There are a few noteworthy trends in the construction industry today. Some have been increasing in usage over the years. With others, companies in the industry are waiting to see if they pan out. Still others are what we might call the “bleeding edge.”
Innovations that have been gradually changing processes might include prefabrication and modular construction. They have been trending for a decade or more, and some of those processes have been around for 40+ years. Some work that traditionally was done in the field – like welding – is being moved into a prefab facility, where skilled trades workers can work on multiple ongoing projects simultaneously.
As external pressures are being applied to produce certain facilities faster – for instance, buildings with repetitive modules like medical centers and hotels – modular technology is becoming a natural choice.
Other technologies, like using drones to gather information on jobsites, have also become a good fit. And they eventually will be used even more to alleviate worker safety risks. The same goes for augmented reality and virtual reality. When you can visualize what’s behind a wall or above a ceiling without having to climb into that space, that’s an intelligent and efficient use of technology that’s available right now.
Although robotics are being used in construction, their use is not widespread yet. Some of the most promising developments for use in construction companies include robotic devices that augment a worker’s strength and others that complete repetitive or dangerous tasks. Because of the potential for increasing construction output, robotic technology is being developed and perfected rapidly. As more and more companies adopt robotics, the cost of investing in it will naturally decrease, a result of supply and demand.
Construction is one industry that essentially demands a return on investment for innovations that are implemented. Until management can see the potential for earning back the investment, there will probably not be much enthusiasm for adopting new technology. We can debate if this is the proper mindset later.
Using drones to take photos of the jobsite to determine progress has turned out to be a timesaving innovation that can quickly earn its keep. Instead of having an inspection team monitor the jobsite, one person can operate a drone and collect photographs or videos of progress. These can then be compared to the design model.
Collecting, manipulating and putting data to use is a big development in construction. With 3D modeling, data that once was lost in a flat PDF can now be accessed and used. Whether it’s to make adjustments on the fly during construction or turning over a model of a building to the owner after construction is complete, giving that project data a useful purpose is a transformative development in the industry. From integrated databases to dashboards to tracking labor productivity, data is a new form of currency in construction.
3D modeling also promises to revolutionize construction when collaboration is used on the job. When all stakeholders are involved in avoiding clashes and solving design problems, they all benefit by finishing a project on time and within budget.
Learn more on episode 63 of Bridging the Gap podcast, where I talked with Blake Douglas of Applied Software about the technology tools being developed for the construction industry.