Construction Technology For Speed, Efficiency, Resilience and Durability

TASC
Disruptive technology is reshaping construction practices from design and planning to project execution and facility management. The integration of cutting-edge technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced construction materials, and Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing the construction sector, enhancing efficiency, resilience, sustainability, safety, and quality, and thereby propelling construction into a new era of modernisation.
Er. Pradip Kumar Jha, Zonal Head (TASC), UltraTech Cement Limited

This paper reviews the latest developments in innovation technology within the multifaceted construction domain, providing insights into how these technologies are redefining traditional processes and business models. It encapsulates and analyzes real-world case studies and best practices from around the globe, showcasing the successful implementation of innovation technology in construction projects, highlighting tangible benefits such as cost savings, reduced construction timelines, and improved project outcomes. It also investigates how these technologies are facilitating sustainable construction practices, addressing environ- mental concerns, and promoting green building solutions.

Role of Construction Industry

The construction industry is a fundamental sector of infrastructure development with a pivotal role in shaping the progress and prosperity of nations across the globe. The global construction market grew from $14503.87 billion in 2022 to $15461.84 billion in 2023 at a CAGR of 6.6% and is expected to grow to $19519.26 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 6%. Construction landscape serves as the backbone of any society, providing the essential framework for economic, social, and environmental activities. The construction industry plays a crucial role in creating, maintaining, and upgrading these assets, making it a cornerstone of infrastructure development. Construction projects stimulate economic growth and generate employment opportunities, helping boost local and national economies hence creating a ripple effect across various related sectors.

Construction projects are now designed and built with sustainability in mind, mitigating environmental impacts and reducing carbon footprints. The construction sector plays an essential role in enhancing societal resilience by building resilient infrastructure capable of withstanding natural disasters and unforeseen challenges such as earthquake-resistant buildings and flood-resistant transportation systems etc. In a nutshell, construction industry should act as an engine for economic growth, a catalyst for innovation, a steward of sustainability, and a pillar of resilience.

Today, innovative technology is heralding a revolution within the construction sector, propelling it into an era of unprecedented transformation. The construction industry is a set of economic activities that form a complex mechanism of different stakeholders and economic system with stable organizational, economic, technical, production, technological and economic ties, ensuring the creation of construction projects. The increasing construction activities in emerging markets are expected to propel the growth of the construction market in future.

The main growth drivers for the development of the construction industry are government programs to support the construction of new housing and the launch of national infrastructure development projects in the regions. However, in the construction industry there is high competition, an increase in the number of construction companies of various sizes and specializations.

Along with good growth prospects for the construction industry, the intense competitive landscape of the industry gets inclined to take measures to reduce the cost of work and improve the quality of services, which necessitates the introduction of various innovative technologies and technological solutions in construction and related industries. Further, the Covid-19 pandemic created the need for newer ways of construction that adhere to worker safety and regulations.

The construction industry is at a crossroads, and the adoption of innovative technology is no longer an option but a fundamental requirement. From improved efficiency and safety to sustainability and cost savings, technology is reshaping the construction landscape. As global infrastructure demands continue to grow, the construction sector must seize the opportunities that technology offers to build a more resilient, efficient, and sustainable future. Embracing technological innovation is the key to addressing the challenges of the 21st century and ensuring the industry’s continued success.

Objectives: To critically analyse the impact of innovation technology on the construction industry, this research aims to identify Key Technological Innovations, assess Technological Adoption Trends through few case studies and best practices, and evaluate Environmental and Sustainability Implications.

Evolution of Construction Technology & Industry’s Approach to Technology

Throughout the evolution of humankind, we have witnessed remarkable feats in the world of building innovation. The construction industry, an integral pillar of global infrastructure development, has stood as a testament to human ingenuity for centuries. However, as the world evolves, so the construction practices must too.

The need to keep up with demand for housing, disasters, and escalated construction costs created the need for developing new innovative solutions. The overall innovation in construction industry can be categorised into the developments of innovative materials, automated information systems for faster decision-making and seamless execution, and advancement in construction technologies.

Innovative materials such as allusion panels, hydro ceramics, customised concrete, nanoparticles etc. have helped the industry in reducing the cost of construction; improving the quality of construction; the use of energy-saving materials to improve the energy saving of construction projects.

Automated Information Systems have been instrumental in solving the industry problems such as increasing the efficiency of management of construction objects; improving the quality of modelling and design of construction objects; increasing the visibility of the design of architectural projects.

Advanced Technologies for Construction reduce the cost of construction by reducing manual labour and increasing the mechanization of construction; improve the quality of construction; deploys energy-saving technologies and energy-efficient solutions.

Advanced Technologies for Construction reduce the cost of construction

New Trends and Innovations in Construction

The new trends and innovations in construction primarily can be seen in the form of prefabricated elements and structures, Ready Manufactured Building, 3D printing, BIM, Digital Twins, Cloud Computing, Construction Robotics, AR, VR & Metaverse etc.
  • Prefabrication - This is the technology by which modules are produced, which are then, like a designer, assembled directly at the construction site. With its help, facade panels, pre-assembled engineering systems, some structural elements, etc. are manufactured.
  • Ready Manufactured Buildings (RMB)– One of the emerging construction industry trends allows the designing, manufacturing, and fabricating of building elements in a factory thereby reducing the impacts of weather conditions, reducing material waste, labour dependency and contingency fee. RMB transforms the construction lifecycle in terms of sustainability, worker safety, and quality by incorporating a range of innovative materials, 3D printing technology, and novel assembling techniques. With RMB, a villa in a week and a finished villa in a month are now a reality.
  • Building Information Management (BIM) - While CAD vastly transformed the role of designers, Building Information Management has proven stunningly versatile, allowing architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to collaborate on the fine details of design and construction by using the same database and computer model. BIM involves all project stakeholders working collaboratively on a detailed 3D model that includes all the functional systems of a structure such as pavement or curbs, beams and girders, HVAC and electrical installations, as well as the aesthetics of walls, arches, roofs, and rails. 28.8% of construction firms in USA have a BIM department that uses the BIM software and 35% of construction companies outsource any BIM-related work. [JBK] BigRentz on August 3, 2023. (https://www.bigrentz.com/blog/construction-statistics)
  • 3D Printing - 3D printing is a robotic approach that prints the design layer by layer with advanced construction materials in collaboration with BIM. The use of state-of-the-art robots for the printers provide multi-axial control and ease of use facilitating customised motion systems for the printers to suit customised requirements. It has high design flexibility without the need for formwork. Construction printers either print entire buildings or only prefabricated building components. 3D can print design elements like facades to make them more intricate and detailed, can also be used to print parts, fixtures, and furniture for the building projects. More than a dozen projects with 3D printing have already been built in India.
  • Construction Robotics – Construction robots automate bricklaying, welding, rebar tying, painting, and many such repetitive tasks with great precision and productivity thereby reducing human-induced errors and losses due to fatigue. Robotics solutions also automate heavy equipment and fleets for excavation, transportation, load lifting, concrete works, and demolition. Robotic Total Station (RTS) is an electronic theodolite integrated with an electronic distance measurement that can be remotely controlled from distance. Using a tablet equipped with the relevant software, the layout can be completed by a single person, with RTS. In trials, autonomous vehicles mixed with human-operated excavators have delivered a 40% improvement in efficiency compared to conventional means. (The B1M).
  • Digital Twins & Digital As-Builts – A digital twin or digital as-built is a virtual replica of a physical asset that gives real-time data in all phases of construction and maintenance. These digital representations can be used to predict carbon footprints, simulate scenarios, and collect real-time data via installed sensors.
  • Cloud Computing: This helps outsource data processing and storage to powerful machines accessible from anywhere resulting in nearly unlimited storage and a truly connected jobsite. By harnessing the power of cloud computing, real-time data is available to all stakeholders, making for easy sharing and collaboration. It protects you from data loss, damage, or theft.
  • AR, VR and the Metaverse – VR (Virtual Reality) provides a complete immersive experience into the digital world, while AR (Augmented Reality) brings digital elements to our surroundings in real time. Immersive reality combines these two realms into one world—which is where the metaverse comes in. The metaverse is an iteration of the internet that allows users to experience it like the real world with the help of gadgets such as AR glasses and VR headsets.
  • Smart home technology – “Smart Home” encapsulates a high-tech system that allows to combine all communications into one and put it under the control of artificial intelligence, programmable and customizable for all the needs and wishes of the owner. A facade capable of independently changing its configuration (opens and closes) depending on the needs of residents and weather conditions; the use of “smart” ventilation based on air recuperation; solar panels on the roof; use of natural light; gas leakage detection; fire detection; the use of solar water heaters and a heat pump, etc. is a reality today.
  • Smart Materials offering Energy Efficient Solutions involve innovative technical solutions in the field of thermal insulation of enclosing structures, the use of new glass and double-glazed windows with energy-saving technologies, the use of motion sensors, renewable energy, energy-saving lamps etc.
Technology in Construction industry:

What is the Trend?

As per a recent study by Contractor Foreman, a construction management software, the trend of using Technology in construction industry are:
  • Want to buy or upgrade software in the next 12 months – 40%
  • Use drones – 18%
  • Use autonomous equipment – 16%
  • Use AR/VR technology – 6%
(https://financesonline.com/construction-industry-statistics/)

Real-World Applications

  • Light House Projects (LHP) - Light House Projects in India are model housing projects with houses being built with shortlisted alternate technology suitable to the geo-climatic and hazard conditions of the region. Out of the identified 54 technologies, Six LHPs using six distinct technologies demonstrative of construction of ready-to-live houses with maximum speed, economy and with better quality of construction in a sustainable manner were finalised to showcase use of these technologies for further mainstreaming in the country. Light House Project Chennai, Tamil Nadu comprising of 1,152 houses built with the technology “Precast Concrete Construction System-Precast Components assembled at Site” with all basic and social infrastructure facilities has been completed in record 12 months, i.e. 3 houses per day. Further Light House Project Rajkot, Gujarat adopted “Monolithic Concrete Construction using Tunnel Formwork” technology to complete 1144 house in 20 months.
  • TATA New Haven Boisar II – With RMB technology, a five-storey building with 20 apartments was cast and installed in 33 days standing testimony to quality and accuracy, high construction speed, savings in construction cost, and value engineering etc. Unlike the conventional and traditional 1D and 2D Precast methods, this technology is the new unique truly 3D, monolithic, Modular solution that can be poured complete with window and door frames, electrical and plumbing conduits already inlaid.
  • IIT-Madras House - This was the first 3D printed house in India and was inaugurated by the Hon. Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman. The House was printed in modules at the Tvasta facility in Chennai and assembled at site. The entire project (500 sq.ft.) was completed in 21 days. This building was constructed as a ‘proof of concept’ structure.
  • Smart Home Technology - Currently, there are nearly 13 million smart homes in India and by 2025, an additional 12.84% penetration of smart home solutions is expected in the country.

Innovative Construction Materials

  • Bio-concrete developed by American scientists from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and from University of Colorado made up of a mixture of cyanobacteria – photosynthesising bacteria – gelatin and sand, is capable of automatically filling cavities in concrete by releasing calcium carbonate crystals.
  • Concrete Canvas is a concrete fabric in a roll finding its applications on uneven surfaces of canals, repairing and protecting surfaces and slopes and strengthening reservoirs and pipes. Its flexibility offers limitless design possibilities for architects and poses new challenges for construction.
  • A decorative sensitive tile with acrylic fibre integrates technology to deliver spectacular decoration which reacts to movements, touch, or light sources. The optical fibre transmits light and reacts: the tile can twinkle, light up, catch and scatter neighbouring colours on its surface.
  • A thermoplastic carbon fibre composite giving rise to the world’s lightest seismic reinforcement system called CABKOMA Strand Rod developed by Komatsu Seiten Fabric’s laboratory, Japan to withstand earthquakes for earthquake-prone regions like Japan.
  • Hydro ceramics is a composite facade material made of clay and hydrogel which can cool the interiors of buildings by up to 6°C. This eco-construction material can save up to 28% of the total energy consumption of traditional cooling devices.
  • Researchers at Purdue University have created a white paint which contains barium sulfate that reflects 98.1% of sunlight.
  • Bio-Coal Lining, a recycled non-toxic bioplastic made of biochar from forest and agricultural waste, consists of 90% carbon and can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, is a carbon-negative material. Developed by Berlin-based start-up Made of Air, it can be used for everything from building facades, furniture, interiors, transport and urban infrastructure.

Benefits

The adoption of innovation technology in construction brings forth a wide range of tangible benefits that positively impact various aspects of the industry. These benefits encompass improved efficiency, cost savings, enhanced safety, sustainability, and quality assurance, making a compelling case for the integration of technology. Here are some of the tangible benefits of using innovative technology in construction:
  • Increased Efficiency and Productivity by means of Automation and Prefabrication and Modular Construction. In trials, autonomous vehicles mixed with human-operated excavators have delivered a 40% improvement in efficiency compared to conventional means. (The B1M). Also, 26% of E&C executives are increasing their utilization of prefabrication and modular construction materials. (Deloitte, 2021). Additionally, Module assembly yards are cost-efficient and can reduce expenses from 6% to 30%. (Deloitte, 2021).
  • Cost Savings and Budget Control by deploying tools like BIM, cost estimation software, digital platforms enabling real-time expense trackers etc.
  • Enhanced Safety measures through IoT Sensors and Drones.
  • Green Building Materials and Renewable Energy Integration ensures reduced environmental impacts through integration of renewable energy sources, reducing energy consumption and environmental footprint. Green buildings reduce carbon emissions by 34% and can consume up to 25% less energy than conventional buildings. (Market Research Future)
  • Quality Assurance through Digital Monitoring Systems: Sensors and digital tools detect deviations from design specifications, ensuring structures are built to high standards, reducing defects and maintenance costs.
  • Digital platforms and communication tools facilitate real-time collaboration among stakeholders, reducing miscommunication and delays.
  • Improved communication enhances project transparency, helping teams make informed decisions promptly.
  • Technology enables the construction of smart buildings and infrastructure that can adapt to evolving needs.
  • Modular and flexible construction techniques allow for easier adjustments to changing requirements.
  • Technology streamlines project management, reducing delays and improving project delivery times.
  • Data-driven decision-making through Analytics and valuable data insights that enable informed decision-making to optimize processes and resource allocation.
  • Technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D modelling enable clients to visualize projects better, resulting in greater client satisfaction.
  • Technology allows for the creation of digital twins of buildings and infrastructure, simplifying maintenance and long-term asset management.

Challenges

The integration of innovation technology in the construction industry also faces several challenges that must be overcome for the sector to realize its full potential. These challenges include:
  • Resistance to Change: The construction industry is known for its traditional practices and is often resistant to change. Workers and management may be hesitant to adopt new technologies due to unfamiliarity and fear of job displacement.
  • High Initial Costs: The upfront costs of acquiring and implementing innovative technologies can be substantial. Small and medium-sized construction companies may struggle to invest in expensive software, hardware, or training.
  • Lack of Skilled Workforce: A shortage of skilled workers who can operate and maintain advanced construction technologies is a significant challenge. The industry needs a workforce with the knowledge and skills to leverage these tools effectively. In 2021, 45% of contractors in USA turned down projects because of skilled labour shortages.
  • Data Security Concerns: As construction projects increasingly rely on digital tools and data-sharing platforms, concerns about data security and privacy become more prominent. Safeguarding sensitive project information is essential.
  • Regulatory and Legal Challenges: Legal and regulatory frameworks may not keep pace with technological advancements in construction. Contractors and developers may face compliance and liability issues when implementing new technologies.
  • Sustainability and Environmental Concerns: While technology can promote sustainability in construction, there are challenges related to e-waste and the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of tech-related components.
  • Project Complexity: Innovative technologies can add complexity to construction projects. Dealing with advanced tools and systems may require additional time and resources, potentially impacting project timelines and budgets.
  • Risk of Technical Failures: Technology is not infallible, and construction projects can be delayed or disrupted due to technical failures, software glitches, or cyberattacks.
  • Scalability and Adaptability: Construction projects vary in scale and complexity. Adapting technology solutions to suit the specific needs of each project can be challenging, especially for technologies that are designed for larger-scale projects.
As per the recent study by Contractor Foreman, a construction management software, the top global industry challenges are:
  1. Skilled labour shortage – 67%
  2. Labour disputes – 63%
  3. Lack of confidence – 33%
(https://financesonline.com/construction-industry-statistics/)

Sustainability In Construction: Environmental Concerns

The construction sector consumes vast resources, generates substantial waste, and contributes to pollution, making it essential to address these concerns to reduce environmental harm and work towards sustainability.
  • Resource Depletion: The construction industry is a significant consumer of natural resources such as sand, gravel, timber, and minerals. Over-extraction of these resources can lead to habitat destruction and ecosystem degradation.
  • Energy Consumption: Construction operations require substantial energy for activities like excavation, transportation, and heating. High energy consumption contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The construction industry is responsible for a substantial portion of carbon emissions due to the energy-intensive processes involved in manufacturing materials, transportation, and on-site construction activities.
  • Waste Generation: Construction generates a significant amount of waste, including construction debris, materials, and hazardous substances. Poor waste management practices can lead to soil and water pollution and adverse impacts on ecosystems.
  • Water Usage and Pollution: Construction activities can contaminate water sources through the discharge of pollutants, sedimentation, and erosion. Water-intensive processes can deplete local water resources.
  • Occupational Health and Safety: Construction workers are exposed to various environmental hazards, including exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise, leading to health concerns and safety issues.
  • Energy Inefficiency in Buildings: Buildings constructed without energy-efficient designs and materials can result in high energy consumption during their operational phase, contributing to environmental degradation.

Innovation technology in promoting sustainable construction practices

Innovation technology plays a crucial role in promoting sustainable construction practices by enabling the industry to reduce its environmental footprint, enhance efficiency, and improve the overall sustainability of construction projects. It empowers construction professionals to design, build, and manage buildings and infrastructure with a reduced environmental footprint, increased energy efficiency, and improved resource management. By integrating these technological solutions into the construction process, the industry can contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future while meeting the growing demand for eco-conscious construction practices.
  • Design and Planning: BIM helps optimize designs for sustainability, energy efficiency, and resource conservation by creating digital models that allow architects, engineers, and construction professionals to plan, visualize, and simulate building projects.
  • Green Building Materials and Selection: Technology provides access to databases and tools that assist in evaluating and selecting environmentally friendly building materials, such as recycled materials, sustainably sourced wood, and low-impact construction materials.
  • Energy Efficiency: Energy Simulation Software tools can simulate a building’s energy performance and help identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. This enables designers to make informed decisions about insulation, HVAC systems, and lighting.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: Solar and wind assessment Technology aids in assessing the feasibility and optimal placement of renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines, reducing a building’s reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Resource Management: Waste reduction and recycling Apps and software can be used to track and manage construction waste, encouraging recycling and waste reduction.
  • Smart Building Technologies: Building Automation Systems enable real-time monitoring and control of a building’s systems, optimizing energy usage, lighting, and HVAC systems for efficiency and occupant comfort.
  • Water Efficiency: Advanced sensors and controls of Smart water management system in plumbing systems can optimize water usage by detecting leaks, managing water pressure, and reducing overall consumption.
  • Life Cycle Assessment: Environmental Impact Assessment Software tools help conduct life cycle assessments to understand the environmental impact of a construction project, guiding decision-making to reduce the overall footprint.

Conclusion

In summary, innovation technology in construction is a powerful enabler of sustainable construction practices. By incorporating these practices and technologies, the industry can meet the increasing demand for sustainable structures while contributing to a greener and more environmentally responsible future. These practices involve the use of eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient designs, sustainable building methods, waste reduction, and responsible resource management. Environmental regulations, green building certifications, and community engagement also play a vital role in mitigating the negative impacts of construction on the environment. Adopting and promoting innovation technology in construction requires a collaborative effort among industry stakeholders, including construction firms, technology providers, educational institutions, and policymakers. It also necessitates ongoing investments in workforce training and development and a commitment to staying updated with the latest technological advancements. Ultimately, innovation in conjunction with sustainable construction practices aim to balance the industry’s needs with the need to protect and preserve the natural environment for future generations.

References

  1. “Construction Global Market Report 2023”, The Business Research Company, Published January 2023
  2. Michelle Meisels (Principal, E&C Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP), “2021 engineering and construction industry outlook”, Deloitte (2021).
  3. “Market Share & Data Analysis”, FinancesOnline, Contractor Foreman, 2023, (https://financesonline.com/construction-industry-statistics/)
  4. Chinmaya Vyas (SVKMs NMIMS Mumbai) & Shashikant Patil (SVKMs NMIMS Mumbai), “Smart Home Analysis in India:An IOT Perspective”, International Journal of Computer Applications (0975 – 8887) , Volume 144 – No.6, June 2016, DOI:10.5120/ijca2016910384
  5. Tinku Malayil, “Smart Homes- The Path to a Better Tomorrow!”, Jose in Voices, Tech, TOI, November 18, 2022 (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/smart-homes-the-path-to-a-better-tomorrow/)
  6. Author Jeff Gerardi (President & CEO, ProEst), “20 Innovative Construction Materials”, ProEst (An Autodesk Company), Published on March 23, 2022
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ICCT, NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2023
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