Technology Trends to Watch
By Phil Bloomberg
It’s hard to remember a time when construction and building projects relied on printed blueprints, pagers and voice-over IP for progress, communication and safety. But technology is leaving no industry untouched and it’s certainly making construction more efficient, dynamic and competitive.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the evolution of communication in the construction field. From mobile technology to the cloud, the ability to connect across channels has vastly improved.
Let’s take a look at the tech trends making inroads into the construction industry.
Virtual Construction Sites
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers. VR and augmented reality are changing how construction companies visualize projects from the ground up. Building information modeling (BIM) is among the biggest advancements propelling the use of VR. New software tools have automated the conversion process for creating interactive building visualizations. VR allows users to step inside of a full-scale 3-D BIM model just as if they were walking through a building. This level of foresight and interaction fosters better collaboration and communication.
With the use of VR, changes to site plans occur seamlessly before construction has begun. This helps construction managers and companies avoid major headaches — and expenses — down the line. VR is also making an impact on safety and equipment training. Simulators can be used to train those on a construction site on everything from operating equipment to handling a safety emergency.
Three-dimensional printing allows flexibility in the shape of designs while maintaining strength and integrity of structures. One of the perceived benefits is that 3-D printed buildings would offer far lower materials costs and labor. China gained attention when it printed 3-D homes and other large-scale structures in 2015 and testing showed that the structures could withstand regular wear and tear for up to 150 years.
Still, the widespread use of 3-D printed structures is still a ways off, and the more widespread use for the near term will likely be in the creation of specific building components rather than entire structures.
Drones have become a helpful tool to improve the accuracy and speed at which construction projects are completed. This is largely due to a drop in price, with a construction-grade drone now costing somewhere in the ballpark of $700.
These small crafts help project managers improve accuracy of site surveys and improve asset management and site monitoring. Drones can obtain site information more quickly and easily, and mitigate safety risks by enabling the inspection of dangerous areas without putting workers at risk.
Cell Signal Boosters
What are all these technologies without the cellular network coverage to keep them running? Thanks to signal-killing materials like steel, metal and concrete, poor service and dropped calls are common frustrations in construction environments. In brand-new sites, there is often no established network at all.
For those reasons, there has been an increase in the use of cellular signal amplifiers. These “boosters” allow project managers to communicate across the construction site and throughout the building process. They also provide stronger and more reliable coverage for building owners and tenants once the project is complete. Boosters can improve signal across areas up to 200,000 square feet and multiple amplifiers can be installed to cover larger areas.
There’s no question that the construction industry will continue to evolve rapidly, thanks to these technologies. Whatever new technologies come down the pike, the construction field stands poised and ready to capitalize on the benefits to make it a smarter, faster and safer industry.
Phil Bloomberg is the vice president of commercial sales at WilsonPro, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of commercial cellular signal booster technology.