The construction industry's biggest trade show, Bauma, is coming at a time when the global economy presents a mixed bag. Europe is standing still. North American housing is starting to wake up. China is slowing down. How can contractors plan for the years ahead?

Equipment manufacturers, which have dropped millions of dollars to lug their latest heavy iron to Munich's fairgrounds this coming April, are optimistic that innovation will keep construction moving at a healthy pace. Exhibits will be on display April 15-21 and feature some 3,300 vendors, with hundreds waiting to squeeze in.

Innovations that cut costs, increase efficiency and mitigate environmental hazards are among the key trends to watch at the show, according to vendors ENR spoke with in late January during a two-day preview in Munich. The energy sector also remains hot, says Johann Sailer, managing director of Germany-based hoist manufacturer GEDA and president of the Committee of European Construction Equipment.

"This year, we will be nearly at the revenue before the 2008 downturn," says Sailer, adding that GEDA expects to see 15% annual sales increases in 2013 driven by hoists needed for oil-and-gas and apartment-building projects.

1. Pipeline Push

The environmental, logistical and cost challenges that the growing pipeline network poses are pushing engineers to update construction methods.

The world is thirsty for fuel, and pipelines are advancing at a rate of more than 15,000 miles a year. However, the basic method for burying them has not changed in decades, says tunneling specialist Herrenknecht AG. The German company has come up with an idea to make the job move faster using lighter machinery while invading less of the earth.

The semi-trenchless method can place 32-in. to 60-in.-dia pipe at a rate of about five feet per minute while cutting down right-of-way by 70%. Pipeline projects usually require a swath of land up to 160 ft wide; this system needs only about 33 ft.

Called Pipe Express, it starts with a small tunnel-boring machine to loosen the soil, while a conveyor transports the spoil above ground. At the back of the operation is a jacking system.

A prototype that went to work in the Netherlands last November drilled at a rate of 3 ft a minute, or 1,600 ft a day. However, the company is targeting 3,200 ft a day for its next installations. The device now supports 8-ft depths.