- Software provider Autodesk released its construction outlook report for 2021 this week, which shows that real-time bidding activity surpassed pre-pandemic levels and reached an all-time high in January 2021, based on data aggregated from its BuildingConnected platform.
- Bidding activity dropped immediately following the start of the pandemic roughly a year ago, and slowly began to return to normal in the fall, the report found. Compared to a three-month pre-pandemic average, total bidding activity was up 36% in January on the BuildingConnected platform.
- The rate of new projects added to the Autodesk platform has remained constant throughout the pandemic, the report shows, which could indicate the recent increase activity is related to project restarts and not new-project bids.
Autodesk's “Construction Outlook 2021: Risks & Opportunities” report used anonymized — not connected to user information — internal data from Autodesk’s platform, external data the provider gathered and insight from industry economists. The report looks at industry trends across five areas: growth, health and safety, labor, supply chain and design.
More than 1 million owners, general contractors, construction managers and subcontractors use BuildingConnected to answer or request bids and more than 5 million bid invites are sent out every month on the platform, giving the software company unique insights into the state of the industry. The numbers suggest that delayed or rescheduled projects may be coming back online, said construction economist Ed Zarenski in the release.
“Increased levels of bidding activity, paired with the data that project volume has remained consistent, signals the industry is getting back to work — and doing so quickly,” he said.
Additional findings from the report include:
- New starts will be up in 2021 but backlog could slide in 2022. New starts this year are forecast to increase 6%, but the starting backlog forecast for 2022 is projected to decrease 5%.
- Nonresidential construction spending will drop in 2021, but healthcare and commercial retail are projected to rebound in 2022. Autodesk’s report projects nonresidential building spending to decrease by 20% by October compared to February 2020. In 2022, spending on healthcare and commercial/retail is expected to grow by 3% and 6%, respectively.
- Transportation has been less impacted. The report forecasts 10% growth in transportation spending in 2021, due in part to strength in backlog from several multibillion dollar starts over the past few years. The Biden administration’s focus on national transportation infrastructure could also lead to long-term positive impacts.
- Additional gains will be made in other areas of nonbuilding infrastructure. Certain segments of the nonbuilding infrastructure will see an increase in spend including sewer and water (4%) and highways and bridges (2%).
- Total public spending in 2021 is projected to be $384 billion, up 8.5% from 2020. Growth in the residential sector heavily contributes to the gains expected in total spending in 2021. Starting backlog growth is also expected to pick up next year, particularly for the commercial, healthcare and transportation sectors.