Best Innovations in Construction: Changes in the Way We Build
By Jayme Cook
The construction industry has borne witness to giant waves of change in the past 10 years. The building game has become more strategic, more technology-focused and more environmentally sound. To stay on the playing field, industry veterans must evolve and embrace the new trends appearing in the field, like Building Information Modeling (BIM), lean design and construction and innovative products to meet the demands of modern clientele.
We’ve all heard of BIM, but the practice is growing from a trend to an industry standard. A recent poll showed of some of the biggest U.S. engineering and design firms confirmed that 83 percent of them have at least one in-house BIM seat license, and 50 percent of them have at least 30 seats. The BIM process centers around a 3-D model of the project at hand, accompanied by integrated designs and cost and materials estimates. The beauty of BIM is that it encourages a holistic approach to building and can be integrated to analyze engineering factors like energy usage, lighting and acoustics. This information can then be used to provide feedback while designing. This process allows designers and engineers to observe the potential effects of any changes they want to implement to the design, helping to develop alternatives as they go in a streamlined process.
The lean business philosophy was developed by Toyota as a means of maximizing production, value and quality while minimizing waste. Naturally, in an industry like construction where waste is a constant business concern, the idea has gained significant ground and has been widely implemented in construction planning. Lean design production systems have shifted the focus of how construction is conducted, and promote prefabrication and off-site fabrication as a means of eliminating redundancies and waste.
Like BIM, Lean aims to involve 3D modelling to bring together multiple stakeholders and workers in the design and construction of projects in order to improve communication and eliminate human error. Lean design develops a personalized work package, which offers a detail-level breakdown and description of the construction work, along with a time schedule for the project foreman and crew. The goal is to stay on time and on budget.
Many manufacturers are making significant strides in production to meet the demands of these construction trends in the residential and commercial markets. In residential building, there are new products like Liquid Injection Molding (LIM) for housing seals that are virtually flash-free, and seals in complex shapes with color-matching options. There are also a slew of products designed to make design and site management more efficient, like the AxisPointe InSite Mobile, which assists builders in producing more energy-efficient homes by allowing users to track a project’s production schedule, utilize customized checkpoints, and confirm proper installation building components. Like all aspects of the modern business world, the construction industry is changing. Gone are the days of blueprints dotted with coffee mug stains. They’ve been replaced with virtual modeling. Gone are the days of inferior products. Specialized, evolved materials and technology have allowed us to better meet our project needs. The waves of construction industry progress are crashing down on us. It’s time to sink or swim.
Jayme Cook is a writer, English professor, and fanatical reader living in Arizona.