Construction and the era of connection
Callum Tasker, Operational Director, provides insight on some of the industry’s most disruptive new technologies which are empowering customers, transforming construction and enabling better business:
The construction industry has firmly entered an ‘era of connection’, with technology radically changing the way buildings and products are designed, managed and used. That’s not all, technology is helping to shape everything from planning processes, to project supply chains – enabling greater productivity, reducing costs and encouraging an age of connection, collaboration and information sharing. So which technologies are amongst those transforming the construction market?
Business Information Modelling
Change is being driven by both customer demand and competition. Critical to industry advancement is the adoption of Business Information Modelling (BIM), a technology which promotes more efficient and collaborative working practices. Initial uptake has been assisted by the Government’s plan to modernise the construction sector, with a ruling that Level 2 BIM must be employed on all Government projects of £5million plus.
The process of designing a building collaboratively using an intelligent, 3D model-based process, rather than a set of drawings, is hailed by many as the future for mainstream project delivery. By cutting out long work processes, and by providing greater clarity over a project, BIM has the power to deliver value at every level – right through to the customer.
An example of its success has been demonstrated by water management systems firm and Drainage Superstore supplier, ACO, one of the first to market in the drainage sector to deliver its product data via BIM. The team committed to BIM in 2013 and today BIM files are downloaded daily by its users, accelerating the business by up to 2 years ahead of companies that have been slower to respond. And whilst the UK is led by its government directive, ACO’s global sister companies are now also requesting files; a direct result of an increase in demand.
Virtual reality (VR) is making waves in building planning and specification. Construction companies are now able to visit a site and see a virtual picture of where pipework and cabling are to be situated, without getting their hands dirty. Additionally, VR can dramatically impact the bottom line, with mistakes being rectified at design stage before moving to production, whilst also allowing users to explore creative ideas and potential efficiencies before final construction commences.
3D printing is also a hot industry topic, and whilst it is unlikely to replace injection moulding anytime soon (particularly as building material components are produced on a mass scale), it has already been used to build entire houses and there is potential scope for it to achieve widespread popularity in creating bespoke items. For example, decorative renovations to covings, fireplaces etc. or even creating external ornamental items, such as gargoyles. It is a technology which demonstrates the best in creativity and design in the digital era.
This is one of the biggest industry trends to have taken off, with the market now calling for eco-friendly product alternatives. With greater government incentives for eco-friendly homeowners, sustainable products are more accessible than ever before, ranging from the truly innovative, to the cost effective.
Sustainability is an increasing priority for the construction industry, with anticipated progress in product innovation a result. Adoption of these products and materials often means quicker, less labour-intensive methods of installation, and the demand for ‘green’ technology and materials is likely here to stay.