Construction and technological innovation have long gone hand in hand. Consumers might focus on new building products and high-tech gadgets when they think of building technology, but those are just a few of the most visible aspects of the role technology plays in the construction industry. When you consider all the intricate planning, design, and engineering that must occur before the first scoop of dirt is even moved on a construction site, you’ll begin to gain an appreciation of the critical role IT support plays in bringing everything from a modest single-family home to a commercial campus into existence.
What’s more, technology plays a critical part in project management, data collection and analysis, communication, collaboration in the field, and automation back in the office. While most of the rest of the world embraced the concept of working remotely during the pandemic, the construction industry has juggled remote employees, subcontractors, multiple sites, and integrating third-party devices into a corporate workflow for decades. Here are just a few of the latest technologies that may help your Denver construction business on the job site, a few that can help build a better office, and some challenges unique to construction firms.
Drones – Flying High
Good construction planning begins with the site itself. The industry has come a long way from a contractor walking the site and presenting an educated guess about what might lie beneath the surface and what challenges the lay of the land will play. That’s where drones fly into the picture. With traditional hands-on methods, a skilled surveyor can assess a 5-acre site in an hour. Drone surveys can assess 120 acres in an hour. Plus, they eliminate any potential safety hazards associated with surveyors negotiating difficult terrain, and they are simply more accurate than humans when it comes to complex measurements. Drone photogrammetry measures exact distances from overlapping photos that take into account varying angles and perspectives for a level of accuracy that humans can’t match.
Building Information Modeling – The Next Evolution
Another advance that IT support has played a predominant role in is how construction drawings come to life. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a highly collaborative process that brings construction to life in three dimensions. It is now required on some large-scale commercial projects and can play a game-changing role in even smaller projects. In essence, it allows all the professionals involved in the design process – from architects, engineers, and developers to contractors, manufacturers, and various designers to play in the same collaborative sandbox. Old school paper blueprints were cumbersome at best to share. As CAD drawings evolved into three dimensions, they enabled professionals to envision more fulsome details of a project. BIM is the next step up, allowing everyone involved to see the actual product and all of its parts in detail in 3 dimensions. This makes it easy to see how all the pieces are coming together – and where they are not – in an online collaborative space that can be accessed by all the involved parties simultaneously.
3D Printing – Built-to-Order
One of the most game-changing technologies to impact the work site (and there have been many!) is 3D printing. As this technology has advanced and the materials that can be printed have expanded, it has opened up creative possibilities for construction. It also has the potential to mitigate two perennial negatives associated with the building industry – waste and sustainability. If you as a contractor can print a construction component to the exact measurements you require, you virtually eliminate waste. If you can print that component from a sustainable and/or locally produced material as opposed to importing a limited natural resource, you’ve boosted the sustainability of your build. In many climates, 3D printing can help builders take full advantage of limited building envelopes. Since you often can print complex pieces much more quickly than you can assemble them onsite, pre-printed components can be a tremendous timesaver.
Artificial Intelligence – Getting Smarter
It’s often been said that contractors have quite a bit in common with jugglers, as they balance myriad subcontractor schedules, deliveries, permitting requirements, safety challenges, time constraints, and more. That’s where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can step in. Some larger firms are implementing AI on the front end by implementing predictive analysis to streamline the bidding process and using it to refine pre-existing winning proposals. As construction begins, AI can shift to look at procurement processes, scheduling, and more, effectively streamlining and analyzing many previously time-consuming tasks. AI is still nowhere near the point of replacing either the hands-on experience of on-site workers or the practical knowledge of construction managers, but it can help simplify monotonous and data-intensive tasks.
Unified Business Communications
One of the perennial challenges of the construction industry is that it relies heavily on subcontractors and trade partners, all of whom are accustomed to using their own technology, much of which might not work well together. Working with a Denver managed IT services provider who understands the complexities involved (and the realities of adoption or lack thereof) can help you get all the players involved to communicate more effectively on platforms and devices that work together.
One way to bridge the communications gap is to migrate essential communications pieces of your Denver construction business to the cloud. If all the parties involved in your project – from developers and lenders to legal and financial experts, designers, architects, contractors, and more – can access the specific type and level of information they need, when they need it, your team will spend less time answering questions and more time doing what they do best.
One critical piece of managed service IT for Denver construction businesses is cybersecurity. As we noted, construction firms are in a unique position in that so many of the team members they rely on don’t directly work for them. This makes it more difficult to mandate security features and can leave your network and confidential data more susceptible to a cyberattack. Indeed, the construction industry has become the third most targeted by cybercriminals, according to a study by SafetyDetectives.com and as many as 1 in 6 construction companies experienced some form of cyberattack in 2020-2021. When thinking about cybersecurity, it’s critical that you work with an IT managed service provider who will establish redundant basic layers of protection – such as robust firewalls, email security, spam filters, and anti-ransomware software. In addition, they should offer training for employees (and trade professionals) as well as network monitoring and suggest best practices that can safeguard your data.
Overall, technology is rapidly evolving to help the construction industry build a better business model. Make sure your Denver construction business doesn’t get left behind.
Need help implementing an IT strategy in your construction business? Our team of experienced IT solutions experts can help with everything from designing your IT infrastructure to managed IT services, helpdesk solutions, cloud migration, cybersecurity, and more. Contact us today.