Humanity's oldest and most prominent industry has always been the construction industry. Since the Industrial Age began, human activity has expanded at an unprecedented rate which has been focused on building more things.
In the past, construction has been reluctant to change and it’s one of the few legacy industries that still relies on a lot of manual and laborious work but recent developments forced by the pandemic have transformed the construction industry as we know it.
U.S. construction technology funding has reached a record $2.1 billion for the year 2022 - that’s a 200% increase from the previous year. Contech start up funding has reached an all time high, with early stage funding amounting to $738 million and late stage funding went up to $1 billion
Construction technology’s positive influence on the industry has been widely adopted by newcomers and veterans alike. Demand for construction technology is at an all time high, in fact a survey amongst construction executives reveals that 76% of them are planning to invest in digital technology for the year 2022 alone.
Data from Construction Dive Reporting shows funding for construction technology startups have reached an all-time high and is expected to sustain its strong demand and growth in the years ahead. Construction technology’s rapid adoption, growth and strong demand means that general contractors need to stay updated with the latest trends in top construction technology in order to keep up and stay relevant in today’s cut throat market. Read further to learn about the latest industry disrupting construction technology that general contractors should be aware of.
What is Construction Technology?
According to the Construction Industry Institute, construction technology refers to "an assortment of innovative tools, machinery, modifications, software, etc. used during the construction phase of a project to facilitate advancements in field construction methods." Technology is disrupting the construction world and cutting-edge new inventions have revolutionized different stages of the construction process; from preconstruction AI takeoff software, to construction site drones, to autonomous self-driving heavy equipment and cloud computing software. Of all the technological advancements in construction, drones are one of the biggest disruptors in the construction industry, known for their portability and versatility, these ubiquitous flying machines have saved millions of dollars in expenses and allowed construction companies to safely survey a site from a bird’s eye view.
Benefits of Construction Technology
The construction industry has often been criticized for being slow and expensive and according to some studies, as many as 9/10 construction projects experience cost overruns. But in recent years, the construction world's rapid shift from manual processes to digital technologies has enabled the industry to reach greater heights. Construction companies are now enjoying previously unreachable levels of productivity, efficiency and cost savings. The following benefits are clear examples of the manifold benefits that construction technology has provided:
Construction costs are skyrocketing and it can be attributed to this increase in material prices, labor shortages and inflation. Expenses are the largest concern of any construction project because its budget governs all activiies that a project has to undertake and thus reducing costs is an important goal among General Contractors. For example, modular construction technology, parts of a construction project are produced offsite using pre-fabrication techniques that typically reduces costs by as much as 25% of a typical construction budget. Autonomous equipment and robotics also help address labor shortages by minimizing supervision and labor requirements, these machines offer consistency and labor savings across all applications.
Since skilled laborers are in short supply in the industry today, construction technology is helping companies save on labor costs by using robots, drones, and autonomous heavy equipment. Robotics benefit construction sites because machines are able to perform manual and repetitive tasks to perfection thus helping to redirect essential manpower to more important and complex tasks. Automation has been revolutionizing the way construction companies perform work, for example autonomous equipment uses sensors, GPS, and geo-fencing to perform non stop construction work and manufacturing all day long without operator assistance.
One of the best contributions of technology in the construction industry is increased safety. In the construction field, cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality can improve safety by allowing workers to simulate working in potentially dangerous environments like operating cranes and other heavy machinery. By monitoring worker movements and identifying construction site hazards, high-tech construction wearables are being used to improve worker safety especially when doing heavy lifting tasks. Wearables also track the movements and working conditions of people within the construction site which is very beneficial when the site is especially large and complex. Drones are being used to safely access previously unreachable spots and also allows project management teams to perform site and land surveying which reduces risks to the site workers.
Over the past 5 years, construction technology has been shaking up the industry that was once reluctant to embrace innovation however companies and contractors are no longer denying the huge increases in productivity that technology brings.
For example, software like cloud computing, enables contractors to easily communicate between different stakeholders, which is a more efficient collaboration tool compared to emails or setting-up meetings that take days to complete. Time is of the essence in a project and small optimizations to workflow tasks through automations and synced platforms are all helpful in reducing delays.
On-site robots that perform manual tasks with higher precision and less errors are also being used in construction sites. Robotics maximize productivity rates without loss in quality of the work being done as compared to its human counterparts. Offsite modular construction also offers reduced waste and faster deployment as compared to on-site construction.
Technology makes the most complex construction processes more efficient. Innovative tools such as cloud computing and BIM help the entire project team to collaborate seamlessly in real-time. Bespoke or unique parts and components are difficult to procure but innovative solutions like 3D printing have helped construction companies to produce materials on demand and with less cost as well. AI-enabled tools like estimating and bid management software have paved the way for faster turnaround times during the preconstruction phase; these tools can process large amounts of data that would otherwise take days to complete through manual means.
Top 10 Construction Technology Examples That General Contractors Need To Know
Competition is fierce among construction projects and General Contractors need to take advantage of construction technologies available to them in order to stay relevant and mitigate risks such as increasing costs, materials shortages, and labor woes. Leveraging the latest technology is a necessary part of any progressive construction company in order to boost productivity and to keep up with the evolving needs of the industry. These are the top 10 construction technology examples that General Contractors need to know of.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process of creating a digital model of a physical building. The simulation helps project teams visualize and understand all of a building’s components and structures such as plumbing, electrical, masonry and engineering works. BIM offers unparalleled risk mitigation and efficiency gains through the power of visualization.
The power of BIM is in visualization, project teams can provide better solutions to problems that are visually presented rather than relying on construction drawings and manual site oculars. Updates are made in real time so that teams can monitor the true status of a project, they may also simulate changes to help in their decision making process.
Augmented & Virtual Reality
Augmented/Virtual Reality tech or AR/VR makes use of smart camera sensor technology that processes digital elements, sounds and sensory stimuli. One main benefit is that it enables project teams to zoom in on any location or part of a construction site virtually through special VR equipment.
An excellent example of VR usage in construction, is the digital twin. It is an exact digital replica of a construction project. Digital twins give multi-dimensional views into how an asset is designed and how it will perform when fully-operational. Project teams can simulate specific scenarios such as weather disturbances and design changes to help them identify and mitigate potential risks.
Construction wearables are specialized high-tech equipment and tools that are designed to help users perform tasks, increase safety, and improve productivity. Smart helmets monitor a wearer’s vital signs and brain activity - they can also detect microsleep. Exosuits help users lift extremely heavy objects with ease.
Boots can be used to detect falls through pressure impact monitoring and geolocation of a user within the construction site. Smart eyeglasses help provide visual cues to workers such as where leading edges are and also VR capabilities. Some wearables also detect harmful gasses before they reach dangerous levels.
Cloud computing is also changing the way teams collaborate, it enables delivery of a range of computing services, such as servers, storage, networking, databases, and software through the internet - without the need for special installations or additional equipment. This helps streamline cross-party collaboration and facilitate faster exchanges of information which leads to increased productivity and efficiency.
Cloud computing helps stakeholders access resources such as project management tools in real-time. It also replaces paper-based systems that require a great deal of manual input, which can lead to mistakes and delays.
Another advantage for cloud computing systems is through reduced waste, by migrating all forms, documents and paperwork into the cloud, companies can conserve resources.
The construction industry is known for being a very labor-intensive sector but since the pandemic, construction labor woes have plagued the industry. Data shows that 83% of US contractors reported difficulty in finding skilled workers. Robotics has helped construction companies deal with this labor shortage by offering consistent, reliable, and cost-effective labor-saving alternatives that automate monotonous tasks and reduce costly mistakes.
They are particularly useful in the offsite manufacturing aspect of a construction project, robots perform work faster and with less errors. The adoption of robotic automation has improved productivity, efficiency and safety particularly in off-site fabrication of modular buildings, components and materials manufacturing.
Drones are deemed as an essential tool in the construction industry. These remote-controlled flying machines gather data about a location quickly and accurately compared to manual methods.
These lightweight and portable machines can quickly and effectively perform site monitoring tasks such as equipment tracking, progress reports, 3D topographical mapping, security surveillance, and structure inspection.
Another strong case of drones usage is that they are fully customizable and can be outfitted with additional extensions such as additional sensors or instruments that are tailored for the construction project at hand.
The potential applications of machine learning and AI in construction are vast. AI software has the power to process enormous data input and perform smart calculations faster than ordinary means.
AI software also powers IoT (Internet of Things) that can seamlessly connect construction equipment in sites into smart and cohesive systems to help provide detailed analysis of a project’s status.
An example of an AI takeoff software is Togal.AI. Togal.AI uses deep machine learning to perform detailed analysis of construction drawings that enable estimators to perform automated takeoffs with the push of a button. Quantity takeoffs take less than 5 minutes to generate and help general contractors push out more bids because of the time savings they get from Togal AI. To learn how AI estimating software, Togal.AI, can seamlessly integrate into your workflow, request a demo.
Advanced Modular Construction
A modular construction system involves producing project components offsite on a large scale similar to manufacturing-style production. The prefabricated components are shipped to the construction site for assembly. Robots and cranes in an assembly line manufacture pre-made building components in an efficient, consistent and reliable way. Modular construction is becoming more popular because it is both efficient and effective. The biggest appeal of modular construction is its faster delivery and turn-around times. For example, assembled wall panels complete with insulation, windows and doors can be built and assembled faster than traditional methods.
Construction 3D printing is a method for manufacturing construction elements through the use of a 3D printer printing concrete, polymer, metal, or other materials, layer-by-layer. It offers numerous advantages over traditional methods, including increased speed, design flexibility, less cost and reduced labor. The construction industry has started using concrete 3D printing for structural elements to make everything from concrete blocks to foundational walls to complete homes to bridges.
Autonomous Heavy Equipment
Self-driving construction machinery is being used by some companies to perform repetitive tasks, such as pouring concrete, laying bricks, welding and even demolishing. Excavation and other prep work is also being completed by autonomous vehicles such as dump trucks and bulldozers. Using autonomous heavy equipment for mundane tasks can free skilled workers up for more complex work or allow them to move to areas needing their skills. Moreover, equipment automation allows construction sites to operate outside of normal working hours (especially at night) and to perform tasks in parallel so they can be completed faster.
Innovation is Driving Construction Industry’s Continued Growth
Construction projects are increasing in complexity, and challenges such as labor shortages and rising materials costs are threatening to slow down its growth. It is clear that technology, and more importantly, its adoption will continue to drive the construction industry’s growth. Higher profitability, increases in productivity and lower cost overruns are all amazing benefits that technology brings but industry stakeholders, companies and regulators need to realize that construction technology is here to stay and should be perceived as the next step in creating a modern and construction process.