Technology in construction and infrastructure projects – future and current innovations

Technology in construction – how UK infrastructure is embracing the challenges of new and innovative technologies.

02 August 2017

It’s fair to say that the construction industry doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to efficiency and innovation. Many of the basic construction techniques used today are not hugely dissimilar to those used by the Roman Empire. However, the construction industry faces challenges that other industries simply don’t face (or at least don’t face to the same extent) in that no two construction projects are exactly the same, nor are they carried out in identical conditions with the same project team.

Recent advances in construction technology have resulted in a broad range of techniques which are seeing increased levels of quality outcomes, improved efficiency, better site safety and sustainability and greater value. The construction industry’s’ willingness to utilise these advanced construction technologies does seem to be variable in practice and appears to largely depend on the project team and the client’s appetite to embrace them.

Some examples of these technologies include 3D printing, 4D BIM, robotics, drones and smart technology to name a few. This article will touch on the first two mentioned.

3D Printing

3D printing is the term used to describe the creation of 3 dimensional objects through a digitally designed layering process. It can be adopted in the construction industry to make components or to even to 3D print a building. CAD is already readily used in the industry and as such, the construction industry is well placed to adopt such techniques.

The perceived benefits of 3D printing in construction are that there may be better accuracy and quicker results during complex construction projects. There is also the potential impact of reducing labour costs and waste production during the construction process. The issue remains, however, how well any products procured this way will integrate with the rest of the building and services in practice.

4D Building Information Modelling

By way of a recap, 4D Building Information Modelling is the next level of 3D BIM, in that it links the 3D model to time/schedule-related information. This 4D model then allows the various members of the project team responsible for delivering the project, together with the client, to better visualise how the project may sequentially progress and should also provide clearer and more detailed information with regard to programme. Consequently, this has the capability of providing an excellent project management tool and huge potential for better delivery outcomes on more complex projects.

4D BIM is said to have been used on the current project at 22 Bishopsgate, which when completed, will be the tallest building in the City of London. Recent press reports indicate that the project is adopting a new form of BIM that uses both 4D modelling applications together with advanced virtual reality. The rationale behind this is to facilitate new opportunities for BIM to be used in logistics, health and safety and also as a tool in the design and construction of buildings. These recent press reports suggest that, whilst there have been inevitable challenges, the most notable benefits of using these technologies has been the vast improvements in the efficiency of the whole design and construction process, particularly with regard to identifying and rectifying errors in designs.

These technologies, alongside the increased uptake in practices such as offsite manufacturing and prefabrication are contributing to an ever-changing landscape in the construction industry and will necessitate a change in approach for all, from those designing the projects, to those building out those designs and even those drafting the legal construction documentation.

What is evident from construction projects where the adoption of advanced construction technology has been successful is that buy-in and commitment from the whole project team and the client is imperative, appropriate procurement strategies need to be adopted early in the process and the construction process has to be carefully controlled, monitored and commissioned from the start.

Key contact

Maria Greener

Maria Greener Director

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