18 July 2017
Today, technology is having a major impact on almost every workplace, bringing a multitude of benefits from increased productivity to lower costs. The construction industry is no exception, with a range of digital tools available to project managers that improve processes during planning, construction, the finished product and beyond.
But the construction industry has been a little slow to get on board, and according to a recent study is one of the least digitised industries. With capital projects often taking longer and costing more than originally planned, there is a massive opportunity for those who embrace new technology to reduce this gap, improving efficiency and boosting their bottom line. So, if you’re wondering where to start, here’s ten digital tools and technologies that you should seriously consider.
BIM: Building Information Modelling
Building Information Modelling (BIM) brings all the elements of a project together, replacing blueprints with detailed, fully interactive 3D models which include geometry, spatial data, specifications, aesthetics, thermal and acoustic properties. This allows everyone involved to effectively collaborate throughout the project and beyond. A 5D BIM platform also incorporates timing, estimating and costing, allowing project managers to identify and analyse the potential impact of any changes.
Project Management Software
These days, you can take advantage of a host of project management software specifically designed for the construction industry to streamline project workflows. This means you can easily make revisions, saving time and money and reducing the chance of errors. Cloud-based solutions provide you with the tools to manage your project from pre-sale to completion, and include financial tools to keep you on budget, plus the ability to collaborate with clients and customers throughout.
Energy efficiency is a must in any new building, which is why smart buildings with their embedded technology are such an exciting prospect. With an in-built ability to adapt and optimise building controls such as lighting and heating based on real-time external factors, smart buildings take energy efficiency to a whole new level.
HD Surveying and Geolocation
A major cause of budget and schedule blowouts is discrepancies between geological survey estimates and actual site conditions. New technology that enables integration between high-definition photography, 3-D laser scanning and geographic information systems, combined with advances in drone technology and the development of light-detection and ranging (lidar), is bringing more accurate results and closing the gap.
Check out this drone footage of one of our top level wall and roof truss framing projects – getting this footage a few years ago would have meant either an expensive helicopter trip or a nerve-racking crane ride! >
Although not currently viable on the average worksite, 3D printing is definitely something to keep an eye on. Around the world projects ranging from a pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam to a cubby house in Melbourne are showcasing what the technology is capable of. It’s possible to print materials including concrete, steel and glass, and while this opens up many exciting possibilities, a major challenge moving forward is regulation.
With the potential to improve productivity and safety, wearables are something every project manager should be looking at. From smart helmets and smart glasses with video capabilities, to smart vests with GPS and bionic suits that enable super-strength, there’s an ever-growing range of wearables to consider.
Tool Tracking Devices
There’s nothing worse than losing your favourite drill, or any of your tools for that matter – which is why a tool tracker is a worthwhile investment. Trackers consist of a small attachment that can be glued, screwed or strapped to your tools, which allows you to locate your tools using an app on your smartphone.
Today, there’s a growing demand for eco-friendly and affordable construction materials and this has been a driving force behind a host of innovative new materials that are being developed and released. Some examples include self-healing concrete that uses bacteria to mend its own cracks, super strong, ultralight nanomaterials, a topmix permeable cement alternative and the super-transparent insulating material aerogel.
Internet of Things
Operating through sensors and wireless devices, the Internet of Things enables equipment, machinery, materials and structures to communicate data to a central platform. This includes functions like alerting management when maintenance, repairs or stock orders are needed and keeping track of quality assurance.
Digital Collaboration and Mobility
With cloud-based, mobile-enabled platforms you can move away from paper to collaborate on and manage your projects digitally, with more transparency and ease. You’ll have everything at your fingertips, which means you can find that plan or report that you need without having to turn your office upside down looking for that elusive piece of paper. Communication is also a breeze and you can do it all from anywhere these days thanks to the wonders of mobility devices such as smartphones and tablets.
With so many new developments happening now and just over the horizon, there truly is exciting times ahead for the construction sector. The key for project managers is to keep up to date with the latest developments and recognise which of the new technologies and tools can improve the way you operate – both on the worksite and behind the scenes.