04 Apr The Transition of Construction to Manufacturing
The construction industry is one of the last to be digitized. In fact, it is second only to agriculture. As a result, it lags behind many other industries when it comes to efficiency, productivity, and sustainability.
One way to resolve this lag is for construction to embrace new best practices and technology that have already been successfully adopted in other industries. It is only by doing this, that the industry can rise to the challenge of delivering the 13,000 buildings required per day, every day, till 2050 to house the world’s population.
One of the best industries for the future conversion of construction is the manufacturing sector. This shows promise of nearly doubling the efficiency as digitization and technology are applied to traditional construction methods as it converts towards a manufacturing method. Here are some of the ways it will be improved:
One third of the world’s solid waste is generated by the construction industry. Much of this is caused by inefficiencies in workflows, communication gaps and outdated systems and processes. Think of a piece of drywall making it to the construction site only to have a portion of it cut to the needed portion with the balance disgarded. A manufacturing approach will significantly reduce or nearly eliminate this waste.
Where once buildings took months to years to complete, new manufacturing techniques make this possible within weeks or even days. This provides significant benefits to the financing as well as the reduced disruption to the neighborhood.
Safety and quality
More automation and less on-site construction means fewer safety incidents. Additionally, quality checks in the factory will help discover issues early. The later a problem is discovered, the more it will cost to fix it. If a problem is found in the design phase of a building that costs $1 to fix, that same problem discovered in the construction phase will cost $20. If the building reaches its operational phase before the problem is discovered, it is estimated to cost $60.
Construction is yet to benefit from complete disruptions in material as it has used the same materials for centuries. In the future, additive techniques will allow us to use smart materials; to have a wall function as a battery storing energy from a roof fitted with solar cells, our floors to incorporate radiant heating and cooling for year round comfort, and our rooms to be multi-use for greater space utilization. Our natural environment is often the best ecosystem to find inspiration of new materials.
There are many new technologies being developed and being deployed at this time. And the collective ecosystem is gaining traction to soon reach a tipping point of conversion from old to new. The first major shift will be the conversion of construction to manufacturing.
By Scott Huish
Scott Huish has directed technology driven companies in finance, agriculture, energy, construction, and real estate. Scott has completed advanced education at Oxford, Harvard, and London School of Economics and Political Science.