It is safe to say that almost everyone took a deep breath Jan. 1, and gave thanks that 2020 came to a close. Perhaps they were even a bit excited for what 2021 would hold. As I write this, almost two months into the new year, I feel like there is still a lot of uncertainty in our industry and the world as a whole.
While it appears as though projects – on the water, wastewater and telecom side – are moving along, many on the oil and gas side are seeing projects slowing or stopped altogether. Some of those on the water and wastewater side are waiting for the other shoe to drop as revenues decrease due to pandemic-related financial shortfalls.
All is not lost. I am no prognosticator, so I turn to experts to help inform my decisions on where the industry is going. That’s how I found myself reviewing FMI’s 2021 Engineering and Construction Industry Overview available at fminet.com/industry-outlooks.
The key takeaways for Canada:
- For 2020, total engineering and construction spending in Canada is expected to be $258 billion. This represents a sharp 6 per cent contraction compared to 2019, or about $15.9 billion in withheld investment.
- For 2021, FMI forecasts total spending to continue to drop.
- Overall, FMI expects total construction spending across Canada to rebound stronger than its counterparts in the United States
- Recovery is anticipated to begin in 2022, with activity climbing back to $273 billion by 2024.
It should be noted that the report offers a 2020-2019 comparison of segment performance and sewage and waste disposal was up 5 per cent or more and communication and water supply construction was stable at 0 to 4 per cent.
My time in the trenchless industry is young, having started at Benjamin Media in 2013, but I’ve been told — and now I am witnessing it firsthand — that our industry, while not necessarily recession proof, fairs well during an economic downturn. Everyone needs water to their residence or business and a capable system to carry away sewage, so this makes sense. These systems are not getting younger and will need to be assessed, maintained, renewed or replaced. In some instances, it might even need to be upgraded.
Our industry can capitalize on this fact by helping system owners connect the right trenchless method to the right project. At the same time, we must be careful to not try and squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Learning what trenchless method is the right fit to which project takes education. Aside from attending university, the best way to educate yourself on the benefits of trenchless methods is to attend conferences or other workshop-style events.
Thanks to the pandemic, many of these events have gone virtual, as is the case of the 20201 Trenchless Technology Road Show, see our preview.
Organizers for the event have planned five days of sessions so the tracks do not overlap. This means that — unlike an in-person event — you can view sessions without having to worry about missing another. There will also be online live networking opportunities for attendees and exhibitors.
Also offering a virtual component is the NASTT 2021 No-Dig Show, which will be live in Orlando, Florida March 28-31. The No-Dig Show on-demand option will be available from April 1 to June 30. More information is available at nodigshow.com/on-demand-registration.
Looking ahead into the summer months, organizers for the UESI Pipelines 2021 Conference, which was slated to be in Calgary in August, made the proactive decision to pivot to a virtual event. The virtual event will take place Aug. 3-6 and details on the event are being finalized. For information on the event, visit pipelinesconference.org.
The goal of the Trenchless Technology brand is to connect the trenchless industry. Doing so takes input from system owners, contractors, engineers, suppliers and manufacturers alike. To that end, I am always available to discuss the industry whether it be via email, a phone call or a video chat. Feel free to reach out to me with news and story ideas or other ways in which we can improve the magazine to better connect the industry.