News & Insights

8 cool ways technology is changing construction

Published 26 September 2017

Welcome to the construction site of the future. People are still onsite, but there are fewer than there used to be. Some wear holographic headsets. Drones hover overhead. Builders can see through walls and harness superhuman strength, while robots whizz through more repetitive tasks.

 

1. Virtual reality (VR)

 Imagine bringing a 3D CAD drawing up to full scale and stepping inside. With a headset and motion tracking, virtual reality (VR) lets architects, construction teams and clients look around a virtual space in real time, as if they're actually there. This could help prevent errors ahead of time and improve site safety by viewing conditions.

 

2. Holographic headsets and augmented reality

 Take it a step further. Using augmented reality (AR) and wearing a holographic headset, architects and drafts-people can design and make alterations in the physical environment where building is to be constructed. This can deliver real benefits through faster builds with fewer mistakes. That means big cost efficiencies for builders.

 

3. Workers in exoskeletons

 Exoskeletons, first developed by Ekso Bionics in the US, use counterbalances to distribute weight, enabling wearers to carry heavy loads with almost no effort. They don’t come cheap but they’re already on the market in the US and Europe for use in construction, reducing the risk of worksite injuries.

 

4. Drones

 From aerial surveying of a site to monitoring heavy equipment movements, productivity and safe practices Expect to see more drones hovering over construction sites. They’ll be equipped with high-speed HD cameras capable of taking stills and video to provide aerial imaging, which can then be used to create maps and 3D site models, and even of conducting inspections on bridges and tall buildings.

 

5. 3D printing

 3D printing now has the capacity to produce items from almost any material, and it’s incredible to watch them in action printing real homes – also see the Australian 2017 Cubby House Challenge and the world’s first 3D printed office in Dubai. But forget the big stuff for a moment. 3D printing is the way forward for creating building components such as bespoke electric sockets or girder brackets, larger scale floor panels or entire walls.

 

6. Robots

 Perth-based Australian technology company Fastbrick Robotics has already developed Hadrian X, the world’s first bricklaying robot. It has the capacity to 3D print as it goes, and lay up to 1,000 bricks an hour – five times as fast as a good brickie. The first commercial prototype is slated for the second half of 2017. And it’s just the start.

 

7. Smartphone thermal imaging

 The construction industry has been using infrared technology for years via costly purpose-designed cameras. Now, smartphones have revolutionised thermal imaging and made it more accessible ‒ and cheaper. You can use your smartphone to see through walls and identify the heat differences that signal faulty insulation, water damage and structural issues.

 

8. Autonomous equipment

 We see those big driverless trucks on mining sites, but with labour shortages and increasingly stringent safety requirements you can expect autonomous, semi-autonomous and remote-controlled excavators, bulldozers and other heavy equipment to be hauling up to construction sites of the near future. You can put less experienced workers in the cab – or even operate vehicles remotely – and achieve increased safety, higher productivity and better fuel efficiency.

 

Big changes in construction need new insurance perspectives

The construction landscape is changing fast, and the combination of dealing with a shrinking labour force while integrating new technologies is a huge challenge. One of Gallagher’s Australia-wide construction industry experts can assess your business and ensure your insurance cover is appropriate and up to date for your scope of operations.

 

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