Innovations That Are Shaping the Construction Industry

Discover how some of the latest innovations in the construction industry are making a big impact.

construction manager supervising tasks on the field

Published 4 Jul 2022

What is Innovation in the Construction Industry?

Throughout history, humans have used technology to make their lives easier and more efficient. The construction industry is no different. In the past, manual labor was the only way to build structures. In modern construction, various tools and equipment can speed up the process.

Staying ahead of the competition requires construction firms to improve their methods constantly. It often means investing in new technologies to make their projects more efficient and cost-effective. For example, 3D printing is becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry to create complex structures quickly and cheaply. As construction companies embrace new technologies, the possibilities for innovation are endless.

Why is Innovation Important in Construction?

Construction is an essential industry that helps to create the built environment we live in. From homes and office buildings to roads and bridges, construction plays a vital role in our daily lives. As our needs and desires change, construction must adapt to meet these new challenges. Innovation is therefore essential to the continued success of the construction industry. By developing new methods and materials, construction companies can stay ahead of the curve and deliver projects that meet the ever-changing needs of their clients. Those who fail to innovate in a highly competitive market will quickly be left behind. For this reason, construction companies must always look for new ways to improve their business. Those who can embrace change and innovate will be the ones that succeed in this ever-changing industry.

10 Innovations That Made a Difference in the Construction Industry

Construction is an ever-evolving industry. Technology and methods change how we build every year. Among the most notable innovations in the construction industry are:

The Use of Mechanization

Using machines in construction has significantly increased the efficiency of the building process. It was once necessary to do all construction by hand. It was a prolonged and labor-intensive process.

In today’s construction processes, however, various machines are available to speed things up. It includes excavators, cranes, and bulldozers. The use of mechanization has dramatically increased the productivity of the construction industry.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

The medieval period saw the construction of some of the world’s most stunning skyscrapers utilizing principles of design and building that were profound for their time.

For hundreds of years, the processes behind building design and planning remained unchanged. However, recently, computer-aided design (CAD) has emerged, changing buildings permanently. For the first time, differences during the design phase were visible.

Previously, architects and builders had difficulties with their two-dimensional plans and section drawings, such as duplicate systems, electrical conduits, and high-voltage alternating current ducting competing for the same physical area.

Building Information Management (BIM)

CAD revolutionized the profession of designers, but Building Information Management (BIM) has shown to be incredibly flexible, allowing architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to work on small details of design and construction using the same database and computer model.

All project participants collaborate on a highly detailed 3D model that depicts all structural-functional systems, including the following:

  • Pavement or curbs
  • Beams and girders
  • HVAC and electrical installations
  • Aesthetics of walls, arches, roofs, and rails

It saves time and makes it easier to spot potential problems during construction.

The Emergence of Prefabrication

It can be challenging to put together large, complex components piece on-site. However, this process can be much more efficient, thanks to off-site fabrication.

In prefabrication, individual parts of a larger construction project are built in a factory setting, away from the final location. These parts are then brought to the construction site and assembled. This process can save time and money, as well as improve the quality of the final product.

Mobile Devices

The use of mobile technology in the construction sector has led to several changes. One of the most important advantages for contractors is improved project management. Using smartphones and tablets, everyone working on the project may access the same comprehensive data sources, keeping everyone in the loop wherever they are.

The construction industry has also benefitted from real-time analytics from mobile technology. Foremen can now use reporting tools to monitor performance, conditions, and construction costs throughout the day rather than having to produce a report at the end of the job. Mobile business intelligence tools allow project managers to forecast required repairs and take action straight away to stay on schedule and under budget.

Robotic Total Stations (RTS)

Robotic Total Stations (RTS) is an automated theodolite integrated with a distance meter that measures horizontal and vertical angles and slope distances from the instrument to a particular point.

Angles were traditionally measured using a theodolite, while slope distances were measured using a separate Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) instrument. Various applications use RTSs, such as topographic surveys, construction layouts, as-built surveys, volume calculations, and machine control.

RTSs have many advantages over traditional surveying methods. For instance, they are faster, more efficient, and more accurate. A single person can operate them, eliminating the need for extra workers.

Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building methods are becoming increasingly popular among contractors as they search for ways to reduce carbon emissions.

One way to do it is to use sustainable construction materials, such as cross-laminated timber, reclaimed wood, bamboo, recycled rubber, and a long list of other innovative materials. Imagine a Hempcrete-like structure (concrete-like material produced from hemp plants), straw bales, rammed earth, or ferrock (steel dust)-made structure. Some of these materials capture and absorb carbon dioxide, making them carbon-neutral.

Both environmentally sustainable and economically viable buildings have a high market demand. Occupancy and rental rates for sustainably-constructed structures are generally higher than those of conventional constructions. Green construction materials may also improve occupants’ health. It’s a win-win for the business, tenants, and the environment regarding sustainable construction.

The Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is less technologically advanced than other things on this list. However, it has helped revolutionize the construction industry over the last 40 years regarding health and safety. For example, in 1992, regulations were introduced in the UK that said employers have to provide employees at risk of getting hurt with appropriate PPE.

A study of workplace injuries in the UK from 1974 to 2007 found that fatal injuries had decreased by 73%. The number of reported non-fatal injuries had also reduced by 70%.

In 1970, America passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Other countries worldwide also passed similar legislation around the same time or afterward.

The Advent of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the technology that is making a significant change in the construction industry. Hardware limits restrict project data before cloud computing. That meant that data processing and storage had to be done on-site. But now, you can outsource that work to powerful machines accessible from anywhere.

Digital Twins & Digital As-Builts

It is becoming more common for construction firms to use digital twins. They are digital replicas of physical objects that give real-time data during all construction and maintenance phases. This data can predict carbon footprints, simulate scenarios, and collect real-time data from installed sensors.

Building owners collect data about the design and construction of their buildings using digital twins and as-builts. It helps them make faster decisions about things like the cost of operations and maintenance. On-site, digital twins and as-builts let you predict things like how much material and labor will be needed.

The Next Wave of Technological Breakthroughs in the Construction Industry

AI and Machine Learning for Construction Workflows

The three most important aspects of an optimized construction workflow are communication, data, and transparency. Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes it easier to succeed in all three areas by automating tasks, analyzing data, and providing transparency to construction projects.

Machine learning is helping construction professionals optimize their workflows and make better decisions. And predictive analytics is quickly becoming a standard tool in the construction industry. Machine learning can help companies understand future outcomes by looking at past data and making predictions. You can develop plans and make informed decisions based on this information.

Resource and Workforce Management Software

Managing resources and construction workers is a significant expense for construction companies. Managing the workforce well can help companies keep things running smoothly, get the most out of resources, and avoid unexpected construction costs and delays.

Today, more companies are using software platforms to make their workers more efficient and help them take better actions. It includes companies that have remote, on-site, large, or small workforces.

Predictive tracking, forecasting, and mobile-first interfaces are some of the latest innovations in workforce management solutions. With these solutions, many manual processes associated with resource management are eliminated.

3D Printing for Construction

Construction is poised for a revolution thanks to 3D printing. This technology can change how we build, making construction faster, easier, and more efficient.

So far, 3D printing has created concrete structures, brick walls, metal beams, and even glass windows. We will see more homes and buildings printed using 3D printers in the future.

This technology is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to change the construction industry completely. Future developments of this technology will be interesting to watch.

Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and the Metaverse

The Metaverse is a virtual world created by converging augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the internet. It is a shared, online environment where people can interact with each other and with digital content.

In the construction industry, AR and VR create immersive experiences for training and safety purposes. For example, AR can overlay instructions onto a construction site. Building a virtual model of a construction site is possible with the help of VR.

Despite its infancy, the Metaverse promises to revolutionize our lives and work. In the future, we will see more AR and VR applications in the construction industry.

Sensor Data in Improving Construction Processes

Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are growing in the construction industry. The sensors collect data on the construction process, which improves safety, efficiency, and quality.

Construction will use more sensors in the future, and the data collected will be used to create digital twins of construction projects. Digital twins improve construction processes and help make better decisions.

Truly Connected Construction

The data, workflows, and technology are connected when construction is connected. It allows everyone to share information and makes it easier for people to make daily decisions or as part of a long-term plan. Connecting construction is the answer for companies that want their people to make the most informed decisions possible.

Advanced Takeoff and Estimating Tools

Today, some tools can help you do quantity takeoffs and estimates more quickly and accurately. You don’t have to use spreadsheets anymore. These tools are called advanced takeoff and estimating tools.

Modern takeoff and estimating solutions work in the cloud, allowing you to view and manage bids from anywhere. These tools also help connect data and project teams on one platform, leading to better collaboration. And thanks to automation and 3D visualization, you can work faster, produce competitive bids, and ultimately win more work.

Robertson Paredes

SafetyCulture staff writer

Rob Paredes

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.