Smart technology is changing the face of construction with a range of devices making complicated tasks easier from robotics to smart helmets and digital software efficiencies. Steve Mansour, Chief Executive Officer of construction insurance specialists CRL, gives a different perspective on a changing building landscape.
Whilst the construction industry isn’t necessarily known for its connection to technology, there are a surprising number of tools that have arisen to help those within the sector. From 3D walk-throughs to sell a property, to 3D virtual reality (VR) modelling used to pitch architectural projects, there are numerous benefits to adopting this technology. In addition to the increased efficiencies and reduced costs, it can allow construction firms and builders to stand out from the crowd when marketing their property to consumers and gain an edge on their competitors.
For builders and owners, VR experience provides a more realistic vision than a traditional blueprint or drawing will. For many clients, it is difficult to visualise three dimensions, and in any industry written or verbal communications can leave much room for interpretation. VR brings the specific vision to life and provides room for sharing and making alterations during the crucial pre-planning stages.
By utilising wearable presentation gadgets such as the smart helmet designed specifically for industrial settings from Daqri2, allows construction workers to share and view various building elements, data and plans. Not to mention the SmartReality app from JBKnowledge3, which allows users to hold a smartphone or tablet over designs or plan files and see 2D drawings projected as 3D models.
The use of VR technologies has increased dramatically across the construction industry in recent years and HP’s latest device the Z VR Backpack, which made its UK debut at the Digital Construction Week, further emphasises this point. The backpack, similarly to the Daqri, will offer great flexibility and open up a world of opportunities for developers looking to explore large areas.
This advanced technology also benefits homebuyers. VR devices such as the Oculus Rift, are also growing in popularity as a way of marketing property, and for off-plan developments, where buyers are trying to envisage their future homes, the experience can prove invaluable. It is therefore entirely possible that in the future, these tools will be widely used to show prospective buyers their future home, before it is built but the industry is some way from this yet. This is exactly why continued investment in the construction industry is imperative to ensure it has the capabilities to respond and react to developments and changes. Through programmes like the government’s Digital Built Britain (DBB) and through the development of innovative new technology, planners and architects are given more opportunity to collaborate with contractors, whilst reassuring clients and addressing any concerns they may have.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as Semi-Automated Mason, is a good example of what the future holds for the industry. The robot which can lay approximately 3,000 bricks a day, has been developed to help play a key role in tackling labour shortages in construction, and whilst much of the current focus around AI has been on how the ‘rise of robots’ will spell the end for many roles, the implementation of AI doesn’t necessarily mean job losses.
Redeploying employees can prove to be invaluable in helping to attract, engage and retain talent as well as potentially help gain an advantage within the sector, as workers are given a chance to move laterally within organisations and further develop their own skillsets. One element that could push VR to the forefront of construction is the number of young workers within the industry. Developers need to be forward thinking to attract such talent with new skills needed to embrace this technology. With the influx of VR software, its acceptance will only continue to grow, and eventually influence the industry in a more impactful way.
Embracing the ‘internet of pings’ will allow builders and developers to push boundaries and drive the expectation and quality of newbuilds forward. Whilst these tools are surely being used in large scale commercial builds, it appears that small and medium-sized builders are still struggling to adopt such technologies. It is imperative this changes, as they are the backbone of the UK’s construction industry.
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