In the Media
April 24, 2023

The Future of Construction Labor Augmentation

Construction Pros Byline by Adam Cisler, Senior Solution Engineer at Avvir

It's in the news everywhere. The construction industry is heading for a glut of open positions and a labor shortage of historic proportions. Project budgets and schedules are already constrained by the need for speed, and this requires the best of the best in labor which comes now at an increasing premium. The dichotomy of labor as the seasoned veterans phase out of their careers and the next generation of techno-infused Tik Tok aspirationals are less inclined to join a seemingly anachronistic field of work has a generational worker decline crisis algorithm running at full speed. Before too long, there will not be enough workers to get the projects built for the still expanding populations of the world, and the cost and time to construct will only continue to rise.

However, what if I told you this is a fallacy or a hysteria similar to the reactions to technology taking jobs as a net negative as in the Luddite fallacy. What if I told you that slowly in the background, new professional methods and technologies have been slowly iterating in the fields and offices of construction projects across the world and that this is not a systemic problem that will come crashing down on us suddenly?

I know from firsthand experience, having seen the shifts and changes underway in the construction industry over the course of the last 18 years. I started in 2005 in the Seattle carpenters’ apprenticeship, learning the “old way” as one of the last of the carpenter apprentice classes before the new technologies really began settling in. Pre iPhone, it was paper drawings and traditional building methods. Straight, plumb, level, square, and most importantly, true. Those were the carpenters' mantras and indicative of the pride and craftsmanship which was imbued upon the apprentice in this field of knowledge passed down from generation to generation. That last part was to be true to your craft, true to your intentions, and to the pride in your work; this will never leave the trades and will not be augmented. There will always be those creative, hard-working men and women who will take up construction tools and, through hard, hands-on work, will look upon their creations with pride. There will just be less sweat equity as we continue to transition away from the back-breaking work of our fathers and take up the mantle of “work smarter, not harder!”

It takes creativity to craft anything, and it takes brilliant and creative folks to work together in the chaotic symphony of construction. From those first days of paper plans, I worked my way into learning surveying and began my fascination with construction technology. Once I learned about lasers, cartesian coordinates and geo-location it unlocked terrific opportunities for me. I returned to college after attaining the journeyman carpenters’ status and learned about CAD and more importantly 3D modeling. At that time, 3D modeling was taking hold of the industry, and it was perfect timing. I was able to take my hands-on background in construction and apply that to construction management and suffuse it with the increasing technological advancements of virtual design and construction.

In what feels like a very short period of time relative to the construction industry, 3D modeling and virtual design and construction took root in the larger contractors' offices and laid the groundwork for the following decade of rapid advancement in construction technology.

This led me to create a construction technology R&D department at one of the most forward-looking large GCs in the Seattle area, which worked in tandem with the VDC department in the exploration of advanced and emerging technologies for construction. This sent me on the path to where I work now, at one of the leading construction risk automation companies in the world. I state this to begin to circle back to my comment about the labor shortage being a catastrophe or a point of great worry. I speak from the experience of learning construction the old way, the hard way. I speak from years of exploring how we can improve across many workflows and processes and from the standpoint of someone who believes they understand where this is leading and is experienced in construction technology and innovation.

I’ve seen technologies being developed in every sector of the construction industry and see these advancements being refined and purpose-built, not to replace labor but to augment the labor force we have. These technologies will support the newer generations of builders, and this is important to attract them to one of the oldest and most rewarding industries available to them. This will create newer, yet unknown, opportunities similar to how the advancements in ride-sharing and task-based applications on the heels of the smartphone explosion gave rise to the gig economy.

Technologies that seemed futuristic just a few years ago and definitely sci-fi almost 20 years ago when I started are already in use on construction sites today:

These are a few of the new and emerging technologies which will affect every aspect of the construction workflow. They are being tested or used daily as we work towards a technology-mediated augmented workforce. The wide breadth and range of the technologies are creating new roles which the newer generation of builders will be adept at and engaged with. The technologies themselves will augment and optimize the existing workforce and elongate their working capacity by offloading repetitive, dangerous and automatable tasks. This will free up the human workforce to engage with the creative aspects of the trades and help continue to hasten the advancements. This will allow the construction industry and professionals to turn a better profit well into the future. After experiencing the rapid pace of change over the last few decades and watching now the even faster advancements in large language models and generative AI, I think that we will see an increase in the speed and proliferation of construction solutions.

We just have to remember that no matter what the technology is that is disrupting the industry and the foundations of the trades, the basics will not change. We will need to build new buildings and repurpose the ones we already have, it will be just a matter of how and if we can maximize profit, while being good stewards to the resources of the earth, reusing what we can while optimizing and protecting the precious human resources which we rely on. Straight, plumb, level, square and true will apply more than ever as we transition into the technology-augmented workforce of the future, allowing the industry and workers to do more with less.

See the posted Construction Pros article at

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