What Is Construction Technology? (With Benefits and Types)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 18 July 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Technology has become an essential part of most industries, including the construction sector. Technological developments over the decades have helped construction professionals improve their business practices. As with all business developments, safety and training can help construction companies benefit from new technologies. In this article, we explain what construction technology is, how it benefits the construction sector, the safety and training requirements for the best results and the types of technology set to affect the construction sector.
What is construction technology?
The term construction technology describes innovative tools used during the development phase of construction projects. Construction tools have some level of automation and improve construction methods. Some people include tech tools used during the design phase in this definition, while others designate them as preconstruction technology.
Benefits of construction technologies
Here are some of the benefits of construction technologies:
Improve site productivity
Construction technologies help teams plan and execute their duties better, which improves productivity. Modern models and simulation tools are important planning tools that help construction teams see structures before commencing construction, so they can build them right the first time and reduce resource waste. Power tools are also much more efficient than hand tools. A carpenter can cut wood much quicker using a power saw than a hand saw, for example. Off-site construction is another technological advancement boosting productivity on large-scale projects. New construction technologies aim to make construction more productive by streamlining processes more than the traditional design-bid-build model.
Make stronger structures
Construction technology can make projects stronger by helping teams design and build better structures. Construction software makes collaborating on construction projects easier, ensuring a range of professionals can pool their ideas to create better designs. Construction teams can also use simulations and models to test their structures and redesign them to be more durable. Technological tools for preparing sites and constructing structures also allow teams to make stronger structures than they could by hand.
Allow for taller structures
Technological tools including cranes and forklifts elevate construction workers more than ladders, allowing them to work at much greater heights. With the use of cordless power tools, they can create taller structures than construction workers of the past. Building taller structures has become vital for creating new structures in densely populated cities with limited vacant land.
Can improve site safety
A move toward digital documentation makes circulating important information, such as maintenance reports and safety procedures easier. Smart tools and drones can monitor employees and their environments, allowing supervisors to keep their employees safe more effectively than ever before. Training that incorporates technology can more effectively prepare construction workers for challenging duties.
Safety and training requirements for construction technology
Construction technology has the potential to make construction sites safer and more productive. It can only achieve that potential if all users understand how to operate the technology effectively. The most successful businesses take time to train new employees and contractors on technology, its applications and safe usage. The best training programs allow for direct learning, question and answer sessions to clarify instructions and assessments to ensure employees retain knowledge. Making training materials available digitally ensures employees can revise them in their own time. New training programs can help employees understand any new technology introduced.
A clear workplace health and safety policy, which outlines safe working practices is also important. The best policies outline general practices and safe interactions with construction technology. Regular maintenance and site checks can help construction employees use technology safely.
Types of modern construction technology
Here are some of the common types of modern construction technologies that are beginning to change the way construction firms operate:
Software and mobile apps
Construction software and mobile apps include tools for scheduling, project management and field reporting. These tools help senior construction professionals manage projects and communicate with teams more efficiently. Many solutions are cloud-based, allowing users to access them anywhere they have an internet connection, including construction sites and on the road. When they update documents, plans and schedules, the rest of their team can see the changes in real-time. Using cloud-based software and apps ensures everyone always works with the most recent, accurate versions. It also eliminates duplicates, which may have caused confusion when projects used paper in the past.
Off-site construction technologies
Off-site construction technologies allow construction teams to create elements of construction projects away from the construction site. Modular and prefabricated construction are the most common forms of off-site construction. Modular construction involves the construction of whole rooms which are then fitted together on site. Prefabricated construction involves the construction of project elements, such as frames and wall panels. Prefabricated construction elements get built off-site and assembled on-site. Off-site construction uses an efficient assembly plant approach. It's common for structures with repetitive floor plans including apartments, hotels and schools.
Smart tools are internet-compatible devices, including smartphones, wearables and smart sensors. Smart tools can help supervisors monitor their sites more closely than ever before. For example, they might track their labourers via their smartphones or wearables. Companies could also fit smart sensors into materials and equipment to track their usage. This kind of tracking can help supervisors see the amount of time lost as labourers move about the site retrieving materials and equipment. They could use this information to reconfigure the site to be more user-friendly.
Smart tools can also monitor location, vital signs and environmental factors. If an employee with a wearable enters an out-of-bounds area, a warning alarm could sound. Site sensors in materials could monitor temperature and noise and chemical levels so supervisors know when conditions are safe. They could also monitor an employee's temperature and heart rate to ensure they're fit and healthy.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can use construction firm data to make calculated predictions. Construction firms can use this technology to predict the outcome of future projects and improve their industry standing. For example, firms may use the technology to accurately estimate projects, based on past costings, and calculate bids likely to help them secure projects over their rivals. AI may also work in tandem with other technological tools for greater results. For example, it could compare site scans taken by drones and use them to create comprehensive reports about site progress and project quality.
Some construction sites use AI robots who've learned to perform repetitive tasks, such as laying bricks and tiles. These robots can work faster than human tradespeople. They can also work continuously until they complete the job and achieve a consistent output. These robots can let human tradespeople focus on more complex and rewarding tasks. Their combined efforts can help construction teams complete projects on time.
Virtual reality and augmented reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which create new immersive experiences, also have great potential for the construction industry. VR replaces a real-life environment with a simulation while AR adds digital elements to the real-life environment.
VR simulators could let new construction workers practise challenging tasks, such as working at heights or operating a crane, in a safe, controlled space. Ordinarily, construction workers can only react to hazards once they appear. AR could improve heavy machinery training programs by adding safe hazard simulations. Heavy machinery operators may be more likely to stay calm and handle hazards if they've met them in an AR environment first. Job sites could also employ AR check-lists to remind employees of important protocols.
Drones are flying robots, often fitted with cameras. Users can control them remotely or program their flight paths. Drones are commonly used to inspect construction sites. Their inspections can identify potential hazards and monitor productivity. They can also inspect potentially dangerous sites, such as bridges, more safely than human inspectors. Drones can also capture site footage businesses can use to create time-lapse progress videos and as-built models.
Autonomous heavy equipment
Autonomous heavy equipment uses the same technology that powers self-driving cars. Sensors and GPS help these vehicles accurately and safely excavate, grade and dig sites independently. As these vehicles operate independently, they're less likely to overturn or collide with site workers or power lines. As heavy vehicle mishaps are one of the most common site accidents, autonomous heavy equipment can help sites operate more safely.
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