Technological Advancements in the Construction Industry

By Project Management team, Colliers International India

May 2016, the first 3D printed functional office was unveiled in Dubai. The 2700 sq.ft office completed in just 17 days, amazed the world and turned another leaf of technological advancement in the construction industry. The said office occupies prime real-estate between the city’s iconic twin Emirates Towers and the Dubai International Financial Center and serves as a working space for employees. This was only the start of innovations taking place in the construction industry.

The primary challenge for the industry was that how can we conduct things better? This challenge has driven people towards innovations and advancements. Technology is changing fast, the whole world has shrunk to a global village with people having access to almost anything and everything at a click of a button; competition and customer expectations have been increasing manifold. Organisations and personnel that are not evolving, will soon become redundant and have to make way for smart way of delivery.

VRVHR detail layout
We have also constantly been changing the way we construct and as time and cost gain more and more priority, techniques which were seldom used, have gained prominence in regular usage. The recent budget announcement and the thrust towards mass affordable housing has suddenly brought everyone to the drawing board again to design and implement a product which is commercially viable and needs to be delivered in the shortest time span possible.

One of the biggest constraints in embracing advancement has been that more often than not the new innovations/techniques are cost-prohibitive. There used to be a constant struggle earlier as stakeholders were not looking at cost of ownership but only at the initial project budgets. This struggle between investing into Capital Investment (CAPEX) versus the payback in Operating Expenses (OPEX), has now been recognised and matured allowing a lot of these advancements turning commercially viable with more and more stakeholders understanding the project life cycle costing and embracing the cradle-to-cradle concepts in construction. The total cost of ownership (cost of construction and O&M for 5 yrs/10yrs) is being benchmarked to make informed decisions with a lot of sustainable material finding its way into the projects as the payback for themselves at the operation levels. We are now witnessing the boom of solar energy, state-of-the-art VRV systems for HVAC, increased use of highly efficient performance glass, use of VFD Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), and increased use of recycled material. New techniques like radiant cooling are being installed at state-of-the-art campuses that will result in various operational benefits that will accrue.

Technological Advancements in the Construction Industry

Schwing Pump
A lot of advancements are kicking into the construction industry that will cater to the ever increasing shortage of skilled labour and save time. More and more mechanisation is hitting the project sites and developers, project managers and contractors are getting comfortable as they see and use more of these mechanisations. Aluminium formwork, colloquially known as MIVAN has redefined the timelines for projects that have paved the way for targeting ever improving quality and increased scale of construction in a minimalistic timeline. Slip-forms and jump-forms are being used even on housing and commercial projects wherever possible. Factory-produced reinforcement, where bars are cut and bent in the factory and possibly, assembled outside before bringing to the construction site, are now being used. As the labour is becoming scarce, there is a need to focus upon with productivity and simple tools/machines that are being brought in to increase productivity. These advancements will greatly help to meet the timelines while maintaining quality of the project. Besides this, dry wall construction to create internal partitions with products like Samurai Walls from Nohara, Japan, are saving tremendous execution time and offering flexibility to interior furnishing. These EPS sandwich panels are faster to install as there is no need of plaster and are lighter in weight and reusable to a great extent.

NHC Valerie High Rise

Pre-cast technology and post-tensioning of structures are numerous steps towards improving quality and change things that were done traditionally. There is now an endeavour to create manufacturing like process control at site. Use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) reduce errors on drawing stage and visualize the project on the drawing board itself, has virtually zeroed all co-ordination errors as well as bettered the quality of deliverables. This, along with other strategies, have helped achieve lean construction techniques/waste management plans which were once associated only with the manufacturing sector.

Mivan Shuttering
Another need which has driven the thriving of innovation is to provide smart, comfortable solutions to the end-user and seamless experience while creating such a solution. Use of sophisticated building management systems (BMS), IP-controlled smart systems, can today manage and monitor a building from any corner of the world. Highly sophisticated BMS reduces the requirement of manpower and improves control and error-free operation. Use of destination control systems (DCS) in elevators, promotes energy efficiency as well as ease to occupant usage. Various studies on ergonomics, workplace strategies, have found a way into construction and fit-outs to aid employee well-being and retention.

As the necessity keeps on challenging and technology keeps on breaking barriers, we will see much more being introduced in the construction industry. Along with this, there will be further research on novel technologies that will be brought into the commercial domain, thus, challenging the industry to adapt and achieve. India is still a follower, though not reluctant anymore and will see much more new technologies being implemented over the next few years.

NBM&CW May 2017