Utah’s construction industry has felt the sting of the coronavirus pandemic, which has fundamentally altered job sites, but a bigger challenge looms.
Experts predict a lengthy downturn in demand for new buildings as the state’s economy sags. Construction activity is down severely compared to last year. Utah had the benefit of going into the outbreak with both its residential and commercial real estate markets thriving, though it is unclear how long that cushion will last, even as the economy starts to reopen. Construction has been deemed an essential business in state and county health orders. That means work has continued, but it has also required changes at building sites, including daily employee questionnaires, segregated chemical toilets, and new hand-washing stations. Utah’s residential sector — long its largest construction market — has been increasing continuously year-on-year. However, we are now predicting that this will drop off over the next few years to pre-2016 levels. Across all sectors, we are forecasting an average 10% drop in construction volume. Despite this, the major renovation at SLC Airport has used the significant reduction in traffic to their advantage and actually increased construction activity to the point where they have reduced their construction finish by two years and potentially saved $300 million.