11 June 2021

Under Construction - Q3 2021 – 1 of 5 Insights

Smart technology and construction

As part of our ongoing theme of the digitisation of construction we set out below a round-up of the latest top 5 applications of Smart Technology in the construction sector.

Pre fabricated smart homes/3D printed homes

Last month we saw Europe's first inhabitants of a fully 3D printed house which was printed in 120 hours.  The 3D printing method is seen by many within the construction industry as a way to cut costs and environmental damage by reducing the amount of cement that is used. It also provides an alternative at a time when there is a shortage of skilled construction workers.  Using smart digital technologies and prefab construction can significantly reduce the time of a project. This could be very useful in terms of meeting pent-up demand and delivering "carbon neutral homes". As this type of construction gains momentum, data gathered from manufacturing and construction can be evaluated by AI to further optimise the process.

LiDAR scanning

Laser scanning is a method of collecting surface data using a laser scanner. LIDAR is a combination of the words 'light' and 'radar'. It can be used to generate 3D images that can be converted for use in CAD or BIM modelling. It gives instant and accurate 3D visual comparisons between anticipated planned progress and actual progress. As this technology becomes wide-spread, there will be no need for site diaries or progress photographs. The data from this type of system could in the future be linked to interim payments for contractors in a Smart Contract once a specific milestone has been met. LiDAR may also become the most effective and most accurate way to record as-built information - which could help facilitate the "Golden Thread" which will at some stage soon be required for buildings above 18 metres.

Augmented/Virtual Reality

Augmented reality in construction is becoming increasingly popular to highlight potentially hazardous areas in a construction project. This technology can help mitigate site risks, promote site safety and train construction workers. The technology can also help employees reduce exposure to hazardous environments (for example, where there is asbestos or hazardous waste) with the worker sitting in an office with a headset on of the site whereas the camera/drone is actually at the site.

Autonomous construction equipment

In the context of mining, Caterpillar use operator-assist technologies that control specific machine functions to boost productivity and cut costs e.g. fully autonomous trucks. In addition, the use of drones is now widely adopted in documenting conditions to becoming a virtual inspection tool. Many drones now have thermal sensors and ground control points, which can enable construction companies to quickly identify issues like water leaks and concrete cracks. They are also useful for accident prevention, determining where projects get congested and estimating where hazards could arise.

Wearable Tech

Wearables are smart devices that workers put on while working. The equipment uses sensors to collect data on construction sites and transmit it to both the worker and the project manager. Wearables include items such as smart vests, watches, glasses, shoes, and helmets. These devices use sensors to read the workers surrounding and send real-time reports.  When it comes to the safety of workers, wearables have numerous applications. For example, the smart devices can measure the height and speed of a fall or notify workers of hazards before they arise.

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