Technology is evolving around us and has significantly changed the way we go about our day to day lives – from communicating with friends and family, to our daily work commitments, we now live in a digital world.
As technology continues to develop, the construction industry is no exception. Previously, the industry has been known as one of the least digitalised sectors, but following new reports, it seems the industry is ready take advantage of the technologies available to them and move into the digital world.
In fact, according to David Philp, BIM Director at AECOM, “construction technology is reshaping how we deliver and maintain our built assets, it is increasingly helping us place digital information into the real world”.
Many of today’s most popular software, technologies and devices have proven themselves thoroughly on large-scale building and infrastructure projects. The construction industry can’t afford to push these applications to one side if they want to stay ahead in the game. It’s time to transition toward digital ways of doing things.
In a report from Oxford Economics for Virgin Media Business, it was revealed that construction firms which have embraced digital technology have grown their revenue by 5.9% and are optimistic about being able to drive growth further still. Surely that is enough of a reason for other construction companies to join the digital world.
Recent news has suggested that virtual reality is the next step for the construction industry. Providers of cherry pickers and work platforms, Niftylift, investigate what virtual reality could bring to the industry and how technologies are also transforming the industry as we know it:
Innovate UK has proposed £1 million of funding into a new ‘virtual reality’ system that is forecast to be implemented across the construction industry to cut costs by up to 25%. The Augmented Worker System (AWE) will be wearable virtual reality equipment – equipment that was first used on Crossrail. The equipment aims to improve the construction process at every stage.
With the concept project with Crossrail proving that this technology can be applied to the industry, developers are positive that it can add value to the industry in five key areas: co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance and asset management, all the while driving better safety, efficiency and sustainability.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is already in use in the industry. The system provides contractors and professional teams with a virtual walkthrough of the construction project, which has started to replace the traditional blueprints with interactive 3D models. Just like all technology, it becomes more advanced throughout its timeline and the technology is forecasted for a transition to 5D in the near future.
Also officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones are used within the industry with cameras to collect information in areas that have limited access – capturing images to support site assessments and inspections. The device significantly reduces time and labour in producing these surveys and assessments, also eliminating the element of human error in the traditional methods.
Drones also contribute to improvements in worksite health and safety, eliminating construction site hazards and dangers, especially on limited access sites. The camera can do the labour that was previously carried out by a work professional.
Health & safety
Whilst on the topic of health and safety, advancements in new technology has led to wearable equipment and devices – from smart glasses and hard hats to responsive clothing. The Smart Helmet is a wearable piece of technology that is equipped with transparent visor, special lenses and 4D augmented reality. The safety aspect of the helmet gives the wearer a warning of potential hazards and information about their surroundings.
A construction site can be a dangerous place — the more technology that is implemented into construction processes that helps to eliminate human risk, the safer the site becomes.
The future of technology in construction
In the world of construction and architecture, there have always been futuristic dreams which have driven the industry forward, and have led to some dreams becoming a reality. Think 3D-printed houses, rotating skyscrapers and automatically designed hospitals – these have all become current day realities, of course, with the help of innovative construction technologies. If the construction industry is to continue making futuristic dreams a reality, they need to take a big step forward with the technologies available to them.
Smart concrete could change the construction industry forever – and fix a host of issues that our homes and buildings are facing in the present day. Our concrete is susceptible to cracking and damage in certain conditions, and fixing cracked concrete isn’t easy. Smart concrete is a concrete mix that contains tiny capsules of sodium silicate which when cracked, forms a ‘gel-like’ healing agent that fills the void. If the industry is to use this smart concrete across all projects, it could prolong the life of concrete, which in turn could have significant environmental benefits. There are other concrete healing methods available, however, smart concrete is believed to be the most cost-effective.
Electron-beam lithography, meanwhile, is a digital technology that allows scientists and engineers to do the ‘impossible’. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, but this cutting-edge technique allows professionals to produce tubes of carbon with walls that are only 1 nanometer thick – the tubes have the highest strength-weight ratio of any material on Earth, and are embedded into other building materials to add density and strength. According to NanoandMe.org, engineers are even experimenting with nanoscale sensors that can monitor stresses inside building materials and identify potential fractures or cracks before they occur – a move that would surely change the industry forever.