everything completed well ahead of schedule. This trend is highly likely to continue into 2021.

High Speed Rail – Another likely outcome of a Biden administration is the renewal of talks for high-speed rail, especially in Southern California. This is a priority for Joe Biden, who is a veteran train commuter. 

Repurposing existing buildings – A trend that seems to be developing in construction that should continue into 2021 is repurposing and retrofitting existing buildings rather than start from scratch. This includes removing asbestos and updating existing retail and dining space no longer needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be a niche going at a pace not previously seen in the construction industry.

The Rebuild SoCal Partnership, (RSCP) is an organization that represents 2,750 construction firms and more than 90,000 union workers in all 12 Southern California counties. Based in Anaheim, California – RSCP is dedicated to working with elected officials and educating the public on the continued need for essential infrastructure funding including airports, bridges, ports, rail, roads and water.  

Rebuild SoCal Partnership has recently launched the Rebuild SoCal Zone Podcast which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other platforms where podcasts are available.

John Hakel is the Executive Director at Rebuild SoCal Partnership. Rebuild SoCal Partnership is an organization that lobbies for responsible infrastructure spending. To learn more about the Rebuild SoCal Partnership please visit www.RebuildSoCal.org

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