Technological advancement marches on, impacting every industry including the construction sector. Over the past year, the pandemic has encouraged greater technology adoption as people and organizations alike pivot and adapt to the new normal. Going forward, we can expect to see more technology adoption in the construction sector as companies look to operate more safely and with increased productivity and efficiency.
We’ve all likely heard the whirr of a drone overhead by now. Their use is becoming more widespread as they prove to be able to carry out an impressive number of tasks from mundane to dangerous. Realtors use them to take photos of homes and the surrounding area, rescue teams use drones to search for the missing or stranded in unsafe conditions, medical deliveries are made to off-the-grid communities, and retailers such as Amazon and Walmart are testing drones for product delivery. Drone use at construction sites is also growing. Teams can use drone technology to improve productivity by recording videos, taking photos, collecting real-time data about the project and catching problems early.
According to Brandon Hexham, Vice-President Operations-Canada, “While drone use is becoming more prevalent for before and after photos, as well as website videos and marketing campaigns, there’s a case to be made that an actual technician’s inspection report may still be more comprehensive than the data returned via drone technology. There are advantages to a human hand touching various construction materials for review, as well as being up close and personal with the human eye.” How drones may routinely be used in the future for roofing inspections remains to be seen.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Well, of course there is! As an example of how technology has impacted the construction business, Brandon Hexham recalls how ‘back in the day’ condition reports were assembled. “First, the technicians would walk the roof and take photos. They would then drive to the mall and drop off the film for development. The selected photos would be glued to the report in question. The finished report would then be mailed or driven to the client’s location. Fast forward to today – the technician walks the roof and drops the photos into an app with their report, and it’s emailed to the client in mere seconds. What a difference 20 years can make!” Organizations of all types look to widely available apps to help manage productivity. For the construction/building sectors, there are apps to help calculate roof pitch, manage bid projects, share plan drawings, provide users with critical safety reminders, calculate needed roofing materials, and manage construction schedules just to name a few. ILD continues to use its own proprietary app to streamline work in the field.
Of course, some of the best technology is built right into the roof construction. Advancements such as ILD’s Smartex® technology means sensors let building owners know in real time what is happening on the roof. Prior to Smartex®, access to this timely information just wasn’t available, and a problem would be detected only once a leak had made its way into the building itself. With Smartex® technology, a leak can be detected while it’s still contained in the roofing assembly. For the building owner, this means getting a crew on site to locate the leak and fix it right away, before costly damage is incurred. Smart technology such as this safeguards an owner’s building investment and delivers peace of mind.
AI & MACHINE LEARNING
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are changing many industries. When machines learn to problem-solve and recognize patterns through data, they become better at predicting and providing insights that help humans. This technology will take greater hold across sectors, including construction, as time goes on in order for companies to remain competitive. Benefits through AI include maximized project profitability, reduced costs, faster builds, improved project schedules and risk assessment.
Instead of sketches and drawings, 3D printers are being more widely used in the construction sector to ensure everyone can conceptualize construction before it begins. Ideas turn into detailed models and designs with the help of 3D printers and modeling software. Benefits from the use of this technology include more accurate risk and cost assessments, reduced material costs, quicker construction and enhanced brand, as the technology presents a positive storytelling opportunity about less waste and improved sustainability.
With safety always top of mind in the construction sector, wearable technology is becoming more prevalent as a means to keep workers safe. Hi-tech wearables include smart helmets equipped with a 360-degree view of surroundings, smart safety vests that monitor working temperature and have emergency call buttons, smart glasses that allow the user to ‘pull up’ plans and instructions, smart work boots that relay real-time location of workers, and wearable sensors that alert supervisors of a slip, trip or fall. Wearable technology embedded into apparel and personal protective equipment can deliver biometric, environmental and location information, and acts like an on-site safety partner.
There are many factors pushing technology development and adoption in the construction sector. Among them, the present-day pandemic, client expectations, competition from new start-ups, and environmental pressures. From our perspective, at ILD we welcome change that helps advance the industry, keeps workers safe, and allows us to deliver the best results to our customers.