BIM and digital blueprints on tablets are now commonplace on construction jobsites, and online bid rooms are “old hat”. Buildings are chock full of technology to make them LEED certified, to appeal to Millennials, and to run innovative companies. We’re seeing amazing construction products fueled by technology including permeable concrete to massive brick road laying machines and even self-driving crash trucks for roadwork.
Future of Construction - Rise of Technology
- 3D Laser Scanning – The latest mainstream innovation for land surveyors allows them to gather detailed pin-point information in less time than traditional methods and works in conjunction with aerial mapping and 3D modeling software.
- 3D Printing – Creates three-dimensional objects from a variety of materials and can be used for everything from creating replacement machine parts to printing entire buildings.
- Virtual Reality (VR) – An immersive, three-dimensional environment that is manipulated by human interaction, such as a wearable device. The build industry generally uses VR for client walk throughs of BIM models, and to prepare field teams for the job ahead by allowing them to visually see the final product to detect potential clashes and schedule conflicts.
- Augmented Reality (AR) – Superimposes a computer-generated image in the real world, so construction workers see a composite view of what is currently there and what should be built based on the BIM models.
- Drones – Small, portable remote controlled helicopters, usually with a camera attached used for aerial photography and job progress photos, scanning and inspecting, and surveying.
- Bots – A term that is short for “robots” and refers to small computer programs or devices used for repetitive tasks such as bricklaying. Robots can be used to remove the physical demand or risk of the task at hand and provide a consistent quality.
- Wearables – Technology that you wear and manipulate through body movements. Wearable technology includes watches, gloves, and glasses that can gather data about the user and the environment to provide a safer work area, a better experience, and better quality project by using real-time measurable and tracking data. Wearables can be paired with other construction technologies like augmented reality, jobsite sensors, and smart tools for real time data and feedback.
- Smart Tools – Like wearables, smart tools can also collect data and give construction workers more control on the jobsite. Some features may include remote control capabilities, automatic programming, inventory control, or track the performance and maintenance of the tool itself.
- Jobsite Sensors – This technology can be either hardware or software, or both paired together, to give foreman and clients more visibility to what is going on the jobsite such as the humidity level, number of concrete trucks accessing the jobsite, employee time and attendance, security, and the job’s progress.
- Integrated Construction Management Software – We see construction management software continuing to evolve and integrate with other platforms such as the augmented reality and jobsite sensors to become the central place for all your data so you can review it all, aggregated together in one location.
What is Driving Construction Technology?
- Safety – In construction, safety always comes first and technology can aid in protecting your employees. From wearables that detect signs of a potential heat stroke to jobsite sensors than can prevent heavy equipment from entering highly populated zones, construction technology can make your team safer and working more efficiently.
- Competition – The construction sector is highly competitive and driven by low-bid opportunities, which forces construction executives to work smarter, not harder, to maintain or increase profitability. Investing in construction technology can be a smart move to maximize the effectiveness of each employee and to increase the profit margin on each project.
- Workforce Shortage – The construction industry as a whole has a worker shortage that will not let up in the decade ahead, so construction companies need to invest in technology to get the job done with less employees.
Where IT Comes In with Construction Technology?
A good IT support team can help you determine the ROI of an investment in construction technology. Secondly, make sure your current IT infrastructure is ready because most of these technologies will not perform to their fullest capabilities with a laggard network and on ancient computers. You don’t need to have a bleeding edge IT infrastructure to take advantage of most of this construction tech, but you don’t want to invest the time and money into a dud that fails because you don’t have the processing power on your server.
Per JB Knowledge’s 2016 Annual Construction Technology Report, the #1 factor limiting the adoption of new technology is a lack of IT staff. So, if you already have an internal IT department that handles your day-to-day needs, we suggest working with a good IT firm that understands the construction industry to augment their skills and availability to tackle certain projects like implementing new construction technology into your company. Or do the opposite and outsource your help desk support and maintenance to free your internal team up to research and implement these projects.