State of the Construction Industry: April 2018 Roundup
9 Minute Read
Technology coming to the construction industry isn’t a new topic. But if this month’s news is any indication, the trend toward new, inventive construction technology continues to move along quickly. We’ve recently seen increases in mobile technology on the jobsite, drones, technology for project management and plenty of other tools that can change the way contractors work.
Check out the following stories from April’s news to see what other technology is coming to construction and how it might affect your organization.
According to IoT Agenda, the consumer wearables market in the United States is growing more slowly than expected. The interesting thing, though, is that commercial and industrial applications for wearables are on the rise and expected to grow exponentially. In construction, safety will likely be one of the biggest uses for this technology. Wristbands with beacons, for example, could track the locations of machinery and people to provide alerts when they’re entering unsafe areas. Biometric wearables could track not only a worker’s movement, but also monitor vital signs and deliver alerts when a dangerous situation arises.
The takeaway: Jobsite safety in construction may very well involve—and even require—wearables in the not-too-distant future. Contractors should keep an eye on this trend, observe what others in the industry are using and consider testing this technology if it seems appropriate.
A recent publication by McKinsey & Company notes there’s growing interest in using AI-powered algorithms in construction, but that investment in this technology will likely be small for the time being. AI has the potential to help with challenges like schedule overruns and safety concerns. For example, project schedule optimizers using AI could consider all the possibilities for project delivery and timelines. Meanwhile, AI-powered image recognition could keep projects on track, monitor quality and improve safety.
The takeaway: At this point, most contractors don’t have the skills, personnel and/or resources to invest in AI. But AI is already having a huge impact in other industries like transportation, manufacturing and retail, so this technology certainly isn’t going away. Keep AI on your radar because it will affect construction at some point.
Construction Dive reports that renovations to Paris’ famous Eiffel Tower involve building information modeling (BIM), the 3D modeling tool that’s becoming more popular in the construction industry. BIM will help coordinate the project’s complex schedules and budgets so it’s completed in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics. This project brings some high-profile attention to BIM, which is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 21.6 percent between 2016 and 2022.
The takeaway: The United States doesn’t have a BIM mandate yet, but stories like this one demonstrate the growing importance of BIM throughout the construction industry worldwide. Contractors should consider whether BIM would help them coordinate their own projects.
To increase speed, safety and productivity on jobsites, technology companies are creating robotics solutions that automate processes. The Associated Press reports that San Francisco startup Built Robotics is developing automated bulldozers that use sensors and autonomous driving technology, while New York-based Construction Robotics has developed SAM, a bricklaying robot that’s leading to many interesting discussions among masons.
The takeaway: The labor shortage continues to pose problems for contractors. Automated technologies like robots can address these issues by shortening the time it takes to complete jobs. Not everyone can run out to buy an automated bulldozer, but solutions like it could benefit contractors in multiple ways.
3D-printed houses have been in quite a few headlines recently. Smart Cities Dive describes how 3D printing is being used not only for houses, but bridges, infrastructure repairs and a variety of other applications. For home construction in particular, 3D printing could bring multiple benefits, including faster build times and reduced construction costs. We haven’t seen 3D-printed houses much in the United States yet, but those in the 3D printing field indicate we could as soon as next year.
The takeaway: An increase in 3D printed homes could affect the need for labor, traditional building materials and many other aspects of construction. So far, 3D printing is only occurring on a small scale, so there’s no reason to panic. It’s definitely worth seeing whether this trend gains traction in the future, though.
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