Technology Advances in Construction

As the world continues to evolve with technology, so too does the construction industry, albeit at a much slower rate. Looking back over the last 15 years, it is incredible to think about how much technology has changed in our daily lives. Smartphones weren’t very prevalent and the first generation of the iPhone had just been released. Businesses used fax machines instead of email to transmit information, very few people knew what the cloud was, and drones, as we know them today, didn’t exist.

As it relates to the construction industry, 15 years ago I can remember physically mailing sets of drawings out to people for them to bid jobs and waiting for their faxed bid to come through. People used an actual camera to take pictures, and submittals were wet stamped and mailed to the design team for their review.

All of the efficiencies gained through technology really are fascinating. To put into perspective how slow the construction industry is at adopting technology, the automotive industry has been utilizing robotics to assist in the car manufacturing process since the 1960s, whereas, in construction, robotics started in the 1980s in Japan and really failed to get any traction. That is a 20-year gap!

You may be asking yourself, why is construction so slow at adopting new technology? I believe there are a number of factors, I have listed a few below:

  • Lack of data/proven track record
  • Typically requires training and a level of expertise to utilize/operate
  • Can be a large investment of cash and not a timely return on investment

With the continued shortage of skilled labor, firms are relying more heavily on technology to gain the necessary efficiencies to do more with fewer people. It will be interesting to see what impacts technology will have on the industry in the next 15 years and beyond.

Andrew Rahrig, LEED AP

Vice President, Construction

The Douglas Company

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