Technology made significant inroads in the construction industry in 2018. Don’t expect that trend to change or abate in the upcoming year. In fact, as competition grows stiffer, more companies are likely to embrace the latest technological advances.
Practically speaking, it’s better to be a leader than a follower. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 high-tech construction trends to watch for in 2019.
1. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) isn’t just for video gamers and science geeks anymore. It has practical applications in the real world — notably, the construction field. In the not-so-distant past, VR was the exclusive domain of a handful of firms operating on the cutting edge. However, it’s becoming more mainstream as potential buyers crave and sometimes demand this option.
Besides the “wow factor,” VR can improve safety and efficiency, while helping to deliver a high-quality product. And by walking clients through a full experience at inception, users can present solutions for distinctive designs or unusual conditions. Expect to see increased use of VR in construction during the planning and design stages for major projects.
2. Augmented Reality
With augmented reality (AR), a close cousin of VR, users can “walk” through 3D and 4D models without moving their feet. Doing so enables them to collect valuable information about the environment in real time.
New applications on the market, including an iOS app called MeasureKit, allow users to aim their smartphone or iPad at an object or building component and interact with it through the screen. More products are expected to debut or gain traction. For example, Autodesk’s BIM 360 Glue software enables subcontractors to point a device at a component and obtain information from the 3D models laid against the image framed in the device.
Construction industry leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency, streamline procedures and promote greater safety. Not surprisingly, use of robotics is on the upswing. A robot effectively can scan a building, plan for its demolition and remove it with minimal human interaction. Other comparable functions should be implemented this year.
4. Wearable Technology
New wearable devices continue to make their mark in the construction industry. Products range from smart glasses that add data to smart clothing such as heated jackets and cooling vests, to sensors in helmets, belts and shoes that sense fatigue or extreme stress.
These innovations may provide several benefits, including:
Efficiency. Wearable devices can track movements and determine where resources are being best used or wasted.
Safety. Technology-based gear reduces workplace hazards, such as excessive heat and cold, and minimizes the impact of injuries that do occur by providing earlier warnings of danger.
Productivity. When workers have greater protection and feel safer, they’re more likely to be productive.
5. Smart Machinery
Not only is worker clothing becoming smarter, but machinery is doing much more than breaking rocks or cutting wood. Today’s smart machinery is designed to collect data from job sites and analyze it for various purposes, including quality, tracking and safety.
Products such as drones can be use by crews to assemble photos, videos and other visual data so changes may be made or safety violations avoided. The built-in software can tag items by location, too. This enables supervisors to quickly identify and react to visual data on a specific job site. It also creates marketing opportunities based on the provided visuals, which can be added to a company website or brochures.
Prefab is hardly new, but technology is refining this approach to construction and making it more accessible to a greater number of project owners and contractors.
For instance, ManufactOn is an Internet-based platform that allows project participants to view the prefab process remotely or on-the-move. This means that anyone involved in the job can see the manufacturing process, get status updates and receive delivery notice of the assets in question. Similarly, Autodesk’s BIM 360 Docs makes it possible to view information in a single workflow spanning the entire prefabrication process.
7. Predictive Analysis
Risk is a necessary evil for construction businesses. And how you identify and manage risk can make or break your company.
To help predict and address potential threats, new products can analyze data from subcontractors, suppliers, designers and even your crew. This provides a means for identifying project elements that need immediate attention as well as long-term strategic and industry issues. Over time, you can continue to receive updated analyses that allow you to more proactively address specific risks.
8. 3D Printing
3D printing was initially thought to primarily benefit architects and designers. They could create disposable models and reprint them often while perfecting a design. But 3D printing has also found a home in the construction industry.
This innovation has already been used in full-sized construction projects — even in the building of bridges. Now construction companies are beginning to use 3D printing to create the components of full-sized homes. The possibilities seem endless.
9. Green Building
Green (or “sustainable”) building refers to practices and procedures that are environmentally sensitive and that use resources efficiently. It encompasses the entire life cycle of a building, from design and construction through operation and maintenance to renovation and, finally, if necessary, demolition.
Although green building is increasingly taking new forms, the main shared objective is still to protect the environment. This may be accomplished through elements such as:
- Lessening use of energy, water and other resources,
- Preventing pollution and chemical spills that can harm public health,
- Improving productivity to run quicker, more efficient projects,
- Reducing waste and general deterioration, and
- Increasing a building’s sustainability over the long term.
Delays caused by lack of communication or miscommunication between a job site and home office — or between a trailer and design office — can be frustrating and costly. This is especially true when you’re working on a razor-thin profit margin.
Fortunately, the technology for connecting remote sites is speeding up all the time. Mobile devices and the latest apps enable you to access the latest drawings and documents more quickly while handling Requests for Information (RFIs) and other issues. Miscommunications can be greatly reduced using videotelephony, web-based meetings and instant messaging. You can also prevent the need for rework and, if a change order does arise, document the circumstances more thoroughly so you’ll get it approved more easily.
In summary, 2019 promises to be an exciting year for technological innovation and improvement in construction. Take steps now to put your construction company at the forefront.