For decades, construction has relied on a large number of workers manually completing often dangerous and time-consuming tasks; but in recent years, technology has begun to permeate this industry; offering safer and more efficient ways of doing things. Although many are still sceptical about the adoption of new technological trends, the reality is that construction companies will begin to fall behind the competition if they don’t use these efficiency-enhancing inventions. According to our Voice of the Workforce research, 72% of professionals in the construction industry believe that there is a skills shortage. Therefore, technological advancements have never been more in demand as they aid in filling the gap, allowing the human workforce to focus on more complex tasks; saving time, keeping them safe, and preventing potential health risks further down the line. Here are seven of the top tech trends are to look out for this year:

 

Virtual augmented reality

Virtual Reality (VR) allows people to ‘step into’ buildings in pop-up tents during key stages of construction; a particularly useful experience for contractors and designers. This technology was used by Disney’s Shanghai Resort in the construction of ‘Tomorrowland’, and is still in use on the construction of the 22 Bishopsgate skyscraper in London. Augmented Reality (AR), on the other hand, offers a wide array of data to site personnel including design information, statistics on productivity, and health and safety warnings, allowing for an increase in efficiency and a reduction in common workplace injuries.

 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have been rapidly increasing in popularity, and it’s predicted that the construction industry will be the biggest user of them in coming years. Currently, they’re used for health and safety inspections, progress reporting, and site surveying. They allow surveyors to easily access hazardous areas without the usual risks. The only barrier to them being used more frequently is because legislation around drone usage is struggling to keep up with the pace of technological advancement. Despite this, we can expect to see drones becoming more commonplace on construction sites over the next 12 months.

 

3D printing

Over the last few years, 3D printing has rapidly improved and is now capable of being used for rapid prototyping, component manufacture, scale modelling, and even full-scale printing of house and bridge components. Last year, San Francisco-based start-up, Apis Cor, ‘printed’ an entire house within 24 hours in a Russian town, allowing workers to focus on the wiring, painting, and insulation of the building. This speedy set up proves how this technology can be used to drastically improve efficiency on construction sites. In fact, 3D printing is being considered as a method of building human habitation on Mars within the next 100 years.

 

Autonomous vehicles

When you hear the phrase ‘autonomous vehicles’, most people tend to imagine a car being driven by itself; however, autonomous technology has many more applications. It’s currently being used to create prototypes of vehicles, such as bulldozers, cranes, and tractors, to improve efficiency on construction sites and address the ongoing skills shortage. At this rate, we may actually see autonomous vehicles used on construction sites before we see them on the roads. The only barrier to their adoption at the moment is the entry costs and regulations associated with them.

 

Advanced materials

Over recent years, scientists have developed a range of advanced materials that will allow construction workers to save time on fixing minor issues. ‘Self-healing concrete’, for example, uses a calcite precipitating bacteria which germinate when wet, filling in cracks and decaying areas of concrete, reducing the need for future repairs by construction workers. Advanced materials could also be used to reduce the carbon footprint of highly populated areas ironically, by harnessing kinetic energy from people’s footsteps. Kinetic paving can convert the energy produced by pedestrians’ footsteps to generate electricity. The environment could also benefit from smog-eating buildings, coated in photocatalytic titanium dioxide, which are able to react with light to neutralise pollutants in the air.

 

Exoskeletons

Man and machine will now be able to work alongside each other with the introduction of the exoskeleton. Designed to aid the wearer in carrying out repetitive tasks and lifting heavy equipment, this technology will increase efficiency on building projects and could prevent the onset of work-related health problems for construction workers. Currently, there are around 40 companies manufacturing these exoskeletons, so it’s likely that we’ll begin to see them being used more commonly on construction sites throughout 2018.

 

Robotics

Though it may seem like a product of science fiction, this technology is very much a reality and has the potential to enhance productivity, efficiency, and safety on construction sites. The last year has seen the use of bricklaying robots that can lay around 3,000 bricks per day, saving time on construction projects and boosting productivity in the skills–short sector.

 

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