The construction industry is undergoing a huge transformation. Whether it’s through machinery with artificial intelligence, old back-office processes going digital or traditional building methods made more efficient using robotics, technology is making a significant mark on how we build today. This has led to a shift in how firms handle everything from pre-construction to building itself.
It’s when we look at the area of home construction that we see some of the most biggest changes taking place. Home buyers today want smart custom homes that fit into their digital lives. Their needs include system compatibility with their preferred mobile networks, smart home devices like locks and security systems, smart lighting, and pre-wired setups for home theater systems ready to plug and play. Many innovations around the modern smart home also focus on things like energy efficiency, from solar roof panels to smart water heaters.
“For most homeowners, a smart home includes anything that can be automated and controlled from a remote control, computer, tablet or smartphone,” Mike Schroetlin of Denver-based Schroetlin Custom Homes told Brick.com. “Most homeowners think of lighting, security cameras, home theaters and landscape and gardening irrigation applications when they are contemplating the advantages versus the expense of this type of amenity of a custom home.”
Alongside the technological boom happening within construction, the consumer electronics industry has also skyrocketed, particularly around Internet of Things and smart homes. This heightened buyer demand creates an opportunity for firms to diversify, creating potentially lucrative new revenue streams in the process.
“For most homeowners, a smart home includes anything that can be automated and controlled from a remote control, computer, tablet or smartphone”
CTA senior manager, industry analysis told NewHomeSource that a third of U.S. home builders said they’ve experienced a revenue increase over the past two years due to increased demand for home technology installations.
With smart homes becoming ever smarter and ever more in demand, there’s a heightened expectation for builders to be able to bring the buyer’s idea to reality. This challenges firms to think creatively about how to deliver those specifications in a way that fits into the rest of the project, whether it’s a retrofit of an existing home or plotting out placement for a new one.
With the sheer number of smart devices on the market today, from home security systems to smoke detectors to smart HVAC systems, appliances and multi-room audio setups, the heart of any smart home is an internet connection capable of shouldering the bandwidth load, and it’s a consideration that must factor into any new construction.
David Humphries of the Consumer Electronic Design & Installation Association, told NewHomeSource that in order to ensure its proper operation, a smart home “has to be completely wired with CAT6 or CAT7 wiring or fiber-optic cables. This is the single most important part of a [smart] house. If the network doesn’t work, nothing works.”
“Most builders, before they put up the drywall, should know that the home they built is the home that they’re supposed to be building”
Despite new curveballs being thrown at them, builders are also leveraging technology to their advantage in ways that save time and boost productivity. Virtual and augmented reality now enable builders, architects and GCs to capture and view detailed virtual models of proposed buildings, or even immersive, 3D walkthroughs, all before a single brick is laid. This ensures a common visual representation of the project throughout construction, and allows for greater buyer customizability on finishes, materials and cabinets.
“Most builders, before they put up the drywall, should know that the home they built is the home that they’re supposed to be building,” CEO of consultancy BDX Tim Costello told Construction Dive.
Advancements in drone and 3D imaging technology has made it easy for firms to determine the physical attributes of a plot of land without the need for multiple visits by a survey team. A drone can gather precise measurements and identify obstructions like large trees or rocks. Having this information before ground is broken makes planning easier and reduces the chances for any surprises during construction, particularly if the drone provides updated images throughout pre-construction.
Analyst firm Gartner says there will be more than 26 billion connected devices by 2020, according to Brick.com. Many of these devices will be found in homes. Construction companies should strive to gain an understanding of these smart technologies, to keep ahead of the demand curve but also to show the upcoming tech-savvy generations that construction is an innovative industry.