How Digital Tech is Changing the Building and Construction Industries

By Kayla Matthews | Jun 15, 2017
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While next-gen technology has resulted in greater accessibility to popular media such as music and television, professionals from nearly every industry take advantage of the latest breakthroughs to complement their own work. Although the average consumer might not realize it, the average construction project incorporates a lot of technology and highly advanced hardware that simply wasn't around 10 or 15 years ago.

Mobile technology on the job site

The emergence of affordable mobile technology has resulted in vast advancements in the construction industry. Instead of spending the majority of their days traveling in between remote job sites, contractors and project managers can monitor multiple locations from the comfort of their office. Individual employees can be contacted on their phones, and group meetings can be arranged via tablets or laptop computers.

Employees even use their personal devices to assist on the job site. Notes can easily be jotted down and shared among peers, and digital pictures can be used to aid in remote job site inspections or verification. Some creative employees have been known to attach their smartphones to fish tape, hit record on their video app and lower them behind walls or other inaccessible areas to get a better idea of what they’re working with.

Software developers specialize in mobile apps meant to protect the health of your workers. Organizations such as OSHA, NIOSH and the ILO work with their own IT experts to provide useful apps focused on worker safety. Not only can these utilities ensure the long-term health of your general laborers, but they can also help drive productivity to all-new levels.

Fleet and personnel management

Technology has affected certain components in building and construction more than others. Improvements in fleet and personnel management showcase how technology can be used to support all areas of operation. Here are a few tools being utilized:

  • GPS tracking software is highly beneficial in fleet management. Utilities such as Fleetmatics Reveal can help reduce fuel costs and improve delivery times. It can also track individual vehicles and gain information on the exact whereabouts of your team members.
  • Tool-tracking software is also crucial to maintaining job site security in the 21st century. Apps such as Milwaukee Tool’s One-Key program is a free utility that lets you build and maintain a comprehensive catalog of tools for managing and tracking your valuable hardware.
  • Bluebeam Revu, which is currently used by 94 percent of the top U.S. contractors, is an excellent solution for tracking personnel. Developed with the construction workflow in mind, provides end-to-end service when it comes to collating files, organizing information and ensuring consistent progress.

Building information modeling and prefabrication

Building information modeling (BIM) uses historical data as well as future predictions to improve construction projects, gain insight into on-site conditions and allocate resources as necessary. Not only does this result in job sites that are far more productive, safer and efficient than those of the past, but BIM also aligns with the recent growth seen in building prefabrication.

Builders rely on prefabrication more than ever before to help meet tight deadlines, maintain quality standards and minimize the amount of on-site work. In some cases, homeowners participate in the final assembly of prefab homes. This helps minimize the costs of owning a new home while giving consumers the worthwhile and rewarding experience of participating in the construction phase.

Recent breakthroughs in technology, including the latest in 3-D CAD software, real-time data collection and in-depth analytics, have helped shape BIM into its current form. While it’s still evolving, some of the most popular software developers in the niche include Autodesk, GRAPHISOFT and Bentley Systems.

Augmented reality, a technology that is still in its infancy, is another way of incorporating software into the average construction site. Despite its newness, AR is already being used to locate utility systems or other infrastructure that might be buried behind walls, floors or other obstacles.  

Prefabrication also goes hand-in-hand with the Industrial Internet of Things. Sometimes known as Industry 4.0, this trend promotes a greater level of automation and interconnectivity among factory machines, human workers and end-consumer products.

Energy services companies and administrators

A new business has sprung up as a result of increased analytics and next-gen software. Energy service companies, or ESCOs, help monitor fossil fuel consumption to reduce greenhouse gasses and achieve greater energy efficiency on behalf of utility providers.

This also opens up new opportunities for manufacturers to make service and maintenance easier for contractors. Sielo, formerly Terralux, recently demonstrated a new app that gives full control over its entire line of lighting products. The technology lets you control brightness, color tuning and more. Companies like Sylvania, Lutron and Leviton all have similar offerings.

While much of the functionality provided through ESCOs is automated, administrators are still needed to maintain project budgets, assess evolving market conditions and ensure program success across the board.

Next-gen building analytics

Contractors now have access to more information than ever before. This new information is incredibly useful when designing floor plans and construction buildings in the first place, but tech-savvy contractors employ advanced software to collect data while the property is occupied.

Not only does this provide insight into potential shortcomings of your current designs, but building analytics can also provide valuable information to implement in future projects. Real-time analytics can tip you off to any preventative maintenance needs that could help boost the longevity of your new property.

Many software developers are focused on using building analytics to improve the energy efficiency of modern homes, office buildings and factories. Companies like Google, BuildingIQ, Ecova and Pulse Energy are also exploring the applications of next-gen building analytics and green technology.

Building with technology in mind

Since the construction industry tends to be steeped in tradition, some of the established professionals are hesitant to embrace emerging trends like Industry 4.0 and building information modeling. However, as some initial projects have shown, these tools are paramount when meeting today's green construction standards and designing new houses with technology as a topmost priority. 

About The Author

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer whose work has appeared on VentureBeat, Metering & Smart Energy International, VICE and The Huffington Post. To read more posts by Kayla, you can visit her blog, Productivity Bytes.





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