Technology is transforming our industry
I’m amazed, and continuously surprised, at how fast and dramatically technology is changing the construction industry, and it is accelerating. At the beginning of my career, drawing production was just finishing the transition from hand-drafting to computer-aided design (CAD). Fax machines were ubiquitous. Cell phones were not widely in use, but the ones available were phones only, the size of a brick with an antenna. I was a bit of a photography nut in high school and college, and recall believing that digital photography would never be able to replace film. It’s an amazing world we are living in that is being rapidly transformed across every industry.
I anticipate in the next few years we will see that building information modeling (BIM), combined with AI, wearable tech and drones, will take us to a new level in design and construction. Today, although many of our projects are in Revit, the level of information exchange and integration for most projects is only incrementally improved over 2D CAD technology. Part of the problem to date is that it is excessively time consuming to create building models with sufficient resolution to incorporate fine details of the various systems. Automation accomplished through AI will almost certainly change this. I suspect that many of our design tasks will be facilitated, if not completely executed, by AI in the relatively near future. Considering the difficulty in finding recruits to the design and construction industry, and with many aging out, AI may be instrumental in enabling the design community to keep pace with the demands of construction.
Drones are already useful in larger projects, documenting the construction process as it proceeds with incredible detail. As an example, high-definition videography from flying drones is used to make a record of the locations of embedded items in structural slabs before the concrete is placed. This technology will only continue to improve in accuracy, and as costs decrease, it will likely become standard to use drones to create 3D as-built models of even minor projects as they are constructed. Combined with AI, drones will become autonomous or semi-autonomous systems that will likely replace human inspectors in many situations, able to provide continuous contemporaneous feedback to the design and construction teams about whether what is being built matches what was designed, helping to minimize construction defects. From the initial stages of design through the final steps of construction, technology is quickly changing our industry. I can’t imagine living in a more exciting time.