3D Printing in Construction: What you Need to Know

Not too long ago, 3D printing, the creation of a 3D object from a digital file, felt like the stuff of the future. When 3D printing was first talked about, we had lofty expectations for how the average consumer might benefit. Could we print out our dinner one day? How about the fork used to eat that dinner? If that dinner, and many others, clogged an artery, would our doctor print us a new one? Construction firms and architects have taken a different perspective entirely, however.

<!--read_more-->

Where 3D printing was once applied to only creating small scale projects, many professionals now seek to introduce 3D printing to larger scale projects as a construction technology for complex components or even constructing entire buildings.

Benefits Benefits of 3D printing technology for the construction industry include less waste. A precise 3D print will have less scrap than other methods of construction. Any scrap that is produced can be recycled. The material that is used for all 3D printing can, in fact, be recycled products. This green benefit can boost construction firms into Green Building Standards for more sustainable construction. The labor costs for a project would be lower as the 3D printer could take on the tasks of several workers with minimal supervision. This is turn could create a safer environment on the jobsite because some of the most dangerous jobs could be taken on by 3D printers. Fast and accurate project execution could be gained through the use of 3D printing for complex components of a construction project and entire building projects alike. With 3D printing, the digital file or model is transformed directly into a physical execution. That leaves fewer steps for error, including human error. Any problems in the physical model would be directly linked to the digital file in most cases.

The Flip Side Some of the benefits covered above have direct disadvantages associated with them. First and foremost, the 3D printer taking the work of humans and reducing the employee numbers in the industry is a disadvantage. 3D printers are feared to be one of the machines that take the job of a person, and this could be true in the construction industry. Conventional product manufacturing companies and their employees could also suffer if the construction industry no longer has a high demand for their product. As discussed earlier, 3D printers can only use specific materials, some of which can be recycled. This limits the number of projects a 3D printer would be able to complete on its own in its entirety. Not every construction job is able to be done with only these few materials structurally and aesthetically. Although projects can be completely quickly, if they are not completely accurately it can have huge ramifications for the project. Issues that can arise because of these errors can be unsoundness, lost time, and the loss of the investment in the first faulty rendering. Storage and transportation of a 3D printer would need to be sorted out with special care. These printers are large and expensive. The printer would likely be stored on-site, but it cannot be stored the same as conventional construction site tools and machinery.

Looking Forward As with all technology in the construction industry, the 3D printer will be refined and creatively used when it is possible to do so. Being creative on what materials are used in the 3D printer can open up wider possibilities for the types of construction projects a 3D printer could be used for. The creation of larger 3D printers or modified 3D printers will also create more possibilities. Sheer scale could hold back some projects while hesitation on the investment could hold back others.

How Modern Technology Aids in Historic Preservation

Historic preservation means keeping a piece of history alive and many people are all for it. We love to look at the old architecture and feel connected to our country’s history. We want to be able to share memories and teach the next generation about their roots. As strains on space become more of an issue, building reuse will only become more popular. Many buildings and homes throughout the country have been carefully tended for years to keep their original splendor and charm while others need new life breathed into them. Either way, keeping historic buildings and homes in tip-top shape increases their value. How does technology play a role?

<!--read_more-->

There are a few benefits these historic sites reap from times changing. Energy Efficient From thin, one pane glass to little or no insulation, historic charmers aren’t always an energy dream. Luckily, and thanks to modern amenities, this can be remedied. There are several changes that can be made to a building, without changing the aesthetics much, that will make it more energy efficient. Good ventilation and more durable materials play a big role in creating efficiency where there once was none. Modern technology makes this possible through higher quality materials and through coordinated efforts made possible by construction planning applications. Less Intrusive Fix The wiring may have been old, destroyed, or use PCBs. Maybe the plumbing needs fixed. In the past, this might have meant opening up the walls or floors to get at these problems. However, now older buildings and homes can be worked on without destroying those original stucco textured walls or the intricate parquet flooring. Thanks to technology, there are ways to see behind walls and fix issues without opening everything up. Detecting Hazards Hazards in many forms can be found in older buildings and homes. This can be structural or connected to the materials used. Luckily, we have new materials that can replace any hazardous ones and ways to detect these problems without putting anyone in harm’s way. Asbestos was used in many buildings for a number of years. Today, there are ways to detect this harmful product and replace it without putting any one in danger. There is also a possibility that other hazards, such as fire hazards or lead based paint, which itself can be a fire hazard, exist in older structures. For these types of hazards, cameras on flexible snakes and testing allow renovators to make the structure safer.

Job Costing Best Practices

Job costing is a pretty basic requirement for all construction projects. You have to track and account for all costs associated with a project. To take it a step further, you should also categorize these costs based on their relationship to the project. Common examples of these include labor, materials, equipment, subcontract charges, and burden.

<!--read_more-->

The best way to track these costs is by categorizing them based on the phase or task within the project because this will give you a more granular understanding of your costs. This alone will give you deeper insights and help you to modify your process to better account for costs related to a job in the future.

Modification in labor and schedule are benefits that can be directly driven from a more granular look at costing. Over time, collecting this data will help create more efficiency for your firm. In the future, you will be able to better plan for what it will take to successfully budget for labor from a financial standpoint and a time standpoint as well.

Understanding of profitability is another important part of job costing. Knowing if you have been profitable on a particular job is vital to a firm’s longevity. Proper job costing gives you that. You can also fine-tune individual phases and tasks based on your findings. Data will be available on your profitability, because of proper costing efforts, to aid you in making these decisions. Future projects of a similar nature will be directly impacted because of your ability to tweak your approach.

True job costing should not leave out what is usually chalked up as “overheard,” however. Keeping your numbers competitive is important, and that is why items like office supplies and expenses are often left out of job costing. To give your firm a real handle on estimates for the future, however, adding some of these costs, such as printing costs which can be quite large, makes sense. Printing costs include the plans, subcontracts, owner agreements, and schedules. The total for this can come in at the thousands. Categorizing this as part of your job costing helps you plan for the future, offset some overhead costs, and even generate income for the project.

Last but not least, technology is not always accounted for in job costing. Having up-to-date technology gives you a huge advantage, but the cost is not always cheap. Although many see technology as a black-hole, it should not be considered overhead. The technology used includes the iPad used by the superintendent, a laptop used on the job, project management software, accounting software, and the like. A firm should account for the work done in the background. Reporting on it is a great way to start, but taking it into your job costing will

As projects and technology both continue to evolve, it is important to evolve your processes as well. Reevaluating areas of your business, like job costing, with a fresh perspective, could help you streamline your approach and achieve greater efficiency.

Technology’s Impact on Safety in Construction

Working on a construction site can be hazardous. According to OSHA, construction fatalities account for 19.5% of the total fatalities across all industries in the U.S. It has been a long-standing factor of the construction industry for contractors to have to balance trying to meet their safety goals with the knowledge that devastating consequences are possible. Safety policies and procedures exist to keep workers as safe as possible, such as OSHA standards for a workplace to be free of known dangers. Even with these policies and standards, hazards still exist, but that doesn’t mean a worksite has to be unsafe. Technology has stepped up to create safety measures that didn't exist before.

<!--read_more-->

Futuristic Advances in technology are making construction sites safer and more efficient. There are many different types of technology that contribute to this enhanced site safety, with more emerging every day. Drones and robots are among the most futuristic technologies. The robots and drones can do dangerous tasks and collect data that increase safety. Drones and robots can be sent to places that workers can’t or shouldn’t venture to. Detailed observations go a long way in safety measures for construction sites and drones give this ability. They are also able to collect data and send it back to the main office. Communication Timely communication is a luxury we have all experienced from technological advances. We know the benefits well, and when applied to construction, it can make a difference in safety. It’s now more than just walkie talkies and cell phones, other communication systems allow for increased communication and record keeping throughout the jobsite and from the jobsite to the office.  Wearable technologies have the capability to send an alert if the person wearing it has fallen or is otherwise injured. Data Sharing collected data may not seem like a safety precaution but it is becoming increasingly important. It isn’t something that is done right there on the jobsite like a robot doing underwater welding, but it enhances safety none the less. Just like all other industries, big data is becoming part of construction. Real-time reports with current data can be automated for stakeholders, management, and employees to stay updated. These reports give feedback on hazards and unsafe jobsites. Having up-to-date data means fixes can be made quickly to keep all workers safe. Having applications that are integrated will only enhance the ability to have accurate and intelligent data for safety in construction. Big data gives executives the ability to gain insights on safety and ways to improve their efficiency. Technology is doing its part to keep construction workers safe and the future will only bring more innovative ways to keep them safe.

The Internet of Things: What you Need to Know

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz around the Internet of Things, or IoT. What is IoT and what can it do for you? We have the answers. The internet of things is a network of remotely controlled devices. Anything from your fridge or your babycam to the HVAC in your office building. Any of these physical things can be connected, or networked, and controlled remotely. The applications could be endless for your home. You could control everything from your garage door to your coffee maker and beyond. If you forget to turn off the oven or want to change the temperature on the thermostat, you can do it from your smartphone. It gives users so much more visibility and control, which can lead to more safety. How does it work? It’s actually quite simple. It is a combination of processors with real work electronic sensors.

<!--read_more-->

These sensors are wirelessly networked so you can view and control them. Now to look at it from a construction standpoint. With some imagination, the construction industry could apply this technology to almost anything. Data could be taken from the field using sensors and alerts could be created when something is amiss. The more data you have, the more accurate the decision-making process can go. This saves time and money in construction. The machinery and equipment used in construction can be connected to the Internet of Things to let owners and users know when machine hours, fuel consumption, GPS tracking, and idle time. Knowing these key factors can help with scheduling preventative maintenance, increasing productivity. Being able to remotely test other essential equipment through IoT will help decision makers fix problems only when truly necessary. When the machinery is able to self-monitor, it also saves a lot of time. Sensors on machinery can also help avoid collisions and keep employees safe. Monitoring inventory is another useful way to apply IoT to construction. With IoT, inventory can be accurately tracked and managed. No more pen and pencil log books that can outdated and easily falsified. Time Logging can be done through IoT more accurately than many traditional forms of time logging. This is important because when these logs are falsified, it can have serious consequences. These are also much harder to falsify than traditional log books. Wearables and drones are other high tech pieces to this puzzle that can be connected, as well. The wearables could be in the form of an activity band that will keep track of his vitals and sleep patterns.  Drones are able to collect all kinds of data and adding sensors so they are part of the IoT network will make that data easier to track and manage. Cost savings is one of the main benefits of IoT. Sensors allow you to manage all of the small details that can drain your budget. All devices must be networked together and communicate seamlessly for IoT to yield benefits. These integrations will ensure you are taking advantage of all of the data you collect from the many devices you connect.

Three Building Blocks of a Modern Jobsite

Construction jobsites are evolving. Technology is playing a bigger role in every aspect of construction projects from the way engineers and designers collaborate to the way we track onsite employees. Construction has not been untouched by the advances in technology- even the small mom and pop shops are finding ways to integrate technology into their projects. This more technologically advanced jobsite didn’t happen overnight, of course. It took time and several steps to get to where we are today.

<!--read_more-->

A good foundation of technology had to be built before a firm could move onto the next great tool. A modern jobsite has three building blocks to seamless work with technology. Paperless We’ve been hearing about the advances in a paperless jobsite for quite a while now. With the construction industry becoming more competitive, paperless jobsites have been growing in popularity. The benefits are far reaching. A paperless jobsite in itself allows for less waste, better transparency, and higher efficiency. Document and data management can be done in real time and cut costs with better control over projects. Paperless is hitting more than just the construction industry, most industries are switching to this better way of working. Going paperless is the first step to a truly modern jobsite. Mobile Mobility is the next building block of a modern jobsite. This is a natural step from paperless as it requires, in most ways, for the jobsite to already be functioning as a paperless jobsite. But it is an excellent tool for every Mobility takes it one step further by connecting devices to the essential applications and software used to run a jobsite. Mobility means better connectivity between the jobsite and the offsite firm overseeing the job. Mobility also opened up possibilities for tracking employees in a new way. Timesheet can be done through geolocation- when an employee is on the jobsite, he or she is clocked in, when he is not, he or she is clocked out. Frictionless Frictionless jobsites haven’t caught on quite like mobile and paperless jobsites, but they are the next step. Frictionless jobsites refer to jobsites that have maximized their use of technology to remove all time-consuming and inconvenient processes from their projects. Frictionless jobsites allow for real-time collaboration, use smart geolocation, and take advantage of automation. A frictionless jobsite is all about being innovative. Implementing technology in all ways that create efficiency is truly frictionless and requires paperless and mobile jobsites to be established.  

Triple Sight in Construction Technology

As a construction specialist working in the technology industry, our Construction Technology Architect Adam realizes the potential tech has to transform the construction industry. To help others best understand how technology in construction has evolved, and therefore where it can lead in respect to app integration, business intelligence, and security, he has broken it down into the three stages of triple sight; hindsight, current sight and foresight. Hindsight Hindsight is all about learning about and analyzing the past.

<!--read_more-->

When it comes to applications and integration in construction, integration was historically limited to main business functions. Accounting, CRM, and some light estimating functions were the only opportunities for integration in the construction space. These integrations were useful for the main operations and increased efficiency and data intelligence. However, countless other solutions could not be integrated. When it came to creating assemblies and take-offs, field reporting, and productivity capture, it all had to be done by spreadsheets or pen and paper reporting. These core business functions were, at the time, left without the benefits of integration. In the past, business intelligence was completely reactionary. It was an incredibly labor-intensive process of reporting and analysis realized most often through market research and project close-out reporting. We learned how our mistakes or oversights affected profitability and tried to correct those mistakes in the future without the ability to pivot during project execution. When it comes to security, we realize it was a different time with different risks. One of the biggest security concerns was human error and user vulnerabilities. The external risks were far fewer simply because of the nature of technology at the time. The tech itself posed a security risk because of the capabilities of the systems and the lifespan of both hardware and infrastructure. The lack of continuity plans were a hindrance on firms as well. Current Sight The current sight is all about understanding what is available now and how it can be best utilized to see maximum benefits in your operation. Currently, there are applications available for all aspects of business functions. No longer is it required for an organization to rely on spreadsheets or pen and paper reporting for core functions. Through this, the focus on efficiency is more apparent and more achievable than ever before. This is driven by tighter margins, aggressive schedules, and emerging construction practices. Currently, integration is thought of in a different way than ever before. It has become a pre-requisite and not a commodity in the application selection process. What does this mean for you? The focus on efficiency in the field is no longer the only profit driver. In order to offset the “cost of doing construction,” corporate efficiency continues to be a driving factor. Two main focuses in this arena are removing data double entry and curbing multiple sources for reporting data. We have seen a sizable increase in the use of software solutions in construction when we compare 2014 and 2015. Here is a quick snapshot of the top solutions including CRM, BIM, estimating and takeoff, field capture and reporting, and project management. Triple Sight Blog chart As it stands now, business intelligence is obtained through a strategic integration plan. This allows companies to answer two important questions: What are our economic drivers? And how can we improve these in real time? The analysis is much more flexible and can be run per project, phase, vertical, or any other way you need. Custom dashboards exist for individual roles including executives, sales, operations, and accounting. Security has come a long way and human error and vulnerabilities are combated by continuity plans as now continuity plans are prerequisites of doing business. The focus in security has shifted to external threats and internal systematic vulnerabilities. To combat this, risk assessments are imperative as they identify risks and publishing mitigation strategies. Cyber liability insurance is one of the best ways to safeguard your business today and calls for a privacy policy, acceptable use policy, network security policy, incident response policy, disaster recovery policy, encrypted devices, secure remote capabilities, protocols for user identification, authentication, and integrity. Foresight Looking at the trends in construction today and how far technology has come in this industry, we look at the possibilities of the future. SaaS and hosted platforms for application integration are going to become essential across the board.  In the future, we fully expect to see complete automation for project lifecycles in corporate offices from start to close-out. The benefits of these platforms are many but two of the top benefits are a streamlined application portfolio, scalability without additional labor-force, and a reduced TCO for IT infrastructure. In the realm of business intelligence, the best strategic planners are going to dominate the market as market strategy and prediction will be widespread throughout the industry. SMART schedules with the ability to pivot project execution plans day-to-day or even hour-to-hour will also become essential. In the near future, security as a service with risk assessment, intrusion detection, and penetration testing will be the norm. A more granular approach will be taken the managed security, data logging and auditing, role-based security settings, and behavior based security   Bringing it all together Triple sight is something we should all be implementing. Understanding where we have been and where we are going allows you to set yourself up for success. Five action items you can do immediately to get started:

  • Create an internal committee
  • Define your critical applications
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Define your economic driver & true profitability
  • Leverage internal communication solutions to cut down on lost time

Virtual Reality-  Changing the game in Construction

Every building project has its surprises. From a small DIY project to building a hospital, things don’t always go according to plan. This efficiency-sucking truth could change for construction firms through virtual reality. Virtual reality is more than just a cool way to play video games. It has applications across many industries and disciplines from helping veterans cope with PTSD to touring a college campus from across the country. Its application to construction could have a significant impact on building and planning projects.

<!--read_more-->

Planning Virtual reality allows for the planning process of a building project to be much more detailed and precise. Before the building process starts, the plans can be fine-tuned to cut out inefficiency. Once a building project has started, it is costly to make changes; virtual reality can eliminate this need. Using virtual reality, you could look behind a wall and see what could interferences or challenges you might come up against when planning the plumbing, electric, duct work, and more. Resolving these issues before a project is started means less time is wasted and projects will be completed on schedule. It can also take the speed of project approval to the next level. Quicker approvals have been seen by many firms who use virtual reality because there is less confusion for someone who is not accustomed to looked at blueprints or BIM models. If these plans are shared with the construction crew, everyone will be on the same page and have a good understanding of what will be constructed. Design More than the layout and building materials can be planned by using virtual reality. This tool allows for the design to come to full fruition before any walls go up. For instance, a dentist could see what his patient rooms look like, where he will set up his station, and where the window will be in relation to his computer. Being able to really see the rooms takes a lot of the guessing out for the client. Virtual reality gives a whole new layer to jobsite walks. It’s no longer just about envisioning what will come together, it can be seen before it happens. You can also insert the exact specs from a manufacturer, such as the exact faucet you will use, increasing again the level of detail. Higher satisfaction in clients can be obtained through virtual reality because of the level of involvement they are able to have. Room for creativity Like all new technology being applied to the construction industry, virtual reality in construction leaves room for creativity to take hold. New ways to apply this tool have potential to revolutionize the industry. When combined with other trending technologies, such as drones or GPS tracking, virtual reality is made even more powerful.