Our last blog focused on general industry trends expected for 2017, one of which being increased technological implementation. The nature of technology guarantees that change is always on the horizon, but many of us are familiar with the construction industry’s hesitation to jump on any new bandwagon.
However, savvy companies are realizing that avoiding the digital revolution could send them the way of the dodo. Many firms have already made good headway digitizing at least some part of their plans, delivery methods, and company culture.
Electrical Search Group (ESG) examines some of the top trends in construction technology to keep an eye on in 2017.
BIM – Building Information Modeling & Supporting Technologies
Throughout 2017, BIM’s capabilities will see continued enhancement as the prices begin to come down on newer, supporting technologies thus creating better accessibility.
BIM’s primitive beginnings originated in the early 1960s, but the term didn’t become a ‘household’ name in the industry until about 40 years later. In its current manifestation, BIM serves as a digital representation of a site’s physical and functional features. It is used during the conceptual phase through to even the demolition phase.
BIM functions in 5 dimensions, the 4th being time and 5th being cost. All functional attributes of the project (geographic factors, spatial relationships, specifications of the materials used, etc.) are converted to interpretable data for easy use and sharing among the design team, construction team, owner/operator or any other relevant party.
The popularity of BIM has also been propelled by its parametric features, meaning that objects are identified in relation to other objects. If the qualities of one related object are changed, the change is reflected throughout other dependent objects as well.
The BIM model has facilitated much easier communication across all teams. As the supporting technologies continue to improve, project flow will become even smoother and more efficient.
Drones / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
Drones or UAVs, as they’re sometimes called, have become a real asset to the construction industry in recent years with the ability to incorporate mapping capabilities and collecting data to produce a highly accurate model of the construction site. Site surveys and project-tracking are also favored features for monitoring safety and enhancing productivity.
Drones can be flown on a predetermined flight path or controlled manually from even just a mobile device. They have proven much more cost-efficient in obtaining aerial footage than previously-used helicopters. Their use is expected to see continued growth in 2017 as a support to the BIM model.
Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR)
While we’ve been able to view sites in 3D with the BIM models for some time now, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are a definite game changer. Cost used to be a big barrier to companies investing in VR and AR, but they are now much more accessible since going mainstream in the consumer market. Owner/operators, contractors, and other investors can get an even more realistic sense of the site, its geographical and spatial context, and cost projections to help give a more accurate scope of the project. Contractors and clients are able to make better decisions with these comprehensive data compilations via virtual walk-throughs, which can ultimately save time, money, and heartache in the long run.
Problems concerning logistics or design preferences can be detected and resolved well in advance of implementation. For example, lighting conditions are a real consideration factor that can either improve or inhibit a productive, comfortable workspace. By using VR or AR, these variables can be integrated into the initial stages so the designer can choose to construct for optimal natural light or gauge what type of artificial lighting fixtures would complement the space.
VR and AR can even be used in training new employees without necessitating the use of an active site, which would potentially disrupt the workflow of a current project or risk injury. Additionally, these technologies provide a wider safety net for current professionals as potential hazards are more likely to be identified and corrected before an injury or worse occurs.
The accessibility of these and future technologies in construction is launching the industry into an exciting frontier. The capacity to oversee projects remotely and in real-time are incredible catalysts for creating highly accurate projections, implementing a cost-effective strategy, and ultimately maximizing the bottom line. It is crucial for firms to keep up with the latest trends to ensure they’re implementing the most efficient solutions and strengthening their competitive advantage.
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