New report published by JLL highlights which ConTech options ‘benefited’ from pandemic
Few industries have been untouched by the scourge of the pandemic, but within the construction industry it has propelled the adoption and funding of ConTech (construction technology).
In its latest State of Construction Tech report (see link below) published last week, JLL aims to organise the wide range of technology options and measure how the pandemic has impacted their application by AEC firms and the clients on their projects.
Henry D’Esposito, JLL’s Construction Research Senior Analyst and the report’s author, remarked, “three years of construction technology growth and adoption have been compressed into the past nine months.” Venture capital has continued to flow to startups, with funding levels about on par with the average for the past five years.
Construction tech kept jobsites open and projects running. It also allowed AEC firms whose employees were forced to work remotely to maintain their workflows. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, 67% of the construction firms polled allowed employees to work from home. However, JLL notes that smaller firms were less likely to have systems in place.
Construction firms in general with fewer discretionary dollars were likelier to select proven tech solutions rather than take a risk on a less-mature startup.
ConTech enabled onsite execution in two ways, JLL observes: First, by creating opportunities to have fewer people on a jobsite. Second, by keeping anyone who is essential to being onsite as safe as possible.
“Technology solutions that have expanded this year include wearables and monitoring devices to ensure workers stay socially distanced and to allow contact tracing if any issues arise; and planning tools to enable optimal efficiency in staging and scheduling to ensure that teams stay separated,” says JLL.
The report identifies the ConTech hierarchy into three groups:
Foundational technologies that have become standard fare for AEC firms. These include BIM and CAD, digital twins, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and digital collaboration;
Primary impact technologies that are gaining acceptance, such as scanning, drones, and modular construction; and
Secondary impact technologies that are still in their early stages of adoption. Wearables falls into this category, as do 3D printing, robotics, AR/VR, and tools related to payments/finance, equipment/materials, and jobs/employment.
JLL believes that BIM and CAD, scanning, and digital collaboration each got a “pandemic boost,” whereas AI may have lost some steam. Scanning, for example, gained importance during the health crisis “as a way to replace additional eyes onsite, and as a substitute for in-person meetings and walkthroughs.” Prior to the pandemic, scanning was a more efficient and comprehensive way to collect data. But under regulations where a limited number of staff can be onsite at any time, “interior scanning has often become a necessity to ensure that all members of a project teams are on the same page, even if they cannot be onsite.”
The pandemic also has had mixed impact on other ConTech tools. Its effect on the adoption of 3D printing, for example, was low, says JLL, which predicts that the future of 3D printing is brighter for single-family home construction or certain military applications than for nonresidential construction.
Augmented and virtual reality are still in their early development stages, and both have the potential to become standard on construction projects. But, JLL cautions, “they will only work on projects with high adoption of other forms of tech that would be required for integration.”
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