The Australian construction industry took a beating in 2020 largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide lockdowns forced many companies to postpone new building projects, decreasing completed projects by 3.2%. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only challenge companies face. In 2021, they’ll have to overcome labour shortages, poor cash flow, inefficient processes, and more stringent workplace safety regulations.
However, not all hope is lost. Game-changing technologies and trends are giving construction companies a serious boost and competitive edge. Here are eight trends that are reshaping the industry in 2021.
Building information modelling (BIM)
BIM is a 3D model representation of a building’s physical and functional properties, breaking down every component of a project. It can include important data like material requirements, installation and assembly diagrams, project specifications, life cycle predictions, and more. These make BIM a great tool for giving contractors the insight to more efficiently plan and manage construction projects.
First-rate BIM tools offer real-time updates, so that the architects, engineers, and contractors involved in a project can operate with the latest data. This is particularly useful because as construction jobs become more complex, project stakeholders must be fully coordinated to streamline processes, reduce waste, and save cash. In fact, BIM has proven to be instrumental for streamlining large projects like the Sydney Metro public transport. Many medium to large contractors will likely follow suit and implement BIM in 2021 to optimise operations.
Blockchain is a decentralised database of transactions that can’t be altered and are distributed across a network of computers. Every time a transaction is made, a record of it is added to everyone’s database, ensuring all parties involved have access to a single source of truth.
When applied to construction, blockchain offers massive benefits. It can be used to create self-executing smart contracts between stakeholders in a project, such as architects, contractors, and material suppliers. These contracts are verified by the parties involved, meaning there’s no need for a middleman to set terms and conditions.
Smart contracts are also programmed to automatically fulfil contract conditions. For example, payments can be instantly triggered when certain milestones are met, such as suppliers delivering steel materials by the agreed-upon deadline. Using blockchain-augmented technology this way ensures every party involved gets paid faster and eliminates time-consuming bookkeeping.
Virtual reality (VR)
VR technology has massive benefits for the construction industry, especially with regard to project planning, collaboration, and training. Although 3D models visualise a future build, VR lets users experience that build in an immersive virtual space. This allows clients to better communicate their vision for a project and helps contractors understand those expectations. In the VR space, contractors can analyse important build specifications, highlight issues, and preview changes with the team before the first brick is laid.
With the introduction of VR cameras, companies will even be able to stream jobsites and create virtual tours. At the same time, clients can watch a project unfold and see if everything is progressing as they’ve envisioned.
Additionally, VR is an effective training tool for heavy-equipment workers such as loader operators. WorksiteVR Simulator, for instance, is designed to give workers hands-on experience with heavy equipment in a controlled environment. This way, training is safer, less expensive, and guided so workers can get certified quickly.
While drones are popular among tech-savvy consumers, they’re also seeing widespread use in the Australian construction industry. Builders are utilising drones to map out areas for construction projects. The data collected allows surveyors to get precise measurements, account for elevation, and examine social and environmental conditions of sites. This dramatically fast-tracks site surveys so construction can start without delays.
Drone operators can also monitor job progress and report issues like falling hazards to keep on-site workers safe. What’s more, industrial-grade drones are ideal for transporting items aerially, allowing companies to avoid traffic and make deliveries without driving up fuel costs.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
The Australian AI market is predicted to grow by 36% during 2020–2025, and this is partially due to AI’s growing role in construction. For starters, AI analytics tools make sense of large pools of data, enabling contractors to make smarter decisions on site. In practice, these tools can compare on-site data against BIM plans to detect possible design clashes, project delays, and changes within the process.
Another use for AI is in automating building processes. While there are fears of AI robots taking jobs, construction services are currently facing labour shortages. Autonomous construction robots can reduce intensive manual labour and keep workers safe on the job. They also don’t need years of training and are more cost-effective. Of course, skilled labour and human oversight will still be required when managing AI-enhanced robots.
With construction 3D printers now readily available, creating components for a project is easier than ever. Contractors need only acquire the right materials and input the exact specifications of building components in a piece of software. 3D printers also support unusual shapes and designs that are far too complex to build using traditional techniques.
Once build parameters and specifications are set, components can be printed off site and then transported to the jobsite for assembly. This reduces the likelihood of mistakes during construction and helps builders complete projects much more efficiently. Plus, 3D printing only uses the material required to print a structure, minimising waste.
Green construction refers to building processes that minimise harm to the environment and preserve natural resources. General examples of green construction include using environmentally friendly building materials, utilising fuel-efficient equipment, reducing waste, and disposing of toxic materials responsibly.
Notably, Australia has a growing market for green construction. According to a SmartMarket Report, up to 64% of Australian industry stakeholders expect to be involved in green building projects in 2021.
Job management software
Job management software has been around for some time, but modern applications are offering advanced features to better coordinate teams. Built-in job scheduling features now leverage AI to dispatch the right workers based on their location, qualifications, and other factors. Other job management apps are now compatible with various accounting platforms to enable faster and more accurate invoicing and bookkeeping. First-rate software even incorporates worker safety and compliance features to help contractors mitigate the high rates of work-related injuries and accidents associated with the job.
WorkBuddy is the job management software with all these capabilities. From insightful scheduling to enhanced safety compliance, our software can help companies in every stage of a build. Request a free demo now to explore WorkBuddy’s features. You can also tune in to our blog to find out more about the trends shaking up the construction industry.