— Five predictions for 2012:
1. The construction economy will improve by 10% from 2011.
2. Tablet computers will replace laptops in construction field offices
3. BIM software will continue its growth
4. The stock market will hit a new historical high
5. President Obama will be reelected.
1. Call me Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, or blame my irrepressible optimism, but I see signs of the construction economy creaking slowly towards growth in the coming year. Without vast improvement in any one area, I see slight easing in lending, resulting in the private money faucet cranked ever so slightly more open, and government spending continuing at close to its current rate, (but falling slightly). Housing will sputter along with slight increases as well. This confluence of factors will precipitate a modest but clear improvement in the construction economy in 2012.
2. Netbooks are dead, laptops are cumbersome, and ultralight notebooks are too flimsy for the jobsite. That leaves tablet computers standing alone as the growth engine for data collection in the field for time-keeping, daily reports, and yes, even scheduling. Apps are being written daily for our industry. Oracle | Primavera plans an iPad app for its P6 flagship product later this year, and Internet tools are becoming more commonplace for project management software. Despite this trend, many apps are only half-baked, and frustrations over lack of printing and platform fragmentation still abound. It won’t all happen this year, but we’ll turn around in five years and look back and see this as the year the growth started snowballing toward critical mass.
3. BIM is imperfect and spotty in its market penetration, but it has to continue to grow, because it’s better. We’re still fragmented and inconsistent with standards and brands, but the amount of time and money that can be saved is with effective implementation is too compelling to diminish. It’s got to keep growing.
4. This was the easiest: There’s not enough bad news to scare everyone away, real estate values are coming back, but slowly, job growth is growing “steady by jerks” as we say in the dry shack, and credit card debt is falling. So there’s nowhere else to put saved money other than the Market.
5. This one was the toughest, and the one almost too close to call. But as my old Alaskan logging buddy would remind me, “God hates a coward,” so here goes: Six months ago, it was obvious that the economy would guarantee a four year presidency for Mr. Obama, That was before the Republican Circus began touring the country, much to the chagrin of anyone seeking positive change in the status quo of our nation’s government. I remember ten years ago or so when the Democratic Party didn’t have a credible spokesman, didn’t know what it stood for, and was a boat without a rudder. History has repeated itself, and it’s the GOP that finds itself adrift with the pilot house unmanned. Barry Cassell is president of Cassell Consulting, a construction technology training and consulting company based in Vancouver, Washington, working in the Western US, the Pacific Rim, and Europe.