Like many people, this time last year I was writing about the changes that are taking place in construction and the ways in which technology and environmentalism are taking centre stage in an industry that is normally thought of as small ‘c’ conservative and traditional.
In many ways, construction still is a traditional business, with architects designing buildings and builders, engineers and a raft of trades then putting them together. Like most industries, the practitioners of construction prefer not to think how the advancement of science might make them redundant, but, while I think wholesale automation is still some way off, there is no doubt that the speed of change is increasing.
This is evident in the rash of ‘what’s coming in 2020’ articles that have been hitting our in-boxes in the last month or so. Interviewed for pbctoday, the Technical Director of Gilbert Ash, Finbarr McMeel, believes that “the construction industry is in a time of unprecedented change (and) the advancement in ConTech solutions has been transformational in how we go about our business.” Citing BIM, AR, Geospatial, Acoustic Simulators, Drones and Generative Design, he concludes “we are only at the beginning of this exciting journey.”
Other articles looking into 2020 make similar predictions. The expectation is that there will be a lot more use of data, driven by a cross-sector awareness of their value in helping us to develop the built environment more responsibly and sustainably. Mace’s senior BIM adviser Marzia Bolpagni, interviewed for Building magazine, also stresses that “we must all be more vocal about linking data and digital technology adoption to the delivery of targets like the net-zero carbon 2050 strategy.”
The two articles mentioned here are both from the UK. However, we know that a lot of trends in industry tend to come across the Atlantic, so I thought it would be instructive to have a look at what the Americans are doing today, on the grounds that we are likely to be doing it tomorrow. That’s going to come in a follow-up blog tomorrow, but first, let’s look at the size and scale of the Contech market.
According to the worldwide consultancy Roland Berger, since 1999, Contech has grown massively in value, with a total of 4.1 billion USD invested globally. This includes $2.1BN of Project Management, $534M of BIM, $421M of Connectivity, $161M of Smart Equipment and $124M of AR/VR. By any standards, these are large numbers and they are only going to grow.
Three of the above trends in particular were identified by Roland Berger for 2020. These are expected to increase rapidly in size and importance. They are: Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality in both new build and renovation work. Smart Equipment, as noted above, accounts for $161M and this comprises, amongst other things, asset tracking, robotics and solutions for field inspection. Finally, Connectivity, with $421 m in total funding, covers various field management solutions such as task management, progress tracking and safety-related software. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, the potential for further developments are amazing and will, over time, be genuinely transformational.
Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment