What does technology bring to construction?

Construction innovation Ellis Fox Blog

It’s generally perceived that investing in innovative technology is something for early adopters. Those willing to take a risk and who can afford to lose money if it doesn’t pan out. But let’s be honest, what business in any industry right now can afford to lose money? It shouldn’t be an excuse to retain less efficient ways of operating when there are better solutions available.

On almost a weekly basis, industry mouthpieces publish articles detailing the innovations that are happening in construction and infrastructure. These range from using electric and green hydrogen powered vehicles, to new aggregates, low carbon concrete, precast bridges and tunnels and other modern methods of construction. There’s a common thread with many of these innovations: construction happens faster with fewer disruptions to public infrastructure, there’s often less risk to site workers, and the carbon count is significantly reduced – not to mention costs savings that often accompany these benefits.

Much of this  construction technology has been designed to solve inherent common problems. Take for example deviations when building that are often not picked up until later stages in the project. The cost and time of remedial work can be significant. Scanning technologies are designed to identify deviations early on that can be remedied.

Another example is of a build at a university where the concrete developed some unsightly cracks. As this was to be the new engineering building and much of the concrete was to remain exposed, this wasn’t deemed to be acceptable. One of the options considered was breaking down the construction and redoing it. In the past this would have been the most likely option.  But a patented new method using limestone was used to repair the cracks and once completed the cracks weren’t visible at all. The cost of this process was nothing compared to what it would have cost to demolish and rebuild.

With sustainability and decarbonisation becoming a higher priority for construction firms, technologies that can help model processes and calculate impacts of various methods of construction are likely to play a bigger role. Databases can help source suppliers and materials as well as manage inventory on site to help reduce wastage and improve material ordering processes. Because of the value they bring to construction, innovative technologies are unlikely to remain the domain of early adopters. Construction is changing and technology is playing a big part in driving that change.