5 ways technology is revolutionizing the world of construction as we know it

Domestic roof construction serve the same common purpose, yet they come in different styles and designs - image courtesy of APS
New technology is continuing to influence the construction industry - image courtesy of APS

Technology has changed the world we know in many ways. The rise of the on-demand consumer economy, where you can order something from home and have it delivered in a matter of days—or even minutes—from around the world, or from a local warehouse, is only matched by the on-demand availability of information and entertainment.

The rise of mobile technologies has revolutionized means of communication both within and outside of the workplace. So how is technology revolutionizing construction?

3D printing

3D printing is one of the ways technology is revolutionizing traditional construction jobs. Last year, China proudly produced the world’s first 3D-printed house. It wasn’t anything that spectacular—more of a concrete shell of a house, in fact. It lacked plumbing, electrical connections and a roof, but it was first.

The Chinese 3D-printed house only provided a teasing glimpse of the true viability of 3D printing technology as it pertains to construction. As 3D printing technology matures, you’re sure to see more 3D printed consumer products like the playhouses being printed in the United States to resemble Disney castles.  However, you’ll also see it being utilized more widely for construction applications, particularly in building and other infrastructural components of construction buildings.

Drones

While drones can get a bad rap for infringing and people’s privacy, they do provide the construction industry with new ways to look at projects and gain invaluable insight. Sending a drone to fly along the power lines to check for damage or locating downed lines is cheaper and safer than sending human teams to climb or drive along them, for example.

Additionally, drones are being flown beside buildings to check for damage and structural integrity. Until recently, work like this required someone with experience in mountain climbing and building infrastructure. Now, if the drone finds damage, only then a human is sent up to verify or assess the severity of it. By using drones, you can avoid sending someone scaling the side of a tower to look for damage, minimizing the risk to humans, the associated labor costs, and a great deal of time. Similarly, many construction firms are beginning to use drones as a means of checking aging infrastructure, like leaking pipes,  instead of sending people underground.

Building information modeling

3D computer aided drafting is already the norm for designing all sorts of products, from furniture to cars. Building information modeling software, which is already widely in use, brings this technology to the construction industry. Now, construction firms are able to blueprint and design buildings entirely within a digital environment, which greatly aides overall efficiency.

The next step is to combine building information modeling with geographic information systems (GIS) to ensure that your building plans work within the geographical and infrastructural constraints of your project. You don’t want to build a patio on top of a critical utility line or connection point. Many building modeling software applications also perform energy usage calculations. Determining how much the building will cost to heat and the amount of natural light each area receives adds an extra dimension of design and decision making that adds to a building’s overall usability.

Construction management software

Cloud-based Construction Management Software is taking a page from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) book, by creating complete management platforms to run and analyze the entire operation–from accounting to project management to human resources to equipment and inventory, and more. Successful construction firms utilize these construction management software platforms to increase project collaboration and streamline work.

Construction ERP platforms bring together all project data into one easy-to-use database where different departments can view information relevant to their needs while tying it seamlessly with other functions to achieve better overall understanding of where work in progress ad job costs stand. With many of these systems now being designed for the cloud, users can access data virtually anywhere, whether in the back office of the field, working online or offline to view project data in real time, versus having to make sense of information that is hours, days or even weeks old in traditional software systems. This leads to more accurate project planning, better estimates, and an overall smoother project from start to finish.

GPS

For better inventory and risk management, many firms have turned to GPS tracking. At this point, GPS tracking of construction equipment has become routine. In fact, many Insurance providers incentivize GPS tracking, so that equipment can be found almost as soon as it is stolen. Plus, this tracking application can be incorporated into the construction ERP platform noted above so that you know almost immediately when the equipment is somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Technology like construction management software, drones and GPS offers project managers new ways to save on time and money while reducing the risk to the crew. Building information modeling, and the design verification it permits, helps to  prevent the horror stories of costly corrections that occur in the middle of construction projects.