From BIM to IoT, What’s Next?
Construction has come a long way in accepting the challenges and the opportunities the IoT (Internet of Things) brings and the stats tell an interesting story. Dodge Data & Analytics’, www.construction.com, latest Dodge outlook report predicts moderate, but favorable, growth for the construction industry in 2017 across most project types. Specifically, the report predicts total U.S. construction starts will advance 5% to $713 billion in 2017.
This follows a deceleration last year in 2016, which was a bit sobering after the industry has enjoyed several years of steady growth. Dodge highlights growth in single family housing (12%), commercial building (6%), institutional building (10%), manufacturing plant construction (6%), and public works construction (6%). Other categories, however, may decline, such as electric utilities and gas plant construction, which Dodge expects to fall 29% in 2017. So now that you have a sense of the industry prospects for the year, perhaps there is no better time to consider why the construction industry needs the IoT (Internet of Things).
McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com, compiled some data that is perfect for illustrating the point. According to McKinsey’s data, large construction projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled, and they’re typically over budget—up to 80% over budget, in fact.
This isn’t a surprise to most of you; cost and schedule overruns are frighteningly normal. Unfortunately, labor productivity in construction has not kept pace with overall economic productivity, according to McKinsey’s data. However, there are so many ways technology is disrupting the construction space in a positive way, and perhaps we just might see a day when construction can be on the leading cusp of adoption and innovation.
One persistent trend in construction is BIM (building information modeling), which continues to combine non-graphical information with graphical information to create a more three-dimensional view of a project.
What’s new and noteworthy about BIM are the more advanced iterations of this trend.
These include 4D BIM, which integrates scheduling information with BIM data, and 5D BIM, which integrates both scheduling and cost estimates into shared BIM data sets. In the case of 5D BIM, this “five dimensional” representation of a project is valuable because it more completely and accurately encapsulates design intent, including what a project will cost and how long it will take.
By giving project stakeholders the ability to visualize and evaluate projects—from appearance to price, schedule, and constructability—at an early stage, 5D BIM creates opportunity for stakeholders to identify risks and make better decisions.
In the future, this trend will go much farther. First, we’re already talking about 6D BIM, the next step in the trend evolution that incorporates facilities management data. This will unlock further value throughout a project’s lifecycle. Also, augmented reality technology will make 5D or 6D BIM even more attractive by allowing stakeholders to interact with information models in new and exciting ways.
Another trend that is starting to have an impact is digital collaboration. I too agree with McKinsey that the industry still has a poor productivity record relying on paper to manage processes and deliverables—from blueprints, design drawings, procurement and supply-chain orders to equipment logs, daily progress reports, and punch lists.
The benefits of realtime data over static, paper documents can’t be stressed enough.
Information sharing is crucial in construction, since project members are rarely in the same room with each other. And if information isn’t being shared in realtime, companies take the very real risk that team members are working off of different versions of the same project.
With digital collaboration technologies, however, construction companies can leverage cloud and mobility solutions to increase transparency, speed processes, reduce risk, and minimize errors.
The availability of sophisticated, low-cost connected devices and apps designed for construction workflows has made digital collaboration much more accessible for the construction industry.
Data, leading to analytics, is another trend in construction worth mentioning here. The IoT is making construction assets “smart,” resulting in an influx of data that can be analyzed for all kinds of amazing purposes that benefit construction companies in myriad ways. For instance, imagine a construction jobsite in which the machinery, equipment, materials, structures, and employees are outfitted with sensors that talk to each other and to a central database.
Construction companies deploying IoT devices to monitor vehicle use, to keep track of employees, to proactively maintain the health of machines, and more are becoming more successful. These capabilities can open doors to cutting costs, prolonging the life of machinery and equipment, encouraging employee productivity, and increasing safety on the jobsite.
Consider wearables here and their potential in increasing worker safety on the jobsite.
Jobsite safety is something all of you are painfully worried about. While there have been many high-profile incidents at the jobsite already, there’s no need to mention them here again. Wearables can’t necessarily make unsafe jobsites safe, but the point is that tech tools are going to become an increasingly important part of how your construction firm can monitor workers on the jobsite in an effort to protect them. However, we will need to see prices come down drastically before that can happen. The point is tech is changing the construction, but the real question is whether you are changing fast enough to keep pace.