Are Digital Technologies a Reality in the Construction Industry?


Construction Industry

Technology has changed several industries, including the construction sector.  In fact, the industry has become cheaper, safer, and quicker even as the technology landscape continues to evolve rapidly.

Many engineers and executives in the construction industry intend to invest in the latest digital technologies in the future in order to stay ahead of the competition.  Integrating these new approaches into their workflows and strategy will help them maintain a competitive edge.  It will help them also to modernize their current processes.

The article will tell you about these cutting-edge technologies changing operations in the construction industry and the completion of future projects.

Let’s get started.

Construction Technologies and How They Will Impact the Industry

LiDAR Technology

The technology enables workers to measure distances using laser light and sensors.  It allows them to scan and produce high-resolution 3D images of the worksite in real-time.  This helps them perform site work from a safe distance, thus reducing or eliminating health and safety risks.

Some of the different purposes that LiDAR technology can assist with are elevation modeling, drone mapping, urban assessment, structural flaw detection, optic fiber analysis, sewer passage analysis, shadow analysis, tunnel surveying, land classification, and 3D printing.

The downside of LiDAR technology is that it’s fragile, and its sensor capacity can be restricted by certain conditions like rain, heavy dust, fog, or snow.

Drones

This is an emerging construction technology that is used to conduct site surveys instead of having a crew on the ground or aerial imaging.  It is faster, more accurate, and cheaper than traditional methods.  Drones are installed with high-resolution cameras, and the collected data can be used to create interactive 3D maps as well as take volume measurements.

Drones can safely inspect hard-to-reach areas like around tall buildings and bridges.  They can monitor progress on a site as well as site workers.

Artificial Intelligence

Many industries have made tremendous progress thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).  One of these industries is construction.  For instance, planning is done at a higher speed than years before the introduction of this technology.  Operation is also more efficient and faster.  ALICE is an AI assistant designed explicitly for this industry.

The bot is designed to reduce project costs and build lengths by nearly 15%.  It also evaluates tons of data and generates scheduling options that are optimized explicitly in terms of cost and time in order to keep projects on track.

Apart from that, AI improves workflows and increases safety, speed, and quality of work.  As a result, some companies in the construction industry have started to design and build their own AI-powered programs to improve operations and decision-making processes.  Still, there are others that rely on third parties like solution providers and AI advisors to identify opportunities for machine learning and AI and audit their current practices.

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) involves the creation of a simulated environment.  The technology has been used in the construction industry for a very long period.  It’s useful in various ways, including safety, training, plan reviews, structure walkthroughs, etc.  Equipment operators can apply VR on the site to seamlessly run simulations such as major equipment malfunction or natural disasters.  These are extremely dangerous situations to replicate.

On the other hand, augmented reality (VR) entails overlaying computer-generated images and real-world image information.  This provides construction site workers with virtual feedback about the progress in the real world in order to ensure everyone on the site is on the same page, thus reducing errors.  So AR transmits information by superimposing data with real-world information.

Because of VR and AR, a site contractor can see the location of each drill hole on their tablet even without checking the physical building plan.

3D Printing

Over the years, 3D printing technology has evolved in a big way.  As a result of this extensive development, construction companies have discovered how they can print the whole house faster and cheaper than the previous methods.

The first 3D printed home was sold in the US for under $10,000.  Mexico is developing nearly 50 3D printed houses, which will contribute immensely to the house building industry.  Actually, the 3D printing technology will make buying a home less costly for everyone.

The new technological advancement will change material sourcing.  For instance, in a prefabrication project, materials can be printed and transported to the site for immediate use.  This removes extra steps in the middle, streamlining the process and simplifying material sourcing.

Additionally, 3D printing can be done on the site in order to reduce waste and save on storage and transportation costs.  The only challenge with the adoption of this technology is its limitations with mass production.  3D printers for large-scale production are very expensive.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) Software

The software combines the internet of things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to create a smart option for workflow planning and management tools.  This is an important technological advancement in the construction industry because of its opportunities and capabilities.  It has elevated the entire construction experience at different stages, starting with planning and design to building maintenance.

BIM streamlines processes, increases efficiency, and helps to solve problems in the design and planning stages by providing a clear picture of the project and automating clash detection.  Countries such as France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, and South Korea have made BIM a mandatory procedure for all large-scale facilities projects.  The UK has made BIM compulsory for government construction projects.

Smart Infrastructure

Some structural weaknesses and strengths are invisible to human eyes.  However, developers use emerging technology to design structural monitoring systems using sensors to monitor buildings and detect structural problems before the construction site becomes dangerous.

This early detection helps site owners invite the right team to undertake necessary maintenance and repairs, thus eliminating accidents and reducing safety risks.  Further, the technology can find application in natural settings such as in mines and rockfalls, where it assesses the site’s structural integrity and alerts the construction team of any looming dangerous condition.  The role of smart infrastructure is to reduce risk exposure to site workers.

Exoskeletons

These are part of wearable technology that enables the users to perform more roles than humanly possible.  These gears minimize strain and injury on the body of construction workers.  They also increase workers’ productivity because the wearer is less fatigued when they use this wearable technology.

Exoskeletons increase safety on the construction site.  They also increase productivity because of the reduced number of injuries.

Some of the exoskeletons include:

Power Gloves: Helpful when gripping materials and tools

Back Support: Supports lifting, stopping, or reaching

Shoulder and Arm Support: Supports overheard tasks and lifting

Crouching and Standing Support: Supports activities that need prolonged standing, such as drilling

Full Body Suit: Helpful when lifting and carrying heavy objects and tools

Robot Swarms

The technology consists of multiple small individual robots working jointly to perform day-to-day mundane site tasks like laying bricks.  Harvard University’s Systems Research Group was the first to design and create a swarm of small, four-wheeled robots to carry out tasks cohesively.

Robotic swarm technology has endless possibilities.  For instance, developers can program them to lay bricks and safely repair infrastructure in dangerous situations such as in hard-to-reach or flooded locations.  Human workers may not access these areas because they’re risky.  Therefore, robotic swarm technology helps the construction industries reduce and handle issues with health and safety.

Conclusion

The construction industry has witnessed tremendous changes lately due to digital technologies.  These technologies work best when connected because it becomes easier to monitor, control, and manage.  This connectivity is the enabler, and none of them works better on their own because of the nature of the construction industry.  Most of the sites where they’re needed are hard-to-reach or remote places.

Investing in these latest construction technologies is a smart move because they have helped many companies reach their goals.  Indeed digital transformation starts with data collection, streamlined workflow and operation, safety or less or nil injuries on the site.


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