How Technology Supports The Construction Industry

From Project Management, Through Design To Integrated Modelling, Technology Underpins Every Aspect Of 21st Century Construction

Technology is powering a huge range of advances in the construction industry. Without it, many of our landmark buildings would never have come into being.

Having now had two extensions completed on my home, I find that I am getting more interested in the construction industry and how it crosses over with my area, which is computing, IT and marketing. Something that caught my attention during the loft conversion is how much tech my builders had. As well as using to find my project, they had a laser guided tiling, all manner of electrical installation testing devices and arranged a lot of the materials direct from their smartphones. The industry is changing rapidly. If small building companies have adopted this kind of tech, how about big construction companies?

To those with no knowledge of the construction industry in the 21st century, the business of building looks distinctly old-fashioned. There may be impressive tower cranes and extra-large diggers, but the average building site doesn’t seem like the kind of place where you’d find cutting-edge technology. Look behind the scenes, however, and you’ll get a surprise. Every contemporary building project is founded on a solid, and often highly advanced, technological infrastructure. Here’s a quick look at some of the advances made possible by today’s technology.

Streamlining Project Management

Any building project is a complex project, no matter what part of the process you’re involved with. Given these complexities, it’s all too easy to lose control of a project and miss deadlines and budget limits. Take a quick look at the local press in any town where construction is happening and you’ll find trenchant criticism of cost overruns and schedule slippage. Project management software can do a lot to help with this: it enables managers to keep tabs on resources and monitor the progress of individual components of the project. Where it is used, such software often results in a higher quality product with optimal profit margins.

Facilitating Information Collection And Communication

In the construction industry today, mobile computing is standard, and with good reason. Tablet computers are robust and can be used on site by surveyors, estimators and other contractors, and make the process of information management much more straightforward. The use of construction management software helps to streamline all aspects of the construction business and provide an end-to-end system that records each stage of construction. The use of such software makes a company more competitive and more likely to win big building contracts.

Enabling Revolutionary Design

Even before her work on the aquatics centre for the 2012 London Olympics, the late Dame Zaha Hadid relied on innovative technology to realise her distinctive curved architectural forms. Her designs often began as paintings, and required significant advances in computer aided design before they could be built. Indeed, technology has been responsible for bringing the most challenging and breathtaking architecture to our streets. Many buildings, from Daniel Libeskind’s austere and moving Imperial War Museum in Manchester to Sir Norman Foster’s infamous Gherkin, would never have been possible if not for technology.

Lowering Costs Through Modernisation

One of the most profound and exciting changes happening in the construction industry is the introduction of building information modelling (BIM). It’s a way of integrating models built by the different organisations and departments collaborating on a project, and it gives an overview of the ways the project can be designed and carried out. Architects and contractors can input data into the model to help make key decisions about the way things should be run. BIM is a cornerstone of the 2011 UK Government Construction Strategy, which aims to reduce the costs of constructing and running a building by 20%.

Making Projects Smarter

There’s a lot of talk about the Internet of Things, a network of people, machines, objects, or animals all equipped with computing devices which automatically exchange information with one another. Sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? But the Internet of Things (IoT) is already here, and its usefulness to the construction industry is rapidly becoming apparent.

For example, consider the desirability of a smart building site or even a finished building where the lighting system is triggered by the presence of personnel. This would result in an overall energy saving, reducing project costs and improving sustainability. Or consider the usefulness of automatic time logging, connected to wearable devices or Satnav trackers.

This post has just presented some of the many ways technology supports the construction industry today, and probably raises more questions than it answers!

Technology looks set to be even more indispensable in the future. Even if your project or company is small, it’s worth seeking advice on how the latest technology can help you streamline project management, keep in touch with colleagues and clients, facilitate the design process and help you to work smarter and more sustainably. With the right support, today’s scalable systems mean that even the most advanced technology is within everybody’s reach.

More like this in the Planning and Design section

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