COVID’s Impact on Residential, Nonresidential Development

Construction-management students and alumni are uniquely positioned to enter an evolving industry.

When it comes to new construction and real estate development during the COVID-19 pandemic, discussion centers on not only the supply-and-demand dynamics which created a monumental sellers’ market, but the related ebb-and-flow nature of lumber prices.

These topics have been top of mind for faculty and students within the College of Architecture and the Built Environment’s construction management program.

COVID’s impact on distribution channels, marketplace trends, managing supply and labor shortfalls, and adapting to the changing marketplace has been front-and-center in lesson plans and educational discussions, according to Dr. Gulbin Ozcan-Deniz, program director and associate professor.

It has also provided a unique opportunity for students to apply their knowledge to ever-evolving real-world issues, giving recent graduates a helpful skillset to land their first jobs and equip current students to thrive in their internships.

Students in CABE's construction management program find themselves uniquely positioned to enter the workforce of an evolving industry.

They have looked through the lenses of home buying and selling, and how development—be that new-home construction, or commercial office spaces adapting to a challenging new remote-work dynamic—has evolved.

“All of these topics are applicable to what we have been discussing and teaching in the construction-management program,” Dr. Ozcan-Deniz says. “Rising construction costs, particularly lumber, can be attributed to a number of reasons: COVID, the impact on distribution channels, the lack of manpower and inflated pricing from suppliers. These have been fluctuating since the start of the pandemic, but it signals changes for the industry itself.”

Students hoping to break into the field find themselves in a good spot, as many companies are looking to hire well-trained employees. Notably, says Dr. Ozcan-Deniz, the role of estimator “is a good place for recent graduates to start.”

Prior to the pandemic, non-residential construction projects were on the rise. That shifted to the residential realm as people were forced to work from home.

Real estate and construction
The increase in residential construction and evolution of non-residental adaptation is expected to continue in the future.

Though open floorplans and joint working spaces have taken a hit, demand for reinvented workspaces are expected to rise as the future of work takes form. From a residential parallel, single-family homes are on the rise compared to apartment and condo concepts. (A side effect of that will be heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, companies taking on added importance.)

For consumers, the trends mean delayed shipments and increased overhead costs, particularly in residential cases because of heightened demand for lumber.

“If lumber is in such high demand, you will have to spend more to build a house. That also means people looking to sell their homes will be able to ask for a higher price,” Dr. Ozcan-Deniz says.

“The increase in residential construction will continue for a while. Also, there are some industries where employees cannot work from home. Even with that, there’s a shift,” she continues. “We can do some of these work items remotely, and some will ask ‘why are we paying rent for such a large office space?’ But non-residential development won’t stop. Remote work will continue, but that also means there will be a need for more warehouses to store and ship goods. New versions of office buildings will appear by incorporating the lessons learned for both design and construction during the pandemic.”

We’ve gotten a good amount of requests from our industry partners to hire students and recent alumni for entry level positions. –Dr. Gulbin Ozcan-Deniz

These are the sorts of lessons being examined both in construction management classes, and trainings and workshops through construction-related organizations such as the General Building Contractors Association (GBCA)  and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Despite the tumultuous nature of the market, it’s a great time to get into the field for students looking to land on full-time construction management jobs and internships.

“As for Jefferson’s construction management program, we’ve gotten a good amount of requests from our industry partners to hire students and recent alumni for entry level positions,” she says. “The job market has been good with construction going up, and specialty contractors are looking for fresh grads to fill roles including estimators, schedulers, project engineers, and assistant project managers, and even more experienced alumni to fill in project manager, senior project manager and virtual design and construction (VDC) manager positions. There are a lot of opportunities out there that we’re glad to prepare our students for.”

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