If you are reading this, you know that the construction industry is ripe for innovation. For me, that innovation is deeply rooted in a people-focused problem that I encountered early in my career. As an owner’s representative managing schedules, I often found that the WMBE contractors we worked with had little experience or training in the technology we required, which led to frustration and delays in providing acceptable deliverables.
To address this issue, I created guides and worked closely with the contractors to ensure they understood our expectations. This experience gave me a unique perspective on the role of innovation in construction. For me, innovation should always be focused on improving people’s happiness in their day-to-day work. By simplifying and streamlining processes, innovation can make work faster, easier, and more fulfilling, allowing people to go back to their families safely at the end of the day.
However, I also understand that many current technology solutions can often add layers of complexity and confusion for those using it, ultimately taking time away from family. That’s why I always return to the basics to ensure that innovation serves the people it aims to help. With emerging technologies like AI and blockchain, we have the opportunity to create a safer, more efficient, and more fulfilling work that benefits everyone involved in the building process.
In this article, we’ll explore how the construction industry is using innovation to create better processes and outcomes, including the influence of AI and blockchain, as well as robotics and better relationship building. We’ll also examine how innovation can impact the mental health of those working in the industry and the ways in which it can help improve the lives of workers and their families. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the ways in which innovation is transforming the construction industry and the potential for even greater change in the years to come.
Respect For People
As co-chair of the Respect for People Committee at the Lean Construction Institute, I am constantly learning about how the first tenant of Lean, “Respect for People,” is transforming the construction industry. The Lean construction methodology is vital and can be applied to any project, regardless of the contract type. By optimizing workflows and reducing waste, it leads to improved efficiency and lower costs. Additionally, it enables better relationship building with suppliers, contractors, and other stakeholders, leading to more efficient and collaborative projects.
Although the full integrated form of agreement (IFOA) is not as heavily utilized these days, pursuing Lean is one of the foundations of innovation because it establishes clear expectations with the customer, encourages trade contractors to collaborate with other trades on how the flow of work is sequenced, provides contractors with an opportunity to own their work product in the design phase to reduce design changes and change orders, and ultimately fosters empathy for each person involved. This allows for improved collaboration, and faster transfer of information to the right people reducing delays, change orders, and frustrations on projects.
However, while the people-focused approach is crucial, it is also essential to delve into the hard tech that is created for people and by people. In the following sections, we will explore how AI and Blockchain are also transforming the construction industry.
As the construction industry continues to embrace new technologies, one area that is particularly impressive is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). The impact of AI on construction operations is immense.
Most recently, open.ai has released a generative language model, chatGPT which has allowed many to speed up administrative tasks that historically took 5-10 times longer. I’ve been able to use chatGPT as a consultant because of its access to such a broad set of information - personally and professionally. In fact, I used it to edit this very article. The opportunity for generative language models to impact our work is just beginning.
In recent years, AI has been analyzing data from construction sites including progress percent completes. It can identify potential hazards, optimize workflows, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. AI can also be used for predictive maintenance, which reduces downtime and extends the lifespan of equipment and machinery.
Boston Dynamics is leading the way in AI robotics, exploring many applications of robots in construction. With AI, these robots have the ability to do more than just perform tasks; they can also learn and adapt to their environment, making them an invaluable asset to any construction team. There are other companies coming up with viable solutions for sanding, patching and painting drywall, and bricklaying.
As the construction industry continues to explore the possibilities of AI, it’s clear that this technology will play a significant role in the future of construction design and operations. The potential for increased efficiency, improved safety, and reduced downtime is enormous, and it’s exciting to see how these innovations will continue to transform the industry in the years to come.
Blockchain technology has been making waves in the construction industry by providing greater transparency and accountability in supply chain management for materials and project financing for developers. But, there’s much more to it than that. Smart contracts, for example, are particularly useful in ensuring that payments are only made when certain milestones are reached, reducing the risk of disputes and delays.
As someone who’s been closely involved in this space since 2018, I’ve spoken with lawyers, software developers, and real estate professionals who are building and using blockchain technology. And while they all agree that it makes sense, it is hard work to implement it quickly. That’s why I teamed up with other passionate individuals to create a solution called BuilderPay. This platform sets up project funds in an escrow, tokenizes payment processes and allows for 24 hour approvals, providing faster payments and benefits of blockchain for businesses.
Ultimately, it all comes down to creating a technology supported governance model that supports accountable and trustworthy interactions between parties. By streamlining payment processes with blockchain technology, contractors can focus on what they do best, without worrying about putting dinner on the table.
In conclusion, the construction industry is experiencing a transformative period, where new and emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain are being integrated into traditional practices. The adoption of these technologies is leading to a more sustainable, efficient, and safer construction industry, while also fostering better relationship building between stakeholders. As a proponent of lean principles and CEO of Builderchain, I believe that the industry must prioritize respect for people and empathetic collaboration as a key tenet in achieving these advancements. I am eager to see how these technologies will continue to shape the industry and create a better work day for all involved.