Technology has always been a driving force in the construction industry. From the invention of the wheel to the advent of 3D printing, new technologies have continually revolutionized the way construction projects are managed and delivered.
While many people think technology is best utilized during the design and engineering stages of a project, modern advancements are playing an increasingly important role in all aspects of the construction process from pre-construction planning to project execution and delivery.
However, the construction industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new processes, largely due to a lack of understanding and implementation support. According to FMI Corp, 13% of working hours—or about 5 hours per week per person—are spent looking for project data and information, instead of completing project related tasks.
These inefficiencies could be improved with modern upgrades. Several emerging technologies can help construction companies achieve greater efficiency and productivity in their projects.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file. This technology has been used in various industries for prototyping and manufacturing products for many years.
In construction, 3D printing is used to create small-scale models of buildings and other structures. These models can be used to assess the feasibility of a project, test different design solutions, and communicate the overall vision for a project to stakeholders.
Recently, 3D printing technology has advanced enough to be used for creating full-scale structures. In 2015, a team of architects used 3D printing to construct the world's first 3D-printed office building in Dubai, which was printed in just 17 days. Since then, several other companies have followed suit and begun exploring the use of 3D printing for construction.
Although 3D printing has huge potential for the construction industry, it does have its limitations. For example, limited materials and engineering compatibility can be a major constraint for widespread adoption.
Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer generated simulation of a three dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real way.
VR technology has been previously used in various industries for training, education, and research purposes. Now, VR is being used in construction to create fully immersive models of buildings and structures. Using VR, stakeholders can tour a virtual model of the proposed building or structure to assess sightlines, material finishes, and other aspects of the design in detail.
VR can also be used for safety training. For example, employees can be taken through a virtual model of a construction site to identify potential hazards before they even set foot on the real site.
This technology is still in its early stages of adoption in the construction industry, but it has great potential to improve both quality and safety.
Predictive analytics uses historical data and project related information along with machine learning algorithms to provide insights into future outcomes.
Traditionally, construction professionals have relied on their experience and intuition to make decisions. However, with increasing complexity of construction projects, there is a need for more data-driven decision tracking that will provide improved accuracy and enable better resource allocation.
Predictive analytics can be used for a variety of purposes in construction, such as reducing costs and reducing building errors by catching potential issues early. It’s possible to use historical data to identify risks and streamline future projects. Predictive analytics can help construction professionals make better decisions about labor, schedules, and budgets.
We can expect to see more widespread use of this technology as construction firms become more comfortable with using AI-enhanced management strategies.
Building information modeling (BIM)
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a process that involves the creation and use of digital models to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings. This technology can be used for a variety of purposes, such as clash detection, construction scheduling, and facility management.
BMI aids cost analysis and enhances visibility in the earliest stages of a project, which helps stakeholders understand the implications of design choices before construction. For example, clash detection can be used to identify conflicts between different design elements. This information can then be used to make changes to the design before construction begins, saving time and money.
Although similar to predictive analytics due to its data-driven nature, BIM is more focused on the construction process itself, while predictive analytics is used more for the management of construction projects.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) involves the use of computers to simulate human intelligence. This technology can be used for a variety of purposes, such as pattern recognition, natural language processing, and decision making.
In construction, AI has various applications:
Safety is a major concern in construction, and AI can be used to develop safety protocols and monitor compliance. In addition, AI-enabled drones can be used for site inspections and AI-powered machines can lift large loads.
Construction is a complex process that often involves coordination between various parties. AI can be used to streamline communication and collaboration between different teams.
AI can also be used to predict costs and identify areas where money can be saved. For example, AI-enabled systems can help assess material tracking and project build size.
By analyzing data from past projects, AI can also help contractors bid more accurately on future projects.
In the design phase of construction projects, AI can generate new ideas and concepts. Architects and engineers can use AI-enabled software to create 3D models of potential designs.
AI can also generate realistic simulations of how a finished building will look and function. These simulations can be used to test different design options before construction begins.
Construction management software
Construction management software is another emerging technology in the field. There are different types of software that are used to plan, schedule, and monitor construction projects. In addition, construction management software can be used to improve documentation and communication or manage resources to better meet project deadlines.
There continues to be a growing demand for construction technology that helps to make processes more efficient and cost-effective. Currently, there are a variety of different construction management software applications available, each with their own unique features and capabilities.