From using your smartphone at work to aerial drones mapping and surveying the job site, the construction industry is exploding into new realms with the technology of today.
Digital blueprint apps and cutting-edge software manage every facet of a project without having to lay a brick, while 3D imaging and gadgets have lent a whole new perspective to the design and building of a project, not to mention the likely advent of robots taking on a larger role.
We have revolutionized one of the biggest industries in the U.S, and indeed around the globe, turning it from one of the slowest-growing sectors (compared to say, the manufacturing industry) into one of the most exciting, with a steady onslaught of technological wizardry.
1. The Internet
We can’t talk technological growth without paying homage to the Internet. It has completely transformed how we design, build, and monitor construction projects, and has proved to be a basic foundation for many of today’s innovations.
Construction management software, GPS, laser-based survey equipment, and laser-guided excavation and tunneling equipment have meant better precision in foundations, perimeters, and corners. The automation of a previously very manual activity has meant there is far less room for error, having a domino effect on time, resources, and, ultimately, money.
This technology further manages risk, as well. By using available software solutions to design and analyze structures before construction even begins, engineers and contractors can pinpoint areas of high risk for worker injury, improve maintenance access, and maintain a safer job site.
2. Construction Management Software
Today’s task management software is designed to increase productivity and keep everything on schedule, proving an invaluable resource to construction companies to monitor progress and keep all members of the project fully informed, in real time, of actual progress versus scheduled goals.
Budgeting, billing processes, and time management tools streamline the entire process from start to finish. Companies offer top-of the range, constantly evolving software to match the ever changing and demanding needs of this sector.
Building Information Management, or BIM, contains most of these solutions and more to provide the ability to create a 3D building plan and combine it with a construction schedule. Such all-encompassing software is thoroughly integrated and can pave the way for prefabrication. With part of construction taking place in a manufacturing environment, fewer workers are needed at the jobsite. Safety is also enhanced with less work needed at height and less manual handling of supplies.
3. Computer Aided Design
CAD has enabled construction to begin before the design is fully complete, allowing for fast-track construction and reduced interferences. It improves procurement and performance systems, allowing a host of possible issues to be tackled before physical work begins, significantly reducing the risk of errors and thus reducing the risk of going off-budget or off-schedule.
CAD has resulted in several major changes in construction technology, such as the move toward engineering workstations that are dedicated to the CAD process. CAD systems can store large numbers of civil, structural, and electrical schematics. Furthermore, compatible solutions to integrate into CAD software have emerged and continue to be updated.
4. Blueprint Apps
Gone are the days of offices on site overflowing with documents – now, the main player is the application-ridden tablet. A device as useable in the field as in the office, these planning apps have given us the ability to oversee plans and make changes digitally.
Possible obstacles can be accounted for and tweaked before beginning physical work and then having to change them (usually at great cost) due to an oversight. These apps allow for direct communication, in real time, between the owner, project managers, and other staff, so everyone is kept in the loop, 24 hours a day.
The introduction of drones in the past decade has changed the face of the construction industry, and is likely to continue its trajectory into the next one.
- In surveying and mapping out the specified area, their value lies in being able to go where humans and heavy machinery can’t, monitoring progress in real time and the ability to make changes to the plan according to the drone footage. This footage can then be compared to blueprint plans and deviations noted and dealt with accordingly, saving time, money, and resources.
- Companies using them have reported increased efficiency, helped in part by more accurate maps and data, allowing for a highly quantitative means of measuring progress versus schedule. These remotely controlled devices enable the surveillance of large-scale projects from remote locations – so project managers/owners do not have to physically be on site to control operations, thus making them a valuable investment for large-scale, high dollar projects.
- Legal Issues: Although the legality of larger drones is currently tricky, it’s likely only a matter of time before the use of drones on site is a common occurrence.
6. Health and Safety
The importance of the health and safety of workers has grown exponentially and now safety on site is of paramount importance, helped in part by the legal regulations that have sprouted up around every industry.
- Headsets, halo lights, safety glasses, and responsive clothing are but a few of the safety gadgets having undergone modernization, turning outdated and often un-adhered-to health and safety regulations into routine, standard on-site precautions.
- Drones can also play a role in the monitoring and promoting of safety practices, as the surveillance shows whether best practice regulations are being adhered to, regardless of whether a health and safety official is on site. And as drones can reach places that may be unsuitable for humans, they are soon to be the project manager’s best friend. They also help defer on-site theft – there’s nothing like being on camera to deter robbery, after all.
There is no doubt about it: the future is bright, and the future is mobile. Technology has brought the industry speeding into the 21st century.
All of these construction technology innovations lead me to one question: with this phenomenal growth trajectory, set alight by technological ingenuity growing by the day, where could we be and what could we create in the next 100 years?
What do you think will happen? Did I miss something? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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