Construction, like any other industry, cannot escape technological advances. Online platforms, apps, cloud-based collaboration platforms, online marketing tools, and drones are slowly becoming integral parts of the construction industry.
Construction’s Challenges with Technology
For many within the industry, this shift towards technology seems daunting. With construction companies fighting to gain more than one percent in productivity a year, spending money on new technology takes too much out of tight budgets. Although large companies have the funds for technological changes, bureaucracy makes adopting changes difficult; small companies simply lack the necessary capital. The entire industry is also facing labor shortages as much of the workforce is aging and retiring. For some, the technology itself is intimidating, and the costs of education and changeover, the deterrent.
How Technology Is Shaping the Industry
Technology in construction is not as risky as it seems, though. The advantages gained through the wise use of various advancements more than pay for the costs of changeover and education.
- Apps on mobile devices allow supervisors to manage real-time data, tracking work hours, progress, and supplies. This frees up hours normally spent in the office generating paperwork. Instead, reports are generated by the app and sent electronically.
- Digital representations, both 5-D BIM and 3-D, of projects make cost projections more realistic.
- Virtual reality features on the digital representations allow supervisors to perform scheduling adjustments helping remove lag times or overscheduling of work crews.
Putting Drones to Work on the Construction Site
Technology has gone beyond even these areas to employing drones (remote-controlled aerial devices), or UAVs, in construction. Drones can lift materials and tools and efficiently deliver them to work areas, freeing up elevators to be utilized more effectively. Drone maneuverability allows companies to inspect sites much more quickly and less expensively. The biggest benefit to using drones is in their aerial imaging abilities.
- Topographical maps are used by engineers before breaking ground to show how the completed building will affect the sightline and by contractors to place equipment and materials away from hazardous ground locations.
- More precise bids can be submitted by contractors because of the information gained through aerial imagery. With most variables eliminated, fewer contract adjustments are necessary as the work progresses.
- Project management and monitoring increase productivity as supervisors have real-time data and visuals of construction progress. Supervisors can spot problems early and correct issues before they become major setbacks. Drones are also safer and less expensive than manual inspections.
- Thermal-multispectral imaging combined with regular drone imagery gives companies an understanding of the ground quality before the ground is broken. Possible heat loss and water leak problems in the building envelop can be detected ahead of time-saving both time and money.
As drones, with their lifting and delivering capabilities, grow in popularity within the industry, some may wonder if drones will one day replace cranes. In the immediate future, a melding together of both drones and cranes puts the best of these industries to work. Shifting some jobs over to drones frees up cranes, improving construction efficiency. The potential for innovation is obvious, but the true potential of technology is just beginning to be explored, making it more important than ever to understand what is working.