The U.S. construction industry employs 7.8 million workers, but that number could drop with the addition of digital building initiatives. Companies are using 3D design, drone mapping, and robotic labor to expedite the rate of construction projects.
While construction practices have not changed significantly in decades, and construction companies spend the third lowest amount of money on IT services among all industries (only agriculture and hunting rank lower,) it is possible for the industry to mirror other industries in recent years and take on a more modern, digital approach to construction.
Delays and other obstacles have increased the cost of construction, but this is normal to expect. A report by global management partner McKinsey & Co. says that larger projects can be up to 80% over budget and take 20% longer than anticipated to construct.
Insignificant savings have prevented construction businesses from adopting computerized models in the past, but now that technology has come so far, employers are beginning to consider it.
The $19.8 billion Elizabeth train line in London, developed by Crossrail Limited, was designed using an intricate virtual 3D model of the rail network. Data from architects’ CAD systems and maps of existing utility lines were combined to make a comprehensive layout and better plan the rail’s construction.
Crossrail’s head of technical information Malcolm Taylor, believes that the addition of the 3D model “is a significant contribution to being on time and to budget.”
On this side of the pond, a New York City-based robotics company has used an automatic brick laying robot. SAM, which stands for Semi-Automated Mason, is able to pick up bricks, apply them with mortar, and lay them in less time than it would take a worker to.
SAM was used to build a two-story corporate building in Buffalo, NY with just a six-man crew. SAM was able to lay a brick every nine seconds, which usually takes the average mason 30 seconds.
While some jobs may be replaced by robotic machines in the near future, these machines still require human oversight.