With 2019 well and truly underway, the team at the guys over at Raised Floor Solutions take a look at 10 technological changes we should be expecting this year.
- Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is likely to produce many new opportunities for the construction industry, even though it comes with a significant price tag.
This technology has the capability to change how we approach construction projects, but a few obstacles need to be faced before we see it at the forefront.
For example, a construction company is carrying out work on an upcoming excavation project, and a junior operator may be asked to handle heavy equipment. Therefore, a lack of industry experience could play a part and cause some trepidation.
To avoid any mistakes from happening, which could in fact result in a project being delayed, a more senior operator could gain access to the junior’s view of the building site from a remote location, and offer advice during specific tasks. This is just a small insight into AR’s potential for industry workers.
To date, AR has actually been introduced by some construction firms, usually working off Building Information Modelling (BIM) layouts on computers or via printed paper blueprints, in order to view expected infrastructure designs.
Having the capability to create comprehensive, walk-through style practices has three main advantages, removing the need to sit in an office and view 3D Models, and these are:
- Detailed inspection, including collaboration between construction managers and employees on-site
- If issues arise, relevant actions can be made quickly by decision makers, resulting in potential time and cost-savings
- Organisations are able to offer clients a highly accurate representation of a finished project, possibly the most important aspect of AR.
- Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building Information Modeling is likely to amend how construction projects are approached, but also how they are designed and developed. According to MICI, 88 per cent of construction stakeholders believe that BIM technology will enable better design insights.
The BIM infrastructure begins with a digital 3D model of a selected building. Remarkably, BIM models offer much more than just digital representations of a project, but instead contain elements that reflect specific sections and divisions of a building.
Not only does BIM offer insightful design coordination and improved constructability for a given project, it also allows clients to view a realistic replica of the final building, allowing for peace of mind during each step of the project.
Building owners, who have already implemented the use of BIM within their developments, state many benefits for its use, including:
- The ability to stay within restricted time limits, a great way to ensure a project is complete in time.
- BIM simulation and analysis offer realistic design compositions, allowing for greater alignment throughout the construction stage.
- The visual aspect involved offers specific design and development benefits for all involved in a given project.
- Data Ecosystem & Construction Software
Collaboration software, offering real-time insights, are expected to be at the forefront of the construction process for many businesses, starting at the initial consultation stage all the way through to project sign-off.
As we are aware, construction projects require much organisation and in the past have easily fallen off track, especially when various groups involved aren’t communicating effectively.
The importance of collaboration in crucial during projects and is increasingly being identified across the sector, and this has been backed up by research that was conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics over the past few years.
In another recent study, 91 per cent of both owners and contractors agree that an increase in collaboration reduces health and safety risks during a projects construction.
Various other studies regarding BIM prove its ability to improve communication, making it a must-have tool to better enhance communication during initial planning, execution and sign-off.
One study showed that over 3/4 of owners, contractors and architects agreed that greater coordination and integration between builders and designers, particularly during the design stage, drastically decreased any feelings of uncertainty, in terms of working towards job completion.
- Self-Healing Concrete
Researchers believe we will slowly see the introduction of self-healing concrete, particularly its use within the construction of new roads, buildings and homes.
It’s self-healing capabilities have recently been enhanced to include the use of microcapsules, that contain a mixture of natural and manufactured healing agents. These are then added to the concrete mix and released when the elements are fractured by any damages to the concretes surface.
Each year, the UK spends in excess of £40 billion on maintenance and repairs for structures including roads, buildings, tunnels & bridges, most of which are made from concrete, along with contributing 55 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste in 2018, according to a recent study.
Although still in the development stages, self-healing concrete is highly likely to be commercially available onsite within the near future.
- Modular Construction
Regulated processes, created to alleviate the workload off-site before construction begins, can dramatically cut costs and lead times similarly.
An increasing amount of firms are deeming modular building an appealing investment, thanks to its quick, efficient and cost-effective construction.
This process is revolutionising the way in which construction industry develops new structures, with such benefits including:
- Project completion can be 30-50 per cent quicker than traditional methods.
- Off-site construction offers quality management and few disruptions.
- Removes 80 per cent of construction activities away from the onsite location.
They are also built using eco-friendly materials, and are market leaders in the use of recycled materials. They are cost-effective, offer shorter construction times and are available with flexible payment plans in many cases. Modular buildings also offer an innovative design, meaning plenty are available in practical bespoke options, making it ever more appealing for all involved.
Likely to enhance the industry, the implementation of robotics is expected to skyrocket whilst offering more precision and accuracy than ever before.
It’s a strange notion for many, that the industry invests in so few robots, but many fail to comprehend that many daily tasks are particular and difficult to simply automate.
There are a few innovative robots that are looking to break into the construction market on a huge scale, including:
- 3D-printing robot – this technology can safely print an entire structure on demand. A robotic arm controls the 3D-printing with a set of pre-programmed instructions. Such technology has also being used for building bridges, with the first ever 3D printed bridge having recently been constructed in the Netherlands.
- Demolition robots – also raring to break into the mainstream, such robots are actually slower than demolition crews, but are beneficial in terms of being much safer and cheaper , specifically in terms of the demolition of structural components of a building, including concrete.
It has to be said, the combination of 3D printing and industrial robots is a hugely exciting time for both automation technology and the construction industry. There are also other robots that are being introduced that specialise in specific tasks, such as masonry, bricklaying and street laying. These types of robots offer drastic improvements in speed whilst not affecting the quality of work carried out.
- Drone Technology
As drone technologies continue to develop with accuracy and precision of readings, human control is becoming more unnecessary. The use of drones on a commercial basis has increased significantly on building sites, according to the latest statistics released by DroneDeploy.
Many industries are already making the most of drones, and evidently so within the construction industry, being deemed fastest growing commercial adopter of such technology. To give further insight, the use of drones on building sites alone has skyrocketed over the past year, growing by 239%.
What are builders using drones for exactly?
They are innovative in collecting real-time data, in regards to current projects, whilst also helping figures of authority to understand what is happening on site. Such aerial insights are improving the process of tracking worker progress whilst helping to spot any potential issues early on – before they become costly ones, both time and money wise.
However, such tracking isn’t the only way businesses are using drones. By reducing the ability to spend more hours mapping a job site, contractors are able to gain access to a remarkable amount of knowledge, regarding several aspects of a construction project.
- GPS Tracking
GPS tracking solutions are now being used much more creatively and in increasingly resourceful ways, to help in facilitating fast, accurate data collection.
Many firms are embracing such technology as it allows them to gain a beneficial edge over competitors. After all, any advantage is positive, considering the number of construction industry firms in the UK increased to its highest recorded level in 2016.
GPS tracking is a proven, powerful tool during many scenarios, including:
- It’s ability to monitor employee habits, enabling management to identify any potential safety risks.
- Monitor real-time fuel consumption by receiving text messages when a vehicle is re-fuelling.
- Develops performance levels by assessing levels of productivity, also in real-time.
- Records data over time to resolve any potential future disputes with clients.
- Cloud & Mobile Technology
Mobile devices now provide the ability to access cloud technology from any given location, making it a huge appeal for many organisations who want to stay focussed, organised and at the forefront of the competition.
A vast amount of construction companies tend to have their data and systems in a central location, making it easy for relevant people to access, but not always for everyone involved in a project.
More firms are now opting to use cloud-based solutions, as it allows each person in the organisation to access tasks, data and stats from anywhere at anytime.
Such useful technology makes for more better informed decision making, thanks to it’s real-time offering whilst offering the ability to collaborate and communicate with others quickly and efficiently.
This means less time waiting on data which naturally produces smarter, better informed decisions being made, which is therefore beneficial for an organisation/project as a whole.
The use of wearables is also expected to play a huge role in boosting both on-site safety and the monitoring of efficiency and building progress. According to IoTnews, it is predicted that 250 million smart wearable devices will be worn in the industry by the end of 2019.
While the industry has been slow to adopt such technologies, it is now becoming further established, thanks to the beneficial effects that implementing such technology has on the job site.
Wearable technology is currently trending and gaining huge traction amongst industry professionals, as they allow us communicate easier than ever before, whilst collecting useful data regarding working behaviours.
There are currently 3 different types of wearables that are currently hugely popular within the industry, these are:
Smart Helmets – a new and exciting technology, smart helmets offer features such as video recording, emergency alerts and fall impact detection, each helping to increase safety on site.
Smart Vests – such innovative wearable technology boasts GPS capabilities, vital monitoring, built-in alert systems and emergency buttons, all hugely beneficial for construction workers.
Smart Glasses – this wearable offers workers the ability to receive detailed instructions from higher-grade workers or managers off-site in real-time.
For various reasons, wearables are being praised and therefore adopted by more companies, thanks to their many benefits such as improving the safety of workers, the ability to streamline data collection and making communication easier throughout the entire timeline of a project.