Over the last 10 years, innovations in technology have disrupted many of the industries across the world allowing for improved efficiency, savings and quality.
The construction industry is no different. Although, Jim Rogers, a well-known construction management and industry expert, says, “Construction lags behind other industries like manufacturing that have more quickly adopted and implemented new technology to improve the industry.”
But that’s changing as innovations like 3-D laser scanning, building information modeling (BIM), digital drawings, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3-D printing and others are enabling incredible improvements in the construction industry from communications to improved quality, production, savings and safety.
In Dubai, the world’s first functioning 3-D printed building was completed in May by using a massive 3-D printer and a special mixture of cement to create a 2,700-square-foot office building in 17 days for about $140,000.
Meanwhile in Arizona, the use of integrated project delivery methods, virtual design and construction (VDC) teams and digital project plans are speeding up construction timelines and cutting down on costs. There’s also augmented and virtual reality applications that redefine how we can look at projects and interact with spaces before it is ever constructed.
New technologies are forcing construction companies to adopt these innovations in order to stay competitive, which means adjusting the ways it plans, schedules and builds a project.
Rogers says, the biggest impact on the construction industry is the fact that there’s a lot of stuff that we have to go and re-learn in order for these technologies to propagate throughout the field.
From what he sees and hears throughout the industry, Rogers explains, “General contractors are in the mode of learning all different kinds of training, construction management, professional development systems and tools within their organizations to keep up with all of these new changes, trends and technologies, which will be critical for them to stay on top.”
These are some of the new innovations transforming the construction industry and the companies at the forefront of the “constru-tech” movement.
ARCHSOL designed several custom radiochemistry facilities across the nation that are facilitating innovative healthcare treatments including a new building at a cancer clinic’s campus in Scottsdale for a radiochemistry laboratory and complex piece of equipment called the cyclotron, which is a high-energy particle accelerator used in the production of radiopharmaceuticals. The design and construction of the building required a specific density for the cyclotron’s concrete shielding and precise coordination of underground conduits for pneumatic system transport of radioactive isotopes, that have a half-life of as little as 20 minutes, to the patient point of care.
Balfour Beatty Construction
By using Bluebeam Extreme, project drawing sets are constantly updated as changes are made to all project documents including drawings, specifications, requests for information, architectural supplemental instructions, as-built drawings and others are hyperlinked to the Balfour Beatty dashboard and instantly updated, which are accessible anywhere on the jobsite through the employee’s electronic tablets. The BIM 360 Field by Autodesk — a field management software for 2-D and 3-D environments that combines mobile technologies at the construction site with cloud-based collaboration and reporting — helps the project team maintain logs of issues, creates checklists for safety and tracking punch list items.
Climatec’s Axcess suite was built to transform the tremendous amounts of data that building systems generate into actionable intelligence. It leverages deep engineering expertise, advanced analytics and visualization technologies to optimize building performance and reduce operating costs, which Terry Keenen, president of Climatec, says, helps clients realize a greater return on their building investments. At multiple healthcare and government municipality projects already integrating multiple building subsystems and vendors, Climatec’s data visualization and analytics have generated $500,000 in annual savings and the optimization of systems added another $750,000 in annual savings.
Virtual reality, laser scanning and prefabrication are the latest innovations being used at DPR. VR and AR technology puts the user into a virtual architectural model so they can digitally experience the space and interact with it without the costly investment of building a full scale, physical mock-up. Laser scanning as a Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) tool ensures 1/8-inch accuracy and saves DPR projects $1 per square-foot in field rework due to human error. Meanwhile, the prefabrication process used for the installation of the exterior skin panels at the Banner University Medical Center Phoenix’s 16-story patient tower process increases safety by not having to work from scaffolding, reduces schedule durations by placing one level of panels in a day, and achieves consistent quality by working in an assembly-line like manner.
Using laser scanners to create highly accurate digital 3-D models reduces labor, material costs and the amount of re-work while aiding in schedule compression and mitigating costly requests for information, which helped the company’s VDC team save millions for clients like Walmart, New York University, Cushman & Wakefield and the Los Angeles International Airport. “The implementation of laser scanning and 3-D modeling is the next revolution in the construction world. Sensational cost reductions and efficiencies will be realized,” explains Ken Smerz, president and founder at Eco 3-D. “The owners will begin to take this information to digitally manage their assets all the way back into their income statements.”
Fairview Architectural North America
Vitrabond G2, a light weight non-combustible metal composite material for building façades, was launched by Fairview Architectural North America in March along with the Arrowhead suite of façade panel installation systems, which were designed and engineered to package all the benefits of a traditional metal composite material. Jerry Fossey, general manager, says, “These two new products help protect the building and its occupants by being non-combustible and at the same time reducing the cost of installation due to the high speed in which they can be installed.”
Before and during construction, Graycor utilizes drones to gather accurate data and information about a site or existing structure. During pre-construction, a 30-minute drone flight, plus a few hours of information processing, can compare actual site elevations to a design plan, providing precise data for earthmoving activity, creating construction timelines and establishing budgets with trade vendors. During construction, a program called Drone Deploy uses photogrammetry to accurately compare the design plan to a project’s actual as-built conditions, which includes 3-D and virtual reality capabilities. Other client-facing advantages of drones include in-progress aerial photos, fly-through visuals and live feed options, which are a particular benefit for out of town developers.
JE Dunn Construction
The Dunn Dashboard is a project specific collaboration website that enables projects teams, including the owner, architect and trade partners, to access all project documents and information in real time. It enables a paperless construction jobsite by using mobile jobsite kiosks, digital plan tables, tablets, smartphones and laptops to access and update information such as contract documents, RFIs, submittals, administrative documents, 3-D models, calendars, photos, project web cams, construction documents, project announcements and much more. John Jacobs, chief information officer, describes it as a “single source of truth” that supports 600 active construction projects.
Kitchell’s prefabrication and virtual design unit — the Kapture Group, a collaboration with MKB Construction — is a 42,000-square-foot facility enabling the design and build of certain aspects of construction projects in an assembly-line like process. “These are tools that enable us to use our resources wisely, save clients millions of dollars and shave weeks, and in several cases, months from a construction schedule,” says Scott Root, director of Kapture. Kitchell’s preconstruction team also uses an Assemble Systems program to create visual comparisons with precise illustrations for project designers and owners the direct cost of construction changes and corresponding financial impacts.
Vistara at SanTan Village in Gilbert marked the first apartment community in Arizona to offer remote, mobile-device enabled technology to its residents through an app that remotely control locks, temperature and lighting through a partnership with Clare Controls. Residents can also expand their capabilities with upgraded packages including video cameras, CCTV cameras and entertainment packages. This comes on the heels of Mark-Taylor’s roll-out of Amazon Locker technology throughout its Arizona portfolio, easing the burden of package delivery for property management offices and residents.
By working with a RESNET approved HERS Rater to perform energy use models using REMrate software, MODUS is able to develop the most cost effective building envelope for optimal energy efficiency. A proprietary database was created to measure the cost/benefit in HERS points for each sustainable item used in the building such as spray foam insulation, LED lighting, hybrid hot water heaters and more. Ed Gorman, founder and president, says, “Utilizing energy modeling tools and developing a database of cost and savings has allowed us to successfully build the first Net Zero Energy (NZE) townhomes in the state and the first NZE apartment building in the country.”
P.B. Bell partnered with Cox Communications to offer residents at Escape in Phoenix access to a Smart Home experience through Cox Homelife, which features home automation capabilities, such as live video viewing and energy controls for temperature and lighting. At Solis at Towne Center, P.B. Bell partnered with Parcel Pending to offer 24-hour, automated parcel storage allowing residents to retrieve packages, which were installed in May. “These secure, automated lockers offer flexibility and convenience for residents, and we’re proud to be able to offer this type of amenity to accommodate a growing need,” says Chapin Bell, CEO at P.B. Bell.
Procore & Plans4Less
For smaller mom-and-pop companies, building information modeling may not be an affordable option, which means printed documents are still a must. However, the most widely-used construction management software firm, Procore, has teamed up with Plans4Less, on a first of its kind app for printing and delivering construction documents that’s affordable and quick. In fact, all Procore software users now have the advantage of printing and delivering full-sized construction documents from Plans4Less for $1 each to anywhere in the country by the next day using a seamlessly integrated app.
Since 2012, its Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) team worked to transform a design concept into an image, animation or virtual reality in order to bring that concept to life through 3-D building animations and renderings, cost and schedule summary infographics, site logistics, process maps and through regional amenity marketing summaries. Today, Rick Collins, regional president at Ryan Companies, says, “With our Virtual Design and Construction program, we ‘build’ the building technologically, before we put a shovel in the ground. Our VDC group continues to push the boundaries of VR in providing valuable content to our current and prospective clients; allowing our users to ‘see’ the completed building to refine decisions along the way.”
Sunflare’s new solar technology, a super thin and lightweight solar “wallpaper” of sorts, is the lightest and most flexible solar panel of its kind. The solar cells are created with copper, indium, gallium and selenide. Unlike Tesla’s solar roof tiles, which began taking orders in the United States in May, Sunflare’s thin solar cells do not include glass, which means it can be attached to walls and roofs, the top of trailers and mobile homes, or anywhere a designer or builder can dream up by using some double-sided tape.
TruePoint Laser Scanning
TruePoint uses 3-D laser scan technology to accurately capture millions of real-world data points for a building or space within seconds. Then, in-house engineers use the latest software to provide clients with practical and custom deliverables such as point cloud data, 3-D models and 2-D drawings. Ryan Hacker, president of TruePoint Laser Scanning, says, “As-built models can expedite design, reduce clashes and change orders, ultimately saving time and money.”