Top 13 Construction Technology Trends
Business leaders must put technology at the heart of their business or risk compromising their potential for success. Technology affects every aspect of a business from the finance department, customer service, end-user functions, marketing and more. They all need to use devices to communicate, work and collaborate, use apps, and store data and the construction industry is no different. The construction industry is adopting innovative technology with the aim to increase productivity and efficiency and deliver construction projects more effectively.
Various construction techniques can perform different specialised tasks. Robots are now laying bricks, architects are using computer science to design buildings which have spurred some exciting developments in technology for the building industry.
Over the years Construction companies have built stronger, better and more efficient structures. With an impressive advance on the types of buildings, we produce such as the development of cofferdams and caissons and majestic underwater structures. The introduction of these innovations has reshaped the industry by improving collaboration meaning workers can tackle more complex projects with ease.
What is construction technology?
Construction Technology is a collection of tools that can enhance productivity during the construction phase. It is the “collection of innovative tools, machinery, modifications, software etc. used during the construction phase of a project that enables advancement in field construction methods, including semi-automated and automated construction equipment.”(1)
Adopting cutting edge technology can boost production efficiency by 30-45%
There is also preconstruction technology which includes an online big board, bid management apps, and digital take-off solutions.
Today, new technology in construction are being developed at a breakneck pace. Technology such as autonomous heavy equipment, drones, robots, augmented and virtual reality and 3D printed buildings are being deployed to job sites all over the world. Whilst construction companies have traditionally underinvested, we are seeing an increase in spending of over 30% since 2017.
Here are the main areas technology is making an impact and improving the productivity of the construction industry:
Construction productivity has remained flat for decades according to McKinsey & Company research. Every site is different, presenting its own challenges and risks making it difficult to streamline processes and increase productivity like industries such as manufacturing.
1. Software & Mobile Apps
From preconstruction to scheduling, project management and field reporting to managing back-office tasks there is now a software solution to help construction companies streamline processes and improve productivity.
New cloud-based solutions make it easy for businesses to collaborate from managing and controlling documents to assessing risks. Mobile technology allows real time data collection and transmission between the site and project managers.
More specifically Data Collection apps are helping the construction industry gather faster, more accurate and higher quality data from the job site. Implementing this type of technology into your current processes is simple and requires a smaller upfront investment while still providing major benefits, including:
- Significant time savings & reduced data entry errors
- Enhanced workflows
- Improved safety compliance
- Instant reporting
2. Offsite Building Services
One of the more recent innovations in the last decade is the development of modular construction market. This is where buildings with repetitive floor plans such as hospitals, apartments, prisons, schools and hotels are built offsite in a controlled environment. This achieves efficiencies achieved in the manufacturing industry, by reducing waste and achieving productivity optimisation with the workers.
Prefabricated construction building components are also built offsite and then assembled or installed once they have been transported to the construction site. Prefabricated building components cover everything from framing, internal and external wall panels, door and window assembly, floors etc… which are panels including all of the plumbing, wiring and other functionality packaged in. For building contractors, this is a game changer as it is much faster than building from scratch, not to mention more eco-friendly.
3. AI & Machine Learning
Construction firms are becoming more and more reliant on Artificial Intelligence. The applications of AI and machine learning in construction are vast. The new technology collects and observes visual data from cameras and notifies managers of any risks or hazards. It has also helped with schedule-related tasks by automating the most mundane chores.
Among other applications, current machine learning technology can be used to:
- Predict and mitigate risks before they impact project margins
- Identify high-risk issues and automatically classify them into actionable categories
- Identify high-risk subcontractors based on real-time data as well as past performance and other factors
- Identify and prioritise safety concerns across the project lifecycle
- Tag existing safety hazards based on visual data coming out of the job site
AI provides a level of precision that is not achieved with human interaction, hence the technology suits larger projects.
4. BIM Software
BIM or building information modeling combines the uses of IoT and AR technologies to generate a smart option for management and workflow planning tools. For example, construction managers can create intelligent 3D models of their projects whilst also generating smart workflows based upon it.
5. 3-D printing houses
3D printing technology has developed massively over the years, to the point that many companies within the construction industry have discovered how to print an entire home faster and cheaper than the traditional method.
This technology will make buying homes more affordable.
Safety & Training
Worker safety should be the number one priority in every construction business and building site and technology solutions are making it easier not only to monitor teams, but also to properly train workers to prevent accidents.
6. Augmented & virtual reality
VR simulators could help workers get exposure to environments in a controlled environment. It could be used in the same way to train workers on everything from operating cranes and excavators to doing welding and masonry work.
AR could also improve the safety on a construction site by allowing more detailed safety plans or providing training on heavy equipment. There are many applications for this technology.
7. Construction Wearables
Offer numerous benefits for productivity and safety advantages.
Another technological advancement for 2022, is the use of exoskeletons within the construction industry. Exoskeletons are wearable technology working in tandem with the user increasing the workload a worker can carry out. This technology minimises strain and injury to the worker’s bodies and helps increase productivity as workers appear less fatigued.
There are a variety of versions of exoskeletons, all of which have their own purpose, including:
There are also two significant types of Exoskeletons: the mechanical which is designed for redistribution of weight and the electrical which is designed to enhance strength.
Sensors can be deployed onsite to monitor things such as temperature, noise levels, dust particles and volatile organic compounds even asbestos to help limit exposure to workers. Some sensors can detect toxins and humidity in the air reducing the risk of cardiovascular issues. When there is a danger on-site, time is an important factor. Smart sensors are essential because they react in a split second.
10. Smart Infrastructure
Structural monitoring systems use sensors to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of a structure which otherwise could have been invisible to the human eye. The monitors help workers predict structural problems before they happen, allowing the project manager to perform the necessary maintenance before ethe site becomes dangerous, thus avoiding accidents and reducing further health and safety risks.
This technology is also useful for mines to assess the structural integrity of a site, therefore, reducing workers’ risk exposure and alerting the construction team on site of any hazardous conditions.
Drones are making site inspections more efficient. Supervisors can use drones on site to look for hazards, inspect the progress of the project and keep an eye on the contractors. Conducting workplace inspections using a drone plays a significant role in improving workplace safety.
12. Humanoid Labourers
In response to the continued labour shortage, Japanese researchers have developed Humanoid Labour Technology capable of performing basic physical tasks like installing drywall or bricklaying independently. There are a few types including:
- Doxel AI – using robots and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor site progress with real-time, actionable data using a range of different technology features such as High Tech Cameras, LiDAR and drones.
- TyBot – an autonomous rebar-tying robot designed to augment and reduce labour requirements in the most critical path activity of bridge deck construction.
- ATL – developed to excavate smaller construction sites using a range of different technology features such as augmented GPS and LiDAR.
This automation takes care of dangerous tasks meaning human workers are put out of risk of harm and OH&S risks are reduced.
13. Robot Swarms
In contrast to humanoid robots, which look vaguely like people, robotic swarms consist of hundreds of small individual robots that work in tandem with each other to perform regular mundane site tasks such as laying bricks, repairing infrastructure in flooded or hard to reach locations that would be deemed dangerous for human workers, once again helping to reduce the construction industries issue with Health and Safety.
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