At the end of every year, we sit and reflect on the impact that technology has had across various industries. However, construction is one of the sectors that surprises us the most. In the era of digitalization, one of the least digitized sectors in the 21st century is construction.
Think about it, what has changed over the past 20 years in the way you carry out daily operations? Now evaluate that difference relative to other industries, such as Health, Media, Logistics and Automotive.
The role of the construction industry is almost counter-intuitive. While it does account for about 13% of the global GDP, it is also perceived as the least efficient industry of all time. Additionally, a Harvard Business School study titled "Trillions in Wasted Productivity: Digitalization in the Construction Industry” has determined that the global construction labor-productivity growth has averaged only 1% over the past two decades. The evidence is clear, the construction industry is in desperate need of custom innovation.
As new construction technology breaks into the market, companies should look forward to monitoring and adapting them - assuming they are applicable to their actual business model.
Automation in time and project management
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Although not new process automation continues to be a relevant technology that has greatly advanced over the years. Automation, in our context, refers to the use of technology to minimize redundant tasks that can be completed by a computer or algorithm. Today, automation has become key to many technologies that we use on a day-to-day basis. For example, the search results that show on Google are based on an advanced algorithm that mixes and mashes various components to show relevant results for users.
On a similar note, time and project management are two processes that can be automated using digital software. The goals of process automation are to enhance productivity and quality of work by minimizing time spent on activities that don’t add value to the company. A few cases that illustrate the use of automation are timesheets, productivity tracking, and task management.
Why waste time collecting timesheets or allocating time and tasks across projects when you can have an algorithm do it for you?
Construction is one of the industries that yield the maximum benefit of automation technology. Two of the most relevant advancements in automation technology are time tracking and location monitoring.
Fact: 95% of data in construction is thrown away when instead it can be used to drive effective decision making.
The automation of time tracking is revolutionary because it not only saves time for businesses but it also cuts down on costs. According to our estimations, clients in the construction industry save an average of $17,000 every year by focusing on tasks other than writing, collecting and managing timesheets - as the process of deriving the data adds no value to their business.
Therefore, management can spend more time in profitable activities that help grow the productivity of the construction business. Accordingly, by optimizing time management, construction companies can address the 1% growth rate problem that we have mentioned previously.
Often integrated as a feature within time management apps, location monitoring allows management to monitor the activity of remote crew workers across job sites. Construction companies can use the data generated from the app to allocate remote crew workers on job sites that are closest to them, monitor the transportation of equipment from construction to job sites and more.
Effectively, location monitoring capabilities enhance fleet management, increase security and prevent fatalities. If you want to learn more about location tracking, simply visit our article "3 Important Facts to Consider About Location Tracking in 2020".
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building Information Technology, similar to automation has been making headlines across the construction industry for a few years now. Nonetheless, it is a complementary technology that has become more advanced with each passing year. You may have heard of BIM across construction events, trade shows or conferences.
According to the Explorist,
BIM is a ‘Digital Representation’ of a building’s physical and functional properties and characteristics.
Compared to other modeling software, BIM takes into account functional properties that allow
Architects, engineers, and construction (AEC) professionals to efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and structures. Certain projects that we find stunning today would not have been possible without BIM.
For example, The Marina Bay Sands, located in Singapore, unveils the true power of this new construction technology. Architects, engineers and other construction professionals that were involved in this project were facing a dilemma regarding the impact of wind and wind-induced vibrations on the Sky Park, a large park that was supposed to sit on top of the building almost 200m above the ground. After rigorous testing, the team working on the project used BIM to simulate various scenarios and determine the functional properties necessary to combat the issues.
Fact: 88% of AEC professionals believe that BIM enables new approaches to design through insight.
Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality
The most promising technological advancements of the century include Artificial intelligence (AI), and Virtual Reality (VR). For those who don’t understand AI and VR, think of them as part of a process conducted by a mega-computer that consumes tons of data to drive (AI) and visualize (VR) specific outcomes.
The real value of AI and VR is extrapolated when used jointly with BIM technology to interpret large amounts of data derived from various data sources. As such, AI can help streamline planning and design through 3D modeling, but also minimize losses and risk during the project through machine learning.
There are however limitations on how much AI can accomplish in construction. Innovation is a concept that is foreign to a computer that lacks the ability to create unique data. On the contrary, humans are creative species who do not have such limitations and can thus imagine completely new designs or concepts that can later be verified by BIM in planning and AI in execution.
The next step in the development process is the augmented reality that will allow construction companies to increase productivity and effectiveness by shifting reality for the purpose of the project.
Fact: The global AI market is growing 23% every year, as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) markets expect to reach 18.8 billion USD in 2020.
Have you ever heard of MULE and SAM?
Both of the above names are autonomous equipment developed by Construction Robotics. The company was established with the goal of advancing construction through robotics and automation. Their first market disruptor is SAM100, a bricklaying robot that increases productivity by 3-5 times, and reduces production costs by 50% plus the added labor cost savings.
In the near future, we expect robotics to pave the way for new construction technology that will push the industry’s productivity to the next level.
Fact: The construction robotics market is projected to reach $321 Million by 2022.
Cement cracks, wood decays, bricks mold, and other equipment come with other problems. These problems tend to cause a bigger problem than one might realize.
But what if we told you that there are alternative materials that have been designed to battle those properties?
Let’s begin with self-healing materials which is an exciting development in the construction industry. Small cracks in cement can develop into much bigger problems once water enters, freezes and expands the structure. However, recent developments have introduced a “water-permeable” capsule that gets absorbed into liquid concrete. This compound reacts upon water entering the crack and produces calcite - a form of calcium carbonate - that hardens the open spaces within the crack, preventing it from getting any wider due to the water.
Another new construction technology that also supports the efficiency movement is the Air Cleaning Brick. Homeowners are concerned with the quality of air that circulates their house, and in an attempt to improve it, they resort to traditional filters that use active energy to filter the air. However, this approach continues to cause harm to the environment as more carbon pollutants are released into the air. As such, an assistant professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo’s School of Architecture invented the Air Cleaning Bricks. These bricks channel air through a built-in passive system that filters out heavy elements and allows freshwater to enter the house. The debri gets dropped into a hopper at the base of the wall - which can be replaced at any time. As people become more conscious about the health benefits of the new technology, they will demand that construction companies implement them across their living spaces.
Fact: Cement Consumption is expected to increase by 1.7% in 2020.
How do you Capitalize on New Construction Technology?
Most construction companies are oblivious to technological advancements. While this may be perceived as an OK move for an industry that has demonstrated little advancements over the years, construction companies that carry out projects using traditional means will be at a disadvantage relative to tech-savvy competitors. If autonomous equipment carries the potential to raise productivity up to 5 times than it would probably wise to follow the competitor.