The rise of advanced technology in construction
Even at the start of this century, just two decades ago, the idea of superimposing a 3D representation of a 2D building plan on a construction site seemed more fiction than science. But here we are, in 2020, when such a feat is not only within the grasp of reality, it is also practiced in some parts of the world by major construction companies. Such a day is not very far when using this sort of augmented reality (AR) technology will become the norm in construction activity.
Construction technology has jumped leaps and bounds in the last two decades — more so than any other time in human history. They have gone far beyond just the usage of power tools and heavy equipment. So much so that these tools and machinery can easily be classified as “basic technology.”Rapid advancements in technological innovation and the relatively affordable cost of the implementation of those said technologies have made construction easier, safer and more efficient than ever before.And now, thanks to them, we are able to build stronger and more complex structures in a shorter time.
To get a general idea of what advanced construction technology is capable of and if you ever find yourself in Dubai, head over to the Dubai Municipality office and witness the largest 3D printed building in the world with 31 feet tall walls and a staggering 6,900 square feet size. And all it took for the behemoth to be constructed is three workers and one printer. That is the marvel of 3D printing — one of the most futuristic and practical pieces of construction technology available on the market today.
Entire building complexes and communities are being built using this technology. This piece of technology allows greater sustainability and less energy usage during construction — not to mention a 3D printing can quickly build smaller homes that are more affordable than homes constructed using traditional methods.For these reasons and more, Dubai has set a target of 3D printing 25% of all buildings by 2030.But perhaps it is the application of augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) in the construction sector that has the most potential, even more so than 3D printing.
3D modelling through the use of computer-aided designs (CAD) had opened a gateway for further technological innovations to breakthrough — two of which are VR and AR. Both of these technological marvels are making the lives of architects and construction workers a whole lot easier by helping them plan, inspect, modify, learn and simulate work. Through immersive visualization methods such as VR, every relevant stakeholder to a construction project, not just those actively working on it, are able to collaborate, communicate and be in sync with each other.
AR, on the other hand, uses computer-generated and camera-captured videos to bring VR to real-life or real-world scenarios.In construction, AR is integrated via Building Information Modelling or BIM which uses a number of tools, models and software to ensure maximum efficiency in designing buildings and structures. Through the power of AR, a worker or an architect can view layers of plans and data while still being on-site which enables them to do a walkthrough of every drill hole, every strategic and importation position of the blueprint, and if necessary, browse through several design aspects to modify instantly at the spot.
Aside from providing a deeper understanding of construction projects, AR and VR has even further usage in training the workers. The modern construction landscape, after all, is filled with high-value and intricate machinery that requires deft and skilled hands to operate smoothly. The usage of remote-controlled machinery to complete hazardous tasks is also on the rise.These types of costly tools can only be handled by people with the right experience and know-how. Through the usage of AR and VR, workers meant for operating these machineries and tools can be trained in a simulation until they are ready without having to put either the person or the tool at risk.
To bolster the effectiveness of AR and VR, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and semi-autonomous machinery are spearheading a new age of construction technology. Millions of data every second from a construction site are being analysed by AI to monitor work-progress and to improve productivity. The engineers of the AI assistant designed specifically for the construction industry, ALICE, claim that cost and project time can be reduced by as much as 15%. If accompanied by site sensors, the AI is even capable of analyzing site temperature, noise, dust particle level and other exposures to the workers. Furthermore, semi-autonomous machinery such as brick-laying machines can be programmed to work in a specific pattern and reduce the necessity of manual labour in a sector that is stated as a “labour-intensive” sector.
Overall, construction technology is moving forward at a break-neck pace. It feels as if everyday there is a new machine, software or some sort of innovation that is propelling the sector forward. For the construction industry, that is very good news. Technology, like other sectors, has helped overcome challenges that seemed insurmountable and those within the sector have embraced technology so much so that the construction sector has become one of the most innovative industries at the moment. And as people continue to work on newer and better things, we will continue to enjoy even more advanced technology in the coming days.