17 New Technology Advancements Shaking up the Construction Industry

January 27, 2021
construction technology advancements

How to Jumpstart your Firm’s Digital Transformation

There's no doubt that today's construction industry is undergoing significant technology advancements. New materials are being discovered on a regular basis that allow us to improve energy efficiency in the buildings we construct while new tools make it easier to not only do a better job the first time but also more safely. 

This new technology includes advancements that make it easier to deal with the growth in demand for construction estimators and safer drone inspections of job sites for structural stability. It also includes outsourcing many functions of business to optimize the company's focus and smart helmets with augmented reality that allow workers to see the building plans overlaid on the construction site. Whatever aspect of construction your business focuses on, keeping abreast of the latest technological advancements can help your firm stay ahead of the competition. 

Here's an in-depth look at the top technology advancements changing today's construction industry.

17 New Technology Advancements Changing the Construction Industry

  1. Drones: Whether it's showing a client the bird's eye view of the project's progress, inspecting a worker's progress in a remote area, keeping an eye on everything that's going on or checking the safety of a job site, the one tool out of all of these technology advancements that are taking the construction industry by storm are drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). They can also be used for surveying the construction site, mapping the building plans onto the location, or even providing security. When you've had a bad wind storm, earthquake on your construction site, is it safe to send in your workers yet? Not that long ago, you had to do just that to determine site safety. Now drones make it easier to perform remote site inspection, provide easier mapping and measuring services and create promotional videos of your workers getting it done.
  2. Smart Helmets: There's at least one on every crew: the guy who seems to disappear whenever work needs to happen. But what if you could monitor where they are and what they're doing at all times? In addition to crew monitoring, smart helmets can also provide an augmented or virtual reality mode, which allows the worker to see the layout of the plans over the current construction site. Instead of having to worry about whether they're getting the perfect placement of an outlet, light fixture or piece of infrastructure, they can simply flip down the visor, call up the plans and make sure they're doing the job perfectly the first time.
  3. Mobile-Friendly Construction Software: In the past, many construction professionals have spent a lot of time splitting their attention between the office with all of its work that was necessary to the operation of the business and the job site, where your company could be truly profitable. However, the strong strides towards digital transformation across software in all industries have opened up new opportunities. Job lists can be automatically sent to all of the workers across your worksite, accounting changes can be tweaked while on the road and you can glance at notes added to the plans while visiting family around the world.
  4. Smart Glass: Huge expanses of glass are a big sell in a number of modern designs, but even with low-E glass coatings and similar advancements, glass will still bring in thermal heat. Designers can use this heat to their advantage to reduce heating costs, but at the same time, it must be managed in an intelligent fashion. Smart glass can reduce light and heat transmitted through the glass at a single touch, reducing lighting and heating costs by up to 25%. Other options that are appearing on the market are transparent solar panels that produce power without blocking the view.
  5. Self-Driving Vehicles: Sure, you probably wouldn't take a $70,000 self-driving Tesla vehicle across your job site, but Tesla is working on a semi tractor that is electrically powered and has some of the same self-driving features that their cars have become known for. You'll probably want to keep your CDL drivers for a few more years, but the lower operating costs and intelligent features of these electric trucks make it easier to get your equipment and materials across your region or over state lines.
  6. Robotic Worker: Though they're not yet on the level of Johnny Test's construction drones, robotic workers may be coming to a job site near you in the future. Whether in humanoid shape or in the form of small robotic swarms that work together to get the job done, basic robots have been created already that can hang drywall, do masonry work, tie rebar and lay bricks. But above and beyond these basic tasks, they can enter environments that would be harmful to human workers, such as flooded areas, locations where the air may be of poor quality or in areas of questionable structural stability.
  7. Smart PPE: Not only do radios and cell phones now have man-down monitoring, but smart boots can do the same, and a whole lot more. They have RFID chips and are powered by the worker's steps, allowing them to pick up on when a worker arrives on site so that the foreman can assign tasks as people arrive as well as be picked up by heavy equipment to prevent possible job site accidents. They're even able to communicate with emergency services in a crisis and can pick up on worker fatigue in a number of situations. Beyond the boots, hearing protection is now available that makes it easy to hear the human voices working around you without letting in the high levels of sound that can cause hearing damage.
  8. Intelligent Structural Monitoring: Is that beam under more stress than it should be? Did that rockfall last night cause structural damage that needs to be addressed before you can safely send workers in again? Intelligent sensors can monitor structural strength, picking up on issues and weaknesses that are impossible to see with the human eye. This information can be transmitted so that you can make repairs before someone gets hurt on the job or provide more information in the event of a disaster that can impact structural stability once construction is complete.
  9. Sensor Connectivity: Once considered to only be used in manufacturing to monitor equipment, internet of Things (IoT) technology is now coming to a job site near you. One option that is available is DeWalt's Mobile Lock, which sends an alert to your app when connected machinery is moved, tilted, vibrated and tampered with. You can set the device, which is small enough to fit on an average ladder, to either set off a loud alarm or to send you location details silently. It has temperature sensors for monitoring your job site.
  10. Artificial Intelligence: A significant amount of construction waste has been avoided through careful thinking by the construction foreman or more experienced members of the team, who notice that selecting a slightly different size of materials allows multiple cuts to be made from the same material. In a similar vein, artificial intelligence can be leveraged to reduce job site material and time waste, with some professionals estimating up to a 15% savings when this technology is implemented on the construction site.
  11. Connected Power Tools: Having your tools or, just as bad if not worse, your batteries for your cordless tools wander off can quickly bring your operation to a halt. A number of top cordless tool manufacturers have harnessed technology advancements to connect these tools to apps, making it possible to lock the batteries once they've passed beyond a specific area, as well as fine-tuning tool settings to customize speed and torque for your needs.
  12. Building Information Modeling: The push for more energy-efficient buildings has intersected with technology, with 55% of construction companies using software like this to create more efficient construction operations and have a better idea of post-construction building performance. This is part of the reason why an additional 27.5% of construction companies plan to adopt this tech in the next ten years.
  13. AR/VR Walkthroughs: Though it's long been the realm of gaming, virtual and augmented reality is taking over construction, such as providing a virtual walkthrough of the completed structure, which allows you to make sure that everything is how they'd like it before you order materials or even start breaking ground. This allows you to avoid expensive material replacements later on because the client decides the color is wrong or that they'd really like tile instead of vinyl.
  14. Automated Supply Chain Replenishment: It's not just Alexa that's ordering a fresh supply of dishwasher pods or more ink for your printer. Today's supply chain uses predictive analytics to determine when you'll need the next set of materials delivered. By analyzing when you've needed to order supplies for past projects, the predictive software can determine at what point you'll need to purchase materials or supplies. This technology can also be used to more accurately determine material amounts, preventing overbuying of materials.
  15. Safer Heavy Equipment: Though it was 30 years ago that Toyota added backup cameras to their vehicles, the cameras have more recently shown up in heavy equipment, typically as an after-market item, but in the next few years, they may start showing up as standard equipment. Smarter tagout and lockout technology are being used to help prevent job site accidents. Sensors on some equipment will stop the motion in specific conditions to prevent damage to property, like parking sensors on vehicles.
  16. Materials Advancements: As our world has advanced, there are a number of new materials that have come out over time that have moved our world forward drastically in terms of the durability of our built environment. Self-healing concrete can take care of its own cracks, lowering maintenance and potential structural damage. Wool-and-seaweed-based bricks provide 37% more strength than traditional clay bricks without requiring the energy-intensive kiln firing. Building panels with algae infused in them generate energy for the structure.
  17. Office Automation: Technology advancements aren't only taking place on the job site, but every other place you do business as well. Figuring in as a major part of your company's overhead costs, office expenses can be a problem for construction companies, especially smaller companies. However, the advent of new tools for office automation helps make the process effortless. A number of new tools make it easier to take care of sales, accounting, marketing, IT and other functions of your business that could be handled more efficiently.

By staying on top of construction technology advancements that are coming into play in our industry, you can keep your company at the leading edge of these changes, taking advantage of the ones that benefit your company and watching out for those that may be just a flash in the pan. If you're looking for ways to make your business more streamlined and efficient, one option that is available is outsourcing some or all of your company's construction estimating process. 

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