You’d think that the London Olympia Exhibition Centre would be far too spacious for a trade show for the construction industry. To the contrary: the place was absolutely packed with exhibitions, talks and visitors; so much so that it almost made the colossal building seem almost too small.
From eco-friendly solutions to construction technology and mental health, this industry now attracts a very wide range of businesses. This makes sense, given how complicated construction has become, with an increasingly competitive environment, rising consumer demands and regulations designed to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
This blog highlights some of the trends that were evident at Build, that will herald a new era in construction.
The internet and personal devices have become ubiquitous in this day and age, so it makes sense that a number of industries have allowed themselves to become digitised. The same is beginning to happen for the construction industry, and BIM is one of the examples. While BIM has been around for a couple of decades, it has up until now been confined to back-office computer systems. Only in the age of tablets, smartphones and cloud computing has it become a handy tool that can be used on the field. Building Information Modelling is the practice of creating graphical representations of a building. This can be utilised by architects, renovators, estate agents and especially consultants who have to inspect buildings to check for compliance issues, repair work and quality checks. Consultants can create a map of the building, record photos, documents and comments via their device, and upload it to the map, showing exactly where the new task is located. This can be sent to the worker, who can then click on the pin on the map to access all the information, guaranteeing a smooth handover from consultants to workers. The small but growing number of BIM-based companies at London Build shows that this is not too far off from becoming an industry standard tool.
There were several businesses at Build focusing on the mental health of construction workers, offering various methods to provide one’s employees with a buffer against workplace stress. This was great to see as it indicates that the construction industry is waking up to this silent epidemic, which is not only deleterious to workers, but can also hamper a company’s ability to meet deadlines while ensuring quality work. According to a study conducted by Mates in Mind, 44% of construction workers interviewed suffered from stress due to workload
While no one would disagree that taking care of your staff is important, we at Next believe that workplace stress begins with miscommunication and fractured information distribution. How many arguments have broken out because a task didn’t reach the assigned worker, or due to the worker not having the right information and tools for the job? How many times have projects fallen behind schedule, where the requirements were either not communicated effectively or changed at the last minute? How much additional work has been created due to a lack of coordination? Many of these issues can be avoided by giving workers the right tools. Construction management and collaboration tools can help workers to see the big picture, seeing who is working on what and which deadlines should be prioritised.
New Compliance Demands & Planning Bottlenecks
The presence of companies dedicated to fibre optic broadband, EV charging, insulation and eco-friendly construction reminded many of one inescapable fact: the requirements for building compliant structures has increased dramatically as of late. Keeping up with these regulations can be difficult for smaller companies; especially when it comes to verifying compliance and rectifying any shortfalls.
Compliance isn’t the only issue: one of the talks on the current state of the UK construction industry highlighted the frustration that many developers experience in gaining planning permission from local government. It was speculated that the coming flurry of cuts in government spending may create serious bottlenecks in the planning process; an obstacle that smaller developers with limited resources will struggle to weather.
Both of the developments above point towards the need for smaller businesses to be as agile and lean as possible, in order to keep up with the larger ones. When time and money become strained resources, the solution is to look towards digital tools that can cut through a lot of the issues that pop up on the construction site, day to day, leaving businesses with more time to focus on liaising with local councils and meeting regulations.
The Changing Face of Construction
Construction is changing. Not just the construction businesses themselves, but also consumer expectations, government regulations and economic trends. The only way to deal with the increasing demand from all angles is to find the right tools that can facilitate team work, communication and compliance.