Digital Builder Ep 80: Evaluating Construction Trends for 2024

Construction trends are at the top of many industry leaders' minds, and for good reason: these things can tell you where the industry is headed, what tools to adopt, and how to position your business for success.

So, if you're interested in the top construction trends for 2024, this episode is a treat. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ariel Castillo, Innovation Director at Miller-Davis Company, and Brad Buckles, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at CPPI. Ariel and Brad are at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and share their takes on this episode. 

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On this episode

We discuss:

  • Which trends are real, and which are all hype?
  • How 3D modeling, wearables, and robotics are increasing field safety
  • How the latest trends are allowing the industry to move from reactive processes to becoming proactive decision makers.
  • Why modern technology is enabling multigenerational knowledge-sharing experiences, giving experienced and new workers opportunities to learn from each other
  • How new technologies can reduce waste and increase sustainable construction practices

Real or hype? An overview of the top trends for 2024

We kick off the podcast with a rapid-fire segment, asking Ariel and Brad whether a particular technology trend is real or hyped up. You'll have to catch the full episode to hear their detailed explanations, but here are some highlights.

Artificial intelligence

Is artificial intelligence real or hype? According to Brad and Ariel, it's both. While AI has the potential to transform our processes, certain components of it are "hype-ish," according to our guests. 

"Everybody talks about it, and we're hearing a lot of noise," says Brad. It's hype-ish in a sense that a lot of people are talking about it, but not many of them are out there addressing real-world problems." 

Brad remarks that in 2024, AI will provide value in two ways: first, it will be able to bring data more visibly; and second, it will start performing tasks that help address real-world problems.

He shares the example of Construction IQ, which leverages AI and machine learning to identify and prioritize risks automatically. Brad says the tool has helped improve efficiency, particularly when managing safety and risk. 

"My goodness, the amount of documentation produced on a construction site is astronomical. It's impossible for the human mind to wrap around all that. What needs to be addressed? What are the high-risk issues that are out there?"

"Leveraging AI—in this case, machine learning—provides the ability to bring the cream to the top to be able to determine what those high-risk issues are."

Ariel, for his part, doesn't dispute AI's impact and potential. However, he cautions against overreliance on technology and mentions the need for training, particularly for AI, which can hallucinate and make mistakes. 

"It's very common that when people get introduced to technology, they over-rely on it. And I think education is key because we don't want our staff just to go in there and then rely on these systems."

Ariel emphasizes the importance of double-checking the output of your tools and not taking AI's information at face value. 

"You may want to reach out to your safety manager and double-check that the information you're going to share with your subcontractors and everybody on the field is accurate. You don't want to start spreading misinformation." 


In the context of robot overlords taking people's jobs, Ariel and Brad agree that it's hype, at least for now. 

While certain robotic technologies are solving real-world problems today, Brand says that robots "aren't even close" to taking away jobs in 2024.

Ariel agrees, adding that robots still need someone to operate them, especially in the field. 

"Boston Dynamics is doing a great job, and you can see Spot or Atlas as well. But to the point where there's nobody in the field because robots are taking care of it? I'm going to say that's sci-fi, and we're far out from that reality," says Ariel.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) 

Ariel is optimistic about IPD and non-traditional delivery methods that promote collaboration.

"We're getting to the point where we are mature enough to understand the importance of collaborating. How do I make sure that we are collaborating internally and also externally? There's so many tools out there, and there's so many opportunities."

"And I think it's becoming evident that if we collaborate, if we work in an integrated way, there are so many ways that our projects and our industries can succeed." 

Mass timber 

What about mass timber? Brad says it's real, and Ariel agrees—to an extent. "It can be real. It's had some challenges, but it's definitely real."

"It all boils down to scalability, and in order for it to become real, it's going to have to become more accessible in the areas in which we operate," says Brad. "It does have a lot of potential, but I think accessibility is going to be its number one challenge right now."

Ariel adds that training folks can also be a challenge.

"We're struggling with the workforce for many things we already know how to do. Imagine things where we reteach them how to do it, such as mass timber. So it's tricky there."

How to decide which technologies to adopt

There's no doubt about it—we have a lot of choices when it comes to which trends and tools to adopt. So, what's the best way to determine what's suitable for your firm?

Look at pain points, not buzzwords

Ariel's main advice is to focus on your pain points and not get distracted by buzzwords. 

"It's easy to get distracted by these shiny new toys. I think that the essence should be paying attention and focusing on the real pain points that your company is going through."

Ariel compares it to mosquito versus shark bites. 

Mosquito bites bother you, but you're not necessarily suffering. But a shark bite—I mean, you can easily die, right? So I have said that many, many times. Keep an eye on what's making you suffer as a company. Then ask, 'What is potentially something out there that I can eventually implement and improve the way we do work?'"

Pay attention to the 3 Ps: profitability, productivity, performance

Brad likes to run technology through a litmus test involving profitability, productivity, and performance.

"It has to pass three certain pillars or at least one of these three," he explains. 

"Technology has to improve the profitability of the company or the productivity of the folks on the project. It should also pass a performance test. Are we getting what we need?" 

He continues, "If it doesn't meet at least one of those three pillars, then it needs to go in the garbage. We need to move on to something that serves the company in a more meaningful way."

Ensure tech addresses root cause issues

Brad points out the importance of going to the root cause of specific issues or symptoms. 

"We don't want point solutions to fix problems. We want to go to the root cause of those problems and address them at that level. That's where you'll see the biggest impact when it comes to technology and innovation within a company."

To accomplish that, Brad brings together key individuals to uncover pain points and their root causes.  

How to be proactive vs reactive

With technology moving so rapidly, it's easy to fall into a state where you're simply reacting to the environment rather than anticipating and shaping it to your advantage.

Here are Brad's and Ariel's top recommendations for moving away from being in a reactive state and instead being more proactive. 

Create real-time dashboards 

One thing that's been helpful for the CPPI teams is creating near real-time dashboards. According to Brad, this helps them know if something is "heading south" so they can get ahead of it sooner rather than later. 

That's why they strive to bring their data and insights into a "near real-time dashboard and analytics tool.

"This is extremely important because we can take not only just one project, but we could create dozens or even hundreds of projects and bring all of that into one dashboard. That way, we know where our problems are. We could see where our heat maps are and determine which projects need help. We can jump on that before it becomes a real-world problem.

Collaborate with your team and establish SOPs 

Ariel agrees on the importance of dashboards. He adds that for firms to maximize the value they get from these tools, leaders must collaborate with their teams and ensure they're using the dashboards properly. 

"This technology needs to make sense. So, it's not just about developing a dashboard. You can go online and download a template, but if it's not helping your staff make better decisions, then it doesn't make sense. You need to customize those dashboards and make sure that the people using them are finding some good use that is improving the bottom line of the company."

In line with that, Brad says teams must establish SOPs for their systems to ensure consistent and effective use of the data and tools.

"You have to create those standard operating procedures and then train on those before the data is reliable and useful. You can have the best KPI spreadsheet out there for measuring your RFIs and response time performance, but if your folks aren't actually utilizing the systems and tools the correct way, your dashboard can be thrown off."

Adopting and educating trade partners on digital workflows and tools

None of these game-changing technologies will make an impact if people aren't using them. This is especially crucial in construction projects where internal and external teams must collaborate and execute successfully. 

To that end, Brad and Ariel offer some pointers to effectively bring trade partners into your platforms. 

Encourage everyone in the same environment

Brad shares that at CPPI, their goal is to "bring everyone into the same environment."

They're using Autodesk Construction Cloud and they'd like their partners to leverage the same solution so folks can access the latest and greatest project data available. 

Brad says, "We have to play in the same sandbox."

Admittedly, having everyone on the same platform can be challenging, which is why the teams at CPPI also use a hybrid cloud. 

Brad explains, "That hybrid cloud gives us the ability to store our files and folders so that we can share them easily. We can have people working within that environment and then pull that information into Autodesk Construction Cloud to have that for the broader audience."

Have interoperability between systems

Brad also highlights the benefits of interoperability and integrations between software programs. 

"Everyone needs to quit trying to compete with one another and recognize that there needs to be some interoperability between systems and that there needs to be integrations between them."

Face-to-face conversations with partners

Over at Miller-Davis, teams actively encourage getting more face time with their partners to educate them on the firm's processes and technologies.

"As a GC or construction manager, you need to understand that you must become an educator," remarks Ariel. "You can do that upstream because you need to educate clients and even your architects and engineers. Then you have to do it downstream because, again, you have to educate those subcontractors."

To that end, Ariel says they host events to promote direct, engaging conversations with industry partners. 

"We host a builder's breakfast. We do this now and then when we invite companies to come to our office where we host this breakfast. We then walk them through the systems that we're using."

He adds, "We also do this with owners and AEs where we meet every month, just sitting down with them, getting their thoughts and showing them what we're doing and the value of the system so that they understand it."

Looking beyond 2024

Ariel and Brad also discuss the trends they think will make waves beyond 2024—that is, in the next 2 to 10 years. 

Spatial Computation and AR

Ariel foresees more spatial computation and augmented reality on the horizon. "The fact that Apple just jumped into this environment is going to create some heat into these technologies so they can be applied in interesting ways," he says. 

You now have big companies developing virtual reality and augmented reality goggles. I'm curious to see where we will be two or three years from now." 


Despite labeling them as "hype" earlier, Brad brings the conversation back to robots and how they can help the labor shortage. 

"We did throw some shade on robotics, but there is a possibility to solve some of the labor crisis challenges we're having. I believe it will be more exponential as we move forward in the next decade," he says.

"We've got to hope that there's going to be some opportunity for robotics to come into a jobsite and actually be useful and work alongside our folks to be able to do some of these dangerous tasks."

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Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. Listen to the Digital Builder Podcast on:

Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.