Construction technology is an increasingly important aspect of the future of construction. With the skilled labor shortage, stagnant productivity, and safety issues that plague the industry, it’s hard to stay ahead of these issues. Construction companies, universities, and technology companies are working hard to find solutions to these problems.
Companies are finding ways to improve productivity, reduce workplace injuries, and push construction into the future. These new construction technologies are shaping the industry in 2019, and the changes made will leave the industry completely changed.
AI & Machine Learning
AI and machine learning sound like something from a sci-fi novel and listening to construction technology analysts describe it’s place in construction can make it sound complicated and improbable. However, AI and machine learning are part of a trend that will shape the construction industry for years to come.
Companies now are using machine learning to improve job site safety. Smartvid.io is one such company. It aggregates visual information from cameras to reduce risk. Using field observations and automatic observations by their AI, their platform can alert managers to potential risks and hazards on the site.
AI and machine learning could come to play an even bigger part in the construction industry. Areas like bid prep, estimation, and even project management could soon see AI aid. AI can be eventually used to help in many different areas in construction, and with more users the predictive abilities will get better.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Depending on what article you read it seems like virtual reality is going out of fashion before it came in to fashion within construction. Many industry leaders talked about the power of virtual reality and how it was going to change the entire game. With the advent of augmented reality, a combination of virtual reality and reality, construction technology experts are predicting that that will be the game changer.
The physical technology as well as the software needed in order to use and operate augmented reality is expensive still. While there are companies working to make it cheaper and more accessible to a wider range of consumers, now it is primarily used by very large and wealthy companies. Companies using augmented reality are seeing the benefits.
Much autonomous equipment is in it’s nascence; however, some companies are starting to build their own autonomous vehicles for the job site. Boston Dynamics has built its own semi-autonomous robot. Spot can be used on the job site to survey, the video or photos can be used for a variety of reasons. Overall Spot seems to be a way for companies to eventually use tech to ensure workplace safety alongside human professionals.
Komatsu, a heavy-equipment manufacturer, is additionally working on autonomous construction vehicles. While these are a while out, they are a construction technology that will permanently shape the industry.
Drone usage is increasing on construction sites and used for a variety of purposes. One of the common usages for this construction technology is for surveying land. Drones can decrease the amount of time needed to produce an accurate survey. They also eliminate some of the human error in the process. They are also used in reporting for structural improvements because they can get the job done faster.
The footage captured or real time views has also been used for improving job site safety. The drone footage can be reviewed without any person actually having to venture to a potentially hazardous area. This reduces the number of workplace injuries and improves workplace safety.
In construction technology, robots are gaining in popularity. From the brick laying robots to the 3D concrete printing robots, there is a drive to build the next great thing. These robots do repetitive motions that after a while hurt human workers, or they work as aids. The MULE (Material Unit Lift Enhancer) helps workers load and place heavy material. This robot doesn’t replace but supplement human laborers. And by using a MULE, it saves workers the repetitive injury strain they face.
And independent robots won’t be the only technology seen on a job site. Several companies have started developing exoskeletons for commercial use. These would help reduce fatigue for field workers which could reduce the number of job site injuries.
Building Information Modeling
As drawing and planning software becomes more accessible for firms of multiple sizes, it’s benefits are more widely known. Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a construction technology that is shaping the construction industry. BIM is different from CAD, it’s more than just a 3D model. BIM contains information, tons of information that is actionable within the model. It can reduce change orders, improve field communication and coordination, and has a lot of promise for the future.
When a building originally designed with BIM software needs to be remodeled or renovated, it will be easier for the teams to make those renovations. Since they have information about the previous build at their fingertips, they can complete the projects faster.
There has been a resurgence in the construction technology industry, with venture capital firms pouring money into construction software. This gives subcontractors options for their accounting, project management, time, and more. They can choose the software package or options that make the most sense for their business. These also mean that it can be difficult for subcontractors to find the best option for their specific incidences. With over 2400 app options, subcontractors have to be careful of what package they choose.
Construction software is a technology shaping 2019. The ease of project management, accounting, estimating and projects more profitable and productive.
Computer Aided Design
Computer Aided Design, or CAD, had been used in architecture for a while now. CAD software can be used to create two- and three-dimensional models of a potential building, unit and more. Unlike BIM, CAD doesn’t contain all the rich information that BIM has. So, people only using CAD could lose out on some important data opportunities.
Nevertheless, this is a construction technology that is exploding across the industry. Companies across the United States are turning more towards two- and three-dimensional models. As the technology develops, the capabilities will change, and it will become more important for firms to use CAD in their design process.
Prefabrication is a broad type of construction. Prefabrication can include specific elements to entire buildings, like modular construction. There are many benefits to prefabricating elements of a project. Prefabrication benefits:
- Greater Control over quality, weather, and the end product.
- The environmental impact of building is lessened
- There is reduced waste
- There is reduced air, water, and noise pollution
- Prefabricated elements can improve project schedules because different elements can be completed at the same time.
- There is better logistics and scheduling of labor and materials.
- The storage is easier for a project, you’re less likely to lose or misplace materials.
- Most importantly there is increased safety. There isn’t unsafe weather and the working conditions are easier to maintain.
Prefabrication aims to improve inefficiencies in material usage and production. Prefabrication is often broken into two categories, panelization and modularization.
Modular construction is a type of prefabrication. For something to be modular, the project is constructed entirely or almost entirely off-site and assembled on site. Where modular construction is different is that the entire unit versus a panel is assembled off site. Marriott International has been pioneering this in their hotel construction for the past several years. They announced originally that they were going to build roughly 50 hotels using modular construction. This year they announced they were going to build a 360-foot-tall modular hotel in 90 days.
While an entire hotel in 90 days sounds improbable, modular construction makes it possible.
The construction technologies emerging in 2019 will change the future of construction. Having better information on your projects, a faster way of building them, and a way of building them safer improves the construction industry as a whole.