“It is high time that the Construction Industry adopts and adapts to the digital environment as it has proved to be efficient and beneficial on all the three major fronts: Time, financial and sustainability.”
1. The Digital Tornado
Of all the major contributing industries, the Construction industry has been the slowest to absorb from the untamable technological tornado that first whirled up circa 1985 with 3D modeling. It has revved up ever since producing more and more tools and software for efficient execution of work, and it has become evident to everyone by now that there won’t be subsiding of it anymore.
While the other industries have gone through a complete systemic overhaul by their total submission towards it, Construction industry, adhering adamantly to the traditional techniques, has yet to bend its torso in front of it.
2. Why the Resistance?
The primary reason for the reluctance is believed to be the extreme sophistication and intricacies involved in the construction projects which one fears may get jeopardized by adopting anything new at all. The other reason is the lack of enough large players that can set an industry-wide standard. The industry has always focused on continuous improvement process which they now need to shift and stop deeming digital tools as impractical.
Today, it is imperative for the industry to adopt and accept digitalization with open arms as it hugely affects the economy’s growth and development.
3. What is the Need?
The stand-out niches that are being taken over by digital technology are collaboration and information management. The advent of new technologies is redefining engineering practices and the way how we act towards difficult situations. Be it BIM, virtual reality, drones, 3D mapping, 3D printing or mobile technology – understanding how all these could come together to facilitate a piece of work is indispensable for companies to evolve, compete, and survive in the industry.
There has also been a significant increase in the clients’ expectations having been exposed to rapid changes in other sectors. From owning smartphones to smart televisions and now the desire to own smart infrastructure (rightly so!), demands are increasing and becoming more and more complex. Descending costs and ascending efficiency of hardware (sensors) and software is yet another temptation attracting digitalization towards the industry.
The industry has also been witnessing the influx of tech-savvy engineers who have a proclivity towards the adoption of digitalization in their environment. The demand for environmentally sensitive construction too could be catered with the adoption of digital tools. Above all, there lies the need to compete and conquer the massive infrastructure projects that require you to be digitally literate.
4. The Digital Drivers
Here are some tools and software that are driving the “brick and mortar” industry through the digital age:
1) BIM: Building Information Modeling has been lurking around now for a couple of years, but is yet to be accepted by the majority. BIM allows one to see the digital simulation of the projects even before a single brick has been laid. It helps with the mitigation and extermination of planning errors, permits faster calculations, quantifies the extra cost and shows all the viable options available to execute a piece of work.
The models that can be made through BIM have several dimensions of project information-3D BIM can be used to assess the constructability of a building before the project is executed; 4D BIM enables visualization of the building model over time by simulating the construction process; 5D BIM assists with early budget estimations with high level of detail and accuracy.
To read more about BIM please go through: http://theconstructor.org/construction/building-information-modeling/13614/
2) Virtual, Augmented and Mixed reality: The introduction of AR, VR and MR has brought a humongous shift in the way construction companies consume and interact with data. Being able to walk through and even feel what a property will look like just with the assistance of a headgear provides the clients and the employees an extremely satisfying outlook.
While VR finds its utility mostly during the pre-construction stage, AR comes into play once the project has begun. With a smartphone or tablet, technical documentation or 3D models are merged onto real-time images of the project (through a camera) as it stands on site to offer a unique perspective.
3) Mobile technology: Mobile technology has reached almost all the far-ends of the industry and is being properly exploited for all the advantages it can provide for the efficient work-flow in the industry. The spectrum of its spread is such that there is no coming back to life without it.
Mobile technology has been helping with the quick transfer of data, management of files and drawings, quicker and accurate calculations on site, expense tracking, swifter reporting to authorities and capturing labor and equipment hours.
Construction Industry that is considered to be a laggard in the adoption of digital tools too is not very far from going paperless and thus contributing its bit towards sustainable development.
4) Internet of things and Smart sensors: Together, IoT and smart sensors are being used at construction sites for worker-safety, cost reduction, quality assessment, energy efficiency and maintenance of items by forecasting environmental conditions.
IoT is the ability of any device or an object with a sensor to connect with other machines over the internet. The objects or devices could range from trucks, bulldozers, haulers to wearable technology such as Fitbits or safety goggles to a person’s work boots. Any Construction site can be turned into a web of interconnected devices that are easily accessible from one office.
5) Drones: Drones and Unmanned Aerial vehicles have smoothly traversed from the commercial market to the construction industry for their innumerable benefits. They are being used for conducting aerial surveys, inspections, health and safety inductions, creating progress reports, promotional photography, laser scanning and thermal image recording. Drone technology has also bridged the communication gap between the offices and sites and assists with providing accurate and precise measurements.
6) AI or Machine learning: Involvement of AI in any field has always directed us towards the thought of a plenty of people going out of jobs because they can be replaced with smart algorithms and robots, but in the construction industry the dearth of the workforce has sought the assistance of AI.
Although it’s still in a nascent stage, machine learning is being used in construction industry for forecasting risks, comprehensive sifting of oodles of data for opting the best choices, monitoring and maintenance, and avoiding constructional hazards through analyses of the past experiences. AI in the construction industry is majorly focused on finding patterns in large datasets which would otherwise be a herculean task for humans to process.
The Construction industry is indubitably undergoing a systemic revolution but the rate of change isn’t in sync with the developments in the tech world. One can’t afford to ignore or overlook any opportunity if they seek to flourish in the industry as the competition is cutthroat and the one with the highest digital quotient would always be preferred over the Luddites, and finally come out on the surface defeating everyone else.