Analysis

5 Important Trends for Construction Technologies in 2017

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There’s no doubt that 2016 has been an interesting year, not least for the construction industry. Construction companies that want to be ‘fit for business’ in 2017 will need to ensure they are aware of the trends – and prepared for them.

For instance, there is sustained pressure on the government to create more affordable housing and the Autumn Statement makes it clear that the government is willing to invest in this area. So we can expect to see more resource being ploughed into this area of the construction industry.

There are also pressures on the entire industry to improve productivity, reducing the cost of construction for end clients and maintaining (perhaps even improving) the profitability of construction companies. In many cases, technology will play a key role in this.

The following are some of the areas where productivity and profitability can be enhanced:

1 - BIM

One of the perennial ‘trends’ for the last few years, BIM continues to be an important factor with much of its potential still be to be exploited. 3D designs using BIM are now established as the new standard, making it much easier to view designs with specific building systems in place.

Preparing for BIM means that quantity surveyors must be able to measure from BIMs to develop their cost plans, while other disciplines need to be geared up for working in a BIM environment, from the design of buildings and infrastructure to day-to-day maintenance.

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2 - Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) (aka augmented reality) has been on the agenda for a few years as well but 2017 could be the breakthrough year – not just for new games and experiences in the home but as a practical tool for construction and building maintenance. For instance, in the design phase it can be an valuable way of communicating ideas to clients, as well as helping project managers plan more effectively. Indeed, using pan and zoom tools on a computer when working with a 3D model is already a form of virtual reality.

On the maintenance side, a VR model of a facility such as a plant room can be a great help in identifying items of plant and calling up key information from an asset database directly into the headset.

3 - Mobiles and Clouds

Sharing information has always been something of a challenge for people working in the built environment, not least because the workforce is often scattered across different sites. We can therefore expect to see wider use of cloud storage for data, accessed through mobile devices from site, to make information more readily available for all parties.

Causeway Enterprise Content Management (ECM), for instance, makes use of these technologies to bring people, information and processes together – across the entire business or for a single project.

4 - Pre-fabrication and Automation

The productivity benefits of offsite pre-fabrication have been recognised for many years and have certainly become more widely used, if not yet commonplace. There’s a good chance this technique will get a strong boost in 2017, following the Farmer Review, which highlighted pre-fabrication as a key tactic.

There is also potential for pre-fabricated buildings to support the anticipated emphasis on housing, as it’s now possible to build a pre-fabricated home in 24 hours!

We can also expect to see wider use of automation in pre-fabrication to streamline the manufacturing process, as well as more widely across the industry. Drones, for example, have proved their worth in many projects for a wide range of applications, from surveying to inspecting inaccessible areas of a building.

5 - Integrated bringing it all together

A key element in being ‘fit for business’ in the future is ensuring that every part of the company is ‘match fit’ through an integrated approach, rather than piecemeal ‘tinkering’ with just some areas. The latter approach simply ends in different parts of the business operating in silos with little or no sharing of key information.

There are many technology tools that can help to link up all stakeholders, whether it be through eInvoicing with Causeway Tradex, using the eTender automated enquiry management tool or linking key front office processes through Causeway Enterprise.A

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(source from Paul Haddlesey, Kaleida, BNP Paribas & Hance)

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