The construction industry may feel like one of the slowest sectors to adopt new technologies and techniques, but comfort with existing practices doesn’t have to stifle innovation. What are some of the latest innovations in construction technology for 2022 and how will they shape the industry in the coming years?
Augmented reality might have started life in the gaming industry, but it’s quickly evolved into an invaluable tool for everything from the assembly of spacecraft to construction. AR can project virtual constructs — up to and including blueprints and designs — onto the real world, making it possible to walk through a digital twin of the finished product before the first shovel hits the ground.
Even the most hidebound construction companies generate massive amounts of data every year. Instead of letting it languish in digital limbo — or a storage room because you haven’t transitioned to digital records — data analytics provides the tools to turn that information into actionable insights. With enough data over time, it’s possible to start predicting future events based on the frequency and time between those same events in the past.
Data analytics can only take the construction industry so far. Sorting through terabytes of information is daunting for even the most skilled human analyst. Artificial intelligence can take the guesswork out of this process, sorting through the collected data and making the most of it, guided by pre-programmed parameters. AI and machine learning systems are designed to learn in much the same way humans do. The more data they’re exposed to, the more intelligent and efficient they become.
Drones and Robotics
Drones might have started as toys, but like many other technological innovations on this list, they’ve evolved into invaluable tools. In construction, drones can take the place of human inspectors in elevated or dangerous environments. These inspections are still necessary but sending up a drone equipped with a camera is safer than rigging up an inspector in fall arrest gear and hoping for the best.
Robotics can also take over many mundane, repetitive, or dangerous jobs that could put team members at risk. Adopting robotics for these tasks can free up workers for more critical tasks.
Construction Management Software
As projects get bigger, so will the teams necessary to support them. Traditional methods of managing these teams aren’t efficient anymore, so new solutions are required. Construction management software helps contractors and business owners keep track of their teams, facilitates communication, and manages each task as it needs completion. These software programs are designed to be user-friendly and easy for companies to adapt to their individual needs.
3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing — also called 3D printing — is another technology quickly becoming valuable in the construction industry. Instead of printing with plastic filament as you might in your garage or workshop, these massive 3D printers can construct entire buildings by printing with cement. Once the machine lays the frame and foundation — in a fraction of the time it would take for masons to complete the same task — the rest of the team can move in and finish the structure.
Instead of constructing a new building from the ground up, modular construction allows companies to get a jump on some of these steps. Many of the components of a new structure can be built in a factory setting, then trucked to the job site and assembled. The process takes much less time because instead of doing job site prep and construction, those two tasks can be done in parallel, with the final assembly and finishing tasks taking less time.
Shaping the Future of Construction
This list contains many innovations currently shaping the construction industry, but it is not exhaustive by any means. Invention is limited only by technology and imagination. There is certainly more to come when the sector finds more uses.
The construction industry may be a little hidebound, but innovations shape the sector’s future yearly. Tools like 3D printing, drones or augmented reality have begun to change how even seasoned contractors think of construction. These innovations — and many more to come — will shape the construction industry’s future for years, perhaps decades.