Of all the sectors assuaged with complications of inventory and process, the construction sector presents a sizeable opportunity for digital technology. In the UK, the leading construction body, CITB, are stepping into this frontier with a clear message: the coming five years of digitisation presents a major acceleration or deceleration period.

A March 2019 report “Evolution or revolution” paints a hopeful picture, should efforts towards digitalisation in in construction characterise the decisive agenda for the next five years. Ensuring that the pace of technological change informs the rate of skilling provides the relative speed of change, also informing the promised Construction Leadership Council’s Future Skills Plan.

Digital technology stands to have a relatively greater effect in less-automated sectors, more so than others which already larger make the most of robotics. Instead of sweeping away jobs, the idea is that humans paired with technology will help construction improve on thin profit margins. An update in digital standards shall also acting as a pathway to increasing the appeal of the sector as a place of continuous learning, while also improving on-site safety and mental wellness.

The report doesn’t get into the practical details about curriculum and training, but rather outlines the conditions or backdrop needed to scaffold change. A consensus around just what a digital future for construction means is vital, as well as a means to define the skills it requires. These aspects coincide or act as forerunners for the sector’s ability to practice collaboration across companies. Digital technology and mobile hardware will also equip supervisors and managers with the information to take calculated risks sooner.

Some mediums offer promise:

Social media can help with the collaboration component, ensuring that best practices can be distributed at low cost to other contractors. The question of quality and how to get to a best practice still looms, as well as whether the medium is best place to share views on topics that influence the safety of workers and building occupants. Augmented and and virtual reality can also introduce workers to learning resources that are far more engaging and realistic and are become more accessible even with a low-fidelity hardware setup.

Sensors stand a chance of improving the efficiency of facility management and the build process itself. Offsite construction can simplify the house-building process by compiling modular blocks to be erected at low cost. Perhaps the most exciting and also the most controversial are the impact of drones which, when used properly, will support site management and improve safety standards, especially in hard-to-reach places.

Download and read the full “Evolution or revolution” PDF (9 pages)