10 Innovations that Will Change Construction As We Know It

construction innovations shape the future of the industry

Construction innovations are progressing rapidly, and the industry now has a tremendous amount of resources to advance construction technology. Construction tech funding held steady at $5.38 billion in 2022.  

These investments in innovations pay off significantly; research shows that firms that are rated as "digitally savvy" outperform companies by as much as 48% on revenue and 15% on net margin. And this is true across many fields, including AEC.   

Research also show that when asked to self-assess, 25% of businesses overate their ability to use data effectively and a whopping 80% of construction businesses are classified as beginner or emerging levels of data capabilities.  

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a part of the construction industry. As it continues to change at an accelerated pace, innovations will bring about even more developments and advancements. Here are 10 innovations we believe will shape the future of the industry as we know it today. 

Top 10 construction innovations:

  1. AI & machine learning
  2. Resource & workforce management software
  3. 3D printing
  4. XR, AR, VR, and the metaverse
  5. Sensor data
  6. Digital twins
  7. Truly connected construction
  8. Takeoff & estimating tools
  9. BIM beyond design
  10. Robotics

1. AI and Machine Learning

Optimized workflows are essential to well-running projects and teams in the AEC industry. However, due to the complexity of construction, workflows have the tendency to be disconnected and manual in nature. The three most significant areas within optimized construction workflows are communication, data, and transparency. AI is making it easier to succeed across all three of these areas, resulting in greater productivity and profits. The fact that Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) proclaimed AI has the potential to increase industry profits by 71% by 2035 doesn’t hurt either. 

Machine learning is helping construction pros optimize their workflows and aid decision-making. Predictive analytics is quickly establishing its foothold in the construction industry’s core stack of technology tools. By leveraging current and historical data as well as machine learning, companies can make predictions about future outcomes. These predictions can then be used to make more informed decisions and strategize next moves. Research has also shown that data leaders in construction are 7x more likely to be using AI and machine learning.  

Predictive analytics and machine learning are especially valuable in today’s world of complex construction projects and operations. Companies need a precise way to mitigate risks, take advantage of opportunities, and prepare for challenges. This information also gives workers the freedom to focus on higher-value activities that are more likely to move the needle.  

BAM Ireland is an excellent example of this benefit. The multinational construction company leveraged Construction IQ, powered by Autodesk AI, as its predictive analytics tool for all projects. Doing so led to a 20% improvement in on-site quality and safety and a 25% increase in time spent on high-risk issues. 

Some construction AI innovations are even more subtle. For instance, another tool, AutoSpecs, allows you to find and track submittal items that may not have been added to the specification. The suggested submittals tool compares your current project specifications with historical project data and recommends potentially missing items to enhance accuracy and mitigate risks associated with overlooked details.

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2. Resource and Workforce Management Software

Managing resources and a workforce are massive expenses for construction companies. Effective workforce management can help companies keep operations running smoothly, optimize resource allocation, and avoid unexpected expenses as well as delays. 

Today, more companies are turning to software platforms to bring more efficiency and actionable analytics to their workforce, whether they be remote, on-site, large, or small. 

Construction innovations in workforce management solutions include predictive tracking, forecasting, and mobile-first interfaces. These solutions remove many of the manual processes that come with resource planning. 

Bridgit Bench is a workforce planning solution built for contractors to track pursuits, project changes, and forecast workforce needs. Project teams can push awarded and opportunity projects from Autodesk Construction Cloud to Bridgit Bench, keeping projects up to date as changes are made. 

One tool, Riskcast provides a way for crews to easily capture labor, equipment, and production plus more, without multiple systems and complex spreadsheets. Teams can sync real-time data into Autodesk Cost Management Performance Tracking to see actuals vs. planned.  

Solutions like these allow companies to access metrics and forecasting analytics to better allocate resources to the right projects at the right time. Workforce management solutions are especially important in our current economy, where volatile markets require firms to be as precise and efficient in their operations as possible. 

3. The Next Wave of 3D Printing

3D printing has long been cited as one of the top modern construction innovations. However, its future is even brighter these days as the technology moves from a novelty to an emerging industry standard. 

With the right implementation strategy—and some creative thinking—3D printing can help speed up projects, make materials more accessible, and enable you to create beautiful designs.  

As Stephan Mansour, a 3D Printing & Emerging Technology Advisor at MaRiTama Ltd points out, “Everything can be 3D-printed; it’s just a matter of how far you want to go, how scalable it is, and how much money you’re going to put in.” 

In terms of use cases, you can 3D print design elements like facades to make them more intricate and detailed. 3D printing can also be used to print parts, fixtures, and furniture for your building. This is particularly useful when you're dealing with supply shortages or when you're working in a remote area. Rather than waiting weeks or months for the materials you need, you can print them within a few hours or days. 

We can expect to see 3D printing technologies continue to mature and grow in the future. As companies look for ways to improve quality control, address skilled labor shortages, and explore advanced designs, 3D printing will be here to help them make it a success. 

4. XR, AR, VR, and the Metaverse

Extended Reality (XR) serves as the encompassing term for a spectrum of captivating and interactive technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). These transformative experiences are accessible through various devices, ranging from mobile devices to VR headsets. The allure of XR lies in its ability to seamlessly immerse individuals in the digital realm in real-time. 

This technology plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) workflows as highlighted by the announcement of Autodesk Workshop XR, an immersive design review workspace. The evolution of XR is swiftly paving the way for more impactful and efficient work processes. With innovations like Workshop XR, AEC teams are discovering new avenues for issue tracking, error prevention, and enhanced spatial understanding, ultimately improving workflows and integration. 

The increasing adoption of XR signifies a paradigm shift in how we approach work, collaboration, and project success. This dynamic environment enables teams to scrutinize and problem-solve within their 3D models in a 1:1 scale, fostering a level of interaction that transcends traditional computer screens. 

Businesses—particularly those reliant on cross-departmental collaboration—stand to gain enormous benefits from extended reality solutions. Autodesk Workshop XR, with a connection to Autodesk Construction Cloud through Autodesk Docs, facilitates real-time collaboration within Revit or Navisworks models, making XR a driving force in the AEC industry's technological wave. 

5. Sensor Data

Tracking the various components of your business—including manpower, jobsites, and equipment—is essential. Proper monitoring aids project planning, promotes smoother operations, and ensures compliance with safety and worker regulations.  

Here’s the good news: thanks to construction sensors and IoT technology, keeping an eye on the many moving parts of your projects is easier than ever. There are various solutions in the market that can enable you to monitor site conditions, track materials through the supply chain, improve worker safety, and empower better facility management. 

Forward-thinking firms are also using sensors to forecast and prepare for future events. “With the use of sensor data and Forge as a software foundation, we are able to predict future product failures," explains Chris Schoneveld, BIM Manager at Alkondor Hengelo.  

"So for a maintenance task, we could analyse the use curve of a building and protect our products against future failures. And doing multiple tasks on a single maintenance job benefits our company’s eco footprint due to a minimization of traffic movement." 

6. Digital Twins

Digital twins is certainly a buzzworthy term, but what benefit does it have for the construction industry? As it sounds, a digital twin is a digital replica of a physical entity, including its potential and current assets, systems, data, processes, workflows, people, and devices. In the context of construction, building out a digital twin from the very start is significant to better understand a physical structure for future operations. 

Having a duplicate source of a physical structure allows workers to assess, manipulate, and optimize the building. As they analyze the digital twin, they can uncover potential means of creating efficiencies, developing safety protocols, reducing risks, and improving quality. Digital twins also enhance BIM by serving as a digital thread, connected directly to a physical structure. 

Since almost 80% of a building's lifetime value is realized during operations, the data and insights provided by a digital twin helps owners better maintain their facilities, streamline operations, and improve capital planning.  

You can also use digital twins to determine if a built asset is meeting certain construction KPIs and metrics. “If you have certain sustainable goals, you’ll be able to see if you’re achieving them. If you have equipment and want to measure mean time between failure, having a digital twin helps you do that,” explains Bob Bray, Senior Director & General Manager for Autodesk Tandem

It can also help owners strategize for the future. As Bob points out, “A digital twin gives you the knowledge to inform, predict, and look at future decisions based on how that asset is performing in the real world.”  

Lastly, the advantages of digital twins are especially relevant during times of social distancing, remote work, and travel restrictions. Essential information about a property is readily accessible with a digital twin, avoiding the need to travel or even leave a home office. 

Check out Episode 59 of the Digital Builder podcast to learn more about Digital Twins.  

7. Truly Connected Construction

Simplicity in construction? It might not be a buzzword, but we’d argue that simplicity is the lifeblood of the most powerful of innovations. When data, workflows, and technology connect, they’re all the more powerful. Apple is a key example of this fact. The same information flows seamlessly between the company’s iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. These harmonious connections keep things simple and effective. 

We see the same concepts play out in connected construction. Construction companies often have to deal with information silos and paper-dependent processes. These challenges are exacerbated by the massive volumes of data and resources that make up the industry. For stakeholders to work efficiently on projects, they need a solid foundation, a single source of truth. 

This foundation can be built and maintained with connected construction. Connected construction equates to integrated and connected data, workflows, and technology. It brings information, processes, and people together in one common data environment. It powers effective decision-making, whether they occur during daily operations or as part of a long-term strategic plan. For companies that genuinely want to empower their people to make the most informed decisions possible, connected construction is the answer.  

8. Advanced Takeoff and Estimating Tools

The days of relying solely on spreadsheets to put together quantity takeoffs, estimates, and bids, are over. Or at least, they should be. The rise of advanced tools in preconstruction are helping construction pros implement robust bidding and estimating processes so they can focus more on winning more business and reducing risk.  

Modern takeoff, estimating, and bidding solutions work in the cloud, enabling you to view and manage bids and estimates from anywhere. These tools also help connect data and teams on one platform, leading to better collaboration and accuracy. And thanks to automation and 3D visualization, you're able to work faster, produce competitive bids, and ultimately win more work.  

Autodesk Takeoff helps contractors easily perform 2D and 3D quantification and ProEst’s estimating solution helps translate project scope into material, labor and equipment costs to generate accurate project estimates. From there, contractors can use BuildingConnected’s bid management solution to choose the right builder for every project from the largest crowd-sourced construction network, reducing risk and protecting the bottom line. 

9. BIM Beyond Design

BIM, or building information technology modeling, is widely used in the design world but is often seen as complex and technical outside of it. However, BIM doesn’t have to be complicated. By sharing models between the design department and the field, BIM can be a simple and effective communication tool.  

There are many advantages to facilitating BIM access in the field. When models are distributed as PDF documents, valuable BIM data can be lost. By using BIM in the field, teams can improve communication, increase data visibility, and reduce rework costs.  

According to John Lim Ji Xiong, Chief Digital Officer, Gamuda Bhd, “In 2024, I think construction industry trends will morph from BIM and 3D modeling to more data-driven topics such as building dashboards, AI, and managing project data. BIM has become something that is mature in the industry and is a requirement in a lot of tenders. However, in the drive to modernize and improve, construction companies will be looking to drive efficiency and transparency through data in order to build better projects." 

Expanding the use of BIM beyond design streamlines communication, provides a richer view of construction documents, promotes safety and reduces rework. By keeping design and field teams aligned through BIM, collaboration improves, and work gets done faster.  

Furthermore, new AI innovations open even more opportunities for BIM. “This year, we’ll see greater momentum and interest from the industry as firms leverage AI-driven technologies to automate tedious tasks, more deeply analyze information, and augment decision-making,” says Jim Lynch, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Autodesk. “Particularly, the integration of BIM with AI poses new and exciting opportunities. BIM's rich data, paired with machine learning, can enable firms to improve efficiency and make smarter decisions beyond just the design phase of a building.” 

It’s time to rethink the role of BIM in construction. BIM is not just a design tool every team can use to deliver high-quality work and improve collaboration throughout the construction lifecycle.  

10. Robotics

The continued adoption of robotics in construction is another significant development that will shape the industry’s future. However, construction companies face barriers in implementing these technologies including cost of entry and a lack of skills with these specific technologies within teams  

On an episode of the Digital Builder podcast, Brooke Gemmell, Emerging Technology Partner at Skanska said, "We're starting to see so many more robotic applications. I think one thing that may be a misconception is just how readily available they are on projects. Most of the tools out there are only being piloted on a select few projects because we're still learning how can we really use these and what's the biggest impact for these tools." 

To overcome these hurdles, companies can start with more mature technologies like drones and offsite prefabrication. They also can invest in training programs and partnerships with technology providers to improve their workforce. Brooke believes there is already a strong appetite from the workforce to do so, “I've been on a lot of project sites where we've had robotic solutions deployed, and first off, people are really excited about it. They want to learn more and they want to engage." 

Collaboration and communication with technology providers is crucial. By sharing specific needs and challenges, construction companies can shape the development of tailored AI and robotics solutions. It is also beneficial to learn from industry leaders who have effectively incorporated these technologies.  

By embracing AI and robotics, construction companies can unlock productivity, efficiency, and safety benefits. These technologies will greatly improve workflow, optimize resource management, and enable faster project delivery.  

"Robots are helping people go home earlier, less tired, and with less strain. We're also taking people out of dangerous situations and using robots in those places," added Brooke.  

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Moving Innovation in Construction Forward

The construction industry is truly evolving right in front of our eyes. We’re confident these 10 construction innovations will prove to be especially valuable in the industry today and in the future. 

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.