Technology has made construction sites safer and more efficient. Construction companies are now able to tackle complex projects with greater ease. Technology has increased productivity and cut costs writes Renjini Liza Varghese.
Apickup truck, a nail gun, a portable circular saw, a cement mixer truck, and a modern hydraulic excavator, cranes are a common sight at modern construction sites. But construction is one segment that is considered sluggish in adapting to latest technologies. However, some stakeholders have a different story to tell. They feel that though the segment is slow in adapting to technology, it has significantly upgraded or adopted new technologies.
Technology has made construction sites safer and more efficient. A majority of stakeholders agrees that productivity has increased and construction companies are able to tackle complex projects with greater ease. Technology has helped companies to build stronger highrises and engineering marvels in the country.
The key change that we witnessed is the adaptation of ready-mix, batching plants, precasts, pre-engineered buildings in construction. One can say concrete mixer or ready-mix was the pioneer in tech adaptations in construction industry. The segment has witnessed various levels of improvement and continues to see more innovations that enhance efficiency.
The technology adaptation has considerably reduced dependency on manual labour and helped construction companies to improve efficiency in terms of output, time saving and fuel cost.
G Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter, says, “Fuel efficiency is one major parameter that a customer looks into, given the bearing it has on the design of green products. Concepts such as low lifecycle cost, faster return of investments, cost per cubic metre, all have a positive impact on OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), who have launched a variety of pumps to suit the requirements of the customer, coupled with innovative service packages. New operating system gives all the information about pumping hours, running hours and wear and tear.”
Anil Banchhor, Managing Director and CEO, RDC Concrete (India) Pvt Ltd, adds, “Newer types of plants have come up to cater to the demand of the construction segment —ready mix, batching plants etc. This has increased efficiency significantly.”
More technology integration is being witnessed in the construction equipment segment. “On the constructione quipment side, we have seen the adaptation of GPS, RFIDs and telematics.”
Sakthikumar further elaborates, “Modern batching plants come with flexible computer-controls that facilitate storage of different mix recipes (variations of different strengths of concrete based on the amount aggregates – cement, water and sand that can be used). This can be precisely controlled, thereby enabling energy efficiency. Also batching plants these days produce high volume of concrete in a shorter time span, which was not the case until a few years ago. Finally, the key benefit of working with these plants is that the workers are given a controlled environment that is pollution free, thus enabling the quality of life for the operators.”
Pollution is a major concern for the construction industry and stakeholders are taking measures to reduce waste, thus contributing to the fight against climate change. Air, water, soil and noise pollution are considered majors in the list. However, waste of material and fuel consumption, too, have entered the list. Use of reusable and sustainable material is being considered as a solution to the issue.
After the climate change impact surfaced, the need for green building or sustainable building gained momentum in the last decade or so. Green structure is that which is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle — from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. The stakeholders have to be in tandem with each other at different stages of construction. In addition, the user needs to continue adopting greener ways to sustain. The Green Building practice expands and complements the building design concerns of economy, utility, durability and comfort.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Another certificate system that confirms the sustainability of buildings is the British BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) for buildings and large-scale developments. Currently, World Green Building Council is conducting research on the effects of green buildings on the health and productivity of their users and is working with World Bank to promote Green Buildings in Emerging Markets through EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) Market Transformation Program and certification. There are other tools, such as Green Star in Australia and the Green Building Index (GBI) that is predominantly used in Malaysia.
Cusp of New Era
Global consultancy firms, such as KPMG, are conducting studies on green buildings, periodically. “The engineering and construction (EandC) industry is at the cusp of a new era, with technology start-ups creating new applications and tools that are changing how companies design, plan and execute projects,” said one of the many reports in circulation. “By providing advanced software, construction-focused hardware, and analytics capabilities, these innovative start-ups are eliminating many of the problems that have dogged the EandC sector for decades, including difficulties compiling and sharing project information. Such improvements could not come at a better time, since construction projects are becoming increasingly complex and expensive, putting managers under greater pressure to improve costs, timelines, and efficiency,” the report pointed out.
Going forward, technology adaptation clubbed with green materials can, to a great extent, increase competitiveness, profits, safety and make the construction sustainable.