5 questions on smARt construction innovation to watch

  • 13.03.2022
  • Article
Benefits of Augemented Reality for users

Traditionally, the construction industry was perceived to be slow in adopting the digital technologies needed to achieve higher productivity. But today, as the industry faces new budget, regulatory, and time pressures, the use of digital technology is no longer optional – it’s a requirement.

Facilitating that move to technology is speeded up by visionary organisations, like PropTech Lab. This community of innovators focuses on creating awareness, fostering innovations, and empowering the real estate and construction sectors to act now for everyone’s tomorrow.

Recently, GenieVision co-hosted a webinar with PropTech Lab and its CEO, Noémie de Crombrugghe. The C-level insights she shared into how today’s construction technology innovations shape tomorrow’s properties and real estate markets were too valuable to not be elaborated on. So, we asked her to delve a little deeper.

How does PropTech Lab define the property / real estate / construction ecosystem?

The construction ecosystem covers all the phases of a successful construction project – from the building idea to how people live and work in the building. At PropTech Lab we try to oversee the bigger picture and make sure all elements and stakeholders are aligned with one another throughout the entirety of the process. This ecosystem is built on five pillars:

  • Finance and Investment– This is where the project begins, including site selection, arranging the investment, and financing for the project.
  • Design and Build– This phase includes the design of the building and execution of the construction project – all the way up to the handover of the building.
  • Market and Transaction– This phase includes all the building commercialization activities.
  • Manage and Operate– Encompasses all aspects of the management of the building stakeholder – operators, property managers, facility managers, and asset managers.
  • Live and Work– This phase focuses on all aspects of the end-user experience, including new technologies or services such as access controls, air quality monitoring, and community management solutions.

What do you think is the added value of AR technology across this ecosystem?

Two innovation drivers span the construction ecosystem: user experience and efficiency. While these two drivers are consistent across all phases of the ecosystem, the technology used will depend on which stage the software is supporting.

Let’s look at the design and build phase. A technology like BIM is deployed to create greater efficacy for the design. BIM technology enables the creation of an efficient digital twin, the as-built of the building before construction commences.

When the design is final and approved, the construction can begin. 3D VR and AR technologies have been developed to support the user experience. A smart viewer makes it easier to access and share critical project information throughout the construction process. A positive user experience contributes to increased overall efficiency.

Whether technologies get involved for efficiency or user experience, constant innovation is critical to prevent poor execution and bad results.

What technology had the most potential for easy integration and immediate results and why?

Productivity stakes are high in any construction project. Market pressures loom, and companies must build better and faster at a lower cost. Failure costs are high, so there are a lot of risks. Given those challenges, there is no denying the growing relevance of 3D BIM, VR and AR smart technologies. These are often SaaS solutions, which means it just takes one smart and efficient software integration to get your entire team up and running. Low investment costs with ongoing training for continuous project optimization seem like the biggest win right now for companies that want to hit the ground running.

As workflows and buildings are increasingly digitalised, users can share data through the 3D BIM to all stakeholders in the construction project. Expanding access to data across stakeholders optimises the work process and improves reporting. Moreover, the user experience and interface are easy to use and can adapt to the needs of all workers.

These smart technologies seem the first ones to satisfy the vital user experience and efficiency demand I described earlier in a fast and efficient budget- and timeframe.

Are people investing in smart technology? And if no, why not?

We surveyed our members, and most people (63%) said that they had invested in AR technology. Members say, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and report that AR enables them to visualise sales and creates greater efficiency and accuracy.

On the other hand, we see 43% of our members are not convinced about the solution’s value as they shared concerns about the lack of a unified policy to address AR apps in construction.

In order to raise awareness on the value of these solutions, we need to start providing educational articles and seminars, to inform the hesitant ones, or to help others choose a reliable partner to collaborate with on either OpenBIM/Closed BIM capabilities

How can one smARt app influence the bigger property picture?

Integrating AR technology into a project provides users with benefits that extend beyond improving the coordination and collaboration of the project.

For example, the benefits of adopting AR technology to monitor the design and build phase of the construction can also benefit the market and transaction phase. When commercialising a building, you need to be sure the end-user understands the value of the space. The 360 degree-views created by AR in design and build let users imagine themselves in the space.

An optimised BIM also improves post-building control, inspection, and follow-up. The available “as-built” documentation vaults critical information. The digital twin keepsake logs past mistakes and acts as a resource to avoid new ones when repurposing the building. This comes in handy – not just for the building now but also when it might be renovated/repurposed in the future.

In the end, adopting AR technology to closely monitor the design and build phase of the construction process creates a positive change in the way buildings are managed, operated and, ultimately, influences how we all live and work together.

That is the bigger picture we need to be mindful of at all times. Small changes can lead to big impacts for a more sustainable future thanks to smart construction.

Thank you Noémie for elaborating the PropTech Lab stance on smart construction innovation!

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