People don’t often think of “emerging technologies” when they consider the construction industry. They usually think of craftsmanship and old-fashioned hard work, which are still crucial elements we are proud to uphold today. While we will always value and hold true to those “old” ways of commitment to craftsmanship and relationships with people, we are also open to new innovations that can enhance what we do.
Here are some great examples of how emerging technologies are revolutionizing construction:
We use software for many different tasks, but it has moved far beyond the early versions of Excel or CAD that were stored on hard drives. Cloud technology has given the construction industry access to software that can quite literally be used anywhere. For example, Project Managers can use P6 while in the office or on a job site and know that they’re always looking at the most up-to-date information.
Earthworks is a tool used internally for excavation quantities, budgets and site balancing. Software like this helps to speed the estimating process by removing a lot of the manual components.
Viewpoint Team is another project management software which helps to keep entire teams connected and updated with vital project information. Software such as these can have a huge impact in streamlining communication among team members and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Cameras and Drones
There are many applications for cameras and drones within the construction world. For example, drones can monitor site safety, enhance security and help to reach and measure places that may otherwise be dangerous for a human to access. We use Lidar Drones for topographical mapping of sites, as well as documentation and aerial photography.
FLIR thermal cameras are invaluable for moisture and heat tracking on construction sites. Where under “old fashioned” methods we may have had to tear down areas in buildings to accurately diagnose any hidden issues, this sort of camera can track them and save time and money.
Cameras can also help construction companies monitor progress across multiple job sites remotely. For example, we use TrueLook Construction Cameras to gain live views of our project sites and to create time lapses of our work.
Total Stations are another huge efficiency. These surveying cameras allow us to quickly and accurately conduct site surveys during project planning.
Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have grown rapidly over the last few years. In construction, VR can give clients a virtual review of plans. Imagine being able to accurately see how a building project will look, before it has even started – that’s what VR does, allowing clients to give informed feedback, before ground has broken.
VR and AR (Augmented Reality) are also having an impact on training within the construction industry. This technology can allow operators to run very life-like simulations, without the risk of damage or injury. If you can imagine something like a disaster recovery scenario, it can be invaluable to train for these more dangerous situations first.
AI has been developed across a number of applications, from basic bots used in apps, to more complex robots with machine learning capabilities. For example, ALICE is an AI-powered simulation platform that has been specifically designed for the construction industry. The aim of ALICE is to help solve complex building problems.
We’re often involved with the design and construction of smart buildings, but smart technology is also here to help within the construction world.
Smart tools are increasingly being developed to solve common issues on construction sites. For example, concrete deliveries have long seen mix-ups through misunderstood phone orders, sometimes leading to the concrete being poured into the wrong component. Among Doka’s smart tools there is now a Smart Pouring app, giving site managers oversight of concrete deliveries.
Other examples include a smart work helmet that helps to monitor worker safety and SmartBoots, which also monitor worker safety in high-risk environments. Both have inbuilt emergency notification technology, so if someone needs help, it can be quickly dispatched.
Looking at the buildings themselves, smart structural monitoring systems are able to predict building issues before they happen. Systems such as Leica Geosystems monitor for issues and alert the site or building owner early, so that crews can be sent in. These systems can also be used in settings such as mines to monitor structural integrity.
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is rapidly becoming the standard across the globe for the “smart” management of construction projects. BIM applies AR and Internet of Things (or smart) technologies to manage workflows and take a collaborative approach to projects.
Basically, any information related to the project can be stored with BIM, including the data from smart tools or wearables. Importantly, BIM aims to bring new standards of efficiencies to construction projects, along with transparency and safety.
Smart Building Materials
Building materials is another area ripe for disruption by new technologies. At the 2019 CREW Convention, a highlight for us was a fascinating keynote on the subject, given by Skylar Tibbets, Co-Director and Founder of MIT’s Self Assembly Lab.
The MIT lab has been researching and producing materials that self-assemble or have a programmable component. For example, 4D printing, phase change materials and transformable structures.
While most of these technologies are still undergoing research, 3D printing is one that is already in use within construction. From individual components to an entire development of 3D printed houses underway in Mexico, this technology is being used to provide efficient, affordable construction solutions.
Emerging technologies are developing rapidly and, in many respects, the construction industry is at the forefront.
Core areas of development include technologies that streamline business functions, help to improve safety or accomplish tasks that might otherwise involve a lot of manual effort. The overall impacts include better efficiencies, cost savings and improved customer experience, too.
At Perlo, we’re proud to be part of an innovative industry. One of our Perlo Practices is to “stay hungry,” to never be satisfied with “good enough” and to boldly look ahead. We’re excited to play a role in taking the construction industry forward.