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Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

Melanie Dawson, Director of Digital Construction, Graham Group

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World's Second Oldest Industry is becoming the Unexpected Audiovisual Technology Innovator

Salla Palos, Emerging Technology & Innovation Director, Sellen Construction

World's Second Oldest Industry is becoming the Unexpected Audiovisual Technology InnovatorSalla Palos, Emerging Technology & Innovation Director, Sellen Construction

The first buildings were crafted by people using their hands and simple tools. As cities started growing during the Bronze Age, professional craftsmen appeared. In the Middle Ages, people with specific skills organized into guilds and project teams were formed, and the need for communicating Wdesign scopes visually and verbally became evident. With the first industrial revolution in the 19th century, steam-powered machinery appeared in job sites, and later came diesel and electric powered vehicles such as cranes, excavators and bulldozers. The need for a more effective method for communicating project scopes visually and verbally became a pressing need.

A decade ago, the construction industry was behind when it came to adopting new technologies and innovation strategies. In the past century, there has not been such a large-scale revolution as the one taking place today in the construction sector. With the industry gaining more expensive and complex mega projects, the introduction of collaborative project delivery methods, prefabrication, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Extended Reality (XR), Building Information Modeling (BIM), sustainability, and issues with safety are forcing the construction industry to rethink old practices and embrace the possibilities new audiovisual technologies have to offer.

The construction industry is one of the world’s largest industrial employers. The global construction industry is currently worth $10 trillion and is expected to double by 2030. Adding to that, the real-estate industry value of $217 trillion, we can see one-third of the global GDP being invested in the built environment. Construction is a major source of revenue, and an evident contributor to the quality of life in communities. Currently, the construction industry is accelerating into a technology renaissance with many technology companies leveraging their way into the same market. The built environment is the new audiovisual innovation and development platform with multiple new possibilities.

The construction industry has, at present, welcomed XR technologies; Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR). It is the first step towards Industry 4.0 and Simulated Reality. Experiencing an interactive Digital Twin of a building with augmented sound in a multidisciplinary XR environment engages stakeholders in conversation and captures knowledge transfer in real-time. To continue its digital transformation, the construction industry needs open audiovisual platforms, information delivery standards, and coherent processes that align with the creation and consumption of digital assets during the building life cycle. For augmented audiovisual technology to be seamlessly consumable, the technology needs to integrate intuitively with any platform and personal equipment.

With the advancements in digital audiovisual technologies, project teams globally are producing an abundance of visual content in multiple parallel sub-teams. Decisions that affect the total building performance, and the life cycle of the built environment for hundreds of years to come, are objective and made based on the comprehension of available information. 

It is imperative that the production, availability, and consumption of audiovisual content is coherent and transferable across all platforms. Providing a memorable experience of audiovisual information supports the comprehension of complex project entities. Communications has direct impact on safety, quality and productivity of construction projects.

Though the construction industry operations are local, the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner Operator (AECOO) business is international. The industry needs audiovisual innovations to make sure our industry is vital to sustainable and successful long-term performance. The industry needs to collaborate with cross-disciplinary industries in adopting innovative and forward-thinking technology.

Adopting audiovisual innovations is challenging due to the fragmented and project-based nature of the construction industry. As innovation is a joint activity with a number of participants involved in the process, it is essential to consider the role of inter-organizational factors in successful implementation. Understanding who the enablers of innovation are and what barriers innovation adoption helps manage and support diffusion across companies.

The enablers of innovation are people. They support and express commitment to change with improved audiovisual communication among stakeholders, integration of the new tools, development of new ways of working, and sharing the lessons learned. The results of successful audiovisual collaboration in construction are projects that successfully meet and exceed cost, quality, schedule and safety goals-initially a good starting point for a sustainable building life cycle and total performance.

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