What is Construction 4.0?
Construction 4.0 is the construction industry’s version of Industry 4.0. In other words, the term represents the digitization of the construction industry. Technologies like robotics, 3D printing, machine learning, and AI are gradually being introduced to the sector, which while exciting, represents changes that teams will need to understand.
Construction companies still rely on manual labor, heavy machinery, and a business model that hasn’t seen much change in the past 50+ years.
Below is an illustration of 10 disruptive technologies in construction, as predicted by the World Economic Forum. The graphic shows the massive impact construction 4.0 will have on the industry as change is coming from all directions.
Procurement teams will need to consider pre-fabrication and 3D printing along with traditional sourcing methods. Virtual and augmented reality and connected equipment will enter the mix. And, like every other industry, big data will become mandatory.
Investment in construction technology has doubled over the past decade. According to McKinsey, the lion’s share of spending is going toward back-office technology like SaaS products or cloud computing, as well as building and modeling software. Other areas like artificial intelligence and 3D printing are expected to see more adoption down the road.
While the basis of Industry 4.0 in many industries relies on the technologies which enable ubiquitous connectivity and real-time decentralized decision-making, Construction 4.0 is not limited to those technologies but rather based on a broader spectrum, with the main ones being the Internet of Things, Digital Twin, additive manufacturing, cloud computing, Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and, of course, BIM.
The great promise of the Construction 4.0 revolution lies in the almost complete automation of the entire project life cycle. This automation involves the use of digital twins at every step, from planning to operation, including design and construction. In the design phase, the increased use of BIM models as digital twins makes it possible to question them through simulations of the physical product (the building, for example), its constructability and profitability options (4D, 5D), and its sustainability (e.g., energy analysis).
In the construction phase, BIM models continue to serve as digital twins, but are complemented by other technologies to automate their connection to the reality of the construction site. These technologies are mainly Cyber-Physical Production Systems (CPPS), including sensors, drones, embedded robotics and monitoring systems. In the operational phase, the BIM and the IoT, together with other CPS sensors, make it possible to monitor the performance of the facility and to set up an effective system for preventive maintenance management.