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The integration of technology into construction is a must

by Lee Wilkinson, PwC Director

From online shopping platforms in retail to the rapid automation in the manufacturing sector, technological advancements are revolutionising the way businesses operate and is improving efficiency levels at a rapid pace.

The construction industry, however, has lagged behind in this global technological revolution. But given pockets of innovation are available for the sector, we are seeing some starting to pop up on construction sites across the world, and that is about to increase. ConTech (construction & technology) is on the rise. It gets less attention than PropTech but 50% of Proptech seeks to solve issues around sales and leasing, while only 16% focuses on construction.

It has been two and a half years since the Construction Leadership Council commissioned a review of the UK’s construction labour model, Farmer Review: UK Construction. The review was undertaken by Mark Farmer and concluded that the industry must Modernise or Die! The industry is beginning to wake up - and like people, some companies have woken up quicker than others. The industry is changing and in order to keep up construction businesses need to up their game when it comes to technology. This is not about necessarily creating new technologies (though clearly that would be an advantage over competitors) but adopting existing.

Technology is evolving and defining what’s next - for your company, competitors, and industry.

PwC analysed the business impact and commercial viability of more than 250 emerging technologies to zero in on the Eight Essential . These are the core technologies so let’s explore them with a construction slant:

Construction tech

●        Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is arguably a big game changer and one that we already see in our day to day life - just check your Netflix account for all those recommendations! AI is also a game changer in the built environment. The ability to analyse data and detect patterns will transform the delivery and management of capital projects.

●        Virtual Reality (“VR”): Can you or your clients truly imagine a site from the drawings? With VR the design, plan and implementation of the built environment could never be easier, creating a truly immersive experience. More importantly for those constructing it can allow an assessment of the design to identify potential challenges and areas of concern which can aid in planning project schedule.

●        Augmented Reality (“AR”): If VR is not for you then maybe AR is. Allowing the experience of being inside the building - a benefit of improving safety by allowing workers to visualise and for customers a chance to create a space before fully committing.

●        Blockchain: The ability to speed up interactions, reduce operational costs and providing a secure trusted transaction history. I just think buying a house, I mean if Blockchain can speed that up with its multiple parties then go for it.

●        Drones: Although not new to the world of construction, it’s a technology that is helping reach places that would ordinarily be difficult or hazardous, as identified in the PwC report Drones: Impact on UK Economy. Drones are used to monitor more efficiently the progress against the project programme and provide greater project certainty.

●        Internet of Things (“IoT”): Simply put, this is the connection of devices via the internet. A recent report by Gartner estimated there would be over 26 billion devices by 2020. So for construction it starts with sites having connectivity - linking back to the core office. All sites connected and talking.

●        Robotics: As identified by B1M - Construction robots are coming, robotic arms increasing strength of works and autonomous vehicles increasing safety and efficiency with round the clock working.

●        3D Printing: In 2018 the first habitable house was constructed via 3D printing. And in a time when time is money and skills are short, the project cut costs, environmental impact and provided a solution to the shortage of bricklayers.

The above is just a few areas of how technology can be integrated into construction but there are many more examples and more being developed and introduced each day.

Data and connectivity

The key component to all these technologies is the data and connectivity, allowing multiple people working on the same project to collaborate. There is technology, mobile apps, and software that allow every job site to connect and have access to the latest drawings and documents.

The use of technology in the construction process will help alleviate a challenge for the built environment - completing projects more timely - and the integration of technology is largely geared towards driving efficiency and improving delivery. The starting point is always the data. What data do you have and how can you utilise it for the benefit of the company, community and industry.

ConTech is continuously advancing, which is an excellent thing in this industry because it will make the entire process of construction easier from start to finish. There is still a way to go before the industry takes full advantage of today’s technology but there are encouraging signs for a sector that is ripe for disruption.

PwC will be exploring more the impact of data and disruption on the sector at a private dinner on 22 May 2019 in Leeds. Our discussion will start at the beginning exploring the use of data. For more information please contact lee.a.wilkinson@pwc.com

Lee wilkinson

Lee Wilkinson, PwC Director

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