Mobile Crane At Construction Site

The new construction approaches shaping the built environment

Construction and real estate have traditionally been related but distinct industries. The boundaries between the two, and also building management and maintenance will become increasingly blurred, as radical changes in construction impacts the underlying economics of real estate. New approaches, some identified below, will drive the future shape of the built environment.

  • Modular construction is an emerging trend which enables more affordable, accessible and faster building. It also offers flexibility for the occupants; responding to changes in family size and budget.
  • 3D and 4D printed modular housing units are forecast to account for up to 30 percent of new construction by the mid 2020s(1).
  • More than 7,000 robots are forecast to work in construction by 2025, with the worldwide market for construction robotics expected to reach $226m over six years(2).
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the digital representation of processes and physical characteristics that comprise a building. It can be applied to create digital twins. This digitalised copy of a building – allows users or other stakeholders to simulate any plans for improvement or retrofit before physically implementing them (3), establishing and potentially resolving issues before they happen in the physical world.
  • Data-visualisation tools and mixed reality could similarly be used to access information during the use of a given building. BIM technology layered with internal sensors could allow not just for pre-emptive repairs(4), but also suggest ways forward to improve the energy efficiency of the building, for example, or how best to reconfigure for a given need.
  • With the Internet of Things (IoT ) growing twice as fast as social and computer-generated data(5), it is rapidly becoming a key driver of future business. The IoT is an obvious shared platform between digital twins, BIM and building sensors. Sophisticated sensors and real time analytics are in the early stages of revolutionising the industry.

Digital transformation demands not only technological change, but organisational and market shifts too. Talent shortages in the construction industry will likely prompt players to form partnerships and collaborations with newcomers and better integrate along their evolving value chains. Talent will need to be sought from new pipelines, but many organisations will continue to rely on outsourcing for some of their key roles.

AI will also radically redraw talent requirements, which within the ecosystem are likely to feature artificial expertise, data analysis, experts on modular design and logistics and even resilience experts and circular economy specialists(6). Given the wide range of skills needed, and the significant demand and supply imbalances that accompany many of them, talent sourcing and strategies will likely become sources of competitive advantage to an even greater degree than at present.

If anything can be certain, it is that digital and intelligent transformations will compel incumbents to redefine themselves as consumer-centric businesses. Organisationally this will require new internal capabilities, new external links and greater flexibility overall. Above all, employee and management buy-in will be essential if this cultural shift is to allow the creation of a new market paradigm(7).


(1)AFCEA, 2018
(2)Robotics Business Review, 2019
(3)Information Age, 2018
(4)Forbes, 2018
(5)IBM, retrieved 2018
(6)World Economic Forum, 2018
(7)McKinsey, 2018

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