Adopting technology can help construction firms reduce errors, a new report claims – but only if it is implemented alongside cultural changes.
The Get it Right Initiative (GIRI), a membership organisation aiming to eliminate defects from construction, say that errors cost the industry up to £25bn a year and can occur at any stage of a project’s life cycle.
A new report from the group assesses new digital tools being adopted within construction to identify those with the “greatest potential” to reduce errors.
These include programs that can automatically produce designs and schedules, virtual reality software that can simulate sites, and robots that print a site’s layout on the ground ahead of construction.
Through GIRI’s own analysis and discussions with stakeholders in the sector, the new report identifies nine types of technology it believes are “most likely to make a genuine impact” in addressing defects (see box below).
But the report adds that the benefits of such technology will only be realised within a culture of “digital maturity”, involving factors that relate to people and processes as well as technology.
One contributor to the research commented: “The technology itself is only a small part of the challenge. The major part is the people and their motivations. You can never get someone to do something that they don’t want to do.”
A 2016 report from GIRI found that the top three root causes of error in construction were inadequate planning, late design changes and poorly communicated design information.
The report highlights a number of barriers to adopting technology, including the complexity of existing systems and structures and limited “bandwidth” among teams for new approaches.
It also notes a “disincentive to measure and record errors” because “no one wants to admit that they occur on their own projects”.
The authors say technology can only be successfully adopted when there is sufficient maturity in five areas: capabilities and skills, technology and data, standards and processes, strategy and governance, and communication and collaboration.
Commenting on the research findings, GIRI executive director Cliff Smith said: “The potential for digital construction to revolutionise the way we work is increasingly recognised. In an industry which loses between £10bn-£25bn per year on avoidable errors, technology can help support the benefits of getting construction right first time.
“The wide-ranging benefits of removing errors from construction are more important now than ever when you look at productivity, cost performance and sustainability from reduced waste.
“However, we can only solve the problem if we recognise it. We need to see a shift in working culture across the industry to one which prioritises zero error in design and construction.”
The nine technologies that are ‘most likely to make a genuine impact’ in addressing defects
- ‘Checking’ technology – systems that can check data and information to look for errors.
- Automated generation technology – programs that can automatically produce design layouts and construction schedules.
- Workflow engines – systems that help streamline work processes, for example by tracking progress, assigning responsibilities, or automating routine tasks.
- Visualisation software – tools that can simulate sites and designs through virtual or augmented reality.
- Collaboration and communication tools – applications to help teams work together, capture project data and keep clients informed.
- Computer vision – artificial intelligence which can analyse photographs and videos to help identify errors and anomalies on-site.
- IOT sensors – Internet-enabled sensors which can monitor various phenomena, such as temperature, moisture and movement.
- Digital setting out – where robots print the site layout onto the ground ahead of construction.
- Document management systems – cloud-based tools that support better collaboration and version control.