Here are the top construction industry technologies and trends that will emerge in 2018!
- Big Data Technology and Data Analysis Solutions
The data that project managers, developers, and contractors gather during construction projects can include models, designs, record plans, construction materials, design input from design team members, weather conditions, data gathered from sensors installed on structures, traffic behaviour for transporting and delivering construction materials, profitability and productivity results, CAD files, schedules, invoices, etc. These datasets are often called Big Data, due to their large size and complexity. Since the data gathered will often be unstructured and unorganized, data analysis and management will be needed to make the best out of the data collected. Therefore, the data gathered will often be cleaned, analyzed, and compiled into organized databases with Excel or with other software or programming languages, such as R programming, SQL, or Python.
Big data analysis and management are being used more frequently these recent years. The trend for this coming year will be improving on the process. Real-time software and cloud-powered solutions will be developed and used more prevalently to gather big data instantaneously and to have updated project data accessible to design team members.
Having data immediately accessible can make decision-making, optimizing, and analyzing best and worst case scenarios more efficiently. Using statistical algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, this accessible data can then be used and processed into analytics via data patterns and probabilities. These analytics can be used to predict risks, costs, opportunities, and efficiencies, in order to make important decisions. This process is called predictive analysis. For example, contractors can use predictive analysis to analyze their job history and see what types of jobs gained the most profit. They can use this data to determine which projects to bid or to avoid. Predictive analysis also includes optimization of the type and quantities of equipment bought or rented, analysis on how material sourcing from certain locations affects costs, etc.
There are programs that can help with predictive analysis for construction activities, such as LENS (a cloud-based estimating system with modelling functionality and visualization technology), Raken Construction App, Sage.
- Advancement in Software and Mobile Applications
There will be an increase in updates to existing structural engineering and project management software. You can find many of the structural engineering software that companies use in this link here. Many of these software will develop updates to increase their seamless design processes, integrate with BIM and other software, or even develop cloud-based platforms for easier accessibility. For project management software, real-time tracking and resource management will be integrated.
- Robots and Artificial Intelligence for 3D printing
Contour Crafting uses robots to build or print 3D structures. Using computer injection systems with nozzles, their robots pour concrete layers with automatic reinforcement. In addition to reinforcement, the robots can also automatically add plumbing and building services within the structures and can use different materials (concrete, plastic, and metal) to craft your ideal structures. Contour Crafting is not the only company tapping into the robotic market for construction. Blueprint Robotics in Baltimore is another company that uses robots to build homes. Modular structural elements are built on an assembly line, delivered to site via trucks, and erected on site. This process helps with scheduling (as there is no need to worry about inclement weather) and with making homes more affordable.
In 2018, 3D printing techniques will be more developed, with options to create more customizable and complex shapes and to produce accurate details. More companies will be using this technology, like hotel developers (Marriott) and apartment developers. 3D printing can also be used when emergency shelters are needed for disaster relief areas.
Look out for the first 3D-printed skyscraper to be built by 2020 by Cazza Construction.
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
VR and AR technologies are gradually becoming the norm in the construction industry. More and more professionals are realizing the technologies’ potential in marketing construction designs to clients.
Augmented reality technologies are often used for early stage designs. An example of augmented reality tool is the Microsoft HoloLens. Using the HoloLens, project team members can go to the site, wear the HoloLens, and visualize how their designs fit into the physical environment using holographic images. One design team used HoloLens to determine that the designed steel frames that will support the building’s walls were too long. Since they detected this error long before construction, they were able to cut the frames in the shop ahead of time, which helped to reduce labour costs and abortive works.
More and more construction projects will have workers wear HoloLens or other AR headsets on site to visualize plans in real-time. Placement of structures will become more accurate, since workers can see the designed structures in relation to the physical environment. There will be less paper plans. Another trend is the use of advanced data tracking and storage to monitor and store the information collected from using these AR headsets.
There will be an increased usage in Virtual Reality tools. Drones and laser scanners can scan and capture information of the site or the structure and generate 3D models. These 3D virtual reality models are more accurate than traditional physical mock-ups. Design teams can have virtual walks via these 3D models without being onsite. They can use virtual walks to supervise construction progress, identify design clashes, collaborate and clear up any misunderstandings and inaccuracies with team members directly with the model, monitor maintenance, make sure that the constructed product corresponds to the design intent, make design amendments to the model, gather input from clients more proactively, etc. This will be especially useful for team members who are not situated locally or have multiple projects to attend to. Virtual walks can also be used to sell property or to win bids.
Virtual reality can be used to train construction workers. There will be an increase in safety and equipment training programs via VR simulators. Workers can be safely trained to operate tower cranes with VR computer simulations in a controlled environment, which is safer than practicing with actual cranes. Emergency safety training can be simulated by VR, such as training worker’s reactions when emergency events like scaffolding failure and construction collapses occur.
- Building Information Modelling (BIM)
3D BIM models are models with data and information about structural elements, in which the data can be shared and models can be visualized between team members and stakeholders for efficient coordination and effective decision making. Design team members can also change or add information in the shared models, which can reduce time in planning.
Due to its effectiveness in project coordination, BIM is becoming a requirement in many countries. BIM will then need to be developed to become more accessible and simpler to use. There are now more web-based technologies to make BIM more accessible and functionalities that increase the interaction between the users and BIM programs, such as editing elements just by dragging and stretching. It is also becoming a trend to use BIM to create modular structures by using automatic workflows and to use BIM with VR and AR data for real-time collaboration purposes.
Drones will become more commonplace in the construction industry. “PwC estimates the current value of labour and services likely for replacement by drones to be $127.3 billion. More than one-third of that comes from the infrastructure and construction industries.”
Drones can take high-resolution aerial images for accurate data collection. They can also be used to monitor and record construction activities and resources and survey difficult to access areas. There will be no need for human resources or expensive and heavy equipment for surveying. Safety will also be improved, since drones can be used to survey and to perform maintenance inspections at high-risk areas or locations that are hard to reach by human workers (eg. bridges, roofs, high areas).
Drones can be used with 3D laser scanners to obtain images of the topography and terrain. These images can then be used to build 3D digital models and GIS maps. These maps can then be used to accurately measure site conditions and materials and to analyze construction details.
For those of you out there who have to monitor multiple projects or are not situated locally, drones can take live feeds and bird’s eye views of the site for your supervision. Moreover, the aerial images collected can be instantaneously uploaded to a server, increasing effectiveness and accessibility of information.
In addition to the widespread use of drones, more advanced software will also be developed to analyze the data collected by the drones. The Drone Deploy software can be used to compare the design intent and the as built structure.
Check out the latest news on construction drones by subscribing to our sister site, BestConstructionDrones.com!
- Green Buildings
Green buildings and sustainable construction is expected to grow at a rate of “17 percent annually through 2022”. This is due to its popular demand by consumers and current widespread knowledge of how sustainable building practices can minimize negative effects on the community and the environment.
Sustainable buildings and environmental friendly construction and maintenance practices can increase the health of occupants, reduce waste and pollution, increase indoor air quality, increase life cycle efficiency of buildings, and preserve natural resources for future generations. Energy efficient practices can also lower maintenance and operation costs.
Some countries are also making LEED certification and other certifications around the world that promote green buildings and construction practices, such as BREEAM, a requirement.
There are a lot of new technologies and research that are being developed for green buildings. One green building trend is the integration of healthy materials into built environment and its associated material composition transparency. Construction materials often have complex manufacturing processes and chemical compositions. You never know whether the chemicals in the materials will have adverse effects on indoor air quality or adverse effects to the workers who install the materials. Therefore, theHealth Product Declaration Collaborative is introducing a system where manufacturers can disclose and report building products, their associated content, and their health information. Users will have transparent access to an open-source comprehensive database of building products to view their desired material’s composition, ensuring that the chosen material is safe for construction. Any HPD 1.0, 2.0, and 2.1 levels can achieve credit in LEED Version 4 under Material Ingredients section.
More construction companies are developing zero-energy buildings for sustainable energy. Skansa partnered up with a Polish solar technology firm, Saule Technologies, to build office buildings in Poland, with their facade systems made out of “semi-transparent solar cells”. Perovksite technology was used, which further lowered solar energy cost because perovskite solar modules were cheaper to produce, simpler to manufacture, and more power efficient than other solar technology to date.