The urban population increased from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018, raising the bar continuously for affordable housing, transportation, and utility infrastructure, according to the United Nations. The construction industry seeks new approaches to accelerate development, manage scarce materials, adopt new eco-friendly approaches to respond to new regulations, and build the future of construction with a sustainable engineering mindset.
Digital technology has a vast opportunity to improve the construction process through better integration and enhanced performance. The expectation from Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, drone technologies, wearable technology, and the Internet of things include raised productivity, shortened development, improved planning and development, and enhanced safety. As a result, construction is interweaved with other sectors such as residential and commercial housing, transportation, energy, water, and industrial companies. The benefits ripple across multiple industries.
How technology is being used in the Construction Industry
Building Information Modeling
Professionals in construction, architecture, and engineering can merge their expertise with Building Information Modeling (BIM), an artificial intelligence approach to plan end to end the construction of a structure and homogenize the decision-making to create plans that are seamless for the teams involved in the project. BIM enables experimenting with what-if scenarios to explore how the objectives could be met with variances of design. It also creates virtual 3D models to visualize the results in advance. This approach allows construction projects to be planned and executed in a seamless and professional manner, cutting down on time and costs.
Construction Planning Through the Lenses of Goggles
Virtual Reality, or VR, brings the teams to the construction site without the need to travel, allowing them to witness where the action will take place or where to evaluate various angles of a construction project. Bird’s eye views help with strategic planning, and ground views give a sense of the experience that a person would live outside and within the structure.
Whereas VR creates an immersive experience, Augmented Reality (AR) uses the view as seen through the screen of a smartphone or a tablet and overlays geospatial information, such as a building’s physical dimensions, the height, length and width of a room, the distance from one edge of a canyon to another one, or the GPS marker of specific location points. This data gets integrated into Building Information Modeling, creating more accurate models and enabling more experimentation.
Drones, Thermography, and Construction
When desiring to perceive the construction from an aerial view, drones take to the skies and record aerial perspectives of the construction work. Drone operations may be programmed for routine takeoff, then videotape or photograph the site. The data becomes a record of progress and can help identify potential problems.
When equipped with infrared cameras, these unmanned aerial vehicles can map the heat signature of the buildings. These thermographic images record the light in a range of wavelengths not visible to the naked eye. This type of photography reveals areas that may be hotter than normal, such as a wiring problem, or energy that leaks from a poorly insulated roof. With these methods combined, construction teams can mitigate potential issues and health hazards and ensure the building is safe to traverse in.
Construction 3D Printing
The ability to print in 3D has achieved large scales and entered the world of construction with projects that have been testing cases for the use of the printing technology. Three general approaches have been explored to minimize waste of material and lower cost: extrusion of concrete or lighter materials such as wax or foam, power bonding, and additive welding.
Some demonstrations of this technology include a 250-square-meter office building opened in Dubai in 2016. Autonomous Robotic Construction System assembled a 20-feet by a 40-feet concrete printer that can layout cement to construct layer by layer a 1,490-square-foot home within 36 hours. In Amsterdam, the company MX3D Metal is building a metal bridge. FreeFAB Wax tackles construction projects by providing wax molds into which concrete and glass fiber reinforced concrete can be poured. The Building on Demand project printed walls and of a small office hotel in Copenhagen. Constructing and building structures has never been easier thanks to 3D printing.
Construction wearables protect workers from hazards and detect and report accidents. They represent clothes into which Electronics are embedded to sense unusual body movements, such as a fall, or the construction worker’s biometrics, such as heart rate, fatigue, and GPS location. When advanced devices get mounted in workers’ outfits, a camera may record activities or monitor the environmental conditions to ensure that the air is safe. Some smart wearables create a multilayered view of the surrounding. For instance, DAQRI introduced the Smart Helmet that combines the hard hat with an embedded computer vision system that can create a combined view of the real background with views of where electrical cabling is installed in the walls.
List of top mobile apps used in Construction Industry
WeatherMix™ provides versatile concrete products for cold weather climates with accelerated setting time and gives protection against freezing. WeatherMix™ App is designed to support customers to select the right WeatherMix™ grade of concrete for the right situation at the right time, which can tolerate colder conditions based on weather forecast database and GPS location of the job site.
CDR Construction Daily Reports
CDR Construction Daily Reports is a user-friendly, fastest, and professional way to get your construction reports done and save an hour each day. CDR Construction Daily Reports mobile app simplifies their daily reporting process. The mobile app includes customized reports, automatic weather, cloud integration, automated emails, and much more!
Construction Calculator is a construction calculator app for Android that helps contractors calculate the amount of materials they’ll need for the construction. It can be used offline. There are no ads within the app. You can calculate materials such as bricks, flooring, and paint, etc. Also, calculate concrete volume or wall-blocks. Construction Calculator gives appropriate stairs and rafters calculations and converts between dimensional formats.
PlanGrid is the most popular app for contractors that are available on both Apple and Google Play store. It’s a collaborative mobile app that essentially makes paper blueprints. It syncs over data as well as Wi-Fi. The mobile app lets you view and share blueprints, notes and drawings, issues tracking, site markups and site progress photos. It also has a version control function and you can create and send RFIs on the mobile app.
The introduction of smart technology brings the hope of sizeable increases in efficiency that would benefit all the business sectors that depend on the construction industry. Ability to collect data more easily and to apply it to computer models used in the collaborative process of designing and planning construction projects have the potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and promote security, health, and safety.