How Technology is Changing the Construction Industry

Up until very recently, the construction industry has been one of the least digitised sectors, largely avoiding any technological change over the years. However, in light of last month’s Farmer Review, talk has begun of the construction industry’s transition towards increasingly digital ways of doing things.

The Farmer Review shone a light on the construction industry's need to reform, explicitly declaring that it must ‘modernise or die’. The report implied that without fast action, the industry will inevitably face ‘inexorable decline’ throughout years to come [1]. Technology is being cited as the boom that the construction industry needs in the midst of fears that the sector is vulnerable to economic collapse during the current post-Brexit climate. The hope is that embracing technologies will help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and also further progress health and safety levels.

However, there has already been some technological progress within the sector and as the construction industry is encouraged into creative technological reinvention, we look into the methods by which the sector is currently being shaped and the methods it must embrace looking to the future.

Drones

Drones are currently being massively favoured throughout the construction sector, changing the way that much of the industry operates. This is a change which we’re sure will continue to have lasting effects as the technology looks to improve efficiency, eliminate human errors and improve health and safety.

One of the game-changing ways in which drones are currently being utilised is through their replacement of traditional land-surveying methods. Drones hugely reduce the time and labour involved in producing accurate land surveys, capturing the necessary information in a lot less time than via other methods. Their efficiency also eliminates much of the human error which can be involved in the traditional process of surveying land.

The use of drones can also drastically improve worksite health and safety by helping to eliminate dangers and hazards. Additionally, they have led to an increase in security effectiveness, through protecting the safety of on-site employee’s and monitoring for theft and vandalism.

Thanks to the support of massive tech corporations such as Intel, who have created specific drones for industrial purposes, the technology is set to be further deployed throughout the construction sector as they become increasingly accessible and purposefully designed.

Augmented Reality (AR)

The use of augmented reality has allowed build information to be shared in real-time, leading to better overall outcomes. This is due to AR’s ability to overlay data and images onto physical spaces, which is especially useful in the case of complicated processes in order to highlight potential hazards and issues before they transpire. From this, it is possible to analyse whether the construction schedule may be affected and the appropriate measures can be taken to avoid these predicted issues, ensuring the project runs to time.  

Additionally, augmented reality is making it much easier for planners and architects to collaborate with clients and contractors as it is possible to work together on projects and alter any issues which require adaption before they occur. The technology has thus facilitated the capacity to deliver cost savings and reduce the chances of a build falling behind schedule due to unforseen issues [2].

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

One of the major changes for the construction industry within recent years has been the implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM has replaced traditional blueprints with fully detailed, intelligent, and interactive 3D models. At BIM’s core, lies information management which brings together all necessary information about the project into one collaborative place. Modelling an asset in digital form overcomes the problem of contractors and clients working in isolation, ensuring everyone can work in tandem to achieve the same end goal in an efficient manner [3]

As BIM becomes more sophisticated with time, it has forecast an eventual transition into 5D modelling, incorporating time management, estimating, costing, rates and quantities. It is therefore likely that BIM’s benefits will become more and more invaluable in the near future.

Health and Safety

Technology is not only improving efficiency, cost and quality; it is also having a huge impact on improving health and safety standards for construction workers. Safety gadgets have replaced outdated and often ignored on-site safety procedures and become routine precaution. Innovations such as light-up hard hats, safety glasses and responsive clothing have become the health and safety norm replacing outmoded, unsafe practice.

Technology is bringing the construction industry speeding into the 21st Century, which seems to be a critically important step in ensuring that the sector escapes decline and avoids being left behind. Although some of the technological and digital methods changing construction may not have completely transformed the whole sector as of yet, it seems as though if the industry continues to embrace tech focused change, it can only progress.

If you work in the Construction industry, we'd love to hear your experiences of how technology is shaping your work. Tweet us @ThatcherAssoc!

[1]. http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/british-construction-must-modernise-o7r-d7ie-say7s/ 

[2]. https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2016/oct/28/augmented-reality-leading-construction-creative-reinvention

[3]. http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/How-building-information-modelling-is-changing-the-construction-industry