Canada has a long history on the use of prefabricated construction. Lack of affordable housing, an emphasis on sustainability and green buildings, and supply and demand pressures in construction are among the forces driving change in our built environment. Add in the recent government policies to boost economic recovery such as infrastructure spending and expanded immigration, and the pressure for delivering housing and construction will further escalate.
It is well known that the construction industry is a laggard when it comes to productivity. Globally, the construction sector’s labour productivity growth averaged a meagre 1% per year over the past 20 years compared to almost 3% growth for the total world economy and almost 4% growth in the manufacturing sector. Canada is not immune from these global statistics.
The construction labour pressures are real. Construction employment in this country is expected to rise by nearly 6% over the next decade, but this is in the face of an aging labour force and the need to replace almost 260,000 workers (almost 22% of the current labour force) as they retire over the next decade. This will mean the industry will need to recruit, train, and retain just over 309,000 new workers just to meet demand all while the construction industry struggles with low productivity, lack of attractiveness for a career path for young individuals and new workers, and an unsatisfactory reputation.
As a result, we will not have the labour force to deliver what Canada needs by utilizing traditional construction methods and on-site labour. We must innovate and look to construction technology and modern methods of construction (MMC) if we are to have a chance of solving these crises. Other countries have recognized the need for change and have begun to grow their adoption of offsite construction. The UK, Japan, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands have all embraced prefabrication technology with Japan and Sweden having been at the forefront for the past 20 years.
It is with this context that we examine the status of the prefabrication market in Canada. Through review of published research and interviews with thought leaders and those stakeholders involved with prefabrication, we will explore the current market dynamics, drivers and barriers to adoption that are present for mass timber, panelization, and modular construction. This report will provide recommendations and a challenge to government, stakeholders and industry to commit to prefabrication and stimulate discussion on more effective use of offsite construction.