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Weathering the Storm: Quality Construction with Cutting-Edge Tech

April 6, 2023
Against the backdrop of a volatile market, the industry will need to make room for digital technologies to stay competitive.

By David Mitchell

Rising interest rates, skilled labor shortages and high material prices are just some of the many challenges facing the global construction industry today. In a sector where profit margins are infamously tight, sitting around 6% on average, it’s more important now than ever to modernize and seek ways to build more efficiently.

Investing in technologies that lighten the burden of issues like rework that lead to wasted time, materials and energy, is a critical step in securing a financially stable and greener future for the industry.

Construction is going digital, and a range of cutting-edge innovations are supporting architects, engineers and construction crews in minimizing waste and project costs. Leading general contractors, such as Mace, a global consultancy and construction firm, have already set their sights on advanced digital technologies like Engineering Grade ARTM and are seeing positive returns.

Against the backdrop of a volatile market, the industry will need to make room for digital technologies to stay competitive, and we think this is going to be a growing theme for the foreseeable future. Here’s why.

Increasingly Digital Solutions 

Construction teams are now routinely using established technologies like Computer Aided Designs (CAD) and new developments, such as Computer Vision (CV). This uptick in digital adoption is being spurred on by the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Importantly, the synergy between established Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows and budding technologies is allowing teams to streamline workflows to deliver high quality builds on time and for lower costs.

As the construction industry welcomes increasingly innovative ways of embedding digital technology into building methods, it will become better equipped to deal with challenges like rising material prices and pressure to reduce carbon emissions.

Capitalizing on New Technology

Emerging technologies are building on contemporary solutions and allowing construction professionals to build and manage projects like never before. According to a recent report by Dodge Construction Network, BIM is now used by almost 80% of civil engineers. Its capabilities have exploded thanks to complementary developments like digital twin technology which boosts visibility throughout projects by creating exact 3D replicas of models and structures. This powerful technology even allows project teams to simulate different scenarios. It’s overshadowing the monitoring capabilities of reactive technologies that produce outdated, inaccurate data, like laser scanning carried out after works are completed.

Improved AI-enhanced smart sensors mean these highly accurate virtual models can learn from real-world sources and autonomously update to reflect adjustments and inform project managers of any important changes in real time.

In parallel, CV is helping to automate tasks like quality control and optimize processes, reducing the workload and minimizing human errors from teams in the field. Similarly, construction Augmented Reality (AR) is changing the game by allowing field engineers to compare holograms of 3D design models against real world structures, to millimetre accuracy using Engineering Grade AR. This enables the proactive detection of inaccuracies in the moment, preventing costly errors down the line, and reducing instances of rework to less than 1% in some cases.  

Thanks to the growing capabilities of AI, advanced robotics and drones are increasingly being used on construction projects to save time and money by automatically carrying out repetitive tasks, and as surveying tools. This is not only helping to improve the accuracy of building and surveying techniques, but on a macrocosmic level it’s also supporting the ongoing automation of contemporary construction.

Overcoming Barriers to Adoption

There are still barriers holding the industry back here. Construction has always been slow to change, due to low profit margins, and this is limiting the appetite for the adoption of new technologies that will save money in the long run. 

The digitalization of construction is helping to overcome this by facilitating greater collaboration and more accurate building. However, the potential return on investment must be showcased by further use cases and research into the benefits. With the support of cloud management platforms and greater data analytics, advanced technologies have the potential to eliminate reactive rework and minimize unnecessary costs and delays by equipping construction crews with the tools to identify and tackle issues in the moment. 

Some solutions like XYZ Reality’s offering are helping to build managed services, a turn-key offering to owners and general contractors, that don’t just provide the technology, but also qualified construction professionals to help throughout projects. This is a hallmark of a new construction age where digital connectivity is bringing together global experience into a growing ecosystem fuelled by technology. 

To amplify this, AI and greater access to big data are providing access to more important information like energy costs that can be continuously collected and analysed in real-time. This data is more accurate, can be shared easily, and stored safely in data clouds. This level of transparency also means teams working at a distance on projects are well-placed to understand issues leading to misinformation and waste, prevent gaps in project cost analysis and identify where costs can be cut.

A Critical Juncture

If we are going to reduce the amount of time, materials and energy going into projects and safeguard the industry against a looming recession, leaders in construction must seize the opportunities presented by the growing pool of digital technologies to get ahead of the curve.

The industry is changing, and the fragility of age-old building methods has been tested by unexpected events like the Ukraine crisis. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as more digital solutions are supporting construction crews across the board to build without errors and reduce waste. However, those unwilling to move with the times will be left behind in tomorrow’s futuristic world.

David Mitchell is the Founder & CEO of construction technology company, XYZ Reality, the company behind the Atom–the world’s most accurate Engineering Grade Augmented Reality (AR) headset. Before founding XYZ Reality, David worked as a digital construction manager on some of Europe’s largest projects including: The Shard, Battersea power station and hyper-scale data centers. David is a leading expert in digital construction and has been recognized for his innovation in this space.

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