What USA's construction companies must know about Digital Construction

What USA's construction companies must know about Digital Construction

Digital construction is the execution of key elements of the construction processes and operations with digital tools. Construction companies across the USA, especially small and mid-sized construction companies, could be forgiven some misgivings about these practices given that they have become used to a certain set of practices. For them, here’s a note demystifying these tools and suggesting how they can gain from their application.

Digital Tools and Techniques

While digital construction might seem revolutionary, the surprising fact is several digital tools have already made a place for themselves.

For instance, communication is a crucial aspect of the construction industry and the coordinated execution of on-site and off-site tasks. For years now we have been using digital communication tools, such as messaging apps for information sharing and Skype or Google Meet for video conferencing. Also, most construction companies have experienced the benefits of BIM, relied on cloud-based project management systems, and tapped automated tools for assorted tasks. They have also used content platforms for information sharing to promote knowledge and training.

To that extent at least, most construction companies have seen digital tools at close range. That said, it’s time to look at more advanced tools facilitating digital construction.

Drones

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), popularly referred to as drones can be an important part of digital construction. These are primary used to provide oversight and transparency to enhance visibility and construction safety. Construction managers get access to the bird’s eye view of the construction site. It helps in planning construction activities and remote site monitoring. The drones also promote the safety of the construction workers. The supervisor can issue alerts and generate alarms based on the pictures and videos captured by the drones. A key enabler for the use of drones is a well-documented view of the construction site that is accurate and updated at all times so that the information available from the drone can be framed in context and interpreted coherently.

3D Printing

3D printing is being used more in construction. It is also known as additive manufacturing and involves the construction of a 3D object from a CAD model or design. For example, one of the 3D printers available in the market can build a 400-square-foot cement structure in one day. The direct transfer of digital designs to physical implementations results in faster speed and improved accuracy. Obviously, to be able to deliver output that is usable onsite, this technique demands comprehensive data about the overall design, the element under construction, and the environment into which that element will fit.

Robots

Digital construction involves robots performing tasks, such as demolishing, leveling, and digging. There is a lot of material movement and loading required at the construction site. The engagement of manual effort for such tasks involves significant time with risks of health and safety issues for the construction workers. Robots make the performance of such tasks easier and safer. These robots and human resources can work in collaboration at the construction site for improved accuracy, safety, and performance. Robots can only move as programmed, this suggests that they need to be pre-fed detailed and comprehensive information about the site where they will be deployed.

Future Technologies

Digital construction will also be impacted by emerging technologies. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), for instance, can have a significant role in construction. AR is an interactive way to layer information over the real-world field of vision. It can make it possible to have virtual design elements placed on the construction site. The technology is being developed to enable construction workers to automate measurements on the construction site. Workers wearing an AR unit will have the capabilities to record the measurements of the built components. The next level of 3D modeling will be possible through VR. The technology will allow the construction managers, workers, customers, and architects to experience complete immersion in the virtual space. This will enhance impact, improve training, and enable safer work.

This is a Data Shift

Digital construction has the potential to lead to some massive changes in the construction sector. Traditional methods will transform into digital and automation will increase. While this will free up people to focus on tasks that call for greater application of judgment and nuance, it also requires greater structure and more comprehensive planning. As we have seen, most of the digitally-influenced construction techniques require a plan for the construction site that is clear, current, and correct. There is very little room for “on-the-fly” changes while using these methods. This is where BIM, can play a key foundational role. These technologies can combine with BIM to drive data-driven actions.

Possible Challenges

Change can be disruptive and construction companies must be aware of the risks and issues with adopting digital construction techniques so they can develop mitigation plans in advance.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the non-availability of tech talent to drive such initiatives forward and the ability to integrate tech-driven ways of working into normal ways of working. Construction companies, especially the smaller firms and those located in the centers away from tech hotspots like Silicon Valley struggle to attract top tech talent. Their traditional processes need both small tweaks as well as major revamps to adopt technology but there’s often no one available to show them how to make those changes or handhold them through the process of change.   

That apart, technology risks, suc

 

Digital construction is the execution of key elements of the construction processes and operations with digital tools. Construction companies across the USA, especially small and mid-sized construction companies, could be forgiven some misgivings about these practices given that they have become used to a certain set of practices. For them, here’s a note demystifying these tools and suggesting how they can gain from their application.

Digital Tools and Techniques

While digital construction might seem revolutionary, the surprising fact is several digital tools have already made a place for themselves.

For instance, communication is a crucial aspect of the construction industry and the coordinated execution of on-site and off-site tasks. For years now we have been using digital communication tools, such as messaging apps for information sharing and Skype or Google Meet for video conferencing. Also, most construction companies have experienced the benefits of BIM, relied on cloud-based project management systems, and tapped automated tools for assorted tasks. They have also used content platforms for information sharing to promote knowledge and training.

To that extent at least, most construction companies have seen digital tools at close range. That said, it’s time to look at more advanced tools facilitating digital construction.

Drones

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), popularly referred to as drones can be an important part of digital construction. These are primary used to provide oversight and transparency to enhance visibility and construction safety. Construction managers get access to the bird’s eye view of the construction site. It helps in planning construction activities and remote site monitoring. The drones also promote the safety of the construction workers. The supervisor can issue alerts and generate alarms based on the pictures and videos captured by the drones. A key enabler for the use of drones is a well-documented view of the construction site that is accurate and updated at all times so that the information available from the drone can be framed in context and interpreted coherently.

3D Printing

3D printing is being used more in construction. It is also known as additive manufacturing and involves the construction of a 3D object from a CAD model or design. For example, one of the 3D printers available in the market can build a 400-square-foot cement structure in one day. The direct transfer of digital designs to physical implementations results in faster speed and improved accuracy. Obviously, to be able to deliver output that is usable onsite, this technique demands comprehensive data about the overall design, the element under construction, and the environment into which that element will fit.

Robots

Digital construction involves robots performing tasks, such as demolishing, leveling, and digging. There is a lot of material movement and loading required at the construction site. The engagement of manual effort for such tasks involves significant time with risks of health and safety issues for the construction workers. Robots make the performance of such tasks easier and safer. These robots and human resources can work in collaboration at the construction site for improved accuracy, safety, and performance. Robots can only move as programmed, this suggests that they need to be pre-fed detailed and comprehensive information about the site where they will be deployed.

Future Technologies

Digital construction will also be impacted by emerging technologies. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), for instance, can have a significant role in construction. AR is an interactive way to layer information over the real-world field of vision. It can make it possible to have virtual design elements placed on the construction site. The technology is being developed to enable construction workers to automate measurements on the construction site. Workers wearing an AR unit will have the capabilities to record the measurements of the built components. The next level of 3D modeling will be possible through VR. The technology will allow the construction managers, workers, customers, and architects to experience complete immersion in the virtual space. This will enhance impact, improve training, and enable safer work.

This is a Data Shift

Digital construction has the potential to lead to some massive changes in the construction sector. Traditional methods will transform into digital and automation will increase. While this will free up people to focus on tasks that call for greater application of judgment and nuance, it also requires greater structure and more comprehensive planning. As we have seen, most of the digitally-influenced construction techniques require a plan for the construction site that is clear, current, and correct. There is very little room for “on-the-fly” changes while using these methods. This is where BIM, can play a key foundational role. These technologies can combine with BIM to drive data-driven actions.

Possible Challenges

Change can be disruptive and construction companies must be aware of the risks and issues with adopting digital construction techniques so they can develop mitigation plans in advance.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the non-availability of tech talent to drive such initiatives forward and the ability to integrate tech-driven ways of working into normal ways of working. Construction companies, especially the smaller firms and those located in the centers away from tech hotspots like Silicon Valley struggle to attract top tech talent. Their traditional processes need both small tweaks as well as major revamps to adopt technology but there’s often no one available to show them how to make those changes or handhold them through the process of change.   

That apart, technology risks, such as the failure of the digital tools or errors in the tool could occur and disturb the continuity of the site operations. Cloud-based apps and systems do carry with them some security and privacy risks that construction companies need to be aware of and address.

The world is still transitioning from traditional to digital construction practices. It seems clear that these tools and techniques have value to offer. How construction companies adapt to this change may decide how successful they are in the long run.

h as the failure of the digital tools or errors in the tool could occur and disturb the continuity of the site operations. Cloud-based apps and systems do carry with them some security and privacy risks that construction companies need to be aware of and address.

The world is still transitioning from traditional to digital construction practices. It seems clear that these tools and techniques have value to offer. How construction companies adapt to this change