2023 has been a year of volatility in the construction sector. Inflation has run high, with the price of labour and materials changing dramatically. However, investment in innovation and technology has continued.
Changes, such as advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and improvements in mobile technology, will drive construction in 2024 as companies continue to manage the various challenges in the sector.
Whether a small or large business, there are four key trends that will influence construction this year: generative AI, connectivity, sustainability and people.
Starting with generative AI, it is fair to say that 2023 is the year it went mainstream. While solutions have existed for years, the explosion around Chat GPT moved generative AI up the agenda. It is part of the global conversation now; the UK hosted the first international AI Safety Summit in November, and the United Nations is creating an expert AI panel.
So, how can construction benefit from this? There are already examples of software that have AI at their core, helping organisations to crunch large datasets and make improvements in areas including scheduling projects, ensuring that designs are compliant with legislation and helping buildings to operate more efficiently.
This integration of AI within workflows will only increase as people get used to skills such as writing successful AI prompts to get better answers from tools and allow us to utilise the wealth of data already created within construction.
Large Language Models (LLMs) will also help with information checking. By setting the rules for the AI to test against, we will see an extra level of quality assurance within decision-making. Many tasks can be augmented too, such as cost estimating, designing efficiently, bid writing and contract creation and checking to name a few.
The rollout of 5G has made a major difference to connectivity on construction sites. It is more than having an ability to work wirelessly on mobile devices. 5G allows a 20GB connection compared with 4G’s 1GB connection. This enables working on large design and data files, something that had previously been impossible. As well as speeding up delivery, it will put the right information in people’s hands at the right time. It means that our construction site infrastructure can be different too – simple network boosters can be enough to get that connection working, allowing a decent link between teams, wherever they are based.
This makes tasks like quality assurance easier, with the ability to share imagery and video that is geographically tagged to the location on site and comparable with the original drawings.
It also enables the fast growing trend of IOT-based construction sites, with sensors able to monitor things like concrete cure rates and temperatures and smart cameras able to track progress, safety and security.
Continuing to move towards Net Zero
The sustainability trend is interesting. Whatever happens politically, with some criticism levelled at a perceived rollback of net zero initiatives by the UK government, it is clear to see that the industry has invested in tools and expertise in this area. With high energy bills and a need to decarbonise remaining, continued focus on relevant skills and technology will continue.
It isn’t just about the design and operation of the asset either. There is a lot of focus on driving efficiency in other areas, including continued investment in offsite. People are working on cleaner, quicker manufacturing processes that remove waste from the system and use less energy. Add in various innovations in robotics and the creation of new materials, and I think we’ll see increased options that clients and designers can specify for their assets.
Using technology to bring people together
The final trend relates to people. It has become a cliché, but construction has a skills shortage, and it is only getting worse. CITB estimates that an extra 225,000 construction workers will be needed by 2027. Technology focused on talent acquisition, onboarding and retention will be high on the agenda for companies. Data capture as people retire will also be essential – a loss of existing knowledge is a serious risk.
Demonstrating that your company is tech-savvy and working in innovative ways will be important in attracting a new cohort into the industry. Adaptability and agility will be important traits, and organisations will need to become more effective at training and maintaining digital skills. The opportunity to drive construction’s continued digitalisation will be attractive to many – we need to harness it.
These trends show that there is still a lot of scope for major change in construction. However, it is important that this process of transformation brings people with it. Construction is a people focused sector, and while new tools and techniques come to the forefront, we need to make sure that we have the right people, in the right roles. It is an exciting time, and we will continue to see major shifts in the ways that our projects are delivered in 2024 and beyond.
Since 2002, Bluebeam, Inc. has been at the forefront of the digital revolution in construction technology. Bluebeam’s construction software facilitates real-time collaboration and project management on any device, from any location. They provide 13 software solutions, such as Bluebeam, dRofus, Graphisoft, and Solibri, offering secure access to project documents, efficient communication with industry-standard tools, simplified team onboarding, and complimentary access to Bluebeam University courses for enhanced productivity.