Technology enhancements have changed the face of industries across the globe, and construction is no exception. In the last two years since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual technologies for communications, workflow and remote meetings have kept construction companies and projects operating and even improving in efficiency.
Some examples of cloud-based technology utilization that are improving the speed and efficiency of construction include:
Project Management Cloud Based Software Options
Multiple platforms for cloud-based project management software exist, allowing teams to communicate, share documents, verify changes and track costs from remote locations. These technologies streamline the efforts between the office management teams, onsite supervision, owners and design teams.
Some of the companies offering cloud-based project management software include:
Procore is a popular software designed primarily for general contractors and is available for desktop or mobile use, and can be used with iOS, Android or Windows devices. Procore is reported to be user-friendly, cost efficient and to have great customer service. It is also rated an A+ with the Better Business Bureau.
Also scoring an A+ rating with the BBB, Buildertrend is geared more towards home remodeling contractors. The platform works through web browsers, as well as iOS and Android apps.
This online construction management platform is best for small to mid-size construction firms, and like the former two products, has an A+ BBB ranking. This web-based platform is accessible as long as users have internet access, and offers a mobile app called FieldShare for remote use.
Sage300 CRE and Sage 100
Formerly known as Timberline, this software is for large scale construction projects with complex workflows. Sage 100 is designed for small to mid-size contractors. This software isn’t as mobile-friendly as some of the options listed above.
Autodesk BIM 360
This cloud-based construction management tool can be used on the web or on iOs or Android apps. This option is higher priced than many others, though it has extensive features and usability. This program makes the most sense for large projects and teams.
This software integrates construction accounting and project management software with a robust offering of programs that can be tailored to each user’s needs. With cloud-based systems, this platform can be used for the office or field communications and documentation.
These companies are only a partial list of the cloud-based construction management software firms available. Each caters to a slightly different clientele, and users are wise to extensively investigate which option best fits their business needs before committing to one of them.
Virtual Meeting Platforms
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual meeting platforms have exploded in popularity. In fact, This market increased by 500% in the first two months of the pandemic, and the majority of workers believe that these meetings are more productive than in-person meetings.
Over this time period, construction teams switched most meetings to virtual platforms like Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, and even performed virtual site inspections with local jurisdictions utilizing mobile phones to show spaces to inspectors.
The implication of virtual platforms means that the fast past of the construction industry will only increase as teams cut down on travel time for meetings, jurisdictions can ‘visit’ infinitely more jobsites in a single day, and ownership or design teams can remain informed even if they’re located across the country or globe.
While conference calls have been in existence for many years, the increasing availability of video for group meetings has revolutionized the effectiveness of these virtual discussions. Individuals can still see facial expressions, for instance, or screen share documents for group review. This ability combined with virtual project management software so that all parties have current documents at hand contribute to effective and efficient meetings, even if each participant is in a separate location.
Technology Contributing to Efficient Delivery Methods
Construction, design and ownership teams can engage in a variety of contractual arrangements related to the project delivery model. Some collaborative delivery models, like Progressive Design-Bid-Build or Integrated Project Delivery rely heavily on efficient communication and information sharing.
In the Integrated Project Delivery model, the full scope of the project may not be determined when construction begins. Changes to designs may be issued at a furious pace, increasing the need for instant sharing of documents and clarifications, and tracking to ensure the building is based on the most current designs.
Cloud-based software platforms allow for the quick dissemination of new information, moving from a process that used to take days, to nearly simultaneous delivery to all team members.
Administrators of these cloud-based construction management platforms can see when users have accessed each piece of building information and at what time. This kind of tracking can cut down on arguments from trade partners or team members about whether they were informed of the most recent version of the design.
Cloud-based platforms also enable communication to occur seamlessly and quickly. Responses to RFI’s or change orders, for instance, are instantly accessible within these programs. Where these communications used to require more steps to prepare emails or send hard copies by courier or through fax, the answers are now available as soon as the decision maker has uploaded them to the system.
Encouraging Sustainability through Virtual and Cloud-based Platforms
The topic of sustainability is an ever increasing one in the construction industry, as the United Nations Environment Program has identified buildings and the construction of them as more than 1/3 of global energy use and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.
Virtual platforms and cloud-based software are one piece of the puzzle in reducing our industry’s contribution to global warming. Utilization of these technologies can:
- Reduce the utilization of vehicles for travelling to meetings or in-person office spaces
- Reduce the use of paper for documentation
- Increase communication related to the availability of sustainable materials and their impact in the project
Programs like LEED, Energy Star or the Living Building Challenge all require a significant amount of coordination to implement. The ability to share information or have meetings on fully virtual platforms allows us to enact these programs without increasing our need for travel or paper waste.
In addition to increasing the speed of our work and efficiency, comprehensive data security has become essential to every aspect of a business. Whether it be confidential employee information, company finances, or confidential design plans, security is a must.
Businesses have expanded to meet the needs of employees working from home or remote sites, relying heavily on cloud-based solutions and services, implementing secure RDP or VPNs. They are deploying MFA authentication, encryption and complex passwords for every user in the company.
Emerging technologies are playing a huge part in revolutionizing the construction industry. Building teams have the opportunity to embrace these changes or fall behind. There is no question that these programs provide increased efficiency and transparency to building projects in a way we have never before been able to achieve.