Construction industry technology isn’t exactly known for being on the cutting edge of innovation. This sector hasn’t seen any major shake ups since the industrial revolution and didn’t make many big strides in the early years of the internet age.
Today, construction is finally in the midst of a major transformation.
According to ConstructionDive, the US construction technology sector has seen record levels of investing. As of October 2021, funding is at $2.1B. They also found that early-stage funding increased by 100%, while late-stage funding increased by 150%.
This article looks at emerging construction technology trends changing the game in 2022—and beyond.
16 Technology Trends Shaping the Construction Industry
We’ve compiled a list of construction technology examples that are currently reshaping the industry. Read on to learn more.
1. 3D Construction Design Software
Image: Complete 3D home designs can be built from scratch in under two hours with Cedreo.
These tools offer several benefits. For example, construction firms can use 3D designs to win new business.
Clients can visualize the finished project, which, in turn, improves the close rate. 3D design software also enables contractors to collaborate directly with clients, allowing them to present different options and incorporate feedback on the spot.
2. Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented and virtual reality are transforming the construction industry, allowing teams to perform their work safely and more effectively.
Augmented reality (AR) layers a digital filter over real-world objects (much like a Snapchat filter). AR is incredibly useful in construction – it allows workers to analyze and understand problems and provides additional information at the time of need.
Workers can use AR to visualize potential changes before making them. It can also be used to automate measurements, provide instructions in the field, and provide real-time safety information.
Virtual reality (VR) transports users into a virtual world using headsets and sensors. It provides an immersive experience that can be used to train new team members, streamline the design process, and help stakeholders understand a project from all angles.
What’s more, VR has become a critical part of the pre-construction process. It’s a cost-effective way to visualize a project before it gets underway and make critical changes. It’s crucial for preventing major disasters and allows designers to explore more experimental ideas.
One notable example is Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2, a mixed reality tool that allows users to interact with menus and holograms and perform QA/QC on the job, in real-time.
Like AR and VR, wearables represent another “consumer technology” with huge potential for the construction industry.
They provide a wealth of data that can improve worker productivity and stand to help construction teams stay safe.
A few examples of how wearables are currently being used in the construction industry:
- Aftershokz Aeropex—a type of bone conduction headphones that transmits sounds via the bone near the ear canal. This allows workers to hear sounds coming from the headphones while also hearing environmental sounds from the job site through the ear canal.
- Myo Armband. The Myo Armband is a gesture-control armband that allows users to control technologies using various gestures. This allows construction workers to, say, capture job site photos without digging out their smartphone.
- Redpoint Positioning Safety Vest Sensors—A sensor-enabled safety vest that tracks workers’ locations and keeps them connected—in real-time. Repoint’s wearable tech operates on a low-latency system and provides improved visibility into on-the-job operations, syncing data back to existing systems.
Beyond these examples, you’ll also find sensor-enabled boots, safety glasses, helmets, and exoskeletons (more on these later).
4. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a collaborative process involving architects, contractors, engineers, manufacturers, developers, and other construction pros to plan, design, and build one 3D model.
BIM isn’t new, but BIM software is becoming much more sophisticated and data-driven.
Today’s tools are now cloud-based, provide users with detailed information for every phase in the construction process, and offer BIM programming up to 7D (as in dimensions).
Drones are one of the biggest emerging trends in the construction technology space. While they’ve been in use for several years at this point, they’re shifting into a more prominent role.
Drones can conduct site surveys faster and more accurately than humans on the ground. They’re also a cost-effective way to capture aerial images—with hi-res cameras—and data that can be used to create detailed 3D maps & models.
6. 3D Printing
According to an article by 3drific, 3D printing will likely be used by NGOs, private construction companies, and governments in the coming years to support a wide range of projects. And for good reason—the technology promises faster, greener, and more affordable homes.
3D printing also represents an opportunity to provide cost-effective housing to people in impoverished communities around the world. It’s also a potential solution for the housing crisis that’s happening across the US. And, for more “creative-minded” designers, 3D printing enables them to design structures in any form—without taking on the risks that come with experimentation.
While many see 3D printing as the future of home building, it still faces some regulatory roadblocks.
Robots have yet to take over the construction industry, but they’ll likely see an uptick in adoption, especially as similar technologies like drones become ubiquitous. In fact, IDC predicts that demand for construction robots will increase by 25% annually between 2020 and 2023.
Robots are able to perform a wide range of tasks on the job site: from bricklaying and painting to installing drywall. Again, this technology stands to create safer working conditions for construction workers. And—it can also be used to pick up the slack during labor shortages.
Naturally, some workers fear that robots will take over jobs that have traditionally been performed by humans. It’s worth noting that while the increased presence of robots will lower demand for manual, often dangerous work, it will likely create new roles for human supervisors and collaborators.
8. Advanced Building Materials
Another exciting area of innovation in the construction technology space is advanced building materials designed to mitigate some of the biggest climate and infrastructure challenges of our day.
A few examples:
There’s self-healing concrete—a material that uses dormant living spores to help cement repairs itself when cracks occur.
The idea is to prevent long-term damage caused when water, chemicals, and other elements seep through tiny cracks.
Air-cleaning bricks work to improve indoor air quality by using bricks on the exterior to filter impurities in the air. Essentially, an air cleaning brick, or breath brick, is a modified conventional brick with hollow centers that allow air to pass through into an internal filtration unit that removes heavy elements in the air, then releases the clean air into the building.
There’s also absorbent or “thirsty” concrete, which works to reduce runoff from melting snow and rainwater. Here, the water percolates into a base layer that sits beneath the concrete, allowing for more control over the flow of water as it moves away from the site.
9. Offsite Construction
Offsite construction takes some or all of the construction process away from the job site, allowing construction companies to tackle new builds from the production line—much like an auto manufacturing plant.
Workers have access to the materials and tools they need to perform various tasks—allowing them to complete their work efficiently and in a controlled environment.
This approach is typically used on projects with a lot of repetition—think large hotels, apartment buildings, or hospitals.
Offsite construction is on the rise for a few key reasons: it reduces waste, materials & shipping costs, and in many cases, results in a higher-quality end-product.
There are two main types of offsite construction:
Prefabricated construction. Prefabrication isn’t exactly new, but new technologies have made it more accessible for smaller companies and offer better results. Here, building components are built offsite, then transported and installed at the construction site. Prefabricated building components include anything from flooring and ductwork to framing, wall panels, and window assemblies.
Modular construction. According to some estimates, the modular construction market could hit the $157B mark as soon as 2023. Modular construction is a process where a structure is built off-site in a factory setting before being transported to the job site and installed.
This process allows construction teams to create prefabricated models using lean manufacturing techniques, resulting in fewer mistakes and more opportunities for cost-savings. These modular units can be arranged in different configurations and use inter-modular connections to connect each piece together during the on-site installation.
10. Site Sensors
Site sensors are essentially wearables that are used for machinery and equipment.
They capture huge, high-density data flows with the potential to transform the entire construction industry.
Smart sensors communicate data remotely and typically sync back to a central ERP system.
Some sensors contain mini-processors that process data on-site before sending it along, while others stream raw data in real-time.
Key use cases include:
- Machine control. In this context, machine control describes the process of using sensors to operate heavy equipment—similar to self-driving cars. This allows construction companies to coordinate precise building tasks, which reduces bottlenecks and delays and boosts productivity.
- Site monitoring. Radio frequency sensors can be installed throughout the job site to track things like VoCs, temperature, dust particles, and noise levels to limit worker exposure. Those sensors connect to a centralized system that captures data and can send real-time alerts to workers when they are at risk.
- Fleet management. Sensors can be used to simplify fleet management by automatically tracking equipment and vehicles. Sensors can be programmed to automatically send specific data to a central database. Think—fuel consumption, maintenance requirements, location, and more.
11. Autonomous Heavy Equipment
Autonomous equipment stands to improve safety conditions and drive efficiency and cost-savings for construction firms.
Per ConstructionDive, companies like Caterpillar, Hitachi, and Volvo are ramping up investments in autonomous haul trucks, while newcomers like Built Robotics and SafeAI are developing technologies that can convert existing machinery into autonomous equipment.
According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the use of autonomous equipment for mining, drilling, and self-driving trucks and other machinery is on the rise.
In some instances, companies are outsourcing repetitive tasks like welding, bricklaying, and demolition to autonomous equipment.
As an example, the AEM reports that the Syama gold mine is the first fully-autonomous mine—capable of operating 24/7 with all operations managed and monitored from a remote location.
Blockchain technology isn’t just for crypto—it’s now being used to ensure data integrity and transparency across a wide range of industries—including construction.
For the uninitiated, blockchain tracks transactions across a peer-to-peer network and serves as a distributed ledger that records and verifies various transactions and agreements. Think—contracts and payments.
In the construction industry, blockchain’s distributed ledger can be used to store critical information about every asset in a building project—from certifications and permits to digital replicas created via BIM technology.
According to construction solutions firm, Aon, up to 95% of information about a project is lost as it changes hands throughout the lifecycle. Blockchain can store complete records about every asset on the job site. That information can then be used to automatically schedule preventative maintenance, support project scoping, and improve decision-making.
Blockchain can also add a layer of accountability to construction projects, ensuring contractors complete jobs to specifications and legal/regulatory requirements.
13. Connected Construction Sites
These challenges are exacerbated by the massive volumes of data and resources that make up the industry. For stakeholders to work efficiently on projects, they need a solid foundation, a single source of truth.
This foundation can be built and maintained with connected construction.
Construction firms, like companies in every industry, are bogged down with data, manual processes, and information silos.
Connected construction combines all data, workflows, and technology into one connected ecosystem. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and working from a single source of truth. This technology supports smarter decision-making, more accurate estimations, and greater transparency.
Exoskeletons are traditionally associated with physical therapy and rehabilitation programs. But, they’re gaining traction among construction pros who see the technology as a tool for reducing work site injuries and improving worker efficiency.
Guardian XO Exoskeleton (Source)
As it stands, exoskeletons are being used on construction sites for back and shoulder supports, as well as crouch support, which gives workers “chair-like support” during long periods of bending or crouching.
The idea is, exoskeleton suits can ease the physical burden on construction workers. And, combined with the use of AI-powered machines, stand to create a safer environment for workers.
15. Construction Monitoring
Construction monitoring technology represents a class of IoT solutions that offer end-to-end visibility into all projects, people, and assets.
These tools allow organizations to capture real-time data from the job site, the office, and other external channels—enabling people to check the status of a project from any location.
Keep in mind, construction monitoring extends beyond installing sensors and surveillance cameras. It’s about building a connected ecosystem that helps everyone—from architects and engineers to project managers, site managers, and clients understand exactly where a project stands.
Construction monitoring supports the following goals:
- Reporting. Users can generate reports that allow them to dig into work completed, site inspection, asset usage, etc.
- Predictive maintenance. Connected sensors allow users to track asset performance and keep a detailed record of past repairs/maintenance. This allows them to proactively schedule maintenance/upgrades.
- Worker productivity. Sensors, cameras, and other tools can track worker productivity, enabling more accountability, more accurate decision-making, and better cost estimation.
- Job site safety. Sensors attached to worker hats, vests, and boots can monitor for dangerous habits and allow orgs to take action before someone gets hurt.
16. Green Buildings
Given the urgency of the current climate crisis, eco-friendly building materials are revolutionizing the construction industry.
Green building is a type of construction that focuses on using natural and renewable materials that offer benefits like thermal efficiency and protections from extreme weather events.
- Cool roofs. Cool roofs reflect sunlight away from the building and absorb less heat than traditional roofs. Construction teams can apply cool roof coatings with ultra-reflective pigment and protection from chemical and UV damage. There’s also green roofs, which use plant cover to reduce indoor heat. Additionally, designers are looking toward designs like low-sloped roofs to reduce the surface area exposed to direct sunlight.
- Geothermal heating. Geothermal heating is a renewable energy source that uses the Earth’s natural energy to generate power. Pipes are placed a few feet underground and filled with an antifreeze solution that collects thermal energy. That energy is then routed to a heat pump that brings it into the building to power heating and AC units.
- Solar power. Solar power, too, is gaining traction. Builders are still looking toward solar panels as a means of capturing energy from the sun. But, they’re also using more passive tactics that don’t require any special technology, like building placement and large windows. Builders can then incorporate things like fans and heat absorbing walls to retain and distribute heat throughout the building.
Other examples include familiar materials like stone, adobe, and bamboo, as well as mycelium (mushroom roots), recycled tires, and scraps from shipping containers.
While the construction industry was largely left behind during the last digital revolution, it’s clearly making up for lost time.
Construction firms have access to more data than ever, innovative materials, and digital tools that enable greater efficiency and smarter decision-making.
Cedreo’s 3D home building software is one example of construction technology that’s redefining the industry.
Sign up for a free account today to see its innovative features up close.