How Technology is Changing the Construction Industry
Construction demands continue to increase all over the globe, with a forecasted growth of 5.7% in 2021. To meet the ever-expanding needs, construction has had to find new ways to evolve to become more efficient than ever. New technologies have provided the construction industry with innovative ways of getting the job done. The development of new materials has paved the way for more robust and more energy-efficient builds.
New methods for creating safety measures help to keep workers safer now than ever before. For decades, technology has driven construction into advancement for the betterment of the entire industry and society.
Emerging Technologies in the Construction Industry
Technology has helped the construction industry make progress in strides. With the creation of connected tools and equipment, autonomous heavy equipment, 3D-simulated models, and more, construction has only gotten better over time. Think back to the beginning of it all when there were no power tools or heavy-duty equipment.
Everything that was cut, drilled, dug or the like was done by hand. Builders were met with strenuous and extensive labor. Although the structures made were efficient enough for what workers needed, there was room for improvement. Then along came technological advances to save the day in the construction industry.
According to the Construction Industry Institute, the term ‘construction technology’ calls attention to the collection of innovative tools, machinery, modifications, software, and more implemented during the construction process that enables advancements in the field.
Applying technology to construction opens the opportunity to improved performance within the industry. According to research, productivity can increase 30%-45% in the construction industry by adopting proven technologies, alongside predictability and reliability. Not only that, but other areas that require close monitoring, such as cost, scheduling and safety, are also greatly improved. The impact of emerging technologies on the construction industry has been positive in many aspects.
When demands for construction increases without productivity following suit, problems with delays arise. This is why the new technology is so vital to the construction industry. It is often considered challenging to increase productivity quickly due to the inability to make construction processes a one-size-fits-all standard. Every project is different and every job site is unique. Thanks to technological advancements in construction, methods of doing things have increased ease and efficiency, making construction faster to plan and complete.
Pre-Fabrication and Off-Site Construction
Over the years, the demand for construction has provided a need for building as quickly and effectively as possible. New methods, such as prefabrication and off-site construction, help move the process along by constructing essential components of building projects off-site so they are ready to go when the sites need them.
Prefabrication is a method that has been used for quite some time. However, the 3D printing method of prefabrication is entirely new to the construction industry. A 3D printer consists of programming that tells the printer the exact dimensions of structural components you need to develop. Using liquified materials such as cement, metal, and plastic, the printer creates hundreds of layers onto a platform to match the model programmed into the software. These structures are then cooled and can be used for their purposes.
Off-site construction is performed either modularly or prefabricated. Modular construction allows you to build entire rooms with all of the necessary fixtures intact. This is typically used when building large apartment complexes or hotels. Prefabrication methods of off-site building involve crucial parts such as framing, internal and external wall panels, and door and window assemblies. They built off-site and then transported to the site that correctly placed and secured to the areas for which they were created.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Systems
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems is becoming more prominent in the construction industry. Productivity is significantly boosted for sites that implement these technologies because they can handle specific tasks that would generally require a human worker to manage. This allows workers to continue with other more pressing matters on a job site.
One of the most time-saving tasks these technologies can perform is tracking the amount of time spent moving around the site. As workers execute their work, AI can track actions such as retrieving tools, materials, and other equipment. You can then analyze this data to determine more productive ways of organizing tools and supplies to reduce the time such actions take up in a day.
Additionally, AI can also help monitor the progress of job sites. Using cameras to record every phase of the project and then comparing them to key components such as BIM models, 3D drawings, and construction schedules makes it easy to see how much progress is made daily. Not only can they track performance, but AI technologies can also quickly identify any structural issues that you could have already made or could make in the future.
Productivity also heavily relies on the reliability of supplies that construction sites have on hand. Unexpectedly running out of essential building materials can considerably slow down a project and delay completion time. AI technologies can accurately analyze analytics such as supply amounts and how long it takes for you to use them. This lends a big hand to ensure that supplies do not run out by notifying workers when they should order more before they become too close to depletion.
Collaboration is a valuable aspect of just about every industry, including construction. Many different players in a construction project have emerged, and technologies have emerged to help workers communicate better and keep everyone in the loop for an organized timeline.
Mobile Apps and Computer Software
Modern technology of the digital world saves time for the construction industry. You can track nearly everything through mobile apps and computer software, saving a lot of time recording information and communicating progress. You can do everything from managing preconstruction to field reporting digitally.
The real-time transmission of data that can flow between job sites and project managers keeps things organized and easily accessible to everyone involved on the job. Because the vast majority of these programs are based on the cloud, communication is greatly enhanced.
Employees that work on-site can easily view their schedules and submit time cards for payment. Requests for information, time off, and delivering verified documents can also be completed in real-time. This saves the need for a physical person to manually document and tracks everything, but it helps keep all records on a digital file for future reference.
Software and app developers are continuously developing more effective means to allow the integration of such technologies into the construction industry to enhance collaboration measures.
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
A major obstacle that makes construction more difficult is tracking changes to the models and prints. The development of BIM is one of the most excellent ways for the construction industry to manage any changes. BIM involves the use of 3D models, which lead to better design and construction planning. Any changes that need to be made to the design plans can be made and seen in real-time with BIM technology and provides a visual representation of the structure.
Schedules can also be simulated to get almost exact estimates on completion time, even with changes. This virtual timeline allows all workers involved to plan and execute every phase of the construction process properly. Because of the many benefits of BIM, several virtual reality software developers for the construction industry are using BIM as a foundation to build their programs.
BIM also takes its uses beyond active construction projects. After a structure is complete, BIM can also provide information for maintenance schedules to keep the structure up to code and at its best at all times, keeping costs from becoming too extensive if you end up needing repairs done. It can also help reduce real-life trial and error and allow workers to get the job done right the first time around on the project, potentially saving a lot of expense.
Maintaining an organized construction project is key to successful management. There are many things to keep track of, including employees, schedules, permits and more. Technology in the construction industry can positively impact the ability of construction companies to monitor all of the essential day-to-day information.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can help with managing a multitude of data and records. Many of them encompass functions for tracking accounting, job costing, project management, equipment and inventory management, human resources, and much more. These software programs can be invaluable to the construction industry because so many tasks can be done through a single database, eliminating the need for multiple programs.
Worker Safety and Training Methods
Preventing work accidents that lead to severe injury and even fatalities should always be a priority in the construction industry. Nothing is more important than the safety of all workers on a construction site. Thanks to the adoption of technology in the construction industry, job sites can provide safer working environments and top-notch training.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Programs
Proper safety and equipment operation training is one of the most crucial components of any construction project. To keep workers safe, they must understand the correct procedures to carrying out specific tasks. However, training can become a bit tricky in itself. Workers that go through training are, of course, new to the procedures. Even training can pose a risk when trying to complete certain tasks on a job site. That is where Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) programs come into play.
VR simulators have a long-time standing across various fields, including the military and the medical profession. The construction industry utilizes VR simulators for training scenarios that work in tight spaces or extreme heights in a controlled and safe environment. Training from operating heavy machinery to welding can be done under close supervision to identify any issues in performance while giving workers the experience needed to learn safe execution.
Augmented Reality (AR) is also a technology used to help workers stay safe. Combining the real world with virtual components ultimately layers digital interfaces on top of the physical world through digital technology, such as screens in goggles or glasses. In the construction industry, tools, supplies and equipment can be simulated and interacted with in real-time in a realistic environment.
When thinking about personal protection equipment (PPE) required on construction sites, most people think of hard hats, gloves, and good work boots. However, PPE goes much further than that to keep workers safe during every construction process. In addition to the traditional wearables, the technological impact on the construction industry makes safety practices even more effective.
A variety of ‘wearables’ or wearable technology has been integrated among many construction sites. Technology such as biometrics and environmental sensors, GPS and location trackers, voltage detectors, and other systems monitor workers’ movements. Some systems, such as geofencing, allows restricted areas to be marked as off-limits by alerting workers with audio and visual alarm systems that they are about to enter a hazardous space.
Technology has provided new ways to closely monitor construction workers’ physical welfare when it comes to clothing. Smart clothing, also known as e-textiles, has been designed to monitor workers and their physical capabilities carefully.
Monitoring essential things such as respiration rate, heart rate, and skin temperature is just the beginning. They can also identify any strange patterns in posture and movement. This data is then analyzed if a worker would not be in optimal physical health to work on the construction site.
Construction sites have no shortage of hazards. High noise levels, extreme temperatures, dust and dirt particles, and volatile compounds pose a risk to continuously exposed workers. On-site sensors help monitor such components of a job site to keep workers safe.
By mounting certain sensors in specific construction sites, environments can be closely monitored for safe working conditions. If any levels get higher than what is considered safe, workers can be alerted immediately and evacuate the area.
The sensors also collect data sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These reports are then analyzed to take proper mitigations regarding hazardous exposure and return the work area to a safe place for workers.
Managing Labor Shortages
The construction industry has been met with many trying times regarding having enough workers to meet the demands of the projects that need completing. From hardships to retirement, the industry continuously faces the obstacle of losing workers. Even as new workers enter the field, they tend to lack the knowledge and experience possessed by their predecessors. As the demand for construction continues to increase, the industry is met with how to manage the labor shortage. Luckily, technology has advanced enough to assist in such situations.
Robots and Drones
When human hands are unavailable, the use of technology becomes a necessity. Robotics have been developed to perform monotonous and time-consuming tasks, such as laying bricks and tying rebar. Not only can these robotics perform these tasks at a much faster rate, but they also do not get physically fatigued the way human workers do from such work.
Even though they are capable of performing such tasks, robotics can not go without human supervision. Professionals are still required to work alongside robotics to ensure their performance is as it should be and stop any mistakes from happening before they become troublesome. Robotics gives an extra edge to the construction industry by adding some extra help and reducing the time it takes for certain jobs.
Drones have also been implemented in the construction industry. For extremely hazardous jobs, such as inspecting bridges and buildings of staggering heights, drones provide a close, bird’s eye view while workers can stay safely on the ground. Even when tracking the progress of structures, you can use drones to photograph the job site from above. While drones have niche usability, the information they can capture and relay to workers in the construction industry comes from an enhanced and safer perspective.
Terrestrial drones can also help a great deal on the land. Using various functionalities such as light detection, ranging scan data and censors, they can collect information from all over the job site property.
Autonomous Heavy Equipment Operation
While human workers can replace not all jobs, some can be handed over to self-performing heavy equipment. Autonomous equipment operation works along the same lines as the technology used for self-driving automobiles. This innovation in the construction industry allows workers to focus on other aspects of projects and comes in handy if there is a labor shortage.
Using a combination of sensors, drones, GPS, and 3D models, autonomous heavy equipment safely navigates its programmed path. These systems can excavate and grade worksites while saving both time and money. Just like geofencing can help keep workers from going into hazardous areas, you can also use it to contain autonomous heavy equipment to specific areas that require work.
View our Construction Technology Solutions
SITECH West is one of the most innovative leaders in construction technology. Serving California’s Northern Central Valley, we are dedicated to delivering top-of-the-line products to the construction industry. We offer everything a construction site could need to boost productivity and safety. From the more minor things, like laser levels to more significant needs, such as engineering software, we provide the ideal technology and the knowledge of how to put it to good use safely. Explore just some of the construction technology solutions we have to offer.
We offer Trimble construction solutions, including GPS machine control systems. These systems will increase the productivity of all heavy equipment, including compactors, bulldozers, excavators and more. Site positioning products and an assortment of weighing and monitoring equipment are also available.
Our line of intelligent compaction and paving control systems and our machine control equipment offer an innovative solution. Not only are they combined with Trimble construction technology and software to meet maximum performance, but the user-friendly interface and supportive team make it easy for construction workers to become acquainted with the programming.
Our technology solutions come with services to keep all equipment we offer working at its absolute best. From installation and training to calibration and repairs, we perform complete installation of all kinds of brands and machinery. Not only that, but SITECH West also provides rental services for equipment that is only needed for a short time.
Want to learn more about us? Explore our site to learn more about the many construction technology solutions we have to offer today.
Contact SITECH West for More Information
At SITECH West, located in California’s Northern Central Valley, we support our clients as much as possible. It is our goal to deliver superior products to bring innovation to the construction industry. No matter the job you need to complete, we are sure we have something to help it.
As always, we value our customers and the time they take to learn about our product lines. If there are any questions about any of the construction technology solutions we provide, we will be happy to answer them and help you select the right solution for your needs. Please do not hesitate to contact us online or at (916) 921-0550.