5 Ways Construction Technology is Reshaping the Way We Build
Over the last 50 years, almost every sector has seen massive productivity gains through the use of next-generation technology — but construction has lagged behind. However, in recent years, the adoption of more advanced methods has allowed some businesses to gain a competitive advantage, using the latest equipment and software that the market has to offer. By investing in advanced construction technology, businesses are able to run a more predictable and cost-effective operation, with less delays, and a much lower chance of rework.
We’ve highlighted 5 ways that construction technology is reshaping the industry, and why they’re becoming more and more critical to stay ahead of the competition.
The full scope of automation in construction covers the entire lifecycle of a project, from the planning and design stages, all the way through to operation and maintenance. With the construction industry being slower to adopt new and advanced technologies, automation in construction has the potential to significantly increase levels of productivity on site.
Within construction, there are three main areas in which automation creates opportunities to boost productivity. The first is the automation of manual and traditional physical processes on site - for example, the automation of plant equipment like the X-53x Auto Excavator, which uses GNSS positioning and machine control systems to automatically dig to design, with very little input from the operator. The second area of construction is the automation of modular construction and production in factories - 3D printing building components, as an example. The third area is focused on automating the design, planning, and management processes, using something like Building Information Modeling (BIM) to bring these elements together, allowing for a more well-structured and efficient project.
2. MACHINE CONTROL
Increased productivity can be achieved through a number of ways on site, but improving accuracy will streamline construction operations to save time and resources, while also avoiding the cost of rework. Machine control helps to achieve a level of accuracy that is second to none, using advanced systems to execute jobs with absolute precision.
Traditional methods on site are not only less accurate and more time consuming, but also come with higher safety risks. Machine Control uses data from satellites or total stations, and 3D models, which allows machine operators to accurately position machinery, check grade, automate equipment, and collect information for greater predictability and control on site.
3. BIM (Building Information Modeling)
Building Information Modeling is the collaborative process that allows all stakeholders in the design and planning process to create a structure or building within a single 3D model. Traditionally, drawings and blueprints would be laid out to present information about a building plan - this makes it hard to get a detailed visualisation of the dimensions and requirements of a structure. Using BIM, the 3D components within a model are intelligent, and store data to reflect any changes throughout the lifecycle of a project, which improves the coordination and collaboration between all stakeholders.
BIM effectively saves time and resources by improving transparency, quality, and efficiency on site. By getting complete insight into a project from start to finish, project costs and timelines are reduced, and operations are streamlined both on site and in the office.
4. DIGITAL TWINS
A digital twin is a dynamic digital replica of a physical asset or set of assets, and creates cohesion between the design, construction and operational data in real time. Being dynamic, a digital twin can be used to simulate and predict a scenario prior to construction, for better informed decisions on site.
Digital twins in construction provide a unique and comprehensive perspective of a building or structure, to give insight into how it would behave under a number of different conditions. Being able to test out a variety of scenarios means that the digital replica can collect valuable, real-world data for increased certainty throughout the entire construction process.
Additionally, a digital twin ties all the information together in one validated and collaborative environment, to be shared with all stakeholders in the project. From the initial design, through item selection and specification, manufacturing, delivery on site, and installation — a digital twin works to optimise each individual stage of the lifecycle with everyone involved.
Another major advantage of having a digital twin is its capacity to align sustainability with design goals. In short, having smart technology means that the separate pieces of a structure can all be produced off-site and then assembled on site. This makes it a whole lot easier to construct buildings, as well as disassemble them, and subsequently reuse them to support a circular economy.
5. 3D IMAGING
Traditionally in construction it was difficult to fully visualise a structure until it started taking shape, or the project was completed. Using 3D imaging, contractors are able to understand various field aspects from a much more comprehensive perspective, improving efficiency and reducing costs along the way.
With this advanced technology, users are able to get accurate cost estimates related to ground levelling, foundation pouring, and other prep work ahead of a project, to effectively mitigate the waste of resources. Once the project has commenced, powerful software collaboration tools like Topcon MAGNET Project provide transparency and seamless communication between all stakeholders. This means that the risk of any duplicate information being passed on, or someone missing any changes to the model, is hugely minimised. After a project has been completed, the data is still stored in the cloud and can then be used if an upgrade or remodel is needed in the future.
While the construction industry has been slower to adopt next generation technology, it’s clear to see that smart and automated processes are the way forward. By utilising the latest equipment and software, businesses are able to get ahead of the competition, with reduced costs and a much higher quality of work. If you'd like to know more about how advanced construction technology will impact the industry, download our Guide to the Connected Construction Site below.