The construction industry has ushered in a new age of technology. The first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanise production, the second brought in electricity to power the industry, the third introduced electronics, and information technology and now, riding on the wave of it is the fourth industrial revolution which is digital technology usage along with a fusion of biological, digital and physical spheres.
That said, here are the 10 major technologies that have revolutionised the construction industry.
1. Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
With the advent of CAD, the construction industry moved to a fast-track mode with the construction and engineering proceeding concurrently. CAD eradicated the problems faced due to two-dimensional plans and section drawing, generating design information faster and more accurately. This factor has a huge benefit for the time and cost ratio. Besides, CAD can implement midstream changes with ease and thus simplify the construction process, supplier communication, etc.
Evolving trends in the CAD process now feature specially designed workstations for engineers that are custom-purposed computer terminals dedicated to the automated design process. CAD systems are now available in standard design categories such as civil, electrical, piping, structural schematics, etc.
2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)
BIM is the epicentre of the digital transformation. In contrast to CAD which has elevated the role and functioning of designers, BIM allows architects, contractors and engineers to work in collaboration by using the same computer model and database and fine tune the construction process. BIM uses 3D and even 5D models that include all project stakeholders to work in unison. All functional systems of a construction structure such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning; electrical installations; piping and plumbing; built aesthetics and positioning of walls, windows, roofs, balconies; etc. can be collaboratively analysed, errors deduced, and solutions worked out.
Assembling and moving materials on site with the help of construction equipments can take a toll on the accuracy and reliability of components. It is better management sense along with increased efficiency and productivity factor that prefabricated materials and components are used in the construction process. Prefabrication allows for greater automation in production within controlled environment, lowers wage rate of on-site work and eliminates on-site engineering documentation of the process.
4. Automated and Robotic Equipment
The growing trend in construction application systems is the use of computerised expert systems. For instance, Japan uses advanced-application, self-directed robots that are controlled by expert systems to finish concrete and spray-paint buildings. Other examples of the changing equipment scenario in the construction industry include, weld performance systems, installing structural steel, sprayed insulation, automated storage areas, etc. Besides, remotely operated activities are a boon for work in nuclear facilities where contamination is a threat for manual workers.
Modular construction is a boon for the environment where one of the key factors for increasing pollution these days is constructional dust and emission. Modular applications enable simple structural components of complex buildings, such as hospitals, and high-rises, for example, to be pre-built and shipped for on-site assembling, completion and connection using advanced techniques. Modules have revolutionised construction by eliminating waste to a great extent.
6. 3D Printing
When the first 3D wall was printed, the construction industry was poised to take a huge leap in terms of technological innovation. Constructional 3D printers mounted on a robotic arm that extrude concrete layers in place of plastic can create a 3D model making it possible to build a house in just a day. This technology though mostly used in aeronautical and medical arenas can enable additive manufacturing in construction sites with reduced costs, and increased speed and design possibilities.
7. Wireless Sensors
Smart sensors in construction are used for assessing and monitoring the material and structural properties of concrete, environmental conditions and project equipment. Remote vibration monitoring is essential in assessing the risk of damage and disturbance to structures.
8. Robotic Total Stations (RTS)
An RTS is a remote operation enabled electronic theodolite integrated with an electronic distance measurement that allows a single operator to calculate and inspect a multitude of factors in lesser time than a traditional total station. RTS provides a significant increase in productivity.
9. Construction Management
The system of controls that optimize the design, procurement and process of construction has evolved in tandem with the technological innovations. The process of planning, scheduling and cost control has moved on to computer-based data linking design, delegation, purchasing, warehousing, etc. While manual labour shrinks with devices taking control, management and staff have undergone upgrade as well.
The role of the internet in this revolution and continued innovations in the construction industry is pivotal. Telecommunications, management software, cloud-based collaboration, idea exchangesâ€”the digital age has aided this transformation the most.
The future of the construction industry is being shaped by technology, changing the way built assets are designed, constructed, operated and maintained. An industry which until recently was heavily reliant on manual labour and mechanical operating procedures is evolving and the economic and social impact of this move will be considered substantial as well.