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Technology is impacting the construction industry like never before. From cloud-based collaboration and the development of digital twins to robots, super-materials, wearable tech, pollution-eating buildings, and even artificial intelligence an incredible array of developments are helping to improve a sector that shapes how every human being on Earth is able to live their lives. Find here the top 27 emerging trends in civil engineering to watch in 2020.
Emerging Trends in Civil Engineering Impacting the Construction Industry
Emerging construction technology isn’t just a fad or a fun new toy. There are real, practical applications and benefits to modernizing your current processes.
Construction companies want to remain competitive and not be left behind, they are finding ways to integrate new approaches into their strategy and workflows.
These cutting-edge technologies in construction are drastically changing how the industry operates and how future projects will be performed. Below is the list of the top emerging trends in civil engineering.
Recent Trends In Civil Engineering Technology
- Building Information Modelling (BIM)
- Cloud And Mobile Technology
- Drones Or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
- Virtual Reality
- Augmented Reality
- 3D Printing
- Artificial Intelligence
- The Connected Jobsite
- Autonomous Vehicles
- Advanced Materials
- The Intelligent Built Environment
- Machine Learning
- Predictive Analytics
- Construction Software And Data Ecosystem
- Self Healing Concrete
- Advance Uses Of GPS
- New Effective Scanning Solutions
- Timber Constructions
- Wearable Technology
- Smart Building
- Modular Construction And 3D Printed Dwellings
- Smart Buildings
- Connected Homes
- Home Analytics
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Increased prefabrication, modularization, and eco-friendliness. BIM is similar to CAD (computer-aided design), but not exactly the same. It is software for 3D design to digitally model what will be built.
But it’s capabilities don’t stop there: “It doesn’t just create a visually appealing 3D model of the building, it also creates numerous layers of metadata and renders them within a collaborative workflow,” writes Engineering.com. It captures things in a way that paper just can’t.
30 to 35% of builders are currently using BIM/CAD software. The use of BIM provides space for better collaboration because each person and expertise area can add their piece to the same model, instead of breaking out onto multiple versions of a 2D paper drawing.
This way, the model evolves immediately as people contribute, streamlining the process and increasing efficiency. BIM also helps with problem-solving in the design and planning stages of a project, by automating clash detection and providing a more complete picture of the project.
Cloud & Mobile Technology
Mobile technology isn’t just for games anymore. Apps are becoming more of the norm in actual construction. The increased portability of tablets and smartphones allows for greater communication and the ability to work from anywhere.
Integrating this type of technology into your current processes can be much simpler and require a smaller upfront investment while still providing major benefits and boosting productivity in your day to day processes.
Mobile technology can help to save time and keep the project moving forward faster by providing real-time monitoring, updates and making information available between the job site and the office.
Companies can easily access the latest revisions to plans or report a problem to the project manager off-site. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
Just a few years ago most people either didn’t know or couldn’t explain what a cloud operating system was. Today, this is no longer the case. In fact, most mobile devices can leverage cloud technology from anywhere, at any time.
There are many great advantages to this, including storing almost limitless amounts of information that you can then share instantly with the touch of a button. This is much less expensive too – about one-tenth of what sharing old technologies cost.
Since the cloud-based business phone system is accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection you can expect it to become a mandatory part of the construction industry in the future, especially if you want to remain competitive.
Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – also known as “drones” – are set to become increasingly common on construction projects throughout 2019.
From undertaking inspections ensuring that operatives are kept out of harm’s way, to surveying vast areas of land in just a few minutes, the continued rise of UAVs will considerably improve safety and productivity in construction.
matured from one around feasibility to consider the steps needed for a successful implementation – with safety, approvals, privacy, the need for suitable legislation and the urgent demand for specialist skillsets all on the agenda.
Drones are the most widely used emerging construction technology. They can conduct site surveys more quickly and accurately than a crew on the ground and are cheaper than aerial imaging. Their high-resolution cameras and the data collected can create interactive 3D or topographical maps and models and take volume measurements.
Another benefit of using drones is the ability to inspect hard to reach places such as bridges or around tall buildings, and to do it safely. You can also use them to monitor progress on a job site and see how people are working.
Many construction sites are already heavily dependent on the use of drones. These drones are very beneficial in that they save a lot of time. For instance, surveyors can survey an entire site in just a few minutes, whereas in the past it’d take them several weeks or months.
Obviously, this will also save construction companies a lot of money. As drone technology continues rapidly developing in its accuracy and precision of its readings, even less human involvement will be necessary.
In the past, many companies were hesitant to use drones because they still needed a controller, but today as the technology grows much more efficient, more construction companies are willingly and openly embracing this technology.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality technology is often used in conjunction with BIM to help better understand complex projects. Think of the potential: you create a building design with BIM and then are able to use VR to actually walk around it. Pretty cool, right?
This will give your team, or the client, and even more realistic idea of what the project will look like once completed. Having a more complete grasp on the project before it begins gives you the opportunity to avoid big changes and expensive change orders mid-way through. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
While virtual reality (VR) has traditionally enabled project teams and stakeholders to step inside their proposed schemes before construction works commence, the technology is finding countless new applications across the industry as 2019 dawns.
Construction World says that although virtual reality has been an emerging trend over the past few years, it’s quickly growing outdated – especially when compared to augmented reality uses and benefits.
This is the ability to visualize the real world through a camera lens. It’s something that’s bound to open many new opportunities for the construction industry even though it’ll come with a cost.
For those companies who can afford to start using it now, it’ll revolutionize how they project and build things. This is a trend that will grow much bigger in the next few years.
One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering. In fact, many people believe that instead of using safety goggles, we’ll start planning and plotting sites before we even break ground. Augmented Reality will play a huge role in construction.
3D printing as a construction technology has the potential to change material sourcing. For prefabrication, materials for a project can be printed and then transported to the job site, ready for use immediately. This can allow companies to get materials faster and streamline the process by removing extra steps in the middle.
According to the U.K. Green Building Council, around 15% of materials delivered to construction sites end up in landfills, and the American Institute of Architects believe that building-related waste makes up between 25% to 40% of America’s solid-waste stream, reports Fortune.
With 3D printing it will even be possible to print materials right on site, reducing waste and further saving on transportation and storage costs.
The construction industry is already seeing the implementation of artificial intelligence on the job site with the use of robotics for tasks like bricklaying and autonomous equipment that can operate and complete tasks without the need for human interaction. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
AI can benefit construction projects through increased safety, improving workflows, and getting jobs done faster and better. It can also identify when information or pieces are missing and ask questions, and use the data it collects.
Rapidly moving from science fiction to reality, robots are beginning to enter construction in a number of areas.
From autonomous rovers that can increase the efficiency and detail of site inspections to mechanical arms that automate highly repetitive tasks like brick-laying and tying rebar, the robotic revolution looks set to gather significant pace in 2020. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
Robotics is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Industries like healthcare are already investing a lot of money in them. As these robots grow even more precise and accurate, they’ll become a commanding force in the construction industry.
In the beginning, the cost of robotics will be high, but it will still be well worth it to at least pay attention to this technology. Eventually, we may witness robots being able to do things like lay bricks and tie rebar, we may even see them complete most of the current man-operated construction projects in the coming years.
Exoskeletons are wearable devices that work in tandem with the user. The opposite of an exoskeleton device would be an autonomous robot that works instead of the operator.
Exoskeletons are placed on the user’s body and act as amplifiers that augment, reinforce or restore human performance.
Originally developed for military use and for patient mobility and rehabilitation, exoskeletons are now beginning to appear on construction sites.
Helping to protect workers from manual handling injuries and the risk of hand-arm vibration, these mechanical suits that “augment” with human operatives can also deliver considerable gains in productivity.
Already being rapidly adopted across manufacturing, live trials on construction sites in the past year have generated results that look set to drive the development and uptake of exoskeletons in the construction sector during 2019.
The connected Jobsite
Connected jobsites use cloud technology to make information about almost every aspect of their operation available to all the relevant parties, regardless of whether those parties are on-site or elsewhere.
From putting design information streamed from a single point of truth into the palms of operatives, to information by geolocation, remote site monitoring, personnel location tracking, live mark-ups and the seamless transfer of as-built information connected job sites improve communication, productivity and safety for everyone involved in a project. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
With the intuitive technology supporting these sites advancing and now more widely available than ever before, connected job sites are only expected to become more commonplace in 2019.
Meanwhile, developments continue to be made in connecting people and consolidating systems through digital mapping engines that contain and visualize construction data.
Mapping design and construction data onto a real-world job site, Atlas uses geo-location to present project information from multiple systems relevant to your physical location, making traditional folder structures obsolete and streamlining any access-critical process like snagging, inspections and more.
While autonomous vehicles continue to make headlines in the consumer space, their adoption in the construction sector looks set to take notable strides forward in 2019.
As with the field of robotics, the automation of construction plant – particularly in relation to highly repetitive tasks – could greatly improve productivity, whilst creating a safer work environment and helping to address the industry’s shortfall in labor. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
At their Electric Site in Sweden, Volvo Construction Equipment trialed electric autonomous vehicles in conjunction with electric human-operated excavators to deliver a 40% improvement in efficiency as compared to a traditional set-up.
Other concept vehicles under development by the manufacturer include semi-autonomous electric excavators that can learn the careful movements required to achieve grading or highly accurate leveling.
The combined use of autonomous technology and electric power enables work to take place around the clock without the need for breaks or the disruptive noise levels that traditionally prevent such working.
Meanwhile, Volvo’s Trucks business has made progress in developing a concept fleet of fully autonomous electric vehicles that can help combat pollution, noise and congestion in our cities by reducing emissions, planning optimum routes and responding to real-time traffic situations.
With growing awareness of the impact that construction has on our environment, technological advances are bringing numerous new material innovations to the fore.
The recycling of hard-to-dispose-of waste products has seen a significant increase, particularly in relation to plastics. Recent developments have seen the incorporation of waste plastic into roadways and even its use as a material for 3D printing new building components or structures. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
CO2 is another by-product being re-purposed in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry.
At this project in Atlanta, CO2 was injected into the concrete mix used in the building’s structure.
This carbon dioxide becomes trapped inside the concrete as it cures while chemical reactions within the mix form limestone nanoparticles, that increase the overall compressive strength of the final material.
Staying with one of the construction’s most popular materials, “self-healing concrete” is mixed with calcite-precipitating bacteria. These bacteria germinate when water enters the cracks in decaying concrete, filling the emerging air gaps.
Other areas to watch include the continued rise of “kinetic paving” that harvests energy from the footsteps of pedestrians to generate electricity, “4D-printed structures” that have the ability to re-shape or self-assemble over time by virtue of how different elements of their composition respond in differing conditions and “smog-eating buildings” coated in photocatalytic titanium dioxide that reacts with light to neutralize pollutants in the air of some of the world’s most congested cities.
The Intelligent Built Environment
The construction industry shapes our world, affects how almost every person on earth is able to live their lives and enables the majority of other businesses and service sectors to operate.
In that context, ensuring that the built environment is operating as effectively as possible is of critical importance to the sustainability and successful development of the human race. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
By harnessing the data from the digitally enabled built assets we are now creating, our homes, offices and in turn cities can all be operated in a smarter, more efficient, useful and environmentally friendly way.
Furthermore, the data arising can be used to assess trends and to inform the design of future buildings, infrastructure projects, and even large-scale city-wide master-plans.
With the effective development of our urban environments on the agenda of countless governments and authorities around the world, we expect to see the importance of this area increase significantly in 2019.
While we’re on the topic of safety, take a look at some of the past year’s innovations in machine learning, and their implications for the new year. Smartvid.io, for instance, aggregates visual data from the job site and intelligently analyzes it for a variety of purposes including safety, quality, progress tracking, and marketing.
Smartvid.io constantly analyzes photos, videos, and other visual data coming from the job site, and looks for safety violations (failure to use PPEs, for instance), as well as tagging items by room and associating them with plan data. This allows folks in the job trailer or the office to quickly find visual information about the site without having to sort through masses of data. Additionally, it makes it easy to identify visual data to use for marketing purposes.
The technologies like Smartvid.io are going to transform the way companies do business in 2018, by making existing data more accessible and easier to use to improve everything from quality and timelines to safety and marketing.
Prefabrication is hardly a new innovation in itself. The construction industry has been using prefabrication in various applications for decades. However, new technologies are making the benefits of prefabrication easier to access, and changing the way the construction industry integrates prefab into the process.
For instance, ManufactOn provides a mobile technology that provides complete visibility into the prefabrication process, so that anyone involved in the project can see what is being manufactured, where it is the process, and when it will be delivered. A new integration with BIM 360 Docs will make it possible to view that information in one workflow from beginning to end of the design and build process.
Predictive analytics is about to make risk management much easier. In 2017, BIM 360 Project IQ ran beta tests with leading-edge companies to see how much we could help them manage their risk through the use of predictive analytics.
Project IQ analyzes data from subcontractors, materials suppliers, design plans, and the site itself to analyze risk factors based on historical data. It provides a dashboard where GCs can identify which elements of their project are the highest risk and need attention and allows them to drill down to see the reasons for the risk assessment. Project IQ learns both from past data and from how the GC interacts with the information it provides, in order to continuously provide better and more accurate risk assessments.
Construction software and data ecosystem
Real-time collaboration software is already regarded as an essential component of the entire building process. Nevertheless, its impact on the sector is expected to increase substantially in the near future. It goes without saying that data has played an integral role in this paradigm shift in construction.
Many of the industry’s experts believe we’ll start seeing self-healing concrete being used on roads, buildings, and homes. Since concrete is the most widely produced and consumed material in the construction industry (being used to create buildings, roads, and bridges) many believe that by 2030 we’ll be using about 5 billion metric tons per year. Part of this is due to the urban boom that’s being experienced in China and India today. Currently, the United States already makes up 8% of the total global emissions in this area – a number that’s also slated to rise.
Advanced uses for GPS
Construction World says while GPS tracking solutions aren’t anything new, they’re now being used in more creative and resourceful ways including:
Surveying has been dramatically improved because crews no longer need to use traditional surveying equipment. Data for prospective project sites can be quickly and accurately collected.
Project managers are also using GPS in fleet management. Today, each of their vehicles is equipped with a device that is trackable via both computer and smartphones. This lets everyone know where vehicles always are.
It’s easier to find lost or stolen equipment because managers can now generate maps that pinpoint the exact location of any of these items.
New effective scanning solutions
Scanning is now creating many cost-effective solutions over the past few years. These have helped the construction industry fully understand in what stages certain projects are.
Sustainability and environmental benefits will increase in timber buildings. It is as robust as other materials, but we are constrained as far as the height we can go. Timber buildings are sustainable; they have excellent benefits to our feelings of well-being. In fact, it contributes to our health and happiness. Being inside a timber building makes people work better in the average workday. They become more collaborative, communicate more, and are in a better mood.
While many people may think this is only common sense, it shouldn’t go unmentioned that wearable technology (e.g. Fitbit’s, 3D glasses, Google Glass, armbands that can communicate with coaches on the sidelines) will become an emerging trend that’s useful in keeping workers safe. This will help keep workers from constantly looking down at their instructions because now they can talk to one another via this technology. Additionally, it can help track where workers are if there’s an accident. This is bound to become mandatory at some point in the future.
This will have considerable benefits in terms of OH&S. While wearable tech is being used in some places, it may not be really big until beyond 2019. Things are moving pretty quickly though.
I think we will see a rise in “smarts within a building” next year. Smarter buildings equate to better lighting control, better energy efficiency, and proper air-conditioning control. We might start using some higher performance glazing so as not to introduce so much solar load inside the building.
Modular Construction and 3D Printed Dwellings
Modular construction is on the rise, but it faces a PR problem—people don’t necessarily find it appealing. One modular home looks the same as another. 3D-printed dwellings, however, are growing in popularity in the Netherlands.
In the past few years, we have seen hundreds of IoT (internet of things) devices designed specifically for homes to make them smarter and friendlier. Voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, can help you play music, ask questions, make calls, and control pretty much all lights and appliances in your home. Being a form of AI, these devices will continually self-improve, learn more about our needs, and connect to more devices at home.
Just like computers/servers connected in a network to form the internet, solar-powered homes will form an interconnected cell-powered network, thus generating and managing power and energy more efficiently. Builders will need to employ IT and networking engineers to design and set up the infrastructure for the technology that will power smart homes and cities.
If you have a website, you most likely have analytics set up to measure and monitor traffic and user behavior on your site. In the near future, we will start to see more applications of analytics in residential and commercial buildings. This way we will get real-time insights into the amount of traffic and behavior of visitors, allowing the smart building to make adjustments to its features.
That could include turning off lights where there are no people, adjusting temperatures, closing shutters for the facades that are facing the sun, or opening lanes for the carpark exits instead of just one when everyone is leaving the office for home. One of the best emerging trends in civil engineering.
With no doubt, 2020 is expected to be a breakthrough year for the construction industry. A data-driven sector with an emphasis on collaboration and real-time communication is hopefully around the corner. Only then, construction stakeholders can hope for higher productivity rates and fewer painful project delays.
The construction industry is under a significant paradigm shift. The experts believe we can expect to see the most noteworthy trends in the construction industry next year.