21st Century Advances to Improve On-Site Safety and Productivity
Those seeking construction jobs are likely to land the best positions by ensuring they keep pace with technological advances in the real estate and built environment. Especially in the housebuilding sector, where the skills shortage becomes more pronounced and the government pushes harder to meet its targets of building 300,000 new homes each year by the mid-2020s. Technology is taking an increasingly larger role in building and construction, as housebuilders are turning to technology to increase productivity, improve site safety, and reduce costs. Processes are being modernised, and new technologies are being employed to integrate these new processes into business strategy. Here are nine technologies that will define the future for the housebuilding sector and construction jobs.
1. Mobile Hardware
Tablets and smartphones are becoming the norm on construction sites. They enable real-time recording and transfer of data, and more effective communication between on-site and off-site employees. For a small investment, construction companies can boost efficiency and reduce costs.
2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)
BIM is increasing in popularity, and for good reason.
3D design, digitally modelling what is to be built, and incorporating data that allows a more collaborative work team. The design evolves as team members contribute with their expertise. That’s BIM. Working from BIM designs allows site managers and others to envisage the build in ways that blueprints and 2D diagrams cannot.
3. VR, AR, and Wearables
AR and VR have the power to expose construction workers to environments in ‘risk-free’ training, thus enhancing safety on construction sites, working at height, and in confined spaces. Applications of VR and AR include providing safety checklists and alerts in cabs or on pop-up displays integrated into safety goggles. Work can be monitored remotely, with managers supervising on-site employees as they undertake tasks.
4. AI and Robotics
AI can help improve safety on construction projects, and employing robotics to undertake construction tasks such as bricklaying can improve efficiency and productivity. Workflow can be improved and reducing human interaction reduces error, as AI undertakes the role of humans without suffering tiredness.
5. 3D Printing
When first introduced, few might have envisaged that largescale building projects could be completed using 3D printing technology. Yet, as the technology has progressed and its cost has reduced, we have seen it being used in increasingly innovative ways, such as creating prosthetic limbs at a fraction of the cost.
In 2018, the first 3D printed building was constructed in Denmark. This technology allows easier construction of curved buildings and off-site materials to be manufactured before being transported to the construction site.
Not only could 3D printing improve productivity, it could also make building sites more efficient, with materials being manufactured on site reducing waste, storage, and transportation costs.
A drone can be used in a variety of applications, and is one of the technologies that is being taken up rapidly. Drones enable fast and accurate site surveys, safe inspection of difficult terrains, and enable interactive 3D maps and models to be produced, as well as real-time inspection of site progress.
7. Autonomous Equipment
The use of autonomous heavy equipment is already commonplace in Australian mines, where Rio Tinto’s autonomous fleet hauled its one billionth tonne of material at the start of 2018.
On building sites, heavy equipment uses sensors and GPS among other technologies to operate autonomously, performing work that includes excavation and sitework. VR and AR technology is used, too, to enable precise site maps to be developed and updated for autonomous equipment to be used with accuracy.
8. Modular Construction
Modular construction has the promise to revolutionise the housebuilding industry in the UK and the world. The building is manufactured off-site, rooms created to be ‘slotted’ together within the building’s framework on-site. Waste is reduced and time to build is slashed.
Building components may also be manufactured off-site, and then installed separately on-site. Rather than whole rooms being transported to site, walls, frameworks, and internal and external panelling are created, transported and slotted together with all plumbing, electricals and ductwork connected on-site.
9. Site Sensors
Site sensors are one of the most important developments to aid on-site safety. They can monitor a range of potential hazards, including noise, temperature, airborne particles and chemicals and other compounds.
Mounted across a construction site, these sensors can be monitored remotely, and data collected to allow companies to take produce risk mitigation policies. When permissible exposure levels are breached, workers can be alerted so that safety measures can be acted upon.
As the world continues to digitalise and AI and machine learning continue to integrate into society and business, the construction industry must adopt new technologies to remain competitive. Younger, more technically adept professionals are likely to be in high demand in a range of construction jobs. Could construction companies and housebuilders become high-tech companies? They will certainly be using high tech more often, as the demand for new homes increases.
To discuss the high-tech construction jobs currently available and becoming available, contact the Building and Construction Team at Macdonald & Company, the RICS’ preferred recruitment partner.