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The concept of the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0 embodies digitization, automation, and an increased use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) across all industries. The vehemence of IR 4.0 has already brought about significant changes and is strongly revamping the construction industry to increase its overall efficiency for successful project delivery.
The main objective of Industry 4.0 is to integrate production processes with the information technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Services, cloud computing, and cognitive computing.
In contrast to other industries making headway in embracing new technologies, the construction sector has been quite hesitant in adopting these innovations. However, the industry is beginning to notice the significance of IR 4.0 in terms of the technologies and building specifications.
The era of industrialization began in the 1700s with the introduction of mechanical looms powered by water and steam on mechanical equipment. The second industrial revolution ensued in 1870 and brought the electrical energy, transforming the process of manufacturing and giving birth to the concept of mass production.
The third industrial revolution in the 1970s witnessed the rise of electronics. The shift from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technology is a result of the third industrial revolution, which is also known as the digital revolution.
IR 4.0 has been built upon the digital revolution, which connects people and technology. IR 4.0 not only represents modern techniques but also encourages sustainability with renewable energy and energy efficiency as its two major elements. This industrial transformation will encompass every facet of industries and economic activities and touch our day-to-day lives.
The construction industry is currently undergoing a breakthrough with new technologies pushing for industry penetration. The adaptation of Industry 4.0 in the field of construction includes physical and digital technologies, consisting of two main components: cyber-physical systems (networked control systems) and digital ecosystems.
These components are further supported by the evolving technologies and systems such as industrialized construction, robotics, AI, drones, and digital fabrication.
Essential Features of Industry 4.0
- Interoperability: Cyber-physical systems such as smart grids and water and sewage networks allow humans to connect and communicate with the construction sites.
- Virtualization: Use of technologies like virtual and augmented reality.
- Decentralization: The proficiency of cyber-physical systems to make their own intelligent decisions.
- Real-time capability: The ability to collect and analyze information and provide the obtained insights.
- Modularity: Adaptation of modular construction and prefabrication techniques.
- Service-Orientation: Construction must be customer-oriented. People should be able to connect with smart objects/devices seamlessly via the Internet of Services to produce outputs based on the client's specifications.
Major Technologies Emerging from Industry 4.0
1. Building Information Modelling
BIM can be explained as a virtual prototype of a structure or a site that allows any aspect of the design to be simulated and assessed before beginning construction. It provides the insight and tools for efficient planning, designing, construction, and management of buildings and infrastructure.
The incorporation of BIM has seen a rapid rise due to the numerous advantages offered by it. It provides increased access to accurate as-built data, which aids with accurate cost estimation and reduced errors right from the designing phase to delivery, maintenance, demolition, and material reuse.
2. Drone Technology
With a growth rate of 239% in a year, drones are among the most revolutionary trends in the construction sector. The aerial vantage point and data collection offered by drones make them beneficial for all types of construction projects.
These UAVs can be equipped with cameras, GPS units, thermal sensors, and infrared sensors to gather key data on the job site, making them suitable for various activities. The drone technology has already made its mark in the construction industry and is bound to gain more traction and take the industry by storm in the years to come.
3. Cyber-Physical Systems
Cyber-physical systems can be defined as systems that enable computer-based algorithms to control or monitor buildings. This can be achieved by using central repositories of information like BIM workflows in combination with wireless technology.
These systems present bi-directional information that can be used to check the operation of assets in real-time and identify any potential problems before they manifest in the physical environment. Industry 4.0 will increase the construction sector’s awareness of cyber-physical systems, improving how we design, build and maintain assets.
Prefabrication is a construction technique in which different components of a structure are made at a manufacturing facility and transported to the location of the construction site for set up. Prefab is an umbrella term and has many subcategories of construction grouped under it, with the most common subcategories being panelization and modularization.
The prefab technique creates high-quality, innovative structures with increased efficiency and precision. It takes lesser time than conventional construction methods and also reduces construction wastes.
5. Green Construction
A green building is a quality building with higher standards that will perform better over its operational life with a reduced carbon footprint.
Green building practices focus on conserving environmental resources while offering sustainable advantages. These construction practices concentrate on developing sustainable buildings with eco-friendly building materials, increasing water and energy efficiency, reducing emissions and waste, and improving indoor environmental quality more efficiently than traditional buildings.
With the growing awareness around sustainability and climate change, this construction practice will gain prominence. Industry 4.0 will enable this shift towards sustainable construction through new technological innovations in the coming years.
The concept of the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0 embodies digitization, automation, and an increased use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) across all industries. The main objective of Industry 4.0 is to integrate production processes with the information technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Services, cloud computing, and cognitive computing.
The shift from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technology is a result of the third industrial revolution, which is also known as the digital revolution. IR 4.0 has been built upon the digital revolution, which connects people and technology.
The major technologies of IR 4.0 affecting the construction industry are BIM, drone technology, cyber-physical system, prefabrication, green construction, etc.
The term Industry 4.0 (German: Industrie 4.0) was coined in 2011, by a group of German representatives under an initiative to improve the country's manufacturing industry.