Founder of Society of Speed.
Emerging technologies are disrupting the construction industry in a way never seen before. The latest advances in a variety of fields are making construction, easier, cheaper, and more environmentally sustainable than ever before.
In this article, we'll give a brief overview of some of the more interesting technologies on the horizon and how they aim to change the construction industry for the better in the years to come.
We have all gotten used to wearable technology in our daily lives from fitness trackers helping us to monitor our activity levels to smartwatches keeping us updated on our latest texts and emails. Wearable technology also has a lot of applications within the construction industry. Deploying wearable technologies in the workforce can help to increase both safety and efficiency by tracking the position of everybody on site and tracking their routes and movements, giving an instant overview of everybody onsite and their precise locations. Wearables can also help to streamline hands-free communication in dangerous and delicate situations such as crane operations.
Augmented reality is the blending of virtual, on-screen, technology with the real world to create augmentations. It has been used for entertainment, marketing, and advertising for a few years now, but only recently has the technology began to be utilized for purposes outside of entertainment.
Using AR for design can help to speed up the process, allowing both designers, architects, and clients to visualize the completed project, in real space, based solely on 3D models. AR can also be used effectively to get semi-accurate measurements, which while not ideal for the final designs, can be an excellent mid-step to speed up the overall process.
Green and sustainable technologies have been a part of the construction industry for nearly half a century now, with recycled plastics and rubbers being used as far back as 1960. There is always more to be done, though, and people are always looking to find ways to make their home and properties more sustainable to both benefit the environment and save on their bills. People are already benefiting from technologies in this area with elements such as improved heating technology and automated cleaning systems making their swimming pools more sustainable.
Surveying is a detailed orientated operation, and like anything that requires high amounts of precision and detail, it is therefore time-consuming and expensive. Anything that can be done to save time while still maintaining the same degree of accuracy is a huge saving. Drones, combined with laser scanning technologies, can do exactly that, offering precise site surveys in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, of traditional surveying methods.
Concrete is synonymous with the construction industry being used in projects of all sizes around the world. One of the main issues with concrete is that when it begins to degrade repairs are costly and time-consuming. Self-repairing concrete, utilizing dormant bacteria to regrow limestone deposits in cracks, will revolutionize the construction industry in the years to come, reducing repair and maintenance time and costs.
Robotics is becoming increasingly more common in all kinds of industries, including the construction industry. Robotics are deployed in a variety of ways from off-the-shelf solutions to custom-designed models and are used to help automate various stages of the construction process, offering high degrees of accuracy, reliability, and safety.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems are set to further revolutionize the construction and design industries moving forward in 2020 and beyond. BIM systems allow all project stakeholders to quickly and efficiently share information, ensuring that everybody involved always has the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Transparent aluminium truly does feel like a space-age technology straight from the likes of Star Trek, but it is indeed real, and while it is still cost-prohibitive for most projects, the price is quickly falling as the technology gets easier and cheaper to manufacture. It's easy to see the appeal and applications: a material as transparent as glass, but as strong and light as aluminium.
3D printing is the latest at-home technology, with printers now being cheap enough for everyone to have one and millions of designs available online to print a variety of objects. It also has industrial applications with specialist printers able to print at large scale and in materials such as metal and concrete making construction easier and faster. Traditional small scale 3D printing is also perfect for rapid prototyping of anything from custom components to whole building models.
Advances in technology will naturally necessitate people who are trained and experts in utilising it. Many of the technological advancements in this article such as 3D printing, robotics, and self-repairing concrete will require new training and expertise within the industry in order to use them for the correct applications and in the best, and safest, way possible.
As you can see, the construction industry is no different from any other industry when it comes to technology moving forward at a rapid pace. Some of these innovations are already in use today, whilst others are just a few years away from mainstream applications. Regardless of the timeline, it's clear that technological advances are here to stay, disrupting and enhancing the construction industry in a variety of ways.