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Another Crossroads?

It seems that every morning we see on the news that the industry is at another crossroads whether it be politics, manpower shortages, market shifts in mid construction, new financing and risk management schemes or technology.

Actually technology is probably the first on the list since it is beginning to impact the construction industry in ways not thought of a decade ago. Unfortunately for the industry as a whole, the “early adoption” of new and sometimes “bleeding edge” technologies for the most part is an anathema for current boomer owners and leaders of our firms.

A recent article titled AEC at a Crossroads with Technology written by Steve Hansen in Sourceable, a publication about the construction industry “Down under” describes the reasons behind the slow adoption, the need for that adoption and the younger managers who are pushing and sometimes even demanding that their firms find a way to move forward in the new technologies like drones, virtual reality and augmented or assisted reality.

He quotes several sources and writes, “A key roadblock to the adoption of needed technology is the ownership and upper management of AEC firms, according to Ian Howell, CEO of software firm Newforma. While young professionals want to get to work and put technologies such as virtual reality and drones into practice, the leadership of many firms holds them back.”

“These are two completely different cultures, and the old hands don’t have the trust in some of this new technology,” Howell said. “The young professionals are busting at the seams to do this stuff. They are the youth who grew up with gaming stations. They are all over virtual reality. They have lived in virtual worlds for their entire young adult life.”

Hansen cites JE Dunn, headquartered in Kansas City, as one of the companies who is beefing up its capabilities using virtual reality to plan its workflows. The issue with any of the new technologies is the standardization of platforms and getting the subs on the job to use the technology as well.

The construction industry is well behind on its investments in R&D according to McKinsey, the international consulting firm. But what else is new. We always complained that we built buildings 2-4 inches at a time.

Maybe we are seeing the early stages of a new era of technology from drones to track progress, to VR to help designers show owners what their new space will be like, and for the building industry to adapt those technologies to improve productivity on their projects.