Technology already plays a major part in the construction industry, and this is set to increase in new and exciting ways.
Clients have always wanted value for money and short timescales. Now they have additional expectations; increased awareness on environmental issues and higher standards for security, health and safety must all be factored in. Fortunately, the industry is already responding to the challenge.
Here are some of the most important trends.
Any construction project requires vast amounts of information to be shared between numerous parties, and this must be done quickly and accurately. BIM is a collaborative system for creating and managing all data relating to every aspect of a project, from planning and design to construction, operation and maintenance.
BIM provides design visualisations, analysis of required materials (both quantities and costs) and estimates of timescales. This detailed overview prevents overspending and delays arising from unforeseen shortage of supplies, and reduces unnecessary waste.
Participants can access all information and update the data throughout the lifecycle of the project. This allows for swift and efficient coordination between all parties and easier management of resources.
‘Prefab’ buildings are already widely used in many parts of the world and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK as well. There are many types of prefab design, but in general components are manufactured and partially assembled off-site – for example walls, doors, floors and ceilings. These are then installed at the construction site, and plumbing, electrical fixtures, kitchens and bathrooms are added in situ.
Modularisation is similar but the entire unit is constructed and assembled off-site. This includes plumbing and electrical features. These large units are then assembled on-site to create the finished building.
Both methods bring considerable improvements over the traditional bricks and mortar approach: fewer delays due to poor weather, a safer working environment on-site, greater quality control and energy-efficient materials. The whole process is quicker, cheaper, safer and environmentally friendly.
Despite these advances in off-site manufacture, concrete is still the most widely used material in construction, and this doesn’t look set to change in the short term. It’s strong, durable, fire and weather resistant, and cost-effective. However, it does deteriorate over time allowing cracks to develop and water to sink in and degrade the concrete.
Self-healing concrete is still a work in progress, but scientists are testing some fascinating methods. Bacteria are added to the concrete mix and lie dormant in the structure until moisture seeps in. This activates the bacteria to produce limestone, thus sealing the crack. Currently, this can only fill a small crack and is very costly. However, the work continues and it’s likely that self-healing concrete will find its way into construction methods in due course.
These are already used extensively, and this trend will continue to grow. Previously, a site survey could take weeks if not months. Drones allow the survey to be done in a matter of minutes. They also provide a birds eye view of the entire operation, which greatly improves communication between managers and employees. A site inspection can be done in a fraction of time that an in-person visit would require.
Drone technology is constantly improving and it’s now remarkably accurate. In addition to cost and time savings, it also improves worker efficiency.
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