The construction industry influences lives every day. The industry exemplifies the building blocks of our communities, and, from a broader perspective, is a foundation of the nation's economy.
That said, unlike other industries, the construction industry has been sluggish to adopt new technologies and, perhaps, has never experienced a significant transformation for that reason. Consequently, productivity has stagnated over the past four decades, and in some cases, even sank. In some documented studies, it’s been reported that the productivity gains in the construction industry are only half as much as for all other sectors.
The construction industry also faces several important questions, such as climate change, sustainability, lagging productivity, and financial pressure. Inefficiencies can be identified in almost every area of the construction ecosystem, beginning from design through to implementation. These inefficiencies give rise to increased costs and environmental impacts like wastage of materials, inefficient space allocation, or increased pollution.
However, this scenario seems set to transform radically very soon. Intense changes are already occurring—although not yet on a broader scale—but in several aspects of the construction industry. It would be apt to say that the future is almost here but is not uniformly distributed. Let’s take a look at the changes that technology will bring in.
The Key is Digitization According to McKinsey, construction-technology companies have gained over $10 billion in funding. Such investments are pushing technological innovations ahead at a rapid pace. This promises to enable the industry to deliver grand projects like underwater railway tunnels, human-made islands, and other marvels. The impact is likely to be felt at the massive as well as the minute level.
An increasing number of construction projects will integrate digital sensors, mobile devices, intelligent machines, and innovative software applications—usually integrated with building information modeling (BIM) to create data-driven strategies. One fascinating instance of digital technologies facilitating the construction industry is the restoration of one of the world's key landmarks: Notre Dame. After the disastrous fire last year, discussions concerning its renovation entered the modern age extremely fast. In 2015, an Art History professor produced a billion data points by 3D laser scanning the complete cathedral and formulating a high-resolution digital blueprint. His efforts helped in mapping the building into models with utmost precision, allowing for insightful decision-making and planning for the necessary renewal.
New tools and technologies in the digital space will help construction organizations enhance productivity, lessen project delays, and further improve buildings' quality and enhance safety, working conditions, and environmental compatibility.
Technology Revolutionizing Construction Phases
Technology is revolutionizing three crucial life cycle phases of every construction project. All through the design and engineering stage, it’s apparent now that BIM recognizes possible design clashes and constructability problems, thus preventing costly rework. It’s also becoming increasingly obvious that BIM enhances the tendering process by making all the information increasingly transparent and accessible. An attention-grabbing instance is that of Crossrail. It is one of the most complex and most significant infrastructure projects involved in constructing a critical underground line across London. During this project, the designers and engineers utilized a centralized set of connected BIM databases to incorporate roughly 1.7 million CAD files into a single information model to allow vendors to bid and plan better.
During the construction stage, drones are likely to be utilized to survey and inspect the construction site. 3D printers will prefabricate several building components. The materials, equipment, and workers will be regularly tracked using GPS and RFID to optimize workflows, improve real-time locational awareness, and optimize inventory levels. Robots and autonomous vehicles will carry out more building work. Aerial mapping or 3D laser scanning can be effectively used to compare work in progress with a virtual model, allowing prompt corrections and minimizing unnecessary rework. During the operations stage, embedded sensors will be leveraged to inspect assets, check for deterioration, assist predictive maintenance, and continuously update central databases. Augmented Reality will further guide maintenance crews. The big data (collected from sensors, energy consumption, etc.) will be subjected to advanced analytics to optimize decision-making and boost operational efficiency.
It’s true, the adoption of these transformative construction technologies has been slow. While few construction companies have faced some struggle in adopting, the others who had employed these technologies faced a hard time to capture all the possible benefits. However, gradually, these obstacles will fall. As technology adoption grows, productivity gains will become apparent and outcomes will improve visibility.
The Way Forward for Construction Industry
Connected technologies and a rise in associated investments will help construction technology companies fine-tune their offerings, acquire more customers, demonstrate more value, and articulate their benefits better. As technology becomes more visible, it will help drive adoption in the wider construction sector. Construction companies will seek new operational efficiencies and better financial outcomes by utilizing technology in the planning, delivery, and operation of construction projects and gain substantial business value.
McKinsey says that $ 10 billion will be invested in construction technology companies. This will likely help bring about a paradigm shift in how Indian construction companies look at technology.