Magazine article Risk Management

Technology Breakthroughs: Helping the Construction Industry Build Smarter

Magazine article Risk Management

Technology Breakthroughs: Helping the Construction Industry Build Smarter

Article excerpt

With the construction unemployment rate at a 16-year low (4.9% for August), (1) we need to ask ourselves--is now the time for us to push some recent technological advances onto more construction sites? Not to displace workers, but to work with them to create efficiencies and keep America building.

It is no secret that, with the skilled labor shortage we are currently experiencing, something must change. The industry has not done a stellar job of attracting and retaining the next generation of construction workers. We must either do that now, or figure out how to build with a reduced workforce. Or better: do both.

The advancements that have been made with construction-useful technology are nothing short of amazing. Not only are these technologies resulting in improved efficiencies, but they could also be part of the labor shortage solution. Here are a few examples of some of the leading-edge technologies that are currently being utilized on job sites in the US.

ZOOMING IN ON PROJECTS--WITH DRONES

We have all seen drones in the air--whether at a park for recreation or at one of our job sites. Usage of drones is increasing dramatically.

Our clients are using them more frequently and for an increasing variety of tasks. At first, we saw them primarily being utilized to take video or still shots of job sites for general oversight and to track progress. Now, as technology is rapidly improving and regulation is allowing for usage coupled with a general sense of acceptance, we are seeing them used as a means to monitor for unsafe practices on a job site.

We are also seeing them used to monitor the quality of a project and to document it along the way. What better way to keep a client up to date and simultaneously document the project for possible future questions about building to specification or code?

High res down to the weeds.

The sophisticated cameras on drones today are powerful and stable enough to provide high resolution footage of even the most obscure locations on a site. In addition to these uses, we are still seeing clients utilize them for surveying, planning and marketing.

It is evident that drones are making an impact on the job site and will continue to transform how work is performed in the future.

BIM PUTS DIGITAL MODELS ON ANY DESKTOP

Although spoken of conceptually for over 30 years, BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology has advanced dramatically over the last 10 years. Its adoption rate within the industry has followed as well. Just about every contractor that we work with on midsize to large projects has been involved in a project that utilized BIM technology.

The advantages of using BIM are evident--from ease of planning to improvements in safety, design and general efficiency. When utilized to its potential, BIM can minimize on-site conflicts between subs looking to work in the same space, improve material ordering and subsequently improve cash flows for the contractors.

UP AND COMING: 3-D PRINTED BUILDINGS

Certainly not used as frequently as BIM or drones, 3-D printing has been gaining momentum and may be only a few years away from widespread use. The call for greener building may be the catalyst that drives more investment in and usage of 3-D printing. …

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