Innovation in Construction

It has now been two years since I’ve become a monthly contributor to this wonderfully informative publication and so far I’ve focused my research on pre-construction from the consumer’s point of view. This month I’ve decided to switch gears a little bit and check out the innovative technology that has been influencing the other side of the transaction—the builders.

While the majority of the tools listed below have yet to be used in mainstream construction, they are bound to eventually have a major influence on quality of build, worker safety and cost of development.

Robots and Drones

Drones are already in use by many construction firms and their popularity is only bound to soar. With many potential applications at hand, these small flying objects can be used in many capacities. Tracking equipment on construction sites, topographic mapping (drones can reduce this cost by approximately 95 per cent!), site security surveillance, and something we see in many condo projects – aerial view shots for marketing to consumers—just to name a few.

Construction robots are not quite as widely used yet but many types of robots are currently in design stages, with potential to help solve the issue of labor shortage. These robots can be used for factory jobs to repeat a single task of manufacturing parts, they can be used in a collaborative manner in assisting human workers on a job site by carrying tools or heavy machinery, or they can be fully autonomous and perform entire tasks on their own.

Augmented Reality

This is the coolest one in my opinion­— this technology would give builders the ability to see structures and components of a project in real time before they actually exist! By using a device with augmented reality abilities (smart phone, iPad, special glasses), builders can view a job site with additional information projected directly on top of the real view.

For example, a construction worker could point an iPhone at an empty wall and the technology would show the plans that have been programmed there as if already completed, displaying the kitchen design or perhaps the outline of electrical lines that need to be installed.

This can help workers follow building plans more accurately, therefore saving time and costs. This can also help visualize modifications without performing the actual work, again saving time and costs. The future of augmented reality will likely rely on special glasses, which would then offer hands-free access to this information at all times.

Worker Safety

Construction is one of the riskiest industries to work in. Many injuries and deaths are reported every year, resulting from falls and equipment malfunction. Integrating technology into personal protective equipment offers added safety for workers, potentially preventing these catastrophic consequences across the industry.

Some of this wearable technology is already in use today—smart hard hats that can detect episodes of “microsleeps” resulting from sleep deprivation which puts workers at risk of injury; smart boots that can alert of risk of a collision with nearby construction vehicles equipped with sensors; smart watches and other monitors that check for fatigue and enable contact tracing.

Taking it a level higher, there are also construction exoskeletons. These suites truly look like something out of a sci-fi movie – full body armour with motorized joints that provide extra support and power during repetitive movements like bending, lifting and grabbing. These wearable machines are gaining traction as a tool to reduce injuries and increase efficiency.

Well, I’m feeling pretty inspired from all of this innovation! Hopefully these amazing new devices will become widely available and used in mainstream construction sooner rather than later and help bring down construction costs, therefore making the housing prices in Canada more attainable.