Construction Technology is Reshaping the Industry

This article from constructconnect.com written by Kendal Jones describes how construction technology is reshaping the industry.

What do a pickup truck, a nail gun, a portable circular saw, a cement mixer truck, and a modern hydraulic excavator all have in common? The obvious answer is that they are all tools and equipment commonly found on construction sites today. Another correct answer would be that they are all pieces of construction technology that didn’t exist 100 years ago.

Imagine what the jobsite would be like today without construction technology. Without power tools, we’d be cutting boards and drilling holes by hand. Without heavy equipment, laborers would be excavating sites and digging trenches with shovels and pickaxes. Without the elevator, buildings would only be a few stories tall.

The point is, advancements in new construction technology have always driven construction forward, so it’s odd that so many companies are slow to adopt new construction technologies. We’re able to build stronger, taller, and more energy efficient structures. Technology has made construction sites safer and workers more efficient. It has allowed us to increase productivity, improve collaboration, and tackle more complex projects.

What is Construction Technology?

The Construction Industry Institute defines construction technology as “the collection of innovative tools, machinery, modifications, software, etc. used during the construction phase of a project that enables advancement in field construction methods, including semi-automated and automated construction equipment.”

We can take that a step further and include preconstruction technology with things like online bid boards, bid management apps, and digital takeoff solutions.

Today, new technologies in construction are being developed at a breakneck pace. What seemed like future tech 10, 20 years ago like connected equipment and tools, telematics, mobile apps, autonomous heavy equipment, drones, robots, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D printed buildings are here and being deployed and used on jobsites across the world.

And, while construction firms continue to underinvest in technology, venture capitalists are betting big on the future of construction tech. A report from James Long LaSalle, Inc. released earlier this year shows that venture capital firms invested $1.05 billion in global contech startups during the first half of 2018. That’s a nearly 30% increase over the amount invested for all of 2017. Since 2009, investors have closed 478 funding deals totaling $4.34 billion.

Here’s a look at some of the major areas where technology is impacting and improving the construction industry:

Productivity

According to research from McKinsey & Company, construction productivity has remained flat for decades. The traditional method of design-bid-build makes construction disjointed and siloed. Every construction site is different, presenting its own unique set of challenges and risks. This makes it difficult to streamline processes and increase productivity the way industries like manufacturing and retail have been able to do.

Software & Mobile Apps

Today there are software and mobile solutions to help manage every aspect of a construction project. From preconstruction to scheduling, from project management and field reporting to managing your back office, there’s a software solution out there to help streamline your processes and improve productivity. Most software solutions are cloud-based, allowing changes and updates to documents, schedules, and other management tools to be made in real time, facilitating better communication and collaboration.

Mobile technology allows for real-time data collection and transmission between the jobsite and project managers in the back office. Cloud-based solutions enable on-site employees to submit timecards, expense reports, requests for information (RFIs), work records, and other verified documentation. This can save hundreds of hours per year in data entry and automatically organizes critical files—no more shuffling through files looking for old reports.

More and more software providers are forming strategic partnerships to allow you to seamlessly integrate your data with your other software solutions, making it easier than ever to run your business.

Offsite Construction

Offsite construction is typically used on projects with repetitive floorplans or layouts in their design such as apartment buildings, hotels, hospitals, dormitories, prisons, and schools. Offsite is performed in a controlled environment and it works similar to an auto manufacturing plant. At each station, workers have all the tools and materials to consistently perform their task, whether that be constructing a wall frame or installing electrical wiring. This assembly plant method of construction reduces waste and allows workers to be more productive.

Offsite construction typically comes in two forms: modular and prefabricated. With modular construction, entire rooms can be built complete with MEP, finishes, and fixtures already installed. They can be rooms as small as bathrooms or modules can be fitted together onsite to create larger spaces like apartment units. The modular units are transported to the construction site and then inserted and attached to the structural frame.

With prefabricated construction, building components are built offsite and then assembled or installed once they have been transported to the construction site. Prefabricated building components cover everything from framing, internal and external wall panels, door and window assemblies, floor systems, and multi-trade racks, which are panels with all the ductwork, wiring, and plumbing packaged together.

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