Can you imagine a day when you walk past a construction site and see a high-rise building going up…without any human laborers at the site? No, it’s not the latest sci-fi series on Netflix (although it could be—call us, Netflix); this is the real world, in the not-so-distant future. Last year, Balfour Beatty of London issued a prediction that thanks to the rapid growth of construction technology, we are likely to see human-free construction sites by 2050. However, just this month, ForConstructionPros.com upped that prediction to as early as 2025—less than ten years away!
A decade ago, the idea of fully autonomous building construction by machines was definitely the stuff of The Jetsons—something we could envision only in a cartoon, “maybe someday” kind of sense. But now, technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that experts can now see a viable path toward humanless build sites, right alongside self-driving automobiles. Whether or not we see that particular benchmark come to pass, there’s no denying that technology is revolutionizing the way our industry works. From the use of drones to 3D printing, from building information modeling (BIM) to augmented reality (AR), technology is enabling us to build high-quality structures with greater speed, greater accuracy and higher levels of safety than ever before. We may discuss specific advances in later posts, but for now let’s look at just a few ways modern construction tech is making our jobs easier.
Internet and Mobile Devices
More business is being done on-site via tablets and smartphones than ever before, with teams being able to collaborate and coordinate instantaneously via Internet connectivity. Blueprint apps are rapidly replacing the large, cumbersome physical drawings we used to use. GPS technology enables us to survey sites with stunning levels of accuracy compared to older, conventional methods. Our location desks piled with paperwork are now being reduced to devices we can hold in our hands—and those devices in turn connect us with the rest of the world.
Construction management software platforms now enable us to coordinate multiple teams on multiple projects from any location, with instantaneous communication and updates reducing the risk of error. From project management to accounting, technology helps us stay on the same page, on target, in compliance and in budget.
Construction tech is also helping us make our job sites and our workers safer, from drone monitoring to halo lights to “smart headsets” and more. Responsive clothing can now monitor a worker’s body temperature and heat or cool them accordingly; safety gloves are being designed to resist punctures, saw blades and even hammer strikes!
Will we one day see human-free construction sites? Only time will tell, although recent advances make the prospect more likely than ever—and if it does happen, we’ll have the inevitable discussion about what happens to our jobs. One thing is clear for now: Construction technology is speeding up, not slowing down, which means our industry will likely look much different in the next 10 years or so than it does today.