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The History of Construction Technology – And a Look at the Future

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The construction industry has made significant strides over the past few years in terms of technology adoption. As construction moves into the digital-first world, builders are increasingly leveraging technology to streamline practices and ideate, build, and manage their projects. But, as technology continues to modernize technology, what’s the history of construction tech? Here’s a look at the history of construction technology from the industrial age to the present era.

 

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was an era characterized by the replacement of hand tools with new, power-driven machines. The shift to large-scale industry necessitated the need for new ways of organizing production processes to make them more effective. The industrial changes affected society and building technology.

The State of the Construction Industry

During the Industrial Age, there was significant industrialization of construction through mechanization to enhance productivity. Before the advent of the industrial age, construction primarily relied on manual labor. The Industrial Revolution witnessed the large-scale production of iron, which contributed significantly to the development of construction machines.
Although iron was used in construction before the Industrial Revolution, innovations such as the rolling mill made it easier to produce elements such as wrought iron bars and cast iron. As a result, standard iron construction elements followed suit, paving the way for the development of metal buildings.

Prominent Construction Technologies Used

During the Industrial Revolution, the development of the combustion engine was the most notable technology of the day. Previously menial tasks got mechanized, making construction easier and more effective. With the combustion engine, it also became easier to create construction materials such as glass. As such, it’s no surprise that stained glass became a prominent feature on buildings during the Industrial Age.
Cast iron technology also made it easier to construct stronger and more durable steel structures. Notable cast-iron structures of the day include the bridge over River Severn, which got designed and built by Abraham Darby III between 1777 and 1779. The construction technologies of the Industrial Age significantly contributed to building technology as we know it today.

 

The 1980’s-1990’s

The 1980s began with two recessions in three years. Many expected that these would slow down the construction industry, but they were wrong. Post-recession, there was a period of significant job growth and the clamor for homeownership, something that had a direct impact on construction demand and technology.

During this time, computer tech was starting to become mainstream even though they were still huge pieces of machinery. The introduction of the PC in 1984 heralded the beginning of machine-based information processing. In the 1990s, there was a transition from analog to digital networks.
PCs and mobile phones impacted construction technology significantly because builders and their clients could now access innovative machinery, software, and tools. These led to advancements in field methods. Thanks to on-site access to technologies such as 2D schematics increased production levels besides changing how constructors build.

The State of the Construction Industry

The 80s and 90s were the golden era of the construction industry. The property boom at the time forced builders to ramp up their efforts. Most turned to technology to keep up with demand. For instance, architects started to leverage 2D technology to create their designs. There was also notable digitization and digitalization of the construction process.
It was now possible to scan project designs rather than have them on paper. Similarly, email and mobile telephony made it possible for project teams to communicate easily, especially when working from different locations. Builders could automate most aspects of construction projects to meet delivery timelines, minimize paperwork, and cut costs.

Prominent Construction Technology Used at the Time

In the 1980s and 90s, PCs and mobile phones marked the start of machine-based informational processing. As a result, developers started to create early construction software targeting office workers. These technologies were primarily geared towards project design and architecture.
When the Word Wide Web went live in 1991, the world started to witness advances in digital technologies. Mobile phones also started to evolve and become more reasonably sized. Construction teams could now call back to the project office to seek clarification of issues. Project offices could also communicate directly with field teams to relay critical information more effectively.

The Early 2000s

The period from 2002 to 2008 witnessed a remarkable construction boom. Major markets experienced an economic boom, with the US and Europe recovering from the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the Middle East, for instance, the UAE and Dubai embarked on ambitious construction projects, which couldn’t have been possible without technology.

The State of the Construction Industry

The continued uptake of computer technology during the early 2000s improved work conditions and completion times besides lowering construction costs. Computer tech helped streamline processes, minimize work hours, and optimize efficiency. During this period, notable construction projects got initiated, with most leveraging the latest technologies of the day.

Prominent Construction Technology Used at the Time

3D technology and project automation were the most notable technological advancements in the construction industry during the early 2000s. There were many significant technological changes in the early 2000s. For most construction experts, this period was the start of a tech revolution. For instance, phones started to have features such as SMS, email, and web browsing.

With the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, the construction industry entered the age of connectivity. Construction teams could now access and digest more information remotely. Nonetheless, construction projects still relied on pen and paper heavily in their daily processes. That included creating project plans, schedules, records, and more. It’s no surprise that the construction industry still considered Excel a technically advanced technology.

 

What’s the State of the Construction Industry Now?

Since 2010, the world has witnessed an unprecedented tech revolution characterized by the mass production of smart devices and the creation of apps. In the construction sector, technology is no longer restricted to the office because companies are now incorporating new technologies into everyday activities.
Besides construction technologies, we now have innovative building technologies. In recent years, the construction of energy-efficient buildings has become the norm. Likewise, projects are increasingly using modern construction materials. Accelerations in technology have led to extensive digital transformations. Today, constructions leverage a host of integrated solutions.
Big data, in particular, has pushed the construction industry to new limits. Construction tools are continuing to evolve into tracking software, safety wearables, and autonomous machinery. Modular construction, materials providence and certification tracking, AI/VR, and sensors for asset management are some of the technologies leading the transformation in the construction industry today.

The Future

The impressive uptake of technology in the construction sector begs one question; what’s next? Already, the automation of most construction tasks using robotics and drones has had a positive impact on productivity and safety. Industry experts point out that the uptake of automated and semi-automated construction equipment will grow in the coming years. The labor shortage affecting the industry will also get alleviated with the uptake of these technologies.

Construction Technologies That Will Change the Industry

As the construction industry continues to battle biting labor shortages, the only way for companies to set themselves apart from the competition is by adopting future technology trends. Some of the innovative construction technologies that will transform the industry in the coming years include artificial intelligence, connected job sites, augmented reality, the Internet of Things and building analytics, 3D printing, and the use of autonomous vehicles. Looking at the potential of these technologies, it’s safe to say that the possibilities for the future are exciting.

Step into the Future with Hivot

Even as job sites incorporate technology into their operational setup, communication will continue to play a critical role in the success of construction projects. Hivot is offering a brand new way to streamline project communication. With powerful features built to facilitate organized communication across job sites, Hivot is the perfect tool for whole project communication. As construction technology continues to evolve, we are hoping to lead the pack in improving construction communication. 

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