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Technological advances, from 3D printing to building information modelling (BIM), are promising to revolutionize the construction industry

Today the construction industry is on the cusp of a monumental new period of technological innovation – the “era of connection”.

A powerful array of disruptive trends, from 3D printing and cloud computing to the collision of the digital and physical worlds and the rise of crowdsourcing, has the potential to deliver a lower-risk, higher-margin industry.

Technology has always disrupted the construction industry. Think of the impact of reinforced concrete, the mechanical excavator or, more recently, building information modelling (BIM) – a process for construction and collaboration using a data-rich 3D design model.

Each has changed existing practices. But what happens when multiple disruptive technologies arrive simultaneously? That is what is looming for the industry, and the implications could be monumental.

The list of protagonists in this story includes 3D printing, robotics, the cloud, infinite computing, big data, drones, augmented reality, reality capture, construction mobile apps, gaming engines, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, generative design tools and the internet of things. Each has the potential to change aspects of the construction process, or the business of contracting.

Dominic Thasarathar, industry strategist: construction, energy, natural resources, Autodesk

But the interplay between these technology trends could be even more significant. Combined, they paint a picture of a future industry where every contractor might be connected with four potent capabilities:

1. Access to virtually unlimited amounts of computer processing power, in the cloud, to solve even the most complex design, commercial or strategy challenges effortlessly and continually.

2. The potential to dynamically connect people, across geographies and across commercial interfaces, to get the best ideas, whether within traditional project team structures, or through the use of crowdsourcing and work exchange hubs.

3. The potential to capture and play with the real world in a silicon environment, with a relevant degree of fidelity, then deliver that real-world building or infrastructure project with the minimum number of physical steps, using digital fabrication practices such as 3D printing, and connect it into the fabric of the built environment via the internet of things, to deliver better outcomes.

4. The potential to improve the flow of capital for projects, by improving levels of project predictability and supporting new forms of raising capital, such as crowdfunding.

The net result? Perhaps a shift in the industry’s historic dynamic of “high-risk, low-margin” to “low-risk, high-margin” that many seek.

This story originally appeared on The Telegraph UK online.

Transforming risk and margins in the construction industry

How technology disruptions like 3D printing, drones, cloud computing and use of BIM will impact construction firms in the era we’re entering, the Era of Connection.

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