[Part 1] How To Use Digital Construction Tools To Avoid Extinction
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We are in the throes of the fourth industrial revolution, yet the construction industry remains averse to change. A reluctance to explore and embrace technological advances in construction means that some firms are being left behind when it comes to both business performance and project deliverables.
New trends in construction technology such as BIM (What is BIM?) and mobile working are helping to streamline communications across the various professions, advance collaborative processes, enhance worker safety on site, reduce waste, ensure quality deliverables are produced on time and to budget and – for those early adopters – win construction bids.
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However, recent research conducted by JBKnowledge indicated that almost half of construction firms were spending just 1 per cent of their budget on IT. This growing disparity - between awareness of the need for technology and the level of actual investment in technological advances in construction – presents great opportunities for those businesses that choose to embrace new digital tools like BIM or mobile working.
According to Nick Conway, managing director of ITC, a UK-based fit-out and refurbishment specialist, AEC business face an unprecedented choice: “Evolve or become extinct”.
“We operate in a vibrant construction market, where everything is hotly contested,” Conway says. “By using technology, we can give our customers the best experience, the best journey.”
What Is Digital Construction And Why Is It So Important?
Digital construction is the use and application of new technologies to improve operations and outputs in the built environment. New technologies exist in many forms, ranging from basic programs that streamline manufacturing processes and project management; to the somewhat intimidating realm of AI and drone technology.
The best way to think of construction technology is not as your enemy, but rather as a nifty new tool kit with as-yet untapped potential to add value to your business.
There is a greater imperative driving innovation in construction technology too, in the form of climate change. The buildings and buildings construction sectors combined are responsible for 36% of global final energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. And so the AEC sector shoulders a responsibility to reduce that impact through innovation and digitisation.
"The best way to think of construction technology is not as your enemy, but rather as a nifty new tool kit with as-yet untapped potential to add value to your business."
What’s The Future Of Construction Technology And Where Do We Start?
The easiest way to adopt modern technology in the construction industry is via smartphones, which have become essential tools in many workplaces.
In the AEC sector, digital apps aid pre-construction scheduling, project management, and collaboration across geographical barriers; and cloud-based storage enables documents, schedules, and reams of data to be organised, stored and updated in real-time.
In addition, many firms are embracing Building Information Modelling (BIM) to innovate design and streamline ongoing operations.
By curating 3D digital models, firms can share their vision and collaborate more readily with stakeholders. These models enable partial offsite construction to occur, thereby reducing costs. BIM is also updated in real time and communicated to all team members, so workers on site are notified immediately of any design changes.
How Can Digital Construction Tools Benefit Your Business?
Mobile technology and BIM are the most obvious tools, but what are some other examples of construction technology that could streamline your construction project process?
Digital tools such as project information management software have the capacity to increase efficiency in tendering processes; improve networking with potential clients; manage finances; and capture data to help evaluate your service offering, and these are changing the way the industry operates.
Adopting technological advancements in construction can provide a competitive advantage to win construction bids – because it’s no longer necessary to compete just on price – as well as deliver efficiencies and economies of scale across your business and projects.
In addition, establishing digital protocols and policies to streamline information management in construction can help to capture the knowledge of senior experts who are on the verge of retirement, and facilitate its transfer to up-and-coming digital natives, who represent the future of construction management and technology.
These younger employees bring new smarts and a sense of contagious enthusiasm into the construction industry, which will further drive technology uptake.
Photo source. Demolition and enabling specialist Downwell Group with 'Dave the drone'
How Will Digital Tools Transform The Delivery Of Construction Projects?
Despite consuming 50% of the world’s steel and using 3 billion tonnes of raw material annually, productivity in the industry has plateaued for over half a century. But with a recent World Bank report projecting the urban population to increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion by 2045, there is greater pressure than ever on these diminishing resources.
Often new technologies are resisted before they are embraced, and the construction industry has always been slow to adapt. But rather than fearing the digital revolution, digitisation can complement the roles of people by increasing their capacity.
It can also positively impact cost efficiency and project productivity measures, throughout the project lifecycle and across market segments, from new builds to retrofitting and renewal projects.
How Will We Benefit From The latest Technology In The Construction Industry?
The potential impact of construction technology varies depending on your role and contribution to your industry. But there’s no doubt that technological advancements in construction are holding a mirror up to old practices; connecting people globally; enabling cross-cultural collaboration; aggregating data; and streamlining where and how we work.
The fourth industrial revolution is forcing the AEC sector to change, and the businesses that prosper as a result of this transformation will lead – rather than be led by – future trends in digital construction. And those businesses that fail to keep abreast of change? They risk becoming extinct.
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