Taking a peek into the construction site of the future

With construction being one of the least-digitized industries of today, could the adoption of technology be the answer to the industry’s pain points?
14 June 2018 | 1492 Shares

A villa built by 3D printing technology at a village in Binzhou, eastern China’s Shandong province. The 3D-printed villa which uses no bricks in its construction costs 5,000 yuan (750 USD) per square meter. Source: Shutterstock

Traditionally, the construction industry has been very conservative; slow to innovate and unsuccessful at boosting productivity.

In fact, according to The Economist, the building industry is the “least improved” of all major industrial sectors.

However, in recent years, we have seen the advancement of technologies that aim to improve the construction industry. Smart technologies are allowing the construction industry to complete projects quicker, enhance the safety of workers, and also save costs.

Let’s take a look at four of the top trends in smart construction technology that are impacting how our cities grow.

3D printers

3D printing has many benefits for the construction industry. Source: Shutterstock

While this innovative technology is still in its infancy, 3D printing is rapidly demonstrating its valuable use in construction projects.

3D printing refers to the production of physical objects layer-by-layer by an automated, computer-controlled machine.

The use of 3D printers in construction can lead to reduced costs in labor and materials and more efficient construction.

  • Reduced labor costs: As machines will be doing much of the heavy lifting, labor will be reduced.
  • Faster construction process: According to 3D printing construction companies, their processes are faster than traditional methods.
  • Standardized construction: As printers work off a single digital blueprint this minimizing the risk of errors.
  • Waste reduction: 3D printers aim to use the exact amount of materials needed for each product, minimizing the amount of waste produced.

Smart wearables

Many construction companies beginning to fit their employees with smart wearables. Source: Shutterstock

Technology that is gaining a lot of attention in the construction industry currently is smart wearables.

With construction sites known to be particularly dangerous working environments, many employers are fitting their workers with wearable IoT devices to track and monitor their health.

Smart wearables rely on the use of GPS, biometric sensors, and environmental sensors to track the movement of individuals. This information is then sent to a central database where this data is used to monitor the movement and health of construction workers.

For example, we are seeing the rise of “smart helmets” which enable the monitoring of a user’s heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen saturation, and brain activity.

The technology can detect early warning signs of dangerous conditions and locations. It can also identify when a worker is too tired or unfocused to safely carry out their work operations.

Drones

Drones can significantly increase productivity. Source: Shutterstock

With construction sites often stretching across a vast area and buildings towering high above, site-inspection can take days even with a large team of workers.

With the use of drone technology, this same job can be completed in just a couple of hours by a single pilot.

As such, the construction industry can expect to see a drastic increase in the use of drone technologies.

According to a 2016 report from Goldman Sachs, construction will be the biggest user of commercial drones in the coming years.

The flying technology is rapidly replacing traditional land-surveillance methods, being used to collate data and produce accurate surveys and contour maps.

With the technology being so quick and easy to deploy, construction workers are enabled to regularly monitor projects, allowing for frequent updates. These regular, real-time, updates will inevitably improve site planning and quality control.

As well as significantly increasing productivity, drones also have the ability to improve worker and site safety by spotting hazards before they occur.

Brick-laying robots

Automated technology can help address the worker-shortage in the construction industry. Source: Shutterstock

Machines are developed to automate an abundance of jobs within construction sites with aims of boosting efficiency and productivity.

New York-based startup, Construction Robotics, have developed a bricklaying robot known as SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) which is already being deployed across many sites in the US.

The machine can lay around 3000 bricks in an eight-hour shift, a considerable amount more than a human construction worker.

With a growing staff-shortage problem in the construction industry, this automated technology can facilitate manual laborers who are often overloaded with a large workload.