There’s never been a better time for construction. Demand for housing and business premises is high. Design, functionality and material options have also diversified and evolved. All in all, it should be a boom time for the industry. Nevertheless, in the last decade, demand has not been met. This is largely due to the ramifications of the 2008 financial crash, which had a severe impact on public spending. The global crisis also put the brakes on much private investment.
Fortunately, the sector seems to be recovering from this slump. And, while opportunities abound, the construction industry faces a considerable challenge when it comes to resource management.
In particular, the industry is working on its green credentials in areas like supply, sourcing, materials storage, and use. Additionally, it’s rethinking approaches to recycling, use of renewables, and waste disposal.
Below are some of the areas which have seen the greatest changes over the last decade.
CAD has long been a part of design-construction processes, but its uses have been fine-tuned over the last decade. It’s now routinely deployed to reduce ‘interferences’ – where the design of separate systems competes for the same physical space.
It’s also enhanced the efficiency of the design cycle. CAD now identifies areas where construction can be simplified, and consequently, job hours can be reduced.
Moreover, the software aids logistics by alerting project managers when a component is required. That way, it arrives when needed without spending time stored onsite.
A century ago, only a tenth of the population lived in urban areas. Now, half the world’s population lives in large, sprawling cities. It would be logical to conclude that concentrated need for construction would create more efficiency and sustainability.
But, this is far from the case. Cities generate enormous amounts of non-renewables and create most built-environment pollution. The challenge is to manage this inevitable growth while mitigating the consumption of resources.
To that end, more and more new buildings are being constructed ‘SMART’. That means optimised for minimal energy use and readiness for clean, renewable energy sources. Security and quality of life are also key. That includes higher-quality air circulation, water sourcing and insulation.
All systems need to ‘talk’ to each other, machine to machine. For instance, if a heating system can get data on weather and regulate energy usage, it can maintain a constant temperature. EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and the IoT (Internet of Things) will harvest vast amounts of data from sensors and other devices.
Building managers and technicians will then be able to act on that data; adjusting performance, tracking results and detecting any potential issues. Prevention of problems rather than reactive responses is the guiding principle behind this undertaking.
Construction requires management of a complex set of resources before, during, and after the building phase.
Over the last decade, this area has seen a series of innovations designed to minimise the environmental impact of the build. These measures build on existing project principles and include:
- Fast-tracking – reducing the overall time spent on a construction project by overlapping certain tasks which would otherwise be done consecutively.
- Inventory management – placing emphasis on digitalisation so that inventory is kept low and projects work on the ‘Just In Time’ model.
- Climate resilience – preparing for more extreme weather conditions that are likely to be exhibited. The BREEAM master-planning method is high on the agenda for any self-respecting construction project nowadays.
The pressure is intense on constructors to ensure construction practices respond to the associated climate change risks. That being said, the construction industry is adapting rapidly towards a model of creating more sustainable environments. It’s also recognising and acting on its obligation to protect natural resources and use (and reuse) resources responsibly.