Game-Changers: Technology Intervention in the Construction Industry

01 March, 2017

The last few decades saw information technology change the face of this world. With disruptive ideas and innovative solutions, IT not only made everyday life easier, but also made business globalization possible in an otherwise sporadic ecosystem. The construction industry is one of the largest contributors to our country’s GDP, and employment for skilled and unskilled workforce. However, it remained distant from IT by far (Figure 1, Digitization study), largely as a result of industry-level reluctance to adopt newer tools, and partly due to the complacency of individual players who failed to come together for a higher vision

Fortunately though, we are staring at an inflection point right now. As part of an organization leading a paradigm shift in the Indian construction industry, I feel very hopeful of witnessing a major technology wave in the very near future. As the industry throws a series of technology intervention possibilities at construction companies, every decision to or not to adopt technology, would have the potential to make or break a project. Digitizing the work process could be the difference between a profitable venture and one in losses; it could mark the difference between success and failure.

In fact, the construction industry could benefit from digitization in major phases of the building process including Design (Design errors/ conflict resolution, design documentation, over engineering resolution), Construction phase (coordination, cash flow, material wastage reduction) and post-construction (facility management, change management, life cycle cost analysis) etc.

Here are some technologies that adequately address productivity and efficiency challenges.

1.Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of buildings. BIM models are files which can be extracted, exchanged or networked to support decision-making regarding a building or other built asset. Currently, BIM software is used by individuals, businesses and government agencies who plan, design, construct, operate and maintain diverse physical infrastructures, such as water, refuse, electricity, gas, communication utilities, roads, bridges, ports, tunnels, etc.

A study by Stanford University on 32 major construction projects that used BIM, to identify benefits of BIM showed the following tangible benefits.

  • Up to 40% elimination of un-budgeted change
  • Cost estimation accuracy within 3% as compared to traditional estimates
  • Up to 80% reduction in time taken to generate a cost estimate
  • A savings of up to 10% of the contract value through clash detection and
  • Up to 7% reduction in project tim

2.Prefabrication – Robotics, 3D Printing:

Construction 3D printing/Robotics refers to various technologies that use 3D printing as a core method to fabricate buildings or construction components. Successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create objects of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from digital model data 3D model.

Benefits of using 3D printing:

  • New shapes and design possibilities
  • Sustainable & Environmental Friendly
  • Remote location construction
  • Low cost

The advent of 3D printing has seen a proliferation of products (designed in digital environments), which involve levels of complexity that simply could not be produced physically in any other way. 3D printing is also emerging as an energy-efficient technology that can provide environmental efficiency in terms of both the manufacturing process itself, utilizing up to 90% of standard materials, and therefore, creating less waste, but also throughout an additively manufactured product’s operating life, by way of lighter and stronger design that imposes a reduced carbon footprint compared with traditionally manufactured products

3D printing out houses in China – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SObzNdyRTBs

3.ERP systems

The construction sector is highly disorganized, there is no denying it. Having said that it is also one of the sectors that could heavily benefit from being more organized and planned. The only other main challenge that is seen industry-wide is the lack of credibility and trust in traditional players, which can also be improved effectively by process planning and high level organization.

Further, with the working of the industry becoming more transparent and open, it can impact customer trust positively, thereby increasing company value and profits. All this is achieved, while bringing down costs and streamlining work.

Conclusion:

With this plethora of rewards and minimum investment, there is possibly only one reason why IT adoption in construction is not as rampant as in the other sectors – leadership level aversion to change. Leaders must understand that slowly, but surely industry-wide adoption is inevitable. It is not only better for builders and contractors, but also highly useful for end-consumers, which is why we must embrace it, all the more. Leaders must decide whether they choose the technology of the future, or stick to an unproductive past.

Those who ride the wave will rule the ocean. Those who don’t will not survive. Those who make futuristic decisions today are the ones, who truly make history.

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