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10 Technologies Poised to Change the Future of Construction

Updated on March 13, 2017
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Andrew is a freelance writer and substitute teacher from Redwood City. He has a B.A. in Literature from San Francisco State.

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When people talk about high-tech industries, construction typically is not among those mentioned. However, today's innovative companies are developing new technologies that are poised to change the future of construction.

Many of these technologies stand on their own as remarkable innovations. However, the combined effect of all of the following technological advances is what is shifting long-held paradigms in the construction industry.

  • The robust data collection may help project managers create more accurate bids and eliminate some of the risks in the bidding process.
  • More efficient design, planning, and building processes may help keep prices down and within budget.
  • Virtual reality training and the use of wearable devices may keep the workforce safe, comfortable and well trained.
  • Efforts to reduce waste and increase sustainability meet the consumer’s desire for more environmentally friendly commercial and residential buildings.

1. Drones and Remote Pilots

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Drones are not just for hobbyists anymore. As prices come down, devices improve, and FCC regulations become more permissive, businesses use drones in increasingly innovative ways.

The usage of drones in construction is particularly noteworthy. Drones may safely map and survey the area. A drone’s eye view gives construction teams a unique aerial perspective to use in planning workflow. Certified remote pilots may be key members of the construction team of the future.

2. Connected and Smart Buildings

As the “Internet of Things," evolves, enhanced integration will factor into the new building designs. Consumers' demand for energy-efficient and connected buildings grows daily.

According to the Building Efficiency Initiative:

“At the most fundamental level, smart buildings deliver useful building services that make occupants productive (e.g. illumination, thermal comfort, air quality, physical security, sanitation, and many more) at the lowest cost and environmental impact over the building life cycle.”

3. Increased Demand for Energy Saving Buildings

The US Department of Energy actively promotes energy efficient commercial buildings. The department claims commercial buildings drive around 20% of our energy consumption.

“Today’s energy-saving buildings are built with an innovative approach to construction known as "whole-building design,” according to the US Department of Energy article on energy efficient buildings. The following video provides a detailed example of why this is an important developing trend.

4. Building Information Modeling in All Phases of Design & Construction

Many associate Building Information Modeling (BIM) with architects and the design process. According to Engineering.com, it is useful for during all phases of construction. Specialized instructions may be linked to every aspect of the 3D model. 3D BIM grows alongside the emerging virtual reality industry.

5. Virtual and Augmented Reality in Construction

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Virtual reality is trendy and fun, but as the technology improves more businesses will use it for practical applications. When combined with other technologies like building information modeling, connected work-sites, and drone use, it may revolutionize the industry.

Construction Dive predicts VR simulations may also save workers’ lives. VR allows a safe way for workers to practice simulations to better deal with hazards.

6. Prefabrication & Modular Construction

Prefabrication is not new in the construction industry. But innovations make it even more popular as prefabrication grows more connected to the green building movement.

The increasing use of BIM paves the way for more sophisticated prefabrication and modular construction strategies. Some benefits of strategic prefabrication are decreased construction site waste, decreased expenses, and improved ability to work within predicted schedules.

7. 3D Printing at Scale

3D printers are currently used for building models. Innovators are also looking at ways to use 3D printers to create construction components. This trend pairs well with the increase in prefabricated components.

In the video above, 3D printers were used to fabricate the walls and exterior structures (excluding the roof) for ten buildings in Shanghai in less than 24 hours!

8. Connected Work Sites

In addition to the development of smart buildings, the construction industry will see “smart” connected worksites. This enables more efficient planning and implementation and will save construction businesses time and money.

According to South Bay Construction: “Mobile devices also help improve communication between contractors, owners, architects and the construction team.”

The connected workplace paves the way for the use of wearable technology, telematics, and other sophisticated data-driven systems.

9. Wearable Devices in the Connected Work Site

Wearable technology is not just for step counting. Construction Dive predicts that construction companies may use it to monitor worker’s location, safety and well-being. Wearables may even have training applications as sophisticated devices currently can track movement paths and give form cues for sports and fitness purposes. This same ability may one day extend to construction activities.

Currently, this information would overload most site managers. In the context of a connected work-site, it may be a viable and efficient way to improve safety and efficiency.

Another interesting new application for wearable technology includes smart jackets or vests with built-in heating or cooling functions. Such wearables may ensure greater comfort for laborers.

Smart visors may integrate BIM data so construction staff may view detailed plans and 3-D models. The potential for smart wearables looks promising in the construction field as many developers are developing specialized products.

10. Telematics

Telematics systems can be compared to wearables for construction equipment. The systems may track in-depth information about equipment’s usage, maintenance, fuel usage, location, and overall efficiency. This may help construction teams anticipate and prevent equipment failure. Combined with wearables for crew members and the connected work-site they help provide comprehensive data to improve efficiency.

Telematics may help smaller construction companies take on larger projects. The sophisticated tracking may make peer-to-peer equipment rentals more viable. Smaller companies may be able to pool resources and have access to specialized and expensive equipment.

What's Your Take?

Which of the Above Techs Will Have the Biggest Impact on Construction?

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In business and technology, the only sure thing is change! Technology may lead to safer, sustainable and efficient construction work-sites. It may also result in high functioning, earth friendly, attractive commercial and residential buildings.

Have a take on how technology is set to transform construction in the future? Sound off in the comments below!

© 2017 Andrew Armstrong

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