Construction companies are adopting cutting-edge technologies to improve their workflow and increase profit margins. Every construction professional, regardless of their specialty, should consider incorporating these new tech tools into their skillset.
If you’re just starting or are an established small player in the industry, technology can level the playing field. It can allow you to compete with larger companies and overcome challenges that often affect startups.
Small construction businesses should seriously consider implementing relevant technology to increase their chances of success. This article will look at some of the newest and most influential technologies in the construction industry.
1. Mobile Technology
Smartphones and tablets are readily available and are one of the most obvious tech tools for construction applications. These devices are portable and allow workers to communicate and share information from anywhere. With smartphones, workers can document progress, share access to real-time data, and update schedules and inventory needs.
Specialized mobile devices made for construction usually have well-lit screens and extra casing for durability. Some also have additional components, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) scanners to help track materials and equipment.
Drones are technically known as “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs. Before consumer drones came on the market, UAVs were used by the military to carry out reconnaissance and survey remote locations that humans couldn’t easily reach. Civilian construction companies now use these unmanned aircraft for similar purposes.
Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras can conduct surveys of construction sites and collect data, which they can then relay to operators remotely.
Images collected by drones can make site inspections and assessments safer and more efficient. Managers can use these images to monitor work even if they are not onsite. The same pictures or videos can create 3D representations of the site for building information modeling (BIM) purposes.
Mobile technology is evolving to include wearable devices. These items have embedded systems that send data over the same frequencies as smartphones.
Wearables include smart hard hats and glasses, which provide real-time data and augmented reality features to users. Information may include visuals from a camera and metadata, such as conditions, material information, structural integrity assessments, and measurements. This data comes from sensors that continuously assess the surroundings. Such wearables may give workers valuable information that they can use to complete their tasks faster and more accurately.
Wearables are also valuable for health and construction safety best practices. Health trackers in smartwatches and safety vests can monitor worker vitals, location, and actions in real-time. These wearables collect and interpret data that can alert the user or a supervisor of any health risks or safety problems. Ideally, an early warning can prevent a dangerous health or safety situation.
4. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building information modeling, or BIM, is a step up from computer-aided design (CAD). CAD allows designers to make their blueprints using computer software. BIM programs enable users to embed engineering data into these designs.
With BIM, the user does not just create a 3D rendering of a building. They also include other kinds of information, such as the materials to use on the walls and floors, the dimensions of the doors, the location of electrical wiring and plumbing, engineering information, and even data on the soil, weather, and other elements that will affect construction.
By incorporating large amounts of data, BIM allows multiple specialists to work on a single model. For example, if the architect wants to remove a wall from the design, the BIM model will tell them if the electrical engineer placed some wires in it or if it is a load-bearing wall.
BIM allows for a more streamlined design and faster design and construction processes. Because of the collaboration, a BIM model is a more accurate representation of the final building. As data collection improves, BIM software will become even more precise and may even update in real-time as the construction project progresses.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) allows for the design of autonomous equipment that can complete tasks without human assistance. Such automated tasks can increase safety and decrease operating costs.
AI can also analyze data collected from the site via drones and other devices. This information can help in a variety of ways, including calculating material needs, streamlining scheduling of contractors, and factoring weather and budget into construction plans.
6. 3D Printing
3D printing enables construction to happen faster and lowers overhead costs. Materials such as plastics, concrete, and composites can be 3D printed according to specifications and transported to the site, where workers can quickly assemble them.
Some printers can even produce components at the construction site.
3D printing is very accurate. Computer designs created by robotic printing equipment are far more precise than human workers. They also enable construction companies to carry out projects faster and waste less material. Fortune estimates that up to 40% of solid waste in America is building-related. Producing less waste makes it easier and cheaper to clean up construction sites.
7. Laser Scanning
Laser scanning is another data collection technology that can be very useful in the construction industry. Laser scanners collect field measurements in the form of points on a coordinate system, known as point cloud data.
This kind of data is very accurate and helps to build detailed BIM models of construction sites. Laser scanning can help analyze existing conditions and compare them to proposed new elements to determine if there might be potential engineering or infrastructure issues
8. Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet of things (IoT) describes devices embedded into equipment and devices. These “implanted” systems can collect data and monitor operations.
The internet of things can significantly improve the accuracy of BIM models for construction companies. Data collection can also help managers monitor progress, define small problems before they become significant issues, and alert them of repair needs or materials shortages.