- For the first time since July 2017, the number of cranes in North American cities has decreased, according to Rider Levett Bucknall’s newest crane count. The biannual count dropped by 40 cranes, 455 to 415, from Q1 to Q3 2020.
- Toronto still holds the crown for most cranes in a North American city, with 124, towering above all other metropolitan areas recorded. Of the 14 measured cities, only Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto and Washington, D.C., saw an increase in the number of cranes.
- Five of the 14 cities — Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco — experienced what RLB called a “significant decrease,” dropping between 27% and 76%.
Although projects across North America have resumed after being stalled by coronavirus restrictions this spring, RLB’s report said “the pandemic-induced recession is expected to have far-reaching effects.” For example, lenders are less likely to provide support for large developments and projects in significantly impacted sectors like sports and hospitality.
"The next weeks are going to be crucial for the future of the construction industry, especially regarding the provision of another economic support stimulus package from the federal government," Julian Anderson, president of RLB's North American region, told Construction Dive. "If there is [a stimulus package], then I am hopeful that the recession will be shallow; if not, then I am concerned that the construction industry will be in for tough times in the new year."
The RLB data is in line with other recent reports showing that construction starts in some U.S. metro areas have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Starts in the top 20 metropolitan areas posted a decline of 22% through the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period a year ago, according to Dodge Data and Analytics. After a normal start to the year, the drop began in March as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dodge analysis showed that out of the country's major markets, only Phoenix was spared from declines brought on by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Toronto's vastly higher number of cranes likely has to do with high-rise condos, Anderson said. The strength and local importance of the condo market makes Toronto a "localized anomaly" in the North American market, though the trend is the same in other parts of the world, such as Australia, he said.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Healthcare projects experienced an increase of 38% compared with Q1 data.
- Residential projects accounted for 40% of all cranes counted, the most of any sector.
- Mixed-use projects accounted for the second most of any sector at 25%.
- Transportation projects increased by 80% compared with Q1.
- Civil projects dropped by 40%
- Cultural projects saw a 38% decrease.
- Sports projects dropped from seven to zero.