Remote working, as well as social distancing on job sites, due to the pandemic has expedited adoption of some construction technologies such as digital collaboration platforms, virtual scanning tools and safety-focused wearables, according to the “State of Construction Tech 2020” report from Jones Lang LaSalle IP Inc. (JLL), Chicago.
Other construction technologies, or “con techs,” such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and modular construction have not been as strongly embraced. However, adoption of some of these emerging technologies are likely to pick up in the next several years.
The “urgency and severity” of the pandemic sped up the pace of adoption within the industry from three years to a single year, according to the report.
“The pandemic pressed tech adoption onto every industry, but for construction the shift of office-based workers to a remote work environment was only one small part of the change,” the report explained. “To keep job sites open and projects running, construction technology was needed to enable virtual inspections, provide contact tracing solutions, track project status remotely and develop project plans to allow workers to maintain social distancing.”
The pandemic has also further boosted the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) and CAD solutions, deemed foundational by JLL because all other technologies require a base computer model to either feed data into or pull data from.
Technologies that have experienced moderate adoption rates during the pandemic include drones, mobile apps for construction jobs, robotics, augmented and virtual reality and digital twins—full virtual models of entire buildings that are used to run scenarios and see how building systems might react to certain conditions.
Other con techs on the low end of the adoption spectrum this year are solutions for equipment usage optimization and finance and payments solutions.
The take-up has actually been mixed for modular construction—the manufacturing of standardized building elements in an off-site factory setting, which are then shipped to the project site and assembled on location. JLL details several benefits, including greater quality control, reduced construction timelines and a stable and consistent work environment that can eliminate downtime for construction crews. Hoteliers have been most receptive to the technology, but the pandemic has greatly impacted growth in that sector, subsequently dampening the growth of modular construction, according to the report.
“While the long-term benefits of modular remain significant, the market downturn caused by the pandemic is likely to create a multi-year setback in the growth and adoption of modular as a construction method,” the report stated.