How technology is transforming the construction industry
In India, the construction industry is an important indicator of the state of the economy as it is one of the largest employment generators in the country. With strong linkages to industries such as cement, steel, chemicals, paints, tiles, etc., the sector serves as one of the strongest propellers of private sector involvement in the country’s built environment.
Between now and 2050, rapid social and economic changes will significantly increase India’s population and the size of its cities, creating a huge demand for the construction industry. India will soon have one of the largest shares of the world’s building stock, consisting mainly of new developments.
As the operation dynamics of the real estate business in India are evolving and innovating at a pace much faster than envisioned, it is almost imperative that innovations be applied to the most basic as well as most important step in the value chain – construction techniques.
Today, new technologies in construction are being developed; and what seemed like future tech 10-20 years ago—connected equipment and tools, telematics, mobile apps, autonomous heavy equipment, drones, robots, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D printed buildings—are here, being deployed and used on jobsites across the world. It is also expected that there will be wider use of technology in construction and construction management in the future as companies realise the long-term efficiency and cost savings of such techniques.
Technology in the construction space has coincided with growing demand for faster construction and world-class quality.
Some of the trends that we foresee playing a pivotal role are as follows:
Real-time information through software and mobile apps:
Today, there are software and mobile solutions to help manage every aspect of a construction project. Mobile technology allows for real-time data collection and transmission between the jobsite and project managers in the back office. Cloud-based solutions enable on-site employees to submit timecards, expense reports, requests for information (RFIs), work records, and other verified documentation. This can save hundreds of hours per year in data entry, and automatically organises critical files.
Smartphones and mobile apps have made communication and collaboration on projects easier. By integrating solutions that sync in real time, allowing different stakeholders to add notes, change drawings and responds to RFIs instantly and then share that information among everyone involved with the project at the same time, without interrupting the day’s work.
Transforming product development through offsite construction
Offsite construction is typically used on projects with repetitive floorplans or layouts in their design such as apartment buildings, hotels, hospitals, dormitories, prisons, and schools. Offsite is performed in a controlled environment and it works like an auto manufacturing plant. At each station, workers have all the tools and materials to consistently perform their task, whether that be constructing a wall frame or installing electrical wiring. This assembly plant method of construction reduces waste and allows workers to be more productive.
Use of construction technologies to bring down construction cost
It is expected that there will be a wider use of tech in construction and construction management in the future as companies realise the long-term efficiency and cost savings of such techniques. Tech in construction space has coincided with a growing demand for faster construction and world-class quality. Technologies such as aluminum formwork, tunnel formwork, prefabricated buildings, building information modelling (BIM), among others, can assist in significant savings if adopted.
With the use of BIM, developers can incorporate digital representations of buildings in 3D models to facilitate better collaboration among all stakeholders on a project. This can lead to better designing and construction of buildings. Tunnel framework makes use of steel fabricated forms to cast beams, walls and columns in one go. As the steel formwork can be used repetitively, it lowers labour costs and saves time as the walls and slabs do not need finishing work, thereby improving construction efficiency. In addition to this, by implementing prefabricated technologies, developers can avail of benefits such as site safety, waste reduction, improved air quality, and quality management.
Disruptive and exponential technologies to accelerate innovation
Construction firms are now using data to make better decisions, increase productivity, improve jobsite safety, and reduce risks. With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, firms can turn the data they have collected over the years to predict future outcomes on projects. Furthermore, they gain a competitive advantage when estimating and bidding on construction projects as well. AI can also improve worker productivity by reducing the amount of time wasted moving about the construction site to retrieve tools, materials and equipment to perform certain tasks.
With virtual reality (VR), workers could get exposure to environments such as confined spaces or working at height in a safe, controlled environment. VR simulators have been used for years to train soldiers, pilots, and surgeons and could be used in the same way to train workers on everything from operating cranes and excavators to doing welding and masonry work.
Augmented reality (AR) is another technology that can greatly improve safety on the construction site. Whether it’s allowing for a more detailed safety plan to be developed or providing training on heavy equipment using actual equipment on real sites with augmented hazards, there are several ways that AR can be deployed on the jobsite. In addition to this, companies are also relying on bricklaying robots or rebar tying robots. Once set up, these robots can work continuously to complete tasks faster than human workers without needing to take breaks or go home.
Use of drones and site sensors for fast-track surveying
With the advent of drones in the construction industry, developers can quickly conduct jobsite inspections and identify potential hazards each day. They can also be used to monitor workers throughout the day to ensure everyone is working safely. Drones are being used to take photos of as work progresses to create as-built models of jobsites to keep everyone informed of the changing work conditions each day.
The construction industry has a vast potential, and companies should focus on implementing digitalisation, innovative technologies, and new construction techniques to improve productivity and efficiency.
By using technologies such as BIM, AI, IoT, mobile applications, among others, companies will be able to streamline their project management, thereby enhancing the quality and safety of projects.
With digitisation paving ways in the construction industry, companies across the spectrum will have to make concerted efforts to enhance their skills.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)