Technology Trends in Construction Management in 2021

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The building of quality homes relies primarily on the same techniques that have been used for centuries. While motorized equipment and power tools made some jobs easier, the work itself hasn’t changed all that much. The last 20 years, however, have seen an explosion in technology that aids the construction of new homes and makes things faster, safer, and easier.

Digitized records, documents, and plans

You may not know it if you’re not working within the construction industry, but there is a lot of paperwork involved in the construction of new homes. There are papers for building plans, permit applications, permits, safety inspections, client documents, and more. Digitized records have immensely reduced the amount of physical paperwork that needed to be kept and stored around the office along with the job site.

With digital records, you are able to keep this paperwork to a minimum and can summon any document you need while in the office or in the field on your tablet. There’s also the added benefit of being able to instantly see changes and modifications to plans immediately without needing to wait for new documents to arrive. This creates instant communication, and more accurate planning and building which saves time and money for construction crews.

There are also smart contracts that allow all of the parties involved to see the same information in real-time. In the past, getting contracts and tracking materials from different parties was an extremely time-consuming and intensive job. Now, with the use of smart contracts, everyone involved can track when materials and deliverables have been paid for and delivered/installed. This helps keep everyone involved up to date and eliminates a significant time expense for all parties.

Construction management software has become an industry all its own and it would be hard to find a construction company that does not use a CMS to guide its day-to-day operations. These software solutions facilitate planning, cost estimations, accounting and forecasting, estimate materials needed for a build, and project tracking. These software solutions ensure better planning and help to further reduce costly mistakes to save time and money.

Phones, tablets, and computers on the job site

The digital records we mentioned above wouldn’t be able to be viewed or updated at will without a device to view them on. Even just 20 years ago, a computer or phone on a construction site would have been impractical. Now, every worker has a phone or tablet that is thousands of times more powerful than the computer used to send astronauts to the moon. All of the plans and data are available to anyone who needs to reference them, and everyone is kept in the loop when there are changes made. There’s an entire industry for the design and production of rugged tablets and computers specifically designed for construction.

In the past, it was much more common for a worker to find out the job they’re halfway through has been modified, which ends up costing time and money. Not only will the worker need to undo his work, but some of the materials cannot be reused and must be thrown out. Technology helps to avoid these situations.

Robot workers

In the past 10 years, there has been an explosion of automation and robot workers on job sites. Robots are now capable of performing tasks like bricklaying, welding, concrete pouring, and even painting. Very recently, we saw the first example of a person moving into and living in an entirely 3d printed house! While 3d printing technology is not going to be attractive to most home builders for quite a few years, this is an exciting step in the right direction. They’re incredibly cheap at around $20,000 for a 2,000 square foot house.

Another important class of robots extensively used on job sites today are drones. Drones are an inexpensive way to immediately gain insights about the construction site from a bird’s eye view. You can survey and map a site, measure excavation depths, and monitor job site progress in ways that were not possible before.

Similar to self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles are starting to reduce costs by reducing the number of workers needed for a construction project. Autonomous construction vehicles can also boost safety by reducing driver-error as they don’t get fatigued on the job site. While this specific technology is not yet fully-developed, many industry experts say it is coming very soon and that there will be little resistance to its adoption.

Augmented reality and design software

Augmented reality (AR) has proved to be extremely valuable for construction companies in helping visualize a build before it has begun. This helps construction companies give homeowners a clear picture of what their homes will look like. This saves time and energy as it lets the future homeowner make modifications to their home before the build has begun.

We’ve all seen an episode of property brothers where the homeowners are shown a detailed visualization of their home prior to it being built/renovated. This technology is a combination of Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) programs and 3D rendering. It further allows construction companies to give detailed ideas of what the inside of a home will look like once it is completed.

Modular buildings

A modular prefab construction method refers to a home that is built off-site and shipped to the location in pieces that are then assembled like Legos. These homes are better for the environment, and cost less than building on site. It’s easy to see why construction companies are moving towards this technology in record volume. You may think that a modular home or building wouldn’t be as strong or sturdy as one built on-site, but the technology is advancing quickly. Modular construction advances lead to a 21 story modular hotel being built in NYC towards the end of 2018. It’s still standing and doing well!

It’s all about efficiency

All of the technologies on this list are developed to increase the efficiency of new construction projects. Efficient construction leads to lower-cost homes for homeowners, reduces errors and miscommunications for construction companies, increases the safety of workers, decreases the length of builds, and drives larger profits for the construction industry. With all these benefits, it’s safe to say that the use of technology will only increase in the coming years.

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