Three ways technology is making waves in construction

 —  Article by Kelsey Burgess
Businessman hands tablet taking pictures buildings under construction and cranes the sea
Image credit: Shutterstock

From the drones buzzing around capturing footage of building sites to the latest computer software enabling ever closer collaboration between teams, the construction industry is awash with new technology.

It’s not only having a huge impact on how project managers, contractors and service firms do their everyday jobs but it’s also helping to streamline processes and offer solutions to many of the issues currently facing the U.S. construction sector.

While commercial construction activity may be at record-breaking levels, as shown in JLL’s Q3 2016 construction outlook, the industry is also struggling with a skilled labor shortage and more expensive materials. At present, the construction unemployment rate stands at 4.5 percent – the lowest in over 14 years – which in turn is pushing labor costs higher.

“We have already seen the industry implementing various technology devices and software to help get the job done,” says Todd Burns, President, JLL Project and Development Services. “Economic uncertainty, along with a continued lack of skilled labor will force firms to further innovate in order to fill the gaps.”

So what are the tech tools they’re using?

  • Business intelligence

Revolutionary productivity and data software is changing how many in the construction industry do their jobs. With apps and programs now focused on increased mobility and cloud access for teams in the field, sharing documents and solving problems on the fly has never been easier.

New software solutions such as BIM, productivity apps and full service business tech solutions are becoming all-in-one tools that seamlessly share data, inputs and key information across business lines.

“Productivity apps can help project managers track a vast array of data and enables them to see comprehensive budget, scope, schedule, capital planning and change management data in a simple real-time portal,” adds Burns. “It can be a critical factor in the delivery of a complex project.”

  • Automation

Beyond the software, there are many hardware products causing a stir. A growing number of projects are turning to automated robots to perform even the most basic of building responsibilities such as constructing beams and laying bricks. These tasks can be overseen via the web from anywhere in the world.

Additionally, commercial grade drones equipped with 3D scanners can now survey a project within a fraction of the time traditional surveyors would take – the model can then be loaded into CAD programs and shared across teams. Virtual reality devices are also changing the way that prospective investors and tenants experience spaces and buildings, as models and overlays are displayed and edited in lifelike quality.

  • Making equipment work harder

Safety on the job site is a main concern for anyone in the construction industry. Enter smart helmets. This technology will use sensors and cameras to relay information about the project area to alert the staff of potential hazards.

The construction equipment necessary to complete the work is extremely heavy and not to mention expensive – and so a growing number of companies are taking inspiration from the likes of Uber and Airbnb. Indeed, the sharing economy has officially made its way to construction as companies like Yard Club or Dozr offer contractors the ability to rent equipment between firms when it’s not in use. As uncertainty sets in, these sharing alternatives allow smaller or overloaded general contractors to rent on an as needed basis.

The construction industry may traditionally have been slower than others to innovate, but as cutting edge technology becomes more mainstream, attitudes are rapidly changing and new tools are revolutionizing ways of working.

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