It is predicted that there will be a pilot shortage. Over the next two decades, 87 new pilots will need to be trained every day to be ready to fly a commercial airliner in order to meet our insatiable demand to travel by air. Industry leaders are finding ways to attract today’s youth to a career in aviation, but given the time and cost it takes to become a pilot, the solution must be multi-faceted. Many ideas are being implemented including the use of autonomous aircraft, shortening the pilot training time frame and by the opening of aviation education facilities, such as the Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight Campus in Centennial, Colorado and Metro States Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science.

Like the aviation industry, labor shortages continue to be a significant challenge in the construction market. Owners are not willing to simply accept higher costs and longer construction time frames which puts more pressure on the existing industry professionals.  Industry leaders are working diligently to address the labor shortage issue from multiple angles. Businesses supported apprenticeship programs are increasing and even celebrity Mike Rowe is proclaiming the many opportunities that exist for those who can handle a dirty job ( We are also seeing Applied Building Sciences adapt to meet demands through the development of prefabrication, innovative materials, and new design systems. Lastly we are seeing the baby boomer generation work later into their careers, construction teams increase their use of pull planning and overtime labor as part of the solution.

There is an opportunity for the owner and design team to help mitigate the labor shortage pain. While I am not implying that we are entering into a Buckminster Fuller Renaissance of geometric prefabrication, I do believe that the building design can part of the labor shortage solution.  Consider some of the following options an owner has when working through the early phases with their team of designers and contractors.

1.      Design more simply. As an architect I, too, am drawn to the latest technology that produces complex designs but caution needs to be exercised. While the technology exists to more easily create these unique designs they also need to be produced and installed. When a design uses repetitive elements the benefits of economy of scale can be realized.

2.      Value through coordination. By developing a BIM model that truly reduces conflict and that can be shared with fabrication teams, work can be done more efficiently.

3.      Reduce trade overlap. Pull planning goes only so far in sequencing subcontractors. If the architecture team remains cognizant of designing to allow for subs to mobilize once and complete 95% of their work, it will contribute to easing the labor shortage.

4.      Use standard products. This is not to say that new products shouldn’t be used, but let’s face it, if the subcontractor has handled the material before it reduces the learning curve.

5.      Understand the materials market. This is an ever-changing market with looming trade wars, natural disasters, and supply chain disruptions. Consider working with suppliers based in your local market as a solution. Contracting locally for fabricated pre-cast, mechanical work, and masonry are ways to ensure materials are available when needed.

As the owner you play an integral role in managing project risk. This begins when assembling your design and construction team. Do not limit conversation to programming and design; delve into the details of the execution and risk management plans. Choose the strongest team and discuss strategies at length before simply starting on a design that won’t meet the goals of the project.

Paul Wember, President