Yes, construction is booming. And yes, it’s one of the largest global industries. But did you know that due to the safety risks associated with its labour-intensive jobs and rising material costs, it’s also one of the least productive? Then there’s the demand for sustainable building practices and faster construction times. All of these factors are pushing construction companies to implement digital technology and transform the way buildings and infrastructure are designed, built, operated, and maintained.
Most of us have mixed feelings about the rapidly approaching wave of automation. Slowly but surely, even the construction industry will see the implementation of robotic systems. Think bricklaying robots, autonomous construction vehicles, drones mapping building sites and 3D-printers creating entire structures. Yes, these high-tech machines will eventually replace many human construction workers. Another likely scenario is that humans will work alongside cobots or collaboration robots – making construction faster and cheaper. More importantly, it will minimise the number of accidents, prevent injuries and make human workers more efficient.
Did you know that over the years, artificial intelligence (AI) has found an ever growing number of applications in the construction industry? Not only is this technology used in autonomous machinery, but also for planning and surveying, in safety and maintenance, for risk mitigation, and in the monitoring and analysing of structures. AI enables fully IoT-connected construction sites where sensor-generated big data will ensure increasing levels of efficiency and safety, as well as enable predictions and prevent injuries.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) promise new ways to design and build and enable improved project efficiency, increased safety and more effective training. AR/VR helps reduce design errors and helps eliminate wasteful changes – all while working in coordination with apps and wearables. AR revolutionises BIM visualisation by clearly presenting data and enabling virtual collaboration. AR-headsets let you virtually ‘see through walls’ and projects virtual information into your line of sight. AR/VR can greatly speed up construction projects, reduce costs and minimise errors and delays.
We’re all aware that blockchain powers cryptocurrencies and records vast numbers of transactions. But did you know that this distributed ledger technology is also increasingly used for tracking and executing projects in construction? These projects often involve many contractors, subcontractors and numerous regulations and building codes, which can lead to complex challenges. Blockchain can be used to automate these contractual processes by creating smart contracts that are visible to all stakeholders. Like a well-oiled machine, it will eliminate disputes, speed up project delivery and free up valuable resources.
When it comes to augmenting construction workers, exoskeletons – robotic suits that enable increased strength and endurance – will soon be taking centre stage. In challenging and often dangerous conditions, these high-tech getups will help workers move heavy objects, perform overhead tasks, and prevent accidents or injuries. Augmenting construction workers can also be done by kitting them out with VR/AR headsets for added assistance or training purposes. Fitting construction workers with sensor tech and connecting them to smart platforms makes their work safer and more efficient.
Wouldn't it be incredible if you could create virtual ‘what if’ scenarios for buildings before investing cold, hard resources? Well, you can! With digital twins – digital replicas of physical structures. These can be used – also combined with mixed media – to run simulations before building actual structures. You can also use a digital twin for receiving sensor data from its real-world counterpart to gain valuable insights and predict challenges. Did you know that even Singapore has a digital twin? It helps city planners improve services for its citizens.
3D and 4D printing technology holds incredible potential, especially in construction. It enables the use of advanced and sustainable materials, making building more efficient while producing less waste. As we know, conventional construction methods are mostly restricted to square and rectangular shapes, but 3D printing enables buildings of any type of shape. And it gets even better! Did you know that 4D printing uses sophisticated materials and designs that are programmed to prompt a 3D-printed structure to shape-shift, opening up a world of entirely new design possibilities? Believe it.
Imagine the possibilities if a building or other structure could heal itself like our skin does after a cut? This is no longer science fiction. In fact, self-healing materials containing special bacteria that react with concrete and limestone are already used to repair cracks and other damage in buildings. This revolutionary technique, as well as bioconstruction – the use of long-lasting, toxin-free materials – promise incredible opportunities for the future of construction. And really, microorganism-based solutions and healthy, self-healing buildings… what’s not to like?
If you think smart cities are an elusive dream for the future, you’d be mistaken. Many cities across the world are already rapidly becoming smarter, leveraging wireless technologies to connect and improve infrastructure, efficiency, convenience, and quality of life for their residents and visitors. There’s various ways in which residents engage with the smart ecosystems in their cities of the future – via their smartphones, their connected cars or smart home systems. Connecting these devices with their city’s infrastructure enables improved energy distribution, decreased traffic congestion, and streamlined trash collection.
In many ways, people are no longer separate from technology. It is, therefore, important to keep an eye on the moral side of technological developments. We need to philosophize about the implications for the world of tomorrow and ensure we take important ethical considerations into account. We need to determine our boundaries and have (and voice) opinions about how people and machines should work together. What will happen to our individual rights and how will we deal with privacy and risk management? How will we remain happy in the world of tomorrow?
With construction changing fast, we can expect the next generation of construction jobs to be high-tech and cloud-connected. Already, construction job market entrants are in awe of the use of technology like robots, drones, and laser scanners on building sites. New careers will emerge and replace conventional labour-intensive construction jobs. Some likely new jobs could be construction drone operators – professionals who control drones to do repairs, site inspections and materials deliveries. Or robot technicians/managers – people who program the software and take care of the maintenance of these machines.
The organisation of the future requires a new type of leader. The manager of the future questions the status quo and is willing to leave the old 20th-century management style behind. In the years to come, organisations will need to change faster than ever before, and this requires a flatter business structure. Leaders will need to interact with talent sooner, more directly and more personally. We also increasingly expect more dedicated employee engagement. The work environment should therefore – physically as well as mentally – be in line with that ‘positive vibe’. The work location needs to be ‘the best place to be’, a place where collaboration is based on team spirit, responsibility and learning. The leader of the future inspires talent, provides space and opportunity and offers an environment where the old and new organisation can achieve optimal performance. We need to develop a new vision of leadership and enable ‘new leaders’ to flourish
The company of the future is hyper connected. It closely monitors new developments and collaborates with startups, scientists and universities. It uses smart algorithms to analyse the world and employs a flexible workforce capable of rapidly developing new products, services or processes and offering support on complex issues. The company of the future requires accessible leaders who inspire, have new visions and are prepared to veer off the beaten track.
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For the construction industry, increased competition, the demand for faster building, and startling advances in tech are pushing companies to embrace new approaches. 3D printing, automation, 21st century materials – the list goes on, and it’s clear that the industry is entering a new era. Are you ready?Download
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