New technology is transforming the way that buildings and infrastructure are designed, constructed, and operated. These tech innovations are positively impacting decision making and accelerating performance across the construction industry today.
As competition increases in competing for projects and attracting talented workers, companies need to keep up with the latest technologies and how it could be benefiting them.
When implementing new technologies, companies need to be sensitive and strategic as not to upset veteran workers who may feel set in more traditional ways of operating. Implementing new systems gradually and steadily to reduce any contention with employees is the best approach to transition to using new technology.
Although some of these technologies are expensive they are becoming more commercially affordable and, despite initial investments, companies will save money in the long run by streamlining processes.
We take a look at 5 of the latest developments to get on board with that are set to become a necessary practice for firms in the next few years. Read on to see how these new technologies can reap benefits for the Construction sector and improve your business.
1. Building Information Modelling
Traditional paper blueprints and drawings often make it hard to capture and analyze data. They can also make it difficult for planners to share information with contractors to ensure quality control and smooth running. One solution is BIM.
BIM or Building Information Modelling is a new concept focused on the development of a computable model for building project development. Within the construction sector BIM is particularly helpful for creating simulations, estimations and analyzing projects. Construction simulations can test out various designs and optimize for the best cost-performance ratio. They can also ensure overall construction safety regulations are met. BIM is used to create 3D visualization of buildings allowing improved collaborations for construction teams, subcontractors and customers to spot and correct errors in 3D designs quicker or before they are implemented. BIM differs from CAD as it goes beyond a drawing on a screen to reducing costs and saving time. BIM helps manage complexity and improves overall performance.
Data from various different elements of the construction project can be attached including graphs, schedule, photos and scans allowing all this material to be found and easily accessible in one place. Another benefit of BIM is that instead of only two parties communicating via email leaving the rest of the team “out the loop” when changes are made to plans, BIM allows a collective view of project developments. Various people involved in any one project can view what has been done and what still needs doing; allowing more transparency and a smoother flow of communication.
There are many free and open source BIM applications that are available online. However, commercial BIM applications tend to be more user-friendly, as their business logic is that construction companies should get more value faster and spend less time worrying about the inner workings of the software platform. Autodesk and NEmetschek are commercial BIM vendors who have actively promoted common building data formats making it easier to exchange data between different programs.
BIM is currently being introduced to students in higher education on construction related courses and is expected to become more prevalent in coming years.
Okappy is an innovative business-to-business communications platform that re-thinks how companies manage their workers. It combines social and market network technology to communicate and collaborate with employees across different sites and with different clients. It is especially well-catered towards the construction sector because of how commonly subcontractors are used for any one construction related project. The account managing software Xero has been built into Okappy, enabling construction companies to stay on top of their finances without any information going missing with lost job sheets.
Building a network on Okappy streamlines processes, reduces paperwork and increases efficiency and can make a significant contribution to bottom line profits. Okappy enables construction companies complete control of every job. It’s real-time and location tracking features can be used remotely and across devices; improving communication between stakeholders. It allows project managers the tools to easily handle complex and multifaceted projects. This rapidly growing platform is paving the way for job management in the construction sector.
3. Virtual Reality
No doubt, by now you will have seen a picture of the black brick-like eyepieces otherwise known as VR headsets. VR has most commonly been used for the gaming industry, but is beginning to break into the construction sector, paving the way for profit acceleration and increased project success.
VR headsets connected up to software can be used to show clients what a 2D blueprint looks like in real life. This offers people the opportunity to “walk-through” a building as it would appear once the final project has been constructed. It can be a useful tool for testing out plans, identifying errors such as the location of wall partitions and making changes (without the time and cost of building a physical structure). Traditional use of construction scaled mock-up models of sites are being replaced by VR modelling. This creates a more experiential view of what the project will look like once constructed. Clients will feel more involved in the process which will enable better client-contractor relationships and increase approvals of planning proposals and the likelihood of winning projects.
Although VR is being integrated slowly into the construction sector, it is only a matter of time before this technology becomes an established practice of the industry. What could go wrong with a technology that helps eliminate errors, refine designs and improve communication between clients and contractors whilst saving time and money?
4. Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality merges technological visualizations with the real world by superimposing digital imagery onto the user’s view of physical world. By overlaying data and images onto physical spaces, errors can be more easily identified earlier one, for example when laying ceiling pipes. Through superimposing the mechanical and electrical systems onto physical structures, clashes and issues not made obvious from drawings or BIM models will be highlighted. AR would also mean that measurements are accurate, further reducing instances of human error.
The SmartReality app from JBKnowledge allow users to hold digital devices such as smartphones or tablets over designs to enable them to view 2D plans projected as 3D models. Companies like Ikea have created apps that allow customers to scan images from their catalogue which then scale up products within a camera app to allow customers to picture the items in the space of their house before deciding to purchase.
The future will see further implementation of AR within the construction industry with the creation of more construction-centric AR products and applications. Workers will have tablets on-site and will be using these apps to render 3D models to enable construction teams to compare models to blueprint.
5. Drones and Laser Scanning
Drones are unmanned flying machines, which have gained much media attention in recent years. Although heavily politicized and contested, drone technologies provide the construction sector with invaluable tools for delivering a successful project. Laser scanning technology, commonly referred to as a point cloud survey, is a method of data collection which captures precise details and measurements of a given surface.
The use of drones integrated with cloud point survey software and laser scanners provides a robust method for surveying otherwise inaccessible surfaces and complex geometries. This data can be imported into BIM software programs, which can render this data into 3D visual graphics. Drones and laser scanning are becoming a reliable method of capturing detailed topographies, townscapes and existing buildings.
As the development of drone technology has accelerated, these products have become more commercially available. The 3D visualizations acquired from laser scans will provide material for comparisons to be made between planned progress and the real thing. The future of drones and laser scanners will see their usage integrated with the use of 3D printers in order to manufacture and replace building components. Large surveying companies have already started training their staff on how to use these new technologies.
Author: I believe business can be a force for good, but all too often work ends up being painful as companies are overloaded with admin, paperwork and masses of emails. My mission is to improve the working lives of construction companies, giving them complete control of every job every step of the way and have some fun!