The construction industry has been constantly evolving according the changing circumstances. It has time and again used technological advancements to its benefit and overcome the challenges faced by it. A few decades ago, BIM and CAD were merely in their infancy stages and their application was nowhere as widespread as it is today. With BIM and automation the construction industry was able to address key concerns of lack of skilled labour, improve collaboration, increase its speed and profit margins etc. The point being that advancements are always taking place in the construction technology, driving the sector forward!
As we come to the end of 2020 our planet stands at a critical junction where automation is everywhere, sustainability is critical and carbon emissions need to be heavily controlled. These issues are going to be the focus of the coming decade and how we deal with it is going to impact the coming generations. With buildings and infrastructure being at the centre of our civilization, the construction industry has a key role to play. Below we look at what would be define the construction sector in the coming decade:
1. Pandemic Proofing:
Covid19 has irrevocably changed the way the world works and even though in the next few years the number of cases might reduce but its impact will be long lasting. The way buildings are designed and constructed is also going to be heavily altered. The building layouts will be changed with most buildings opting to reduce density, encourage proper ventilation and reduce physical barriers. Office designs will have staggered desks, partitions that can move to divide open floor plans or screens will be placed between counters. Touchless technologies like censor taps, automated doors and lights and cell phone-controlled lifts will be implement. A lot of architects will also be looking to adapt modern technology like Architectural BIM Services, Scan to BIM, 3D rendering to try different design alternatives to pandemic proof existing buildings or for newer constructions.
The construction industry is responsible for nearly 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions and it is upon the industry to take measures that would reduce their carbon footprint. The sustainability should reflect in everything from how materials are sourced to how buildings are built. A lot of materials will need alternatives like concrete which is used in majority of road construction and is responsible for 2.8 BN tonnes of CO2 emissions. To make this even more dire it also accounts for a tenth of the world’s industrial water usage. Some countries are starting to make progress on using more environment friendly materials like timber, recycled plastic etc. A majority of countries like Finland are looking at Timber to provide them with answers. Timber from a sustainably managed forests is stronger, durable, quicker and easier to build with. It also has the ability to absorb CO2. Recycled plastic and prefabricated plastic are also another material which is gradually being used more especially in constructing roads. How to dispose plastics has been a major challenge for the society and by using its strength and durability into construction is a great way to both use the extra plastic and to ensure lasting roads.
Though as a concept using sustainable materials sounds simple it is anything but that. Firstly, there needs to be fundamental shift in mindset of architects, engineers and designers who have throughout their lives only worked with concrete and steel. Secondly, the material strength and its durability needs to be tested over the building’s lifecycle to ensure the safety of the inhabitants. This process could be facilitated by 6D BIM wherein it allows to test and run simulations to check how the materials will react with the natural environment, how they will bear load etc.
Finally, the buildings will be also be subject to much stricter rules on energy efficiency. This would go beyond just using sustainable materials as the buildings will have to strive to be self-sustainable. That means renewable sources of elements like solar panels, recycling water plants etc will find themselves into the building design. That being said a lot of new innovations are yet to be unveiled where sustainability is at the forefront!
Even thought the demand for new buildings and infrastructure is constantly rising the number of workers coming into construction is reducing. Technology will have to address this severe shortage of workers. Drones will be used for site surveys and data collection; robots will be taking up repetitive tasks like brick laying or automatic vehicles would be used to carry materials.
Building Information Technology will find mainstream application especially with increase in offsite manufacturing. With prefabrication taking place in climate controlled offsite location, it is important to get the design right in the preconstruction phase itself as any errors in measurements could lead to mass production of components that don’t fit onsite. Here BIM ensures accurate geometry and measurements of all prefabricated components, while BIM Coordination Services checks for any interferences and makes sure that the prefabricated components can be installed on site without any clashes. This ends up saving on resources, cost and materials. And it’s not just for prefabrication, digital technology will by 2030 almost completely take over the paper-based workflows to improve the quality of construction.
To design keeping in mind the social distancing norms, ensuring that building has at least a net-zero impact if not a net positive one or adopting new forms of technology will be the focus of the construction industry in the coming decade. How they deal with it is going to be seen only as the time comes.