As we move into 2016, certain aspects of the construction industry are prepared to grow and change due to new inventions and implementations of technology. Let’s look at some of the latest innovations in construction technologies and how they are affecting the industry.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that can be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans. In the construction industry, drones can be used for surveying to obtain real-time data on progress, provide visuals on potential quality issues or hazards, and give an overview of the worksite that is simply unattainable otherwise. For the information they can provide, drones are incredibly efficient and cost-effective.
While drones are something many in the industry could benefit from, not many can legally use them. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have yet to produce a solid, consistent drone policy, so using drones for surveying can be harder than many companies would like. However, if you are able to use a drone, the benefits are endless.
Oftentimes construction projects take up a significant amount of land and surveying that area can be incredibly difficult, even for a drone. The Leica Pegasus:Two ensures an expedient and efficient surveying process. By using a vehicle-mounted laser scanner (or scanners), along with other inertia-tracking technologies, Pegasus:Two can capture a full 360-degree view of a space while traveling up to 50 miles per hour.
Transparent Solar Panels
Solar panels are still popular, but their opaque, dark material and appearance is a turn-off for many. Now, with transparent solar panels like ClearView Power, you can apply the transparent material to any surface that adds light to a room and get the same amount of power you would get with traditional solar panels. These transparent panels use a film material that uses organic luminescent salts to absorb near-infrared energy, letting in light when placed over windows to generate solar power.
This technology has already been implemented in office buildings in larger cities around the United States. Office buildings – especially skyscrapers – have an immense amount of window space that could be enhanced with transparent solar panels and generate a lot of solar energy. A team of researchers at Michigan State University even extended the idea of the transparent panels for different uses such as on smartphone screens.
Generally, when you think about virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift or Microsoft Hololens, you think about entertainment like immersive video games or movies. However, virtual reality gear could just as easily be used for different industries, like construction. Headsets could allow clients to literally walk through the design of their building and see how the project will play out. This has tremendous potential for both clients and construction companies.
A big focus for the construction industry for this year is safety: both on the worksite and for a company’s employees. Cameras and other monitoring systems will ensure a constant awareness of activity on a construction site, as well as increasing theft prevention and assisting employees with their projects.
Anti-collision software (also known as clash detection software) is rising in importance along with a focus in worksite safety. The SK Asteroid Platform Solution is designed to ensure a safe work environment. This new technology can monitor the position, movement, inertia, wind speed, and direction of construction site equipment, such as tower cranes and other large pieces of machinery. If something is off, corrective measures can be enabled to avoid collision and potential injury. For example, if the wind speed increases suddenly in the area, then the position or direction of the equipment can automatically be changed to avoid accidents.
The entire work environment needs to be known, including every object within it: that’s where something like Building Information Modeling, or BIM, can come in. BIM can digitally represent a space and its characteristics both physically and functionally. Often, BIM and anti-collision software can and will work hand-in-hand. A sector with particularly positive client support for BIM and anti-collision software is the Design-Build project delivery model. Having Design-Build under one roof not only creates a stronger case for using both technologies, but it also creates one voice for the project.
The DAQRI Smart Helmet is a wearable human machine interface that uses 4D augmented reality technology. This helmet, with its transparent visor and lens display, can help users navigate and gather information about their environment by utilizing the built-in cameras and sensors. In the construction industry, this innovative technology can be used to alert workers of hazards at the construction site and give out visual instructions to the wearer using animations shown on the transparent visor. Smart Helmet has the potential to increase productivity, safety and efficiency all at once.
3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is a process of making something three-dimensional and solid from a digital CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. The CAD file is processed through software that tells printers to lay down successive layers of material until the entire design is created. Common materials include filament plastics such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA).
3D printing has the potential to reduce material waste and increase project speed. If that wasn’t appealing enough, the cost of the hardware and software is becoming much more affordable for all companies around the world. Some companies are using 3D printing to create small and complex components of their design; some are even experimenting with 3D printing whole buildings, which could herald a future in low-cost housing.
Drawing Production: Revit
Revit, a building design software from Autodesk meant to be used for Building Information Modeling (BIM), has multiple levels of software for professions like architectural design, structural engineering, and, of course, construction. It allows users to design a building in 3D, annotate it in 2D, and add building information to the design as well. By providing software for design and documentation in one product, Revit can drastically change the project manpower and hours required for construction companies that decide to use it.
Project Management: Procore
Procore provides cloud-based project management software for construction companies looking to increase efficiency and accountability. Procore can help all construction companies, but it is particularly useful for firms who are still relying on paper tracking and email chains for project management. Any kind of project can be tracked in Procore, from commercial spaces to homes to large industrial plants.