- Using tablets instead of printed drawings
- Using laser scanning instead of tape measurers
- Bringing VR into the process
- Benefits of using technology in the field of construction
- Understanding how technology has changed the field
- The future of technology in construction
Skill Level Beginner
- The concept of leveraging technology to improve the construction process has been around since the days of the early mainframe computers. The construction industry adopted fax machines when they came out, and we used the early computers to improve accounting and to use some of the early spreadsheet and word processing programs. And some of us even tried using digitizers to speed up estimating. But with just a few exceptions, we haven't been real quick in the construction industry to adopt much technology out there in the field.
My name's Jim Rogers, and I've been around to see quite a few of the advances that we've made in construction thanks to technology. And I've also seen and experienced some of the troubles that we tend to have when it comes to adopting change, particularly out there in the field. Let's face it, we've had digital drawings around for a while now, but most job sites I visit still have people walking around with those big rolls of paper drawings. And even though most of us are carrying around our smartphones and we use them for all kinds of things, how many of us are really taking advantage of them and using them to access construction documents or file our daily reports? It's an interesting time for technology in construction.
We've had so many advances over such a short period of time that we're starting to see a huge range when it comes to levels of adoption. There are some companies out there that are all in when it comes to going digital, even for their field personnel. And on the flip side, there are a few out there that are still struggling to work with spreadsheets and even trying to figure out how to share files. And then we've got everything in between. These days, we're being bombarded with all kinds of ideas for using high-tech software and devices in the field.
Now, some of this technology is really tried and tested, and it's ready to be adopted. And some looks like it shows great promise, we just haven't quite worked out all the bugs and figured out how to implement it. One thing's for sure, though. Technology is here to stay. And I can say with certainty that it's poised to have a big impact on the construction industry. I had the opportunity to visit a good-sized construction project where they really embraced technology and they worked hard to leverage it and improve all aspects of the project, safety, quality, and productivity.
And they're doing this on a big scale throughout the entire project, not just testing some ideas on small pieces of the work. This is a great example of how technology can be implemented on the job site in a very successful way. This is a new nine-story patient tower located on an exiting hospital campus, where they figured out how to use the information in the three-dimensional building information, or BIM, model that was created by the design team to help them lay out virtually everything on the project.
And they speed this process up by feeding all of that digital information into a robotic total station, to locate not just the building corners but all the slab penetrations and blockouts on every floor. Then they verify all this layout, not with a tape measure, but with a laser scanner that not only collects and analyzes millions of data points in minutes, but it feeds all that information back to the BIM model to give the facility owner the ultimate in as-built drawings.
No one on this job carries paper drawings. When the iron workers are out erecting the structural steel, they consult the digital drawings on their tablet, ensuring that they have the absolute latest revisions, even if those changes just happened. Oh, and the contractor is also taking advantage of virtual reality, to walk through the construction process virtually before the work's done in the field, so rework is kept to an absolute minimum. Let's take a look at how some of this is being done, and let's hear from some of those field and management personnel about how this is all working in real life.