What are the five construction trends for 2020?

Over the last few decades, technology has created a path for major transformations in numerous industries. From Uber in the taxi industry to Netflix in the movie rental industry, there’s no slowing technological advancements down. However, there’s one industry that’s been named the least digitised sector in Europe; Construction.

But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Our industry is ever-evolving and has seen the creation of all sorts of technological innovations in recent years, designed to combat some of the most common day-to-day challenges that workers face.

Therefore, as we head into a new decade - there’s no time like the present to take a look at the construction industry trends for 2020...

1. Can drone technology speed up onsite design?

Already mentioned as one of the hottest trends in past years, it looks like drones are here to stay.
In the construction industry, one of the major challenges facing contractors is labour shortage. This has led companies to explore the use of drone technology as a construction tool.

These unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with photo and video cameras can capture a project’s progress from 400 ft. above the ground and collect all the relevant data. They are unique in that they can effectively and efficiently access remote locations, survey sites, complete safety inspections and much more. The ability to carry out this data collection in a fraction of the time of previous methods means that onsite development is sped up, something which can’t be ignored in an industry with high levels of project delays. And, let’s not forget, as this isn’t a new concept, the decreasing cost of drones is also likely to increase their usage in the coming years.

2. Collaboration can reduce time and money

Not only is digital transforming cities, it is also transforming the way construction companies run their businesses. We can say that the industry is getting onboard the moving technology train by quickly incorporating game changing technologies into operations to increase safety, reduce operational costs, provide innovative solutions to customers, and find competitive advantages with real-time insights that can change project outcomes.

One way in which businesses can do this, is through cloud collaboration – a way of sharing computer files through the use of cloud computing. Cloud collaboration tools help to connect project teams and phases. This enables secure and reliable collaboration, while everyone benefits from the same data, increasing communication and decreasing mistakes.

3. Augmented reality solutions

Similarly to drones, Augmented Reality (AR) is nothing new, but it’s offering is. More and more companies are using Business Information Modeling (BIM) with augmented reality to make 3D blueprints come alive. Uploading a BIM model into an AR software and using a pair of AR glasses allows workers to have full-scale walkthroughs of the plan – this is key to unlocking more understanding and control of what needs to be done before the first nail is hammered on a construction project.

Basically, AR projects a digital layer of information onto the user's field of view, something Virtual Reality doesn’t provide. For example, as the digital model is overlaid on the actual site, workers get to see the parts of the structure as they are intended to be installed. They can then judge the overall design and decide if any reinforcements or modifications are needed. 

4. The internet of things is transforming data in construction

One of the growing trends in the construction industry is IoT as this technology can help improve worker safety, maintenance, and tool tracking. IoT is made up of devices that connect to the internet and share data with each other. Obviously, ‘Devices’ can mean anything, so we’re not just talking about computers, laptops and smartphones, but any object that has been fitted with a chip to gather and transfer data over the internet. This could mean anything from household devices such as washing machines and hair dryers to machinery.

As well as enhancing efficiency and safety, information gathered via sensors sets the scene for the ability to use big data – machine learning and artificial intelligence. This can then assist the planning of future projects, and enables construction workers to make more accurate predictions of every aspect of the project, from finances to the resources required.

5. self-healing concrete - how does it work?

On a construction site, there’s a minimal chance that you wouldn’t come across concrete. It’s a fantastic material, with multiple uses, however it can deteriorate over time; drying out and cracking as it grows weaker over the years. Considering it is one of the most extensively used products in the industry, this idea of an ‘advanced material’ is a giant step which could see a lot of time saved.

The premise is that self-healing concrete heals itself when it meets the air, the water that is then mixed produces the outer protective layer. It’s been predicted that by 2030 we'll be using 5 billion metric tonnes of this advanced material throughout the industry. Therefore, who knows if self-healing concrete could be making an appearance on roads, buildings and homes near you soon.

Finally, it’s evident that the engineering and construction industry plays an integral role in building the future of the modern world and so, seeing the potential of these trends is an eye opener of what’s to come. And, as we move towards the next dramatic shift in technology, it’s reassuring that this industry may not be as behind as previously perceived.