Emerging construction technologies offer construction firms a variety of benefits, ranging from reduced labour and materials costs to shorter project timelines, higher product quality and improved worker safety. They can also contribute to broader economic and social benefits, such as lower building and infrastructure costs, reduced environmental impacts and longer careers for construction workers.
A recent report commissioned by the NAIOP Research Foundation explores emerging construction technologies and their implications for the construction and real estate development industries. The report details the current market for advanced technologies, and highlights emerging tools that have shown promise but have only begun to gain a foothold in the commercial real estate and construction markets, including:
Additive Manufacturing. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a process of manufacturing objects using 3-D model data by printing each successive layer. In the future, for example, building fixtures (plumbing and electrical) may be printed on-site. This could reduce industry supply-chain complexity, delays and costs, and increase customization.
Mass Timber. Mass timber is an engineered wood product manufactured by binding boards of wood together with adhesives to form composite panels that vary in size. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) combines wood construction benefits with those of steel and concrete construction, providing strength and reducing material use and labor costs.
Robotics. Demolition robots, 3-D printing robots, drones, bricklaying robots, welding robots, exoskeleton suit robots, forklift robots, repaving robots, painting robots or humanoid robots all have the potential to enhance labor productivity, improve construction quality, increase workplace safety, expand modes of operation and reduce material waste.
Autonomous Construction Vehicles. Autonomous construction vehicles can perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks on a construction site with increased productivity, efficiency and safety. These vehicles can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are smaller and more robust than human-operated ones. In contrast, skilled operators can focus on more challenging tasks to increase productivity.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Having accurate and timely information is extremely important, and UAVs, commonly known as drones, provide an excellent platform to gather high-quality data in a relatively short period with good levels of accuracy. With drone data, it is easy to document field conditions and perform large-scale analysis, which can help avoid conflicts, coordination issues and quality problems.
Augmented and Virtual Reality. Augmented reality can be a viable tool during construction operations for on-demand information retrieval, safety monitoring, and construction quality control and inspection. The application of augmented reality can significantly improve productivity, prevent delays caused by waiting for information acquisition and provide training opportunities to prepare workers for the actual jobsite.