What are Construction Digital Technologies and How Can They Help?

Almost 5% of the U.S. workforce is in construction, or about 7.5 million people. And the U.S. construction industry is vast – valued at more $1.6 trillion in 2021. In fact, construction is the 12th largest industry in the country and accounts for approximately 4.3% of the U.S. total GDP.

And while construction is growing at a steady rate, new construction technologies are looking to speed up the growth rate, while lowering costs. According to Deloitte, while the engineering and construction sector has been historically slow to integrate and adopt digital technologies, that’s changing. Most companies use them to expand business opportunities and boost profits. This is done by reducing costs in the long run and using tools to enhance project execution. The pressure is intensified to find new solutions because of increased global supply chain disruptions, increased competition, worker shortages and skyrocketing material prices. Many of these technologies involve virtual design and visualization. These include Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Construction Management Software.

Virtual design and construction (VDC) is the use of virtual environments to engineer and visualize the construction of structures before they’re actually built in the physical world.

Users can access these virtual environments with a desktop, mobile device, or with augmented and virtual reality hardware. And it’s not surprising that this is gaining in popularity. It’s estimated that reworks of faulty or incorrect builds account for nearly 30% of construction industry costs.

Virtual design helps cut down on this by allowing builders to first construct structures in a virtual environment. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is probably the most popular VDC tool.

It allows architects, engineers, or anyone else to generate a virtual model of a physical building or structure.

In fact, searches for “Building Information Modelling” have grown by 250% over the last 10 years and as of 2020, the BIM market was worth somewhere from $4.5 billion to $5.2 billion.

And although the construction industry took a hit during the pandemic it’s rebounding strongly along with related sectors, as the BIM market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 14.5% over the next five years. North America is expected to capture more than 30% of this market. 

According to Johnny Fortune, Director of the National Institute of Building Sciences, there’s an increasing demand to build better, faster, and more efficiently. Add to that the need to build more responsibly with respect to sustainability, resiliency and other environmental challenges and BIM is a great tool to incorporate. It should allow public and private owners to build and renovate buildings and infrastructure with reduced costs and with increased assurance that their projects will meet their objectives.

In fact, several federal agencies now require BIM and some have done so for quite some time now. Some states, like Wisconsin and Tennessee, have required BIM for public projects that meet certain criteria. And various local agencies, like New York City, have also created BIM standards or guidelines for use on projects.

McKinsey found that although BIM technology is now being used by about 60-70% of firms, this adoption has been slow, taking about 35 years. And because low technology adoption remains a critical issue for the U.S. construction industry’s efficiency and resiliency, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences, they have launched the U.S. National Building Information Management Program, with the goal of achieving a higher level of efficiency through digitalization.

Construction Management Software (CMS) is also now an important tool for many major construction companies.

A construction project is a very fragmented procedure. There are typically a variety of parties involved. And there are a lot of tasks happening at once.

CMS helps construction managers by allowing them to store and access data, blueprints, and documents all in one place.

The global construction management software industry is currently estimated to be worth $1.4 billion and is expected to grow to $3.2 billion by 2027 (a CAGR of 12.5%).