Not more than 20 years ago, construction professionals still used two-dimensional drawings. But Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems slowly took their rightful position and revolutionized the way construction projects are projected and built.
BIM served its pioneers very well, but it slowly began to lose its competitive edge as more and more professionals switched to these computerized models to simulate construction.
From a handful of early adopters, BIM systems saw an explosion in usage; the number of companies using BIM grew from 28% to 71% just from 2007 to 2012. BIM became so popular and indispensable that it was offered as a subject in many schools (there are even full masters programs in it).
Today, BIM systems are “the norm;” they have become essential for construction companies who want to stay in business.
Mobile apps: following in BIM’s footsteps
BIM systems have done something more than revolutionize the construction industry. Their popularity opened the gate for innovation in an industry which the authors of Innovation in Construction call, “excessively conservative” and say “does not appreciate the benefits of technological innovations.”
This innovation in BIM paved the way for construction mobile apps to gain a foothold. In an industry where almost everything happens outside and far from the office, mobility is a key factor to increasing productivity and profitability. Contractors, engineers, and supervisors need not depend on travelling to and from the office. Mobile apps allow workers to share data, pictures, and information without spending dead time on the road.
Mobile apps for construction professionals are where BIM systems were a decade or so ago. One in five companies use at least six construction software systems—and half of these systems have a mobile app as well.
Even at this stage early adopters can choose from hundreds of professional apps to work with planning, estimations, project management, calculations, quality assurance, issue management, communication improvement, and many more.
Why bring construction apps to the classroom?
As a teacher in the field myself, I see nothing but benefits if construction apps are introduced to classes, lectures, and school projects. It is our duty as educators to prepare new workers for the technology-infused construction world they will work in.
Here are some reasons students planning to work in construction will benefit from encountering construction apps in the classroom:
- They will become familiarized with the technical workings of industry apps
- They will learn in which fields an app can help them work more efficiently
- They will have the opportunity to identify fields and apps still needing technological improvement
- It will be easier for them to fit into a company that uses mobile construction solutions
- They can bring a wealth of know-how to companies who don’t use construction apps yet, but would like to
How should teachers prepare for change?
Here are a few tips for teachers to make the most out of bringing construction apps into the classroom:
- Become acquainted with the range of construction apps and which part of the construction process they can be used for
- Stay up-to-date with all the newest app developments
- Encourage students to be critical about the features and applicability
- Discuss with app developers and give feedback to pilot projects
- Encourage students to become actively involved in improving the applications as well
Aside from students, teachers, and companies, the construction industry as a whole will benefit heavily from this scenario. The current solutions will be tried, tested, criticized, and ultimately improved in the classroom to rise to the market’s expectations.
What do you feel about the use of construction mobile apps in schools? Are there drawbacks as well? What other ways to diffuse innovation in the construction industry would you recommend?
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