New and Emerging Technologies in Construction Industry

Argenio Antao, COO - Colliers International India
Argenio Antao, COO - Colliers International India
The Construction Industry has undergone revolutionising changes in the last decade by embracing technological advancements. New-age construction methods have become highly efficient to ensure faster delivery time and cost effectiveness.

From construction drawings in blueprints during the 19th century to its gradual shift to whiteprint and now with 2D and 3D CAD drawings, the industry has witnessed a digital transformation in its methods and practices. In fact, the present-day Building Information Modelling (BIM), 4D Scheduling, and 5D cost modelling mark the beginning of a new era of construction technology. The 4D project management software simulation of construction progress tracks and validates the process including temporary works, traffic management, construction work tasks, as well as coordinates supplies and progress delivery to optimise project plans much ahead of time.

Application of Robotics has also made a major difference in the industry and in making the lives of the construction industry workers safer and simpler. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, Automated Rovers can now provide jobsite status information, monitor sites autonomously and feed data back to the predictive analytics systems. Nowadays, the smart devices, wearable construction technology, sensors and on-site cameras, drones, advanced GPS linked to the construction management software can provide comprehensive information of building progress and real-time status reporting.

New and Emerging Technologies in Construction Industry

The industry has also adopted prefabrication technology, available at different budgets for assured quality of construction and speedy completion. Formworks have evolved from conventional timber to MIVAN and Tunnel formworks, which assure high quality control measures and save time significantly. With the increased awareness about environment and sustainable development, construction industry is also incorporating eco-friendly practices. Green and innovative materials are being preferred as these are recyclable, reusable, non-toxic, and they engender little pollution. The practice of using air cleaning bricks on the outside of the building is prevalent as it funnels air into an internal cyclone filtration section separating heavy elements and drops them down into a hopper at the base of the wall, pulling clean air into the building.

Building integrated photovoltaic glazing helps the building generate its own electricity by turning the whole building envelope into a solar panel. Kinetic footfall in road pavements and footpaths is a sustainable energy source used for generating electricity. Self-healing concrete makes it cost efficient due to the low cost of maintenance, durability and the long lifespan. In short, technology is giving us a way to capture much of that experience and bridge the gap in knowledge.

However, despite these innovations, project execution faces major challenges due to slow adoption of the new technologies, non-availability of skilled labourers and material resources, improper risk management techniques, improper planning, changes in design, coordination issues in site management, and lack of budgetary control.

Therefore, implementation of latest technology has an additional cost factor involved as it is imperative to develop training programs for unskilled labourers, outsource labour hire requirements, and provide safe and healthy work environment to address the manpower scarcity issues. However, use of predictive analytics reduces risks associated with the workforce as the application of BIM in design coordination avoids errors.

As we adopt new technologies for better efficiency, it is necessary to engage in active value engineering techniques and proper material management. Value engineering methodology should analyse the function of the goods and services, not compromising on the user requirements, to obtain the required functions at the lowest total cost (both CAPEX and OPEX). This can include alterations in design, adding efficiencies to the production process, removal of unnecessary costs, and sourcing from lower-cost suppliers without negatively impacting customer requirements. In addition to this, site-based teams also need to focus on cost reduction techniques.

By controlling procurement, carrying cost can reduce total project cost and fast track project completion. Inventory categorisation, resource levelling and smoothening assure material usage at an optimum refined level, so that the storage cost can be eliminated. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with analytics using data from various construction processes allows manufacturers to proactively manage operations and prevent disruptions and delays.

Even though the industry has witnessed many disruptive changes over the years, it has been relatively hesitant to implement these practices and technologies aggressively. Although these are established methodologies by now, the industry still trudges along with the traditional methods. At the pace technology is advancing and being adopted across various segments of our lives, the construction industry too needs to be highly tech driven to add value to the customer and operate with profitability.

NBM&CW March 2020

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