How Will Disruption Affect the Construction Industry?

The threat of disruption is what keeps the C-Suite in most businesses awake at night. The anxiety that a competitor with a leaner, digitally-transformed business model will come along to steal their business is all too real a prospect. In a sector like construction that has struggled to improve productivity levels in line with other industries, how big is the disruption threat?

Construction isn’t realistically susceptible to Uber or AirBnB style disruption, where high value businesses are built that own minimal assets. But consultancy firm McKinsey recently pointed to five disruptors in the construction sector, some of which are already having an impact.

The first is higher definition surveying and geolocation, including 3D scanning. These techniques produce highly refined 3D representations of sites or existing buildings. Plans and designs are built on more accurate and realistic data and the capture of ‘as built’ data is more rapid and accurate.

This technology links to the second disruptor, which is 5D BIM. The ability to add timing and cost data into BIM models has the potential to address the industry’s poor record on delivering on time and to budget.

Of course, there’s little point creating all of this data unless everyone is using it. Digital collaboration has arguably been slower to become an established way of working in construction than in many other industries. This is changing; and the pace of change will need to accelerate.

The ‘internet of things’ could also transform many aspects of construction. Opportunities range from remote controlled equipment that can operate in hazardous environments, to automated stock replenishment and accurate location of all plant and machinery. Utilisation data could drive more efficient inventory and Capex planning.

And, as whole life costs become a more significant consideration, future proofing of building design will become more common. This practice will attempt to anticipate changes that may be made to a building in its lifetime as well as looking at long term maintenance and energy costs.

The inescapable question is how much impact these disruptors can really have if they are feeding old fashioned construction methods, with their inherent variability and vulnerability to weather and labour availability.

In some ways panelised offsite construction could be seen as a disruptive technology – it eliminates many of the inefficiencies and uncertainties of traditional methods. But Innovaré prefers to focus on the greater certainty that comes with the technology – certainties over:

  • Build time
  • Quality
  • Precision
  • Cost

‘Disruptors’ such as digital collaboration are already business as usual in our world; allowing our in-house design, manufacturing and installation teams to work closely together. A truly transformed construction business must surely look at how we build, as well as the supporting technologies.