10th September 2016
Seven cutting edge technologies that could revolutionise construction
If you consider almost any sector of the economy, it’s easy to see how technology has had a huge impact. For example, high street retailers now have to compete with online giants and use self-service checkouts. Twenty years ago, those two technologies barely existed. In the construction industry, we’ve been a little slower to adopt revolutionary technologies. Perhaps the biggest change in the industry is related to software – job costing systems are now the norm, even for SMEs.
However, it seems that change is about to come to construction by way of a number of new technologies. Let’s explore seven of them in more detail.
#1 Self-driving construction vehicles
Self-driving cars are here. Google, Uber, Apple and Tesla are all developing the technology – which actually works in standard road conditions – albeit with an engineer or driver behind the wheel, ready to take over. There’s such huge money-saving potential (and sadly, probable job losses), that there’s bound to be a huge push to roll out this technology across the global economy. In construction, we might see specialist autonomous bulldozers, cranes and excavators that use an array of sensors to operate with complete precision.
#2 Augmented and virtual reality
Virtual reality replaces the real world with a virtual one through a specialist headset. Augmented reality adds to the real world and is viewed through a screen. In construction, augmented reality could be used to visualise planned buildings on a construction site or help contractors locate areas of the site that need their attention. Virtual reality is already used by architects and designers to virtually walk clients through completed versions of their plans – making it a breeze for the clients to suggest changes or clarify designs at an early stage.
#3 3D printing
3D printed homes have been shown off by a number of companies, but at this stage the technology certainly isn’t ready for the wider market. Costs will have to fall significantly before we start to see 3D printed concrete houses on every UK building site! We discussed the role of 3D printing in construction in more detail in a previous article.
#4 Advanced materials
Concrete that heals itself after it breaks. Permeable concrete that holds rainwater and prevents floods. Graphene, a material that’s 100 times stronger than steel. Plant-based insulation materials that are non-toxic and sustainable. All these materials are here – some already affordable on the market, whilst others remain at the development stage.
Robots can work on building sites that are too dangerous for humans. They can operate with incredible precision and significantly reduce waste. Sets of ‘swarming’ robots can work together to complete a project, using a complex range of sensors to not only find and manage materials, but also to avoid other robots. Robots of this quality are clearly still incredibly expensive, but are likely to become commonplace when repairing dangerous structures such as dams.
Drones are used on plenty of building sites around the world, assisting with surveying, monitoring and inspections. Footage from a drone’s camera can also be used to remotely (and quickly) show clients on-site progress.
#7 Monitoring and analytics
By using embedded sensors during construction, it’s easy to gain insights into the performance of a building. This allows companies to understand energy efficiency, electricity consumption and many other aspects of not only the building, but the construction process as a whole.
Of course, these cutting edge technologies aren’t yet accessible and affordable for all.
However, there are some equally impressive technologies that every construction company can afford. Construction accounting software has brought incredible change in the construction industry – and now even the smallest construction company can find a solution that fits their needs.
Two-thirds of UK adults now own a smartphone. We spend twice as long using the internet on a smartphones as we do on our laptops and PCs. We're now just as 'connected' on the move as we are at home.
Anticipating market conditions over the next year, five years, or several decades is extremely challenging – particularly for an industry whose fate depends on the whims of ever-fickle governments.