How construction is innovating (finally)

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The construction sector is going through a critical time. Huge skills shortages mean that more younger employees are needed to offset the amount of workers set to retire soon (industry figures suggested that almost 224,000 were needed between 2015 and 2019).

Because of population growth we need to build more housing and infrastructure. Yet the climate change crisis means figuring out how to do this sustainably is now an urgent priority.

Other UK sectors have been transformed by cutting-edge technologies and innovations, creating countless specialist jobs and long-term career paths - not to mention ushering in improved efficiency and productivity.

But until now there simply hasn’t been enough innovation in the built environment sector. And when it comes to attracting a younger, more vibrant workforce this way, the construction industry has lagged behind.

Innovation is on its way

At last there’s now a collective mission to help the construction industry make the most from digital and manufacturing technologies to build smarter, faster, more efficiently and more sustainably.

Funded by £72 million from UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Construction Innovation Hub is a drive to enable technologies like digital design, advanced manufacturing, robotics, drones, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to transform the sector.

It’s a partnership between three centres of excellence: The Manufacturing Technology Centre; The Building Research Establishment and The Centre for Digital Built Britain. And from planning through to design and architecture, structural engineering and building services engineering, there’s huge potential to transform the construction sector with emerging technologies.

What’s possible for construction?

Future focus will be on developing new manufacturing processes to build faster and cheaper, with the end result being infrastructure that uses less energy, produces less waste and can ultimately be recycled.

Intelligent built environments:
Homes, offices and infrastructure will operate as effectively as possible thanks to smart sensors and digital systems incorporated within.

Data analytics:
Data will help make building safer. It will revolutionise material traceability as stakeholders will know where materials come from, and where they’ve been installed.

The latest robot technology will be able to help construction workers on sites and in factories. And self-driving vehicles will become a common site on construction sites.

Drone technology:
It’s already used for carrying out remote aerial site inspections, topographics surveys and are used for volume measurement and 3D modelling. But in the future drone technology will become a routine part of every stage of construction and bring benefits to safety and productivity.

Virtual reality and augmented reality:
Before construction work begins whole buildings will be planned and built using VR, bringing complex plans to life and solving logistics issues upfront. During construction, VR and AR can connect remote design teams with construction site teams to solve a issue on the ground with a digital overlay of a real-world view. Plus, immersive off-site training will allow more equipment operators to get a far more visual and practical understanding of carrying out their roles safely and effectively.


Building the future

At RHL, where we help top talent find the right construction, civil engineering and building services employers, we’re excited to see the type of career paths these cutting-edge innovations will open up for technical professionals.

Technology really has the potential to attract a vibrant workforce for generations to come, so are you ready to build change?