- Impact of technology on the construction industry.
- Ways in which tech is shaping the industry.
- Trends in the industry.
Technological evolution is happening at a rapid pace these days and the construction industry is also seeing a significant development in its technology.
The advancements not only in building equipment but also in digital technologies like analytical and collaboration tools.
Construction projects involve the commitment of significant resources of time and money and manpower.
It has been observed that around 35% of construction project expenses comprise material waste and remedial work. That’s why efficiency in the construction process is so important for the success of any project.
These new technologies help in reducing waste by streamlining construction project management processes.
Construction technologies are being developed rapidly. Technologies that seemed like science fiction ten or twenty years ago exist now and are being used across the world.
A report from James Long LaSalle, Inc showed that venture capital firms invested $1.05 billion in global contech startups during the first half of 2018.
Impact of technology on the construction industry
Technology has had an impact on the construction industry in significant ways. Some of the major areas where technology is impacting and improving the construction industry include:
Many startups are providing software and mobile solutions to help in managing different aspects of a construction project.
These include tools that assist in bidding, estimating, scheduling, project management, field reporting, communication, and collaboration, etc. These are of immense help for improving productivity.
These cloud-based tools allow teams to collect data in real-time and communicate and share it with other members of the team.
The help they provide in documentation can save hundreds of man-hours and improve productivity and reduce expenses.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Technologies like Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning are being used by construction firms using data to make better decisions. It helps them in increasing the productivity of men by reducing the time spent moving around the job-site to perform tasks- and equipment.
The use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning also helps in improving job site safety, and therefore reduces risks.
With Artificial Intelligence and machine learning systems, future outcomes on projects can be predicted which can greatly help in gaining competitive advantage.
Safety & Training
Technological solutions available in the industry nowadays are making it easier to properly train and monitor workers, which helps in preventing accidents and reducing the rate of serious injuries and deaths.
The use of virtual reality (VR) has a strong impact on the safety aspect of the construction. Using VR, workers can be exposed to hazardous and difficult working environments like confined spaces or heights in a safe, and controlled environment.
Thereby eliminating the risks of accidents, while providing the necessary training, which can range from operating heavy machinery like cranes and excavators to doing complex and potentially dangerous work like welding.
Augmented reality (AR) is another technology that can significantly improve safety on the construction site. AR can be deployed in many ways on a construction site.
Wearables are gadgets that can be worn by workers on the construction site. They are used to monitor workers and the site environment to make it safer for them to work.
Wearable tech can easily be embedded into their personal protective equipment (PPE) like Safety hats, gloves, safety vests and work boots, which the workers necessarily wear on construction sites.
Site sensors are used to monitor various things like temperature, noise levels, dust particulates, and volatile organic compounds to help limit exposure to workers.
Drones are widely being used at various job sites across the world in several ways. They can be used for site inspection and surveying. They can also be used to monitor the site environment day to ensure everyone is working safely.
Monitoring the progress of the project also becomes very easy with the use of drones.
Drones are also being used to do jobs that can be dangerous for humans like inspecting bridges and other confined and hard to reach places.
Since robots can work tirelessly on repetitive tasks with the efficiency that is unmatched by any human worker, they are being used to do some repetitive jobs like laying bricks and tying rebar at some construction sites.
Humans are still needed to perform some of the work like setting up the robots and getting them started and overseeing them but the advantages of increased efficiency and reduction in construction time far outweigh the costs.
Autonomous Heavy Equipment
Heavy equipment like excavators, driverless dozers, cranes, dump trucks, are being used autonomously to perform various jobs. They use technology similar to self-driving cars, which helps in reducing labor costs.
Adopting the latest technology like drones, robots, and autonomous machines will help in incorporating the workforce that will enter the industry in a decade or so as they would have the technical know-how so operating these machines won’t be an issue for them.
Collaboration and communication
The use of the latest mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in the construction industry has a huge impact on the productivity of the project. Mobile applications have been developed specifically for helping in many ways at a construction site like collaborating, communicating with team members, which may be working at different places on the site.
Real-time communication helps in getting the issues resolved easily and quickly that saves time and prevents costly errors.
Construction firms are starting to realize the benefits of adopting the latest technology and are putting significant resources in research and development in hopes of reaping the rewards with reduced wastage, increased productivity, better project management, and execution, and reducing the completion time for their projects, which would inevitably result in higher profit margins.
These cutting-edge technologies have changed the landscape and will define how the industry will operate in the future.
Ways in which tech is shaping the industry.
Recent technological breakthroughs have significantly changed the way things worked in the construction industry. The continuous development in the construction technology in heavy equipment as well as in software and digital solutions is shaping the industry in many ways. Some of the areas in which technology is transforming the industry are:
It is the method of fabricating or making components of a structure in a location other than the site where they are to be installed.
The site where these components are made might be a factory, which is better suited for the job. The components then are transported to the final site. Once they arrive on the job site, they are installed and the work is carried out in the manner planned.
Prefabrication is not a new technology, but it is relatively new in the construction industry and the benefits are massive. Some of the benefits of using prefabricated components include:
- Cost-Effectiveness – Producing components in a factory is cheaper than building them on a construction site which has limited as factories are designed to build things faster and cheaper.
- Reduction in completion time– Prefabricating can reduce the time required to complete a structure by as much as 50%, reducing the overall completion time of the project.
- Better Quality Control –The controlled environment of a factory offers better quality control, hence reducing the resources required in project quality control.
This technology is still in its infancy but it is shaping the construction landscape significantly. Major technological advancements have been made in this technology now.
In 2017, the construction of two bridges was aided by using 3D printing.
3D printing can help in reducing waste because only the material necessary for the construction of the structure is used. Apart from that, it allows freedom in designing and complex architectural designs – that are too expensive or labor-intensive -can be created with ease.
One limitation, however, is that this technology, being in its inception, is very expensive, but the costs of implementing may go down as new startups emerge with better solutions.
Green & Innovative Materials
Green and new composite materials are being used to create environmentally friendly structures.
Recyclable materials are used to reduce the impact of construction activities by reducing the amount of energy used in manufacturing traditional materials.
The use of efficient construction processes, technologies, and sustainable materials in construction helps in reducing the footprint and also the costs involved.
Some of the materials used these days are
- Bricks made of cigarette butts.
- Stronger Wood –Boiling wood in chemicals like sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite makes it far more durable and stronger than natural wood thus reducing the quantity of wood required.
- Bamboo Flooring – Bamboo is a fast-growing grass and it is used to produce durable flooring.
These and other innovative materials like magnetostrictive, piezoelectric, and electrochromic materials and electrorheological fluids, smart building materials such as smart concrete, shape-shifting metals, and self-heating coatings can improve performance and functionality.
Cloud-based tools can help in eliminating the tedious tasks of reporting and documentation and save time and paper.
It can also help in collaboration. Office workers, managers, and field people can complete projects quickly and efficiently.
A humanoid robot (HRP-5P) has been developed by Japanese researchers, which is capable of performing basic physical tasks. In addition, they have also developed other robots that perform tasks of semi-automated masons and also tie rebar. And they can do these tasks in half the time.
Even though these are not capable of doing complex tasks that humans can do but the technology is evolving.
Big Data & Analytics
Big Data involves the collection and analysis of vast quantities of data. It is used in making decisions like bidding.
Technology is shaping and transforming the modern construction industry and in the process helping companies boost productivity and efficiency.
Trends and developments in the industry.
The construction industry is constantly changing, some of the trends and developments in the industry are:
- Use of 3D modeling in designing buildings and structures.
- Green Technology in Construction.- As discussed earlier it is a trend that is likely going to get much attention in the future as the environmental impact of the construction activities is too big to ignore now.
- Increase in Modular and prefabricated Construction Projects.
- Decreased Labor Force- Use of robots and automated equipment is likely going to result in a decrease in labor, particularly unskilled labor.
- Better Safety Equipment.
- Sustainability- The need for building sustainable structures is imminent and sustainable construction Is likely going to be a trend in the future.
- Robotics– A report by the World Economic Forum predicted that 2020 could be the year of the robot in the construction industry. Robotics can be the next big thing in the construction industry.
- Use of exoskeletons– Exoskeletons can help workers carry more loads and reduce construction time.
- Use of Construction software for collaboration and communication.
In conclusion, the construction industry is in a transition and only time will tell how things change.
However, modern technologies in the industry will likely be adopted, especially by big construction companies.
Explorer, writter and a teacher.