GAME CHANGER: Technology in the Field
By Terrence Robbins, vice president, information technology, Structure Tone
In the modern age of building construction, the process has always been fairly linear. The client expresses their requirements. The architect designs the building. The engineer designs the infrastructure. The construction manager leads construction with the assistance of specialized subcontractors.
But today, with new technologies and innovations emerging what seems like daily, the construction process is becoming more collaborative than ever, reducing design change iterations, identifying construction conflicts earlier in the building process, avoiding risk and saving clients time and money.
The advent of mobile devices has revolutionized the way we work. Thanks to mobile devices, construction managers and their teams can review plans, document progress, complete paperwork and answer calls and emails, among dozens of other responsibilities, right on a job site. And while the laptop provided some of those abilities, laptops were never conducive to field work—they’re bulky and require a surface to rest on while you use them. With the development of mobile applications, anyone can take their work into the field, literally working on the job with less need for time-consuming trips to the office or trailer to review plans or check on RFI responses and the status of submittals.
This mobility and flexibility has certainly changed the process and behavior of a project team. Project staff can spend more time actually observing the project work and communicating with subcontractors, the owner and the design team. Their days are less administrative and more focused on their area of expertise. We’ve even found that seasoned professionals who were reluctant to rely on the computer have fully embraced the mobile environment. The intuitiveness of the apps in our industry has made it easy for all levels of a crew to learn and use them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
The next frontier is the rapid development of augmented and virtual reality programs, which have the potential to bring project collaboration to even greater levels. From the earliest stages of design, the entire project team can see the design intent and details take shape and work together to solve any design issues before construction even begins. The client and project team can immerse themselves in the design, experiencing the new space as it will exist after the construction is complete. This enables the client to better understand the functional use of the space and make educated decisions around potential construction options.
While builders and designers will always rely on the fundamentals of their respective crafts, technology has undoubtedly opened the door to a much more efficient and effective culture of collaboration in construction. We’re seeing fewer change orders, faster solutions to challenging design issues and more alignment from the very beginning across the entire design team. And with the entrepreneurial spirit of both technology developers and construction professionals, we know the bar will only continue to raise higher. We’re excited to be part of it.