The construction industry has evolved dramatically since we started building skyrises by hand in the early 1900s. It will continue to change as new technology appears and is adopted by construction companies. Green materials, robotic workers, new technology, and augmented and virtual reality will continue to change the way companies create new buildings. Off-site construction will cut assembly down to a fraction of the time that it takes currently. Implementing new technologies and following these trends might even help offset the growing labor shortage the industry is now facing.
Traditionally, large construction projects require assembling everything on-site from the foundation up, consuming the majority of the time and space needed for these projects. One new construction trend that’s impacting the industry and changing the way companies look at building projects is off-site construction.
Things like walls, foundations and other components can be built in factories and assembled at the jobsite in a fraction of the time. Modular construction will allow companies to complete the same job with fewer workers in less time than traditional techniques.
Augmented and virtual reality isn’t just for video games anymore. Both AR and VR are taking their place in the construction industry, improving modeling technology and reducing design coordination errors between the blueprints and the final product. Devices like Google Glass can overlay the 3D virtual model over the planned location or even over the partially constructed building.
Smart technology is slowly making its way into the average home, but in the near future, it will be integrated into the construction process from the ground up. Instead of adding smart appliances or virtual assistants as an afterthought, they can be included in every step of the planning and construction, making them an integral part of the home.
Digital construction technology is changing the way supervisors, designers and laborers approach each new construction project. According to a 2017 survey, more than 80% of companies use telematics to plan their upcoming years. These programs are ideal for helping increase production, improve operator performance, control costs and increase jobsite safety.
Concrete provides the literal foundation for the majority of construction projects, but over time, it is prone to cracks and damage. Repairing cracked concrete requires a lot of extra work — bridges have to be closed and buildings torn down to repair cracked or damaged foundations.
Self-healing concrete is still in its infancy, but it shows promise. By embedding newly laid cement with superabsorbent polymers and bacteria, it can absorb large amounts of water and grow to fill new cracks as they occur, preventing them from becoming larger.
Big data is no longer an industry buzzword — it’s quickly becoming a necessity. In the construction industry, it’s growing faster than anticipated. It’s expected to be worth $92.2 billion by 2026. Construction companies can use big data, along with predictive analytics and machine learning, to predict changes in supply and demand, upgrade safety training and manage their workforce digitally.
With enough information, a machine learning system can even predict future events with a surprising degree of accuracy.
Robotics are starting to make their way into every industry, replacing the human workforce in positions that are dangerous or repetitive. In construction, robots can lay bricks or cement, work on high, unstable or slippery surfaces safely, and create a new type of automated workforce that could help offset the current labor shortage.
Drones might not be big enough to put buildings together — yet — but that doesn’t mean they’re not finding a place on the constructions site. Drones today can be used to inspect the jobsite for safety or before the primary bid, plan during the preconstruction phase, and even communicate and report on progress.
They make inspections easier and faster, allowing supervisors to carry out their job without having to physically walk from location to location throughout the jobsite. It can take some practice to learn how to pilot these drones, but eventually, they may be able to carry out these jobs and more autonomously.
Wearable technology isn’t exclusive to the construction industry — just look at the growing popularity of Fitbits and Apple Watches. In the construction industry, things like Smart Caps, which monitor brainwaves to measure fatigue, prevent injuries by ensuring workers are alert. Spot-R uses a built-in gyroscope to detect if a worker has fallen or is injured on the job. It also has an alert button that workers can press to call for help. Wearables are starting to make more appearances on construction sites across the country.
Green construction materials are starting to replace traditional wood, concrete and steel in new construction projects. Bamboo, for example, grows faster than oak and is just as strong as the ancient trees. Hemp can be turned into a form of concrete that doesn’t use mined limestone or other aggregate materials. Steel can be 100% recycled if it’s recovered properly, as well as the majority of traditional concrete.
Consumers are more eco-conscious than ever and are demanding environmentally friendly options when building new homes or businesses. Green construction materials will continue to make an impact on the construction industry for many years to come.