Construction is on the brink of a transformation driven by factors largely from outside the industry and fueled by what would have been considered magical only a decade ago.
Here are three construction technology trends on a collision course with construction’s routine and a connection to a deeper dive into the industry’s future.
1. Video Conferencing
Sometimes, technology offers solutions to unexpected problems. In the grips of a global pandemic, construction companies woke to scattered workforces, closed projects, and staggering labor uncertainties. Some construction projects had to endure with just 10% of their employees on site.
Video conferencing exploded on the scene, replacing the usual in-person meetings and providing a vital link for the new army of remote construction workers. This relatively mature tech is destined to become even more entrenched in day-to-day construction operations.
Combined with the Internet of Things and virtual or augmented reality, video conferencing will likely make construction even less dependent on people being physically present at the job site. That means people can avoid potentially unsafe conditions and still assess, control and report. It will also make routine inspections, quality control, systems assessments, and collaboration quicker, more efficient, and higher quality.
2. Automation and AI
For years there’s been talk of automated, autonomous, and robotic equipment in construction. Now, however, the talk is finally over, and the walk has begun in earnest.
Besides an uptake in automated machines for dangerous work, machines that manufacture building components right on the job site will shorten supply chains while making them more reliable. Process robots are now working alongside humans to improve efficiency and worker health. These collaborative robots, or cobots, assist humans with materials handling, welding, and assembling components.
While modern scheduling software works like magic when handling the mathematical heavy-lifting of critical path calculations and resource dependencies, it is a novice compared to artificial intelligence applied to a building information model. With AI, estimates, schedules, safety, compliance, and quality can get tested during planning, so surprises and risks become the exception instead of the rule.
3. Digital Twins
It’s now possible to create a digital version of a physical asset, otherwise known as a digital twin. You can also make digital twins for processes and systems.
Construction project owners can test a digital twin of their project before it is even built to confirm that it will deliver the expected results. Building a seafloor-bound 1,000-foot-tall windmill with 250-foot-long blades is just one project type you’d want to test before having your work crews float on platforms out at sea.
As more construction owners opt for modular components, their digital twins can test everything from schedules and costs to material performance and engineering specifications. You can also expect to see the digital twin technology applied to processes. Wouldn’t it be reassuring to know your job site safety assessment adequately covered the risks or that your estimate didn’t miss a possible weather event?
Digital twins are poised to greatly increase predictability while reducing risks across all construction project types.
But there is much more to these trends.