The year 2020 has ushered in the times of unpredictability and is anticipated to cause a long-lasting impact on the world economy. COVID-19 has created a situation wherethe demand is for India to be self-reliant in every way with the extensive support of science and technology. For sectors in India such as construction, there couldn’t be a better time to revamp the processes and fine-tune technology adoption as the projects reopen gradually.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recommended self-reliance as the way forward and suggested five pillars of self-reliance. These were economy, infrastructure, technology-driven systems, vibrant demography, and demand. Of those, at least two, infrastructure and technology-driven systems, go hand in hand. Let’s see how this match is necessary now.
Earlier this year, at the Construction Technology Conference in India, the Prime Minister had stated that the year 2020 was going to be all about construction and technology. India’s construction industry is already one of the fastest-growing in the world and was expected to reach$ 1 trillion by 2025.
A variety of challenges face India’s construction sector but the industry has been growing exponentially. Despite that, the use of technology has still not picked up enough space. The construction sector in India is often disorganized, family-run, and labour-dependant. The developers are still inclined to rely on conventional methodologies and practices. The wide availability of cheap manual labor and the necessity to keep the construction costs lower are some of the reasons why the construction industry in India is averse to adopting technology.
India’s construction industry is largely driven by homebuyers. The demand for residential properties has been steadily increasing and there’s a significant pressure to maintain a low cost of construction as the property prices continue soaring due to several other factors. The cost of land is one and commercial practices is another. The government has been actively engaged in introducing the global best practices and the RERA Act and GST are some efforts to standardize projects, assureconsumers of definite timelines in project delivery, and regulating the industry in general.
The Impact of COVID-19
In late March 2020, the country went into complete lockdown, shutting down all the construction projects- public as well as private. This had the knock-on effect ofdriving a large displacement of thousands of construction laborers, causing them to return home. This has also jeopardized the future of several projects.
When the lockdown is lifted, there are high chances that things won’t be back to normal fairly quickly for the construction industry. The shortage of raw material, as well as manpower, is expected to cause several hurdles in the projects across the country, bringing to the fore the importance of modernizing the construction processes by using technology. The need will be to deliver projects faster with constrained resources and fewer staff on site. That’s a “made for technology” problem. For instance, turning to Building Information Modeling could help constriction companies optimize resource estimates, make better plans and schedules, ensure greater collaboration, reduce clashes, and detect issues early. This has been proven to help deliver projects faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost.
Lack of standardization: The wake-up call
One of the most critical reasons causing problems in the construction process in the country and also causing significant delays in project completion is the lack of standardization. The industry mostly depends on decentralized processes and there’s no modern project management to keep an active track of completion status and identifying the roadblocks. Along with causing delays in the project delays, this also results in budget overruns for the project.
In post-COVID-19 times, such scenarios can be risky for developers in the industry. And there couldn’t be a better time to adopttechnology like Building Information Modelling or BIM. Implementing BIM not only helps in accelerating the design, planning, and visualization process but also helps in controlling the construction project costs, which is paramount especially post COVID-19. Smart devices and IoT-based sensors along with project management software could also be immensely helpful in tracking project progress in real-time.
India is already gearing up for a paradigm shift and bridging the infrastructural gap has been on the checklist of the government while also being a demand from the citizens of the country. The National Smart Cities Mission has been one of such endeavors to remodel the existing urban areas with immaculate planning. Optimizing land, creating enough open spaces and walkable localities, developing new public transport such as metros, and applying smart solutions for infrastructural developments are few of the many agendas of the smart cities mission. As the world struggles post-COVID-19, India has a great opportunity to shine and smart cities powered and accomplished with technology can help in doing so. These projects could be quick to dive into, given that they are already at various stages of planning and execution already. Achieving these monumental benchmarks in the stipulated time will only be possible with the help of technology.
The modern Indian consumer is more energy conscious than before and from office spaces to residential blocks, the demand for green construction is higher than ever. Construction using environment-friendly material, energy-efficient buildings with recycling mechanisms in place and IoT powered smart buildings are gaining momentum, especially in the metro cities. For the sustainable approach to construction, it is imperative to look for modern solutions that involve technology for efficient energy usage, reduced wastage, and sustainable operation and maintenance. And, no surprise that BIM has a role to play here.
The construction industry in India pre-COVID approached technology witha ‘don’t fix something that isn’t broken’ approach. But times have changed. To thrive and survive, the construction industry must implement new technologies, and now is the time to put global best practicesinto action.