Unlearn and Relearn!
Technology

Unlearn and Relearn!

The adoption of construction technologies can help future-proof businesses in the post-COVID era, writes HARISH MV.  Real estate is the second largest employer in India and contributes about 8 per cent of the country’s GDP. COVID-19 has ushered in a new, no...

The adoption of construction technologies can help future-proof businesses in the post-COVID era, writes HARISH MV.  Real estate is the second largest employer in India and contributes about 8 per cent of the country’s GDP. COVID-19 has ushered in a new, non-linear operating environment across all industries, including the construction industry. The landscape for this sector has changed rapidly over the past several months as issues with the supply chain and shortage of labour have impacted operations and timelines. On the other hand, site safety, which has always been paramount, has only increased in prominence. The need to adopt technologyIn this scenario, there is a need to accelerate the pace of technology adoption to not just speed up construction processes but drive other tangible and exponential benefits for this sector. The opportunities for shorter schedules, improved safety, reduced environmental impact and overall cost savings are tremendous and it is time for discussions on construction technology to move from boardrooms to execution.It is important to view construction technologies from two different lenses: core technologies and enabling technologies.Core technologies Here are some examples:Building information management: A lot has been discussed about building information management over the years. Increasing sophistication of digital tools is facilitating the planning, construction and delivery of projects to the next level. For example, integration with other technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and geographic information services presents an opportunity for planners to assess the land and surrounding elements on a construction site, saving hours of manual processes.Precast/prefabricated construction technology: Building components are built offsite and assembled once they have been transported to the construction site. This not only saves time but helps reduce material and labour costs to a great extent, apart from reducing dependency on the available workforce and weather conditions.Drywall systems: Interior walls are undergoing a change with the use of drywall systems, concrete and other precast panels. These systems have gained rapid adoption with wall construction becoming faster, easier and cleaner on site. This also reduces the requirement of a large labour force while enhancing the quality of the finished product. Enabling technologies These include:VR: Virtual reality can be used to monitor site progress with real-time, actionable insights to improve jobsite productivity and to visualise spaces from any location, avoiding travel to sites, saving time and cost.Internet of Things (IoT): IoT on a construction site allows construction machinery, equipment, materials, structures and even formwork to ‘connect’ to a central data platform to capture critical performance parameters and enhance site safety.Bots and drones: These machines serve as highly efficient force-multipliers—taking a job that would require dozens of hours of labour or serving sites that are dangerous for workers. Hence, they make existing operations safer, easier and more efficient. With Cloud computing and connected devices, these machines can route data back to command centres in real time, opening a new world of opportunities for data analysis at a dramatically higher rate. Wearables and site sensors: Wearables are used to track workers and their surroundings to make the workplace safer. Wearable gear—hard hats, gloves, safety vests, work boots—is now widely used on building sites. Site sensors can be installed on a construction site to monitor temperature, noise levels, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds to help reduce workers’ exposure.The underlying theme of the technological revolution in the ‘next normal’ will revolve around creating business models that will survive in a ‘contactless’ society. Adoption of technologies will only accelerate from here on, future-proofing businesses against pandemics. In the current scenario, it is imperative that forward-looking leaders adopt technology to make construction sites safer, increase productivity, improve collaboration and help tackle more complex projects. The current pandemic presents an opportunity for industry leaders to un-learn and re-learn to meet the changing dynamics of the industry. Indeed, it is time for the technology agenda in the construction sector to change from ‘should we?’ to ‘how soon?’.About the author: Harish MV, Managing Director – Project and Development Services (PDS), India, and Board Member – PDS (Global), JLL, has been with the company for the past two decades. He brings over three decades of experience in diverse real-estate services in India, serving a wide range of clients, including multinationals, banks, developers, industrial manufacturing organisations and not-for-profits. He was instrumental in implementing the first SOP manual for PDS in India during his early days at JLL. He also started the Construction Management business in 2006, making JLL the first international property sonsultant to provide such services in India. 

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