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Innovation & Construction in the Shade of Global Crisis

Two technology trends that will move the real estate construction industry forward

How can digitalization and innovation enable the real estate construction industry to prepare for a sustainable future?

Written by Doron Gibor | Deloitte IL

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From one crisis to another

COVID-19 has been one of the most dire and significant outbreaks in the last hundred years. It has caused a global health catastrophe and interrupted the worldwide economy. However, it has also shed light on another well-known crisis that, even though it may feel far off, has the potential of exponentially harming humanity to a point of no return - global warming. The only way to try and avoid the many consequences of global warming is to accelerate our efforts, starting now.

Global warming and construction waste from the real estate construction industry

The real estate construction industry is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. It is responsible for 40% of all global carbon emissions1. With a percentage that high (compared to other industries), the Paris Agreement’s2 push to limit total emissions to 1.5 °C / 34.7 °F is particularly essential for this sector. Also, according to a report from Transparency Market Research, the volume of worldwide construction waste is predicted to double to 2.2B tons by 2025.

Crisis: a catalyst for change

The good news is that in a reality where construction is riddled with inefficiencies, such as wasted energy, high costs, lower profit, and material waste, there is room for significant improvement. Moreover, crises can be profound catalysts for change. They can create opportunities to gain a new understanding of how the industry operates, and momentum to implement new approaches to manage long-time practices. Disruptive technologies have the potential to provide the efficiency, productivity, waste control, and more that the industry has been seeking for decades. In this article we will focus on two technology trends - Robotics & Automation, and Management Tools for the Construction Site - and how the implementation of these trends will move construction forward into a more sustainable future.

Digitalization: Robotics and Automation

The 1960s saw the launch of the first Industrial Robot – ”Unimate”3. It was the first step towards progress, transformation, and foresight that brought us to where we are today. Still, despite advancements like Unimate, automation in the real estate construction industry is often challenging. Construction sites are full of surprises and uncertainty, and workers continue to operate under extreme and frequently changing conditions. It is still a labor-intensive industry, where implementing automation is deemed essential. The industry's low productivity, specifically low labor productivity, is one of its biggest showstoppers, effectively putting a brake on further internally driven innovation and digitalization, and so it has become increasingly difficult to meet the growing demand in the market.

Real estate construction industry digitalization examples

Therefore, technologies that can replace these traditionally physical tasks are on the rise. A number of companies develop intelligent, mobile, multi-purpose, and autonomous robots for use in construction sites. Some focus on wall rendering (e.g. stucco, exterior insulation and finish systems, concrete, primer, and adhesives), others automate the construction site layout process with a mobile robot. Drones are another pivotal trend, e.g. for the collection of high-resolution data to generate field intelligence, or to improve land surveying services (especially in infrastructure). AI and Machine Learning will automate many construction tasks in unprecedented ways. For instance, there are startups that use AI and an IoT platform on cranes to transform any site into a smart, data-collecting field, automating decision-making tasks on-site.

Management Tools for the Construction Site

A large amount of construction waste is due to poor management. 38% of construction management professionals consider poor processes and procedures to be a vital cause of technology failures4. 45% report that they spend more time than expected on non-optimal activities5. Adopting many of the emerging digital technologies on-site could enhance the rise of smart project management. These technologies, combined with real-time data, could enable ground field managers to make better informed decisions around scheduling labor and materials for a particular project.

More examples

For instance, software has been developed that creates a “digital twin” of the construction site using hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras. These allow project managers at construction sites to get an overview of the state of a project and whether it remains on schedule. Another helpful innovation is an automated cloud platform that was designed and built for infrastructure construction projects. It enables real estate construction companies to monitor project progress, ensure quality, and control budgets based on actionable project execution metrics extracted from field data.

The real estate construction industry moving forward

Though these technologies are impressive, they will end up being wasted if they are not accepted and ultimately utilized by the people in charge. They will not simply catch on. Innovation has led real estate to new heights before, and we must be open, receptive, and critical (when necessary) to technology that could further improve the industry. COVID-19 will probably end like other pandemics before. However, global warming is quite another story. When it will hit, it will hit hard, and with long lasting consequences. Innovation and the implementation of new technologies could be our ”vaccine” to help us prepare for the next crisis to come, and enable the real estate construction industry to thrive.

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Innovation & Construction in the Shade of Global Crisis
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