7 New Innovations Breaking Ground in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is one of the largest in the world, and technology — from power drills to bulldozers — has always played a key role in a job well done. Often viewed as a more traditional industry than the innovative tech space, more and more businesses are making the move to streamline their processes with today’s latest gear. By adopting tech advancements, they’re closing the gap between modernization and productivity.

Last year saw a host of new equipment enter the market, and the trend towards intelligent design shows no signs of slowing down. Here are seven cutting-edge innovations that are helping revolutionize the construction industry in 2018.

1. Virtual Reality Software for Project Planning

Many contractors can testify to the difficulty of coordinating project planning efforts between teams and across multiple sites. Enter Grit, a virtual reality software that allows users to “walk” through the early stages of a construction site, accurately estimate what resources will be needed, and generate effective workflows. Designed with efficiency in mind, the software can help flag problematic weather changes or delays in supply chains. Of particular value is Grit’s ability to connect construction teams with daily reports: crews can locate their tasks on a shared plan and update them accordingly. “Virtual reality is where the industry is going,” says Troy Turturici, a Project Superintendent with South Bay Construction. “It’s huge for coordination with MEP trades, and gets everyone from subcontractors to inspectors on the same page.”

2. Smart Sensors for Construction Sites

While construction sites are keen to prioritize a worker’s safety, sometimes the site itself goes unprotected. Hazards such as fire, water, and mold can cause extensive damage if they go unnoticed. That’s why Pillar Technologies has developed smart sensors. These smaller-than-a-shoebox sensors are installed on construction sites to detect and relay readings on key environmental factors such as temperature, dust, noise vibration, and volatile organic compounds. One sensor covers approximately 2,000 square feet, and will give both real-time alerts and long-term analysis of risk levels. By keeping a watchful eye on a site’s environmental conditions, smart sensors can prevent damage from spreading undetected, and help contractors better monitor their sites from a distance.

3. A Software for Tracking Prefabricated Materials

In response to growing density in major cities, smaller site footprints, and busy access routes, construction companies are utilizing prefabrication to address the limitations of large projects in tight spaces. On worksites where storage is limited, entire sections of a build are being assembled off-site and delivered like Lego bricks for final assembly. But when assembly of prefab components occurs off-site, supervisors can have a hard time keeping track of materials, delivery times, and stages of construction. ManufactOn is a software that allows developers to coordinate and track off-site projects across multiple factory sites. Project managers can access the software wherever they are, centralizing the process of getting off-site work delivered to its final destination on time.

4. Self-Driving Construction Equipment

Self-driving technology has begun switching lanes from mainstream usage to the construction industry, thanks to Built Robotics. They’ve created a suite of autonomous software for self-driving construction equipment; their self-driving tractor, for instance, uses lasers to sense its environment and an augmented GPS system to provide location data. The result is a vehicle that can dig, scoop, and measure materials with the same capacity as a manually-operated tractor. These automated construction vehicles are projected to reduce the risk of worksite injuries while filling gaps produced by labor shortages.

5. An Exoskeleton That Lifts Heavy Loads

The EksoWorks Vest looks like something out of a superhero movie but provides very real protection. The lightweight, low-profile vest straps onto the torso in order to help with any task at the level of the chest or higher. The vest elevates and supports a worker’s arms, making it easy for them to lift and sustain heavy loads while reducing the chance of physical wear and tear. With one in ten construction workers expected to sustain an injury every year, the EksoWorks Vest protects full range of motion for its operators, and provides adjustable lift assistance of up to 15 lbs per arm.

6. A Bricklaying Robot

With examples of bricklaying found as far back as the Bronze Age, laborers have been up to their elbows in the hard work of masonry for over six millenia. Now, a new robot designed by Construction Robotics is helping to turn that paradigm on its head. SAM 100, short for “Semi-Automated Mason,” places 300 to 400 bricks an hour. The human rate, by comparison, is 60 to 75. SAM 100 works alongside a human partner, doing the heavy lifting by placing the bricks, while a human smooths any excess concrete.

7. A Fully Electric Compact Excavator

Volvo Construction Equipment enters the electric vehicle space with the EX2, the world’s first fully electric compact excavator. By replacing a traditional combustion engine with lithium ion batteries and swapping out the hydraulic system for electric architecture, the excavator is the closest industrial heavy machinery has come to quiet and emissions-free to date. While the EX2 is expected to remain a prototype, it heralds a shift in construction consciousness — with companies like Komatsu, John Deere, Caterpillar, and Volvo competing in the race toward electric-powered vehicles, the construction industry is projected to employ 165,000 fully electric machines by 2027.

These gadgets can all address a variety of long-standing issues in the construction industry, including labor shortages, accident rates, and slow-moving projects. They herald an age where the gap between technology and construction grows smaller, and productivity, safety, and innovation come out on top.

South Bay Construction has been an industry leader in the Northern California area since 1978. Throughout that time, we’ve been on the forefront when it comes to supporting innovation that provides a better experience for our customers. Contact us to get a quote or to learn more about our vision and expertise.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff, Shutterstock / sirtravelalot, Shutterstock / Roman Korotkov

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