Confidence in Canadian construction

Tower cranes at work on a construction site in Toronto, Ontario, canada

A majority of Canadian construction firms are optimistic about market conditions, according to a survey by Procore

According to a new survey by Procore Technologies, nine out of 10 construction firms in Canada express confidence in industry conditions in the next 12 months. 

To compile its industry benchmark report How We Build Now: Technology and industry trends shaping Canadian construction in 2023, Procore partnered with Censuswide to survey 502 construction industry stakeholders in Canada, including owners, general contractors and subcontractors. 

The report examines the general sentiment of the industry, the digital maturity and adoption of construction technologies, as well as the challenges and opportunities that businesses face.

“We are encouraged to see the Canadian construction industry’s leaders express optimism as they look to consolidate and build on post-pandemic progress,” said Nolan Frazier, Procore’s Regional Sales Director for Canada.

While 90 per cent of respondents express confidence, 44 per cent are “very confident” about industry conditions over the next 12 months. As well, about 71 per cent of construction firms expect an increase in the number or value of projects over the same time frame. 

Residential construction

The survey also found 43 per cent of companies that work in the residential sector expect to build more housing units in 2023 compared to 2022. In Ontario, 60 per cent of companies surveyed expect to build and deliver more housing this year. However, more than half of respondents from British Columbia (51 per cent) and Alberta (55 per cent) who work in the residential sector expect to build and deliver fewer housing units in 2023.

Key concerns

Labour shortages and supply chain issues remain as key concerns for Canada’s construction sector. The report found that nearly one-third of construction companies have been unable to take on new projects in the past three to six months due to a lack of available labour. As well, 32 per cent fear their most experienced staff will retire in the next few years.

Despite labour challenges, respondents are optimistic about the future. About eight in 10 companies are confident they will have enough people to meet their organizational needs and the necessary skills to meet demand over the next 12 months.   

Across Canada, supply chain issues are impacting respondents to a varying extent. In Québec, respondents reported the highest impact, with 41 per cent reporting significant delays due to supply chain issues, compared to 35 per cent of respondents from Ontario and just a quarter of respondents in B.C.

Digital transformation 

Construction firms in Canada understand that a digital transformation is required to overcome the labour shortage with 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. 

Construction decision makers recognize that technology is about to improve resource efficiency through less rework. The survey shows that about 27 per cent of the total time spent on a project is spent on rework or rectifying issues. The report also highlights: 

Almost half of all projects go over budget and over schedule 

More than 30 per cent of respondents identify the need for new technology to improve operational efficiency and cost controls 

Paper remains a common medium for Canadian construction decision makers. About a quarter of respondents still use paper-based records or non-digital processes as part of their workflow 

The drive for data

According to the report, the industry realizes the value of data. However, the full value of data is not yet leveraged to its potential. The report explains 41 per cent of respondents feel they would make better decisions if they had better access to real-time and historic information on project performance. As well, 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.

Respondents report spending 17 per cent of their time on a typical project searching for data or information, and one in five say much of their data exists in spreadsheets or on paper and they do not leverage data to drive business outcomes.

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Half of the respondents say they have a foundation in place to begin learning from their data but don’t necessarily have a dedicated data team in place. 

“In particular, this survey shows half of the respondents see a need to embrace greater collaboration in projects among stakeholders; half of them are also well on their way in their digital transformation journey,” Frazier said. “Some also recognize the opportunity to leverage the massive amounts of data generated through the use of technology to make more data-driven decisions across every phase of the construction life cycle. Ultimately, smarter construction empowers construction businesses to have better control of their projects and deliver higher quality builds.”   

The future of construction tech

Respondents rate construction management platforms, clean technologies involving green, sustainable or innovative materials, and next generation BIM as the top technologies that will drive change in the next three years. 

More than 50 per cent of companies surveyed are currently using or plan to adopt a construction management platform within the next year. 

The industry is also moving towards clean technologies, with 62 per cent of respondents either moving towards or currently using clean tech. 

Overall, the industry is keen to adopt more environmentally conscious and sustainable building practices. About half of the respondents have started to focus on strategies like 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.