The construction industry has not experienced the same growth as the manufacturing industry has over the last 20 years. In fact, construction has grown at around a quarter of the rate of manufacturing. The $8.8 trillion global industry needs to turn to technology solutions beyond construction management software.
According to PwC, drone-powered solutions will replace $127 billion worth of services and solutions, and $45 billion of that will be in the construction industry alone. Meanwhile, the AR/VR market should hit $108 billion by 2021. And report after report from the last few years cited an increase in the use and ROI on building information modeling (BIM) in the construction industry.
Technology has the potential to streamline building design and project processes — saving architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals a lot of time and money. Get ready for everything from immersive AR/VR experiences to construction exoskeletons revolutionizing the construction industry.
According to the Soluis Group, a visualization specialist company, virtual reality equipment will improve the construction process at every stage, from concept through completion. The Soluis Group is working with an industry-steering group that includes Microsoft and Autodesk to develop the Augmented Worker System (AWE).
Having recently debuted at the Digital Construction Week, AWE will “drive greater certainty, safety, efficiency and sustainability through five key areas — co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance and asset management.” Microsoft HoloLens, a holographic headset, will free workers from the constraints of mobile devices and computers while improving real-time, on-site visualization.
Holographic headsets have the potential to decrease the overall cost of construction projects by aiding in virtual design and construction prior to real-world applications. A variety of software applications integrate with headsets to help users design in virtual reality.
SketchUp, a popular 3D modeling and design tool, is increasingly utilized in the construction industry. This general-purpose CAD software program helps construction companies save time and money by modeling highly detailed virtual mockups in place of physical mockups. Meanwhile, SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft HoloLens lets users immerse themselves into a project at its true scale.
SketchUp is commonly used in both large scale commercial and residential projects. The following images by Fat Pencil Studio and BrockWorks showcase the project phasing step for a large project and the framing step for a residential project.
Image: Courtesy of SketchUp created by Fat Pencil Studio
Image: Courtesy of SketchUp created by BrockWorks
“I currently use SketchUp in the design of buildings,” reads a SketchUp review by Mauricio L. “I work with a high level of detailing of prefabricated components, and the software helps me to visualize the working design and solve its problems. I can keep records of these components quantities and, with third-party extensions, generate reports that lead to cost analysis.”
Oculus Medium is an immersive AR/VR tool that allows users to create, sculpt, model and paint designs in the real world. A 3D modeling software program, Oculus Medium allows builders to design and build virtually by aid of the Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch controllers.
VR modeling helps companies improve construction site safety by virtually experiencing the site and determining the tools they need to complete a project before they even step foot on site. This is especially helpful if the site is, say, a skyscraper. IrisVR can convert 3D plans into VR experiences, with building design and information modeling or BIM software. Workers can determine how to proceed safely and efficiently in virtual reality design before stepping foot or breaking ground on the work site.
With HoloBuilder, engineers and builders can create virtual tours of construction sites, collaborate on projects and explore any aspect of a project at any moment in time. Users can create a 360-degree construction site views by taking 360-degree photographs with their smartphones. Builders, contractors and stakeholders can tour any construction site with the aid of the HoloBuilder JobWalk app on a smartphone attached to a 360-degree camera.
Image: Courtesy of HoloBuilder Inc.
“The HoloBuilder team believes projects can improve performance at all phases of construction when information is organized by location and time, and securely accessible to the right person.” — Mostafa Akbari, CEO and Founder of HoloBuilder, Inc.
Image: Courtesy of HoloBuilder Inc.
Wearables take on a whole new meaning as construction exoskeletons. Unpowered exoskeletons enable construction workers to lift heavy objects and reduce the potential for injury on the job. The vests weigh about 9.5 pounds and provides 5–15 pounds of vertical lift per arm.
Image: Courtesy of Ekso Bionics’ EksoZeroG
In addition to wearables reducing the strain construction work takes on a workers’ bodies, smart sensors improve safety. They can track workers’ movements to report and measure injuries, as well as measure environmental stresses and the need for infrastructure upkeep.
To get in on the ground floor, builders, engineers and contractors can work with wearable app development companies to create industry-specific tools for use in-house and on-site, or with internet of things (IoT) developers to design and build smart devices and mobile apps. Wearable apps go hand in hand with IoT devices to optimize performance, provide analytics and streamline daily tasks.
(BIM) software can help contractors and builders understand large sets of data — that is what the “I” stands for, after all. Meaningful information derived from complex data will help companies make informed decisions. Big data has the potential to improve productivity, worker safety and efficiency — AEC professionals just need to understand it.
Just think of all the data that already exists in old plans and records of everything that is already built. This historical data might be used to determine if a new project is viable and track the potential for success. It can also be used to find ways to build more efficiently, helping to save time and money.
With all this new technology — from smartphones with thermal imaging that locate potential leaks and electrical issues, to drones that scan built environments and beam data directly to the cloud — sophisticated software is pivotal in sorting through all that data.
If you’re a researcher, educator, AR hobbyist or just AR-curious, be sure to check out ARToolKit. A software library for building AR applications that layer virtual imagery on to the real world, ARToolKit enables the easy development of a wide range of AR applications. Be the first user to write an ARToolKit review today.
If you use any of these solutions, please consider writing a review on G2 Crowd. Your experience with construction-related software will help potential users gain the insight they need to make an informed decision.