• AWCI Centennial - The Future

    The Future: To Infinity and Beyond

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AWCI's Centennial: The Future

Members of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry were asked to opine on what the future holds for the wall and ceiling industry. More specifically, members were asked two questions—one about how the industry will change in the next 10 years and in the next 100 years.

National Gypsum
Service to Industry Defines AWCI and National Gypsum

The last five years of the 1920s got the original National Gypsum Company off to a “roaring” start. Founded in 1925, the company introduced a stronger, less brittle gypsum board. To prove these claims, sales representatives demonstrated the board to dealers by placing the product on sawhorses and stacking window sash weights on it. The board flexed but did not break.

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Every dealer who agreed to carry the new board received a certificate printed on gold-colored paper offering a $5,000 bond to anyone who could disprove National Gypsum’s claims. No bonds were ever forfeited, and dealers began calling the new board, Gold Bond. Gold Bond became the company’s brand and a symbol of our quality which continues today.

Innovation from the very beginning also established the company’s leadership position in the industry, most recently underscored with its PURPLE® family of high-performance moisture-, mold- and mildew- resistant drywall products.

National Gypsum has built its operations on customer relationships and service. That service extends to all our partners — the design community, contractors, suppliers and professional organizations, including AWCI.

For years, the company has participated in conferences and trade shows and has supported AWCI through sponsorships and committee work. Today, our associates are active participants and hold key positions on various committees.

National Gypsum congratulates AWCI and its members on its 100th anniversary and looks forward to continuing its support as AWCI embarks on another century of extraordinary service to the industry.

Tom Nelson
Chairman, President & CEO

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All of the responses are included in AWCI’s commemorative centennial book, “Celebrating 100 Years of Industry Growth with the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.” The book includes answers from AWCI member contractors, suppliers, distributors and chapters. Due to space considerations, here we present only the responses provided by AWCI member contractors.

AWCI Centennial Book

AWCI members were asked what the future holds for the industry. Specifically, how will the industry change in the next 10 years and in the next 100?

View their complete answers in the Centennial Book’s digital edition.

How Will the Industry Change in the Next 10 Years?

FL Crane & Sons has experienced firsthand the rapid evolvement of the construction industry. The company was founded when mainstream drywall use was in its infancy in our region. While technology continues to advance, we have to ask the question, “How will the industry change in the next 10 years in response to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges?” This is nearly impossible to answer with any accuracy. No one would have thought in 1947 that our take-offs would be completed with the aid of computer software, and that sets of paper plans are almost nonexistent in our company. We picture a much different and much more capable industry within the next 10 years. The use of effective technology will likely be the most visible change in our industry. Tools such as the Robotic Total Station will continue to develop and will provide faster and more accurate layouts. We will be better equipped and capable of tracking analytics, such as production and estimate tracking. We will likely also see the use of pre-fabrication and automation on every job site in the future. Although these are not nearly all the changes we can expect, even just these few have already drastically changed the industry as we know it today.

—FL Crane & Sons


We will continue to see advancements in tools and technology. Our new tools will help increase productivity; they will be lighter than the tools we use today. Tools will become more comfortable to use. Wall and ceiling contractors will pay more for tools to help increase productivity of a smaller workforce and to help reduce injures form repetitious activities.

—Mulcahy Nickolaus

The Digital Economy as Change Agent

Most of the responses describe the evolving role technology will play in the construction industry. The application of evolving technology is seen as a solution to the growing shortage of skill labored. The prognosticators do not see the labor problem easing. Instead, they foretell the growing use of offsite prefabrication, and 24/7 project delivery teams communications will lead to increased productivity and safety. The worker skill sets will evolve from stick-built construction with current tools to prefabricated components with some degree of onsite robotic installation. No one is projecting the end of construction workers as they now contribute, but they will become more skilled in the application of technology assists. Productivity will increase with real-time team digital communications with intelligent/intuitive data exchange. There will be less and less direct human communication. Projects will be managed more remotely with webcams, drones and proximity systems. No prediction about the future would be complete without references to the great potential of 3-D printing.

Let’s start with the bid documents and estimating. First, these documents will continue to be distributed electronically, but improved cloud technology will allow faster feedback and delivery options. Budgets and project schedules will continue to be completed in a more collaborative environment with design and contractors working hand-in-hand.

Next, there will be a continued push to use pre-manufactured products and systems. These also will improve the construction schedules and quality control as well as improve labor shortages that continue in the industry.

Product development will center on increasing efficiency, limiting manpower, improving safety as well as the environment as a whole.

With the specialized and technical nature of the industry and the evolving relationship between design and contract partners, more projects will be completed using a different contractual relationship, such as design build, guaranteed maximum price or integrated project delivery contracts.

—Performance Contracting Inc.


The next 10 years in the construction industry in New York will continue to embrace and implement technology, especially communication/collaboration platforms seeking greater productivity and efficiency while trying to comply with increased safety mandates in a robust economic climate. New product innovation and revolution in space planning will continue as manufacturers and architects and designers continue to gain competitive advantage and service their client’s needs and desires.



How Will the Industry Change in the Next 100 Years?

We believe we will move toward efficiencies in all buildings from the size of the building to the carbon footprints and energy use. Our housing will be smaller and more efficient in the use of energy and how it interacts with the workplace. We will have robots doing most of the hard labor utilizing factories with all construction components being prefabricated for delivery to projects. We believe that our buildings will be completely multi-purpose with the capacity to grow a food source, process waste products for energy, have a work area that eliminates unnecessary commutes and energy consumption. Buildings will be self-sufficient—processing waste into energy and water, allowing for green roofs, green walls and products creating oxygen that are a blend of natural and manufactured.

And, lest I forget, we will be teleported almost everywhere eliminating much of the transportation as we know today.

—Baker Triangle


How exciting to think about the world of construction in 2118! We have no doubt that a lot of the construction labor we have today will be replaced by robotics of some type. Automation and prefabrication will be commonplace compared to what we are doing today. Construction materials will be produced much faster due to automation in manufacturing and the use of rapidly renewable materials. All projects will be built in a virtual format, then prefabricated and mostly assembled offsite. Then the materials and prefab assemblies will be delivered by self-driving trucks to the job site where they will be unloaded, stocked and assembled by robots. Humans and robots will work together to physically build the project. 3-D printing will do most of the onsite work for us. On new projects, many items will be 3-D printed right on the job site while smaller, new projects will simply be 3-D printed. 3-D printing will be adapted to provide most things we need, including clothing and food. 3-D printers will be like the microwave of the prior century, where every house will have one because it is an essential part of everyday life.

—Heartland Acoustics & Interiors, Inc.

The Construction Industry Meets The Jetsons

The contributors are very optimistic about the future and the possibilities—from colonizing other planets with ultralight building materials to more down-to-earth thoughts. Many projections are extension of the logical growth of the 10-year outlooks—increasing use of technology and supplementing work by humans with onsite robotics. Some feel traditional construction materials will still be used such as wet wall products, which have been around for thousands of years. Others believe there will be more innovation in products—more than innovation in assembly. Materials will be customer designed for each project with advanced computer software, materials will have zero carbon footprint, they will continue to be lighter, and they will have embedded technology that controls energy distribution, water distribution and waste management. Complete prefabricated units will be built in roving manufacturing plants and assembled robotically. There will be less work travel because virtual reality and virtual team rooms will reduce the need to travel to physical meetings.

It is very difficult to think about how our business will be operating in 100 years. We are a stucco and plastering company that was founded by my wife’s grandfather in 1936. Imagine that—a business that will be almost 200 years old by the time you read this! Ironically, the plaster and stucco process has not changed a great deal during the last 100 years. The materials have certainly been upgraded, but the application methods are still today very similar. We do not expect this to change a great deal. However, we do expect the change will come from the way we purchase our material. I expect that you will be buying direct from the manufacturer, and the distributor will have fallen by the wayside. We see this as a cost-cutting measure for the manufacturers and contractors, and we sense this will happen with new and improved shipping methods and inventory control. We also see prefabrication playing a role in the demise of the distributor; you will have figured out a way to purchase material direct, manufacture the prefabrication units and ship direct to project sites.

Of course we are certain communication will have changed also. Although we have very little verbal communication today, it will be even less in the future. We want to leave you with this thought: The construction industry has been built around relationships that still exist today. Our hope for you is that this has not been lost in all the technology that you have available now. It’s not always about the money. Take pride in the quality of scopes you perform. Take pride in your company; many sacrifices have been made in order for you to be there. Lastly, give your customer what you would expect to get.

—Liddle Brothers Contractors, Inc.


  • Drywall and metal studs are no longer common products.
  • Robot workforce.
  • Vertical integration of general contractor, specialty contractor and supply chain.
  • Construction will take place on Earth’s moon, Mars and our outer solar system.
  • Typical living units will be mid-rise and high-rise buildings.
  • Ceilings and walls will be able to change color, shape and texture.
  • Products and materials will be able to be replicated at any time at a moment’s notice.

—South Valley Drywall