How will technology affect the construction business in 2023?

By Jenny Lescohier and Catrin Jones20 December 2022

As we look ahead into 2023, construction projects are still moving at a brisk pace yet higher interest rates and talk of a recession are top of mind for many in our industry.

Meanwhile, more recent findings on growth in construction spending show some early signs of slowing yet are expected to continue to grow over the next six months. As the construction industry remains at an interesting inflection point, we asked several leaders at US-based construction and engineering firms for their predictions on what the new year will bring in terms of rapidly advancing technology and its effects on productivity and safety on the job site. Here’s what they had to say:

In what ways can an investment in technology help contractors?
Zach Hoffman, director of field operations, Prevost Construction

“Strength in numbers used to be the formula for a successful project but technology has shown us that one person can do more on the administrative side of the operation than they used to with manual data collection methods. One program talks to another and ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ If we strategically choose our software and apps to aid in this data collection, we can budget lower for general condition costs and still meet the high demands of completeness required. I’m not an advocate for ‘machines over people,’ but the construction industry gives us little choice if we are going to be profitable and prosperous. The desired hope, as far as Prevost Construction is concerned, is still and always will be to teach our staff how to utilize these new tools to grow with the demands. Intuitive and user friendly is the first thing I investigate when shopping for new tech.” - Zach Hoffman, director of field operations at Prevost Construction

“Anytime technology can improve the capture of reliable data and distribution of it, it’s worth considering. That’s why we saw an opportunity with laser scanning. While Autocad was launched in 1982, the input data most likely came from someone spending a few days on site with a tape measure. Laser scanning technology remained too expensive for most architects until the first BLK360 was launched 35 years later. Now, we can measure the same project in a few hours with better accuracy and more distributable data formats.” - Corey Weiner, founder of C2.A Studio, an as-built laser scan measurement service

“Next year, we can expect to see large contractors focus on using technologies that manage the design lifecycle (virtual design and construction, and BIM) along with prefab as those areas are where the biggest cost risks can be controlled. When it comes to medium-sized contractors, they will increasingly adopt cloud suites for project management.” - David Ward, CEO, Safe Site Check In

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What role will tech play in safety on the job site in the new year?

“We’ll see more frequent on-site safety meetings (tailgate style). Also, more accountability and control of who is where and when on the job site. Safety zones will be limited to the people required to do the work and not allow others to pass through while critical operations are underway. Awareness is the most important part of improving safety results. If we can use more tools that can be accessible to all workers, then we can have better accountability and that should drive safety results in the right direction.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction

“With the development of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, we’re going to be able to do things never dreamed of in the past. With wearable devices and Rod Courtney, health, safety and environment (HSE) director at Ampiricalcamera monitoring systems, we’ll be able to collect the true data we need to finally be able to focus on the leading indicators.” - Rod Courtney, health, safety and environment (HSE) director at Ampirical

Rod Courtney, health, safety and environment (HSE) director at Ampirical

“Job sites will be more safe and more productive. One of our recent surveys found that 95% of construction workers report being more productive and have fewer accidents when they use newer technologies designed specifically for our industry.” - Ingram, NAWIC

“Digital technology tools make our work environments safer, allowing individuals to sign in, answer safety questions and verify manpower. We use these technologies to always know who is on site, their location, project they’re working on, and supervisor. We can easily reach workers and have private, digital records that are useful for other departments including safety (meeting OSHA standards), payroll, project management, and even the CEO.” - Broyles, AMG & Associates

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Is an investment in technology worth it?

“Yes, I see it more as a necessity to the new demands and standards than I do a choice to improve. The costs of equipment and software are easily absorbed and accepted in the cost of the build because of the benefits to the clients. The effect is most likely going to cause an increase in the efficiency of coordination and communications, decrease the scheduled time of the project, minimize the labour burden of field management, or just add better accountability to each party involved. In most cases, more than one or all of these can be achieved.” - Hoffman, Prevost Construction

“Investing in technology is only worth it if it saves time, money or sanity. A few years ago, we scanned a room for a home theatre designer who did a beautiful redesign. We bought an Oculus VR headset and used it to present the design to the family. They absolutely loved it. However, the effort it took to get the design into the headset and the resulting ‘wow factor’ was not enough to make this technology useful to us, our process or our client. So, the designer went back to presenting 2D renderings on a flat screen.” - Weiner, C2.A Studio

David Ward, CEO, Safe Site Check In

“While there has been an increase in the use of technology on job sites, with 95% of construction workers reporting higher productivity since adopting newer technologies, these tools will only be adopted if they deliver immediate payback or if they’re required by the project owner or local regulations.” - Ward, Safe Site Check In

As we enter a new year with cautious optimism, it’s clear there will be a continued uptick in the use of technology in construction to improve productivity and safety. As budgets tighten and the construction labour shortage continues, contractors will be keeping a closer eye on the return on investment of every investment in people, processes and technology.

This is a version of an article that originally appeared on news.conexpoconagg.com

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