Role of technology in construction
Sanjay Garg, Partner & Leader – Capital Projects, PwC India and Rajshekhar Saha, Director – Capital Projects & Infrastructure, PwC India talks exclusively with Realty Plus on the evolving role of technology in construction sector.
- What kind of a role has technology played in the Indian construction industry so far?
Indian Construction Industry contributes to 7.74% of GDPin the Indian Economy. The industry has been adopting progressively increased use of plant & machinery over the years in areas of Formwork (DOKA, MIVAN), Prefabrication, automation, Material handling, excavation and concreting.
This has significantly increased the productivity as well as improved consistency and quality of construction. To cite an example, 25 carpenters aretraditionally required in a day for an output of 100 square metres of shuttering, which can be done in less than 2 hours with movable& prefabricated shuttering system by 4-6 riggers/ carpenters.
Further, Construction and project execution is now witnessing a major impact with digital information, machine learning, data availability and connectivity. These are having a positiveimpactnot only in construction but also in related areas of project planning, design, customer interface and marketing.
- What kind of newer technologies have come to the fore – right from the construction stage to the delivery of products in order to make the sector smart and efficient?
Construction timelines and productivity have hardly improved over the years (only around 1% YoY growth) compared to the manufacturing (over 3.6% YoY).
The process starts from pre-construction phase with adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for design development. BIM not only builds a 3D model but incorporates complete information of each component of the model; size, properties, alignment, maintenance & spare parts data, pulling from historical or other databases to improve decision enabling information on site conditions, scheduling, cost of individual components etc.
Use of a Common Data Environment (CDE) platform across multiple Consultants & Contractors, having concurrent access to the BIM model, reduces design timelines, increases accuracy and reduces rework. Integration & mapping of scheduling & cost estimation allows for real time tracking and scheduling/ sequencing project activities and control costs through real time ‘work-in-progress’ (WIP) tracking.
Another area of new technologies is in energy efficiency and energy conservation for green and sustainable construction which is now extended across multiple sectors. As per the Indian Green Building Council, 2-3 % of all construction in India is green and there is a huge potential in using solar micro-grids, usage of alternative materials and other measures to better green construction.
Increasing Data connectivity is bringing in a dynamic shift in the way the construction industry performs. Mobile devices with easy-to-use appsallow project managers, engineers, material managers to access, document, and share and edit important project information (both data & visuals)in near real time and on the move.
Global Positioning system (GPS) trackers, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readersand Barcode scanners, are being widely used for comprehensive materials management to help track shipments, equipment and materials stored at site as well as enhanced security.
Internet of Things (IoT) record and transmit machine performance data to monitor equipment usage, fuel usage, scheduled maintenance.Construction equipment manufacturers are investing in these intelligent On-board control systemsfor increasing efficiency and productivity through improved collaborative utilization, reduced wastage and higher availability. Access to data on building performance in terms of energy consumption, operational pattern of HVAC and other equipment, can be analyzed to take operational decisions for cost savings and energy conservation.
Wearable gears are the next generation initiatives inIoTdevices being usedto capture information and implement augmented reality in construction sites to enable real time decisions on construction planning, monitoring, quality & quantity control as well as design development/change decisions.
Construction Monitoring is changing rapidly with mobile video/photogrammetry tools in the form of terrestrial vehicle mounted/ hand held or unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to collect information on project sites.
Accuracy of Captured images are adequately detailed to facilitate quality control and quantity measurement along that with progress and safety assessment, as well as augment project team’s understanding of as-built conditions and issues affecting progress. Drones are also being utilized to monitor logistics, deliveries and the workforce. Images from these sources including laser scanning (LIDAR) can be converted into as built 3-D models for comparison with design models.
Robotic construction equipment for remote or hazardous locations are increasingly being mandated in areas like pipeline welding, underwater construction etc. Robotic arms have been used in conjunction with 3-D printers to print a variety of building elements..Extruded concrete (including concrete composites), plastics and other materials are being used to create building components and even entire buildings.
- The industry can greatly leverage technology at all stages of construction, right from ideation and design to delivery. But are they doing it enough?
Technology in construction sector is still in an evolving stage in India. There are multiple areas in Heavy Engineering & Construction projects (Sea-links, Bridges, Metros, Industrial plants etc.) that have embraced and are progressively adopting technology to confront complexity in design, multiple project, difficult site conditions and stringent time & cost constraints. A global study reports that 77% of EPC Contractors have reported an increase in their ROI post BIM implementation.
However, the construction industry players from Government, Corporate Industries, EPC Contractors, and Engineering Consultants etc., all have to work in a collaborative approach. Everyone realizes that the benefits are enormous with a global report suggesting an annual global savings potential with digitalization of construction industry to the tune of $0.7 trillion to $1.2 trillion (13 to 21 percent) in the design and E&C phases, and $0.3 trillion to $0.5 trillion (10 to 17 percent) in the operations phase.2
Much needs to be done in overcoming the lack of knowledge and understanding so that perceived risks in investing in technology can be overcome and embraced more widely by industry
Technology alone will not bring about a transformation in the Indian construction industry. Government Policies should also shape the fast track adoption of digital technologies in the Construction Industry. BIM as the design development platform has been mandated in UK and Dubai for all public/government projects beyond $100 million from 2016 and 2017 respectively. USA, Australia and the EU are also in the process of making BIM mandatory for public projects. Such policies will not only provide the best end product on current projects, but also will ease the transition into a more connected and automated O&M of assets.
1 – McGrawHill Construction & ASCE Report
2- Boston Consulting Group report
- As per a McKinsey study that came out in 2016, the key trends that will shape the future of the real estate industry are rapid digital mapping, information modelling, digital collaboration, IoT/analytics, and future-proof design. Do you agree with it?
Yes, we agree with the digital interventions as mentioned above which is applicable to the overall Engineering & Construction industry of which Real Estate is a part of.
Digital mapping with High Definition GIS or photogrammetry based surveys are the basis of intelligent engineering design as well as construction planning. Superimposingdesign models on digital topography maps enable dealing with site constraints, sequential planning, quantity estimation (e.g minimization of cut-fill for earthwork) are just some examples of these benefits. GIS mapping is extensively beingused by Government agencies for revenue land records, Municipality planning, water resource planning and other infrastructure development.
Future proof design is an interesting topic and has always been at the forefront in implementing new material or methodology for sustainability. Green construction, long term sustainability of design plan, accommodation of new functional elements in future and resilience to adverse conditions are crucial factors.
- What kind of impact has the use of technology in the Indian real estate industry had on the consumer buying pattern?
Demographic shifts and increasing advent of digital technology in communication fundamentally effects demand for real estate. Use of online browsing, social media information and other digital mapping techniques have been instrumental in developing customer databases and statistical predictions for retail and B2B sales.
Most of marketing’s attention often goes to attracting prospective customers and converting and nurturing potential sales leads.With a smaller available and organized