Project managers and construction contractors in Australia and elsewhere face opportunities and challenges throughout 2022, a leader in construction technology says.

During a recent interview, Tom Karemacher, VP of APAC at construction management software provider Procore, told Sourceable that several trends will impact construction project management in the coming year.

Overall, Karemacher said the industry is optimistic despite labour shortages, supply disruption and material price hikes.

This is being driven by a robust pipeline of work.

“There is a spirit of optimism even though there are some headwinds,” Karemacher said.

“I think the optimism is coming from the fact that there is plenty of work available.

“Overall, the industry is healthy.

Karemacher’s comments come as the sector faces challenges and opportunities.

Globally, there are opportunities associated with strong work pipelines but challenges in delivering on these in terms of supply disruptions and shortages of skilled labour and materials.

These difficulties were already evident prior to COVID, but have intensified on account of coronavirus disruptions.

With record levels of activity in detached home building and a massive pipeline of road and rail projects, Australia is not immune. As a result, there are many projects which need to be delivered but lack the resources that are needed to be fast tracked.

As this is happening, the industry faces greater expectation regarding building quality and compliance.

This is especially the case in New South Wales, where Building Commissioner David Chandler is spearheading implementation of a six-pillar plan to improve building quality and outcomes.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing expectations to respond to climate/environment challenges and to improve safety performance.

The comments also follow Procore’s initial public offering, through which the company raised $US634.5 million last May.

To meet aforementioned challenges, Karemacher says several measures are needed.

Especially if they are operating in New South Wales, project managers and construction contractors should understand both the recently introduced Design and Building Practitioners Act (DBP Act) and the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement) Act (RAB Act).

In particular, it is necessary to ensure that data is being captured in such a manner which is sufficient to meet the requirements of these laws. This includes submittal of important documents on the New South Wales Planning Portal.

To do this, it will be necessary to ensure not only that end-users capture and enter all of the necessary data but also that they understand the importance of doing so.

As well as aiding compliance, capturing such data will facilitate easier identification and management of important project risks. This includes looking at building elements such as cladding, waterproofing and fire safety and determining the degree of risk involved, inspections which are necessary and the level of risk associated with any defects which are identified during inspections.

Whilst the new laws apply only in New South Wales, Karemacher says practitioners in other states should take note as similar approaches may be adopted elsewhere.

On a related note, project managers will need to look to technology to play a more significant role in data management and project decision making. This includes not only capturing relevant data but also ensuring that systems deliver information in a format which is clear, structured and supportive of decision making. Doing this will enable easy identification of particular projects within a portfolio which are likely to present challenges or specific subcontractors with whom problems are recurring.

On this note, Karemacher says vendors such as Procore will need to support their clients in how systems are set up and managed.

On sustainability, Karemacher says there will be growing recognition of how this is linked not only to corporate and environmental responsibility but also to building quality, productivity, return on investment and safety.

For example, where effective quality measures are adopted to avoid defects, this reduces the amount of rework which is needed and the volume of waste which is generated.

On safety, Karemacher says that this needs to be an ongoing priority which involves all stakeholders throughout planning, design and construction. Efforts need to not only protect physical safety but also to be supportive of positive mental health.

(Whilst the safety performance of Australia’s construction sector has improved over the past two decades, data from Safe Work Australia indicates that the number of injury and fatality rates have flatlined in recent years.

According to the data, the number of incidents which occurred on construction sites for which serious claims for workers compensation were lodged increased from 8.1 per million hours worked in 2016/17 to 8.5 per million hours worked in 2019/20. Meanwhile, the fatality rate increased from 2.7 per 100,000 workers in calendar 2017 until 3.1 per 100,000 hours worked in 2020.

Whilst this may partially reflect a shift in focus away from large resource projects toward residential work, it indicates that important injury and fatality data in the sector have not improved.)

Asked how construction management technology will evolve in 2022 to help address client challenges, Karemacher says this will happen in three areas.

First, there will be a focus on partnerships and enabling integration software integration.

Speaking particularly of Procore, he says the company’s platform currently supports integration of more than 300 different applications which were developed by external vendors. These include vendors such as 1Breadcrumb (safety and compliance workflow software), Hammertech (health, safety, environment and quality field software), Sign on Site (site induction software) among many more.

This is important, Karemacher says, as it enables users to benefit from innovations not only within Procore itself but also from other vendors who focus on specific matters such as site inductions or safe work method statements.

Also critical will be partnerships with change management advisory firms such as Knight Solutions, who assist clients with the technology implementation process and set up. Such providers assist clients to more easily set up their software in such a way which delivers maximum value with clear, structured and meaningful outputs.

Finally, vendors will need to engage with industry and regulators to improve ongoing understanding about what is needed from their platforms and how greater value can be added.

Asked specifically about Procore, Karemacher says four focus areas will be evident following the firm’s IPO.

These are:

  • Greater investment and expansion into the international markets. In the Asia Pacific, this will include a new office in South East Asia in addition to the company’s existing presence in Australia and New Zealand.
  • A greater number of localised initiatives to ensure that the platform responds to the needs of individual markets and jurisdictions.
  • Launch of a new document control solution. This will build on and evolve the existing function to be more collaborative and to facilitate various stakeholders tracking project progress from multiple devices.
  • Continued evolution of the company’s Action Plans toolset which enables cross team collaboration on quality assurance processes. Whilst the solution has been initially geared toward detailed plans for inspections to ensure that work meets necessary standards, it will evolve further into a broader workflow toolset which can be run across any important processes which are repeatable and upon which project teams need to track progress and report.
  • Ongoing evolution of analytics capabilities to ensure that project managers, construction managers and project owners have a concise view of their project portfolio with dashboards that enable them to identify and drill down upon areas that need attention.

Speaking of the optimism referred to above, Karemacher says this is partly driven by industry resilience which had been demonstrated during the pandemic.

He says this has been a strong theme during surveys which Procore has conducted to gauge industry sentiment and trends.

“There is definitely a theme of optimism and a theme of resilience (in the surveys),” Karemacher said.

“Industry is very good at adapting, dealing with change, dealing with those headwinds and continuing to move forward.”

“That has shone through in the past couple of years.”