Smart Construction: Building Value through Interconnected Intelligence

AMRITA CHOWDHURY | December 9, 2021 | 51 views


The construction industry, whether operating at the building level, infrastructure level, or city level, has undergone significant changes over the past decade, and the pace of change has only intensified in the past year. Opaque operating models are giving way to digitalization and transparency in every aspect of the industry, leading to better accountability of the business stakeholder ecosystem and better experience and quality of life for the end customers.

The value realization for the sector is coming in three different ways, each with its set of technologies, tools, systems, and processes that lead to specific value maximization.

1. Connected Stakeholder Ecosystems

Every stakeholder and their interactions and service provision to building and construction has been digitalized and automated.

Architects, urban planners, designers have long been using tools and technologies. The use of 3D modeling and visualization, AR/VR platforms, and drone mapping are creating intuitive means to fast-track the design iteration process and reduce errors. Innovation has been happening in building materials and technologies for smart logistics and inventory management, which is digitalizing the procure to pay cycles and reducing the cost and sustainability footprint of the industry. Infratech is being included into civil construction, and information, communication, and operational tech hardware and software solutions are being integrated at the design stage itself.

The industry uses the services of a network of internal and external third party providers and managers. The combination of mobile and enterprise applications, connectivity, and internet of things devices and variables is connecting these people together. Unified frameworks and digital and AI/ML tools allow seamless construction, management, and optimization of built spaces. The sales process is becoming highly digital with the use of customer relationship management platforms, channel management applications, and digital sales aids that blend AR/VR, 3D visualization, audio, video, and digital.

The governance and financial mechanisms have evolved as well. Government bodies have digitalized and permissions, access rights, and payment mechanisms are increasingly digital. Regulators are moving towards real time sensor based monitoring and centralized digital reporting on effluents and emissions, aiming to improve sustainability metrics. An array of digital and cloud financial management tools, systems, and dashboards allow every aspect of the financial flow to and from entities to be managed, monitored, and optimized.

The users, in both the customer and citizen persona, have become digitally savvy and experiential. The connected and sentient building, infrastructure, and city ecosystem increasingly allows for connected living where many services can already be accessed digitally.



2. Connected Lifecycle Management

The construction industry is using digital and automation technologies at every stage of projects – from design to monetization of building, infrastructure, or city systems. Ingredient technologies such as internet of things, artificial intelligence, block chain, distributed computing, edge and mesh intelligence, cloud computing, big data analytics, and data visualization are allowing the industry to plan better and act predictively.

The Design phase, in addition to using design and planning tools and technologies, is increasingly adopting concepts of wellness, biophilia, and blue-green integrations to blend technology and architecture.
The Build phase has significantly transformed through innovative construction materials and methods, as well as digital, cloud, and sensor based solutions to monitor staff,  progress, audits, and errors in construction. The entire land records management system in the country has been digitalized, and plans are underway to use drone based mapping to catalogue all assets and sites at a national level.

The Sell phase is using technologies and platforms that have disintermediated some ecosystem partners and aggregated others, increasing the flow of information, communication, validations, and transactions. From marketing to site visits to legal documentation and commercial transactions, every step has been digitally transformed through a combination of AR/VR, AI/ML, digital, and cloud technologies.

The Operate phase is seeing newer models of maintenance and management of assets over the long term. Tech enabled metering and monitoring allows for discretization of pay per use type of commercial arrangements, which can be digitally contracted and managed. This allows multi-stakeholder and multi-user assets to operate seamlessly. Multiple automation and real time monitoring systems and solutions – whether fully integrated or point solutions, are enhancing visibility and  improving efficiency of operational performance.

The Experience phase ensures an interplay of operational and service related systems and technologies allow the users to better access services at building, infrastructure, or city level. There is a lot of emphasis on enhancing customer experience by reducing wait times, improving service levels, creating areas and systems for interaction and engagement, and delivering a better quality of work or life to the end user.

The Monetization phase is increasingly at the top of mind of administrators, owners, and operators of construction assets. Long return on investment cycles and complex modes of deployment of public and private capital predicate focus on easing the flow of money and identifying multiple modes of monetization to ensure that projects can succeed. Value added services through retail, advertising, data, or service based use cases are allowing for recurring revenues to be generated. Many of these services can be digitally conceptualized, delivered, and managed.


3. Connected Systems and Services

Buildings and infrastructure spaces are increasingly envisioning themselves as an interconnected system of functions, utilities and services, all managed centrally and digitally through a building level control room or an infrastructure or city level integrated control and command center.

The set of technologies first adopted for smart cities - such as networking and connectivity; smart management of water, waste, lighting, power, sewage, air quality and emissions; smart access to services and retail; interconnected mobility, parking, and traffic management; and managing request-response systems and on-demand servicing and issues management - are increasingly becoming important for buildings and infrastructure projects. Transport hubs are reimagining themselves as microcities. Road assets are creating logistics hubs and multiple digital monetization channels. Buildings are transforming into mixed use spaces that are accessed and managed digitally. On-demand, surge, discounted pricing mechanisms rely on complex algorithms and predictive forecasts.

Multiple indices and standard comparative metrics are being considered by users, governments, regulators, and financiers of patient long-term capital. At the building level, Green ratings and Well Building standards are being measured and reported, and creating methods of differentiating premium and non-premium buildings. Global Infrastructure rankings rate countries in the quality and density and access of road, transport, utilities, and other major infrastructure systems and projects. Ease of Living Index and Sustainable Development Goals create the benchmarks to measure and monitor the performance and impact of city systems. Increasingly, gamification through Swachh Survekshan, Municipal Performance Index, and other city, state, and national level assessments is creating awareness and improving service levels. The indices themselves rely on a set on technology inclusion within projects and technology systems to aid performance measurement.

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