How has tech dis­rupted con­struc­tion in­dus­try

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Anuj Puri let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ n

Tech­nol­ogy has dis­rupted al­most ev­ery facet of the real es­tate busi­ness to­day. How­ever, the cre­ation of the core prod­uct is and will re­main the most im­por­tant as­pect of this busi­ness, and ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies are cer­tainly play­ing a ma­jor role there. By adopt­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies like au­to­ma­tion in con­struc­tion, in­no­va­tive de­signs, sus­tain­abil­ity, use of pre­fab­ri­cated ma­te­rial and on­line mar­ket­ing, de­vel­op­ers can value-engi­neer their prod­uct. Let’s look at some of the ex­ist­ing and up­com­ing tech­nol­ogy dis­rup­tions in real es­tate con­struc­tion.


Among the many new tech­nolo­gies al­ready adopted by the con­struc­tion sec­tor, 3D Print­ing (large-scale print­ing of homes) is an­tic­i­pated to change the way real es­tate is built over the next decade. Though still very nascent, 3D Print­ing can po­ten­tially re­place a sub­stan­tial amount of con­struc­tion across ma­jor seg­ments, in­clud­ing res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial or even re­tail.

This will be a mas­sive par­a­digm shift in real es­tate de­vel­op­ment. Apart from se­ri­ously re­duc­ing waste, cost and labour re­quire­ments, 3D print­ing will help builders pen­e­trate the hith­erto in­ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas of dense ur­ban cen­tres, where it is im­pos­si­ble to set up heavy ma­chin­ery for con­struc­tion. 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy will even­tu­ally also in­volve the print­ing of in­ter­nal struc­tures such as walls, plumb­ing, elec­tri­cal sys­tems, vent­ing and so on.

Given the rapid rate at which tech­nol­ogy is reimag­ing every­thing in mod­ern life, it would per­haps be rash to tag 3D print­ing in con­struc­tion as ‘hope­lessly fu­tur­is­tic’. It will hap­pen sooner than we may ex­pect. While 3D print­ing in the con­struc­tion sec­tor is yet to kick­start in In­dia, an en­tire two-story house was 3D printed from con­crete in Bei­jing in just 45 days - from start to fin­ish. The po­ten­tial of this highly dis­rup­tive con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy is there­fore be­yond dis­pute.

Of course, there are con­sid­er­able costs in­volved in this tech­nol­ogy. 3D print­ing ma­chines us­able in the con­struc­tion sec­tor can cost as much as $2,000,000. Also, their cur­rent ca­pac­i­ties are lim­ited to struc­tures of less than 33 feet (10 me­ters) in height, with a through­put of less than 550 pounds (250 kilo­grams) per hour.

In other words, 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy in the con­struc­tion sec­tor can change the way real es­tate func­tions but cur­rently they are largely lim­ited to print­ing small build­ings. For lar­ge­size build­ings in­clud­ing mul­ti­storey of­fices or large malls, ma­chines of con­sid­er­ably higher ca­pac­i­ties would be needed.


An ex­ist­ing con­struc­tion tech- nol­ogy which is fast gain­ing ground is Build­ing In­for­ma­tion Mod­el­ling (BIM) soft­ware that al­lows de­sign­ers to pro­duce 3D mock-ups of planned struc­tures along with crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about costs and con­struc­tion time­lines. Many small and medium or­ga­ni­za­tions are shy­ing away from the adop­tion of BIM tech­nol­ogy as it in­volves high im­ple­men­ta­tion fees and train­ing costs, in­clud­ing the cost of hir­ing ex­perts, train­ing the ex­ist­ing work­force - apart from the in­vest­ment in the tech­nol­ogy it­self. Since many of In­dia’s de­vel­op­ers sim­ply don’t have bud­gets to meet these ad­di­tional ex­pen­di­tures, they pre­fer to fol­low tra­di­tional meth­ods.

How­ever, BIM tech­nol­ogy has cer­tainly found a foothold in In­dia. Some ex­am­ples of com­pa­nies us­ing BIM soft­ware in­clude the Nag­pur Metro Rail Cor­po­ra­tion (NMRC) that adopted 5D BIM tech­nol­ogy for prac­ti­cal com­ple­tion of the project and cre­ate an Is­sue-Based In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (IBIS) for each phase of the project.

In Am­rit­sar, a rapid tran­sit sys­tem was con­structed us­ing Vir­tual De­sign and Con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy. Spread over 4 km, this rapid tran­sit sys­tem is one of the finest ex­am­ples of the ap­pli­ca­tion of BIM tech­nol­ogy in In­dia.


Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies world­wide and also in In­dia have be­gun us­ing Vir­tual/Aug­mented Re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy to en­hance con­struc­tion worker safety train­ing. VR al­lows work­ers and work man­agers to vi­su­al­ize the more se­ri­ous con­struc­tion site haz­ards and pre­pare for them ad­e­quately. Firms also use apps that link VR/AR tech to their BIM soft­ware. This al­lows con­trac­tors and de­vel­op­ers to cre­ate vir­tual walk­throughs of a struc­ture even be­fore it is com­plete, en­abling them to make more in­formed de­sign de­ci­sions early in the con­struc­tion stages and save on both time and costs.


Drones: Although ex­pen­sive, the use of drones is gain­ing pop­u­lar- ity for man­ag­ing and in­spect­ing sites. Drones al­low de­vel­op­ers to map a site and cre­ate 2D as well as 3D im­ages. Most of the ad­vanced drones use a co­or­di­nate-based sys­tem which helps achieve ab­so­lute ac­cu­racy in mea­sure­ments.

Brick-lay­ing ro­bots: Con­struc­tion is a highly labour-in­ten­sive in­dus­try. How­ever, labour costs can be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced, and qual­ity and pre­ci­sion stan­dards con­sid­er­ably in­creased by us­ing ro­bot­ics for the repet­i­tive, me­chan­i­cal func­tions such as brick­lay­ing. We have al­ready seen the in­tro­duc­tion of a semi-au­to­mated ma­son aptly called ‘SAM’. This ro­bot, which lays bricks rapidly and pre­cisely, has been de­signed and engi­neered by Con­struc­tion Ro­bot­ics. It is the first com­mer­cially avail­able brick­lay­ing ro­bot which works in col­lab­o­ra­tion with hu­man ma­sons and in­creases their pro­duc­tiv­ity up to five-fold. For all its in­no­va­tive­ness, it is def­i­nitely only the first it­er­a­tion of many even more ef­fi­cient ma­chines to come.

All this is im­por­tant if we con­sider that while tech­nol­ogy can and is re­plac­ing hu­mans in var­i­ous ways and that an en­tirely new al­ter­nate ‘on­line uni­verse’ has now opened up, hu­mans them­selves will al­ways re­quire con­structed build­ings to live and work in. There is no im­me­di­ate fore­see­able way of cater­ing to all the phys­i­cal needs of mankind purely by means of tech­nol­ogy.

In other words, real es­tate will re­main rel­e­vant no mat­ter how rapidly tech­nol­ogy evolves - the vir­tual space has in­her­ently in­sur­mount­able lim­i­ta­tions when it comes to serv­ing or­ganic life-forms. How­ever, a lot of ‘hu­man in­puts’ re­lated to the con­cep­tion and cre­ation of the re­quired real es­tate can and is ei­ther be­ing re­placed or im­proved upon by tech­nol­ogy. The au­thor is Chair­man ­ ANAROCK Prop­erty Con­sul­tants


Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies have be­gun us­ing aug­mented re­al­ity to en­hance worker safety.

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