The Impact of Digital Technologies in the Management of Domestic Construction Projects

Modified: 18th Oct 2021
Wordcount: 1827 words

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1.0  Introduction

It is the aim of this assignment to discuss ‘’The Impact of Digital Technologies in the Management of Domestic Construction Projects’’. It will aim to explain the function, impact, advantages and disadvantages of ‘’Digital Technology’’, it will focus on the key trends of Digital technology which already are, or, can be implemented into construction. It will also analyse and provide some clarity on the advantages and disadvantages of ‘’Artificial Intelligence’’ (AI)in the construction industry. It will conclude with a summary to evaluate the points discussed throughout.

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2.0 Digital technologies in Construction

2.1 Function

Information when stored in a digital format is mostly converted into numbers, in its most basic level it can be explained to be made up of zeroes and ones.  Furthermore, to put the ‘’technology’’ into a context of understanding, technology represents a processor, computer or application to interpret the zeroes, and ones, thus, making it digital. It is the integration of Digital Technology into the industry which enables collaborative working.

As delineated above we understand what is meant by the phrase ‘’digital technology ‘’ but it would be pertinent to understand some of the functions of digital technology within Construction. Digital is usually the prefix before a specific subject; e.g. Digital Media (software, websites), Digital Electronics (Processors to interpret zeroes and ones.

The function of Digital technology within the construction industry can help to increase profit margins, reduce cost, improve time efficiency and enable better collaboration and enhance productivity.

A branch of computer science, AI is a machine's ability to imitate intelligent behaviour and learn from it. AI use cases in construction are still relatively nascent, though narrow set of start-ups are gaining market traction and attention for their AI-focused approaches (Blanco et al., 2018).

2.2 Impact

Research shows that the construction industry has grown only by 1 percent per year over the past few decades. Productivity or total economic output per worker has remained flat in construction, one of the reasons for this is that construction is one of the most under-digitised industries in the world and is slow to adapt new technologies (Barbosa et al., 2017). Furthermore after decades of under-digitization, the construction sector is making bold moves into new era (Blanco et al., 2018).

Research states that the Construction industry is ripe for disruption; large projects across asset classes typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget (Agarwal et al., 2016).

In 2016 management consultant Mckinsey & Company presented there ‘’Imagining construction’s digital future’’. The paper focused on the construction industry needing to change and implemented how to manage the change.

Agarwal et al (2016) focussed on 5 ideas in which it said ‘’none of these five ideas is futuristic or even implausible. All are grounded in innovations that are applicable to the construction sector and that are either being deployed or prototyped. In short, they are practical and relevant’’. (Agarwal et al., 2016), we will focus on these 5 areas and assess the impact on which they can have.

Figure 1: illustrates 5 trends which can be implemented in quest to digitize construction.

2.2.1 Higher-definition surveying and geolocation

Figure 1: Five trends will shape construction projects.

Geological surprises are a major reason that projects are delayed or over budget. Discrepancies between ground conditions and early survey estimates can require costly last-minute changes to project scope and design. New techniques integrate high-definition photography, 3-D laser scanning, and geographic information systems, enabled by recent improvements in drone and unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAV) technology, can dramatically improve accuracy and speed. (Agarwal et al., 2016: pg5 & 6)

2.2.2 Next Generation 5-D Building Information Modelling (BIM)

As defined in the British government industrial strategy (2012), ‘’BIM is a collaborative way of working, underpinned by the digital technologies which unlock more efficient methods of designing, creating and maintaining. BIM embeds key product, asset data and a dimensional computer model that can be used for effective management of information throughout a project lifecycle’’.

Next generation 5-D BIM is a five-dimensional representation of the physical and functional characteristics of any project. It considers a project’s cost and schedule in addition to the standard spatial design parameters in 3D. (Agarwal et al., 2016: pg6)

Standards such as, PAS 1192-6:2018 and ISO 19650 information on Building Information Modelling.

2.2.3 Digital collaboration and mobility

One reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is that it still relies mainly on paper to manage its processes and deliverables. Digitisation of these processes means moving away from paper and toward online, real-time sharing of information to ensure transparency and collaboration, timely progress and risk assessment, quality control, and, eventually, better and more reliable outcomes (Agarwal et al., 2016: pg7).

2.2.4 The Internet of Things and advanced analytics

The Internet of things (IoT) fundamentally encompasses everything connected to the internet, but, it is increasingly being used to define objects that ‘’talk’’ to each other. Simply, the IoT is made up of devices – from simple sensors to smartphones and tablets – connected together.

In the context of domestic construction, connected IoT systems can forecast and alert site managers when stocks are running short and when order need to be made. Smart structures that use vibration sensors to test the strength and reliability of a structure during the construction stage can detect deficiencies and then correct them early. (Agarwal et al., 2016: pg 9)

Advanced analytics can be used to analyse vast data sets, AI can analyse these data sets and predict trends. The depth and detail in which are almost impossible for any individual analyst. 

2.2.5 Future-proof design and construction

Future proofing has been an integral to the design process for some time, but how this achieved is now being studied in greater detail. ‘’New building materials, such as self-healing concrete, aerogels, and nanomaterials, as well as innovative construction approaches, such as 3-D printing and preassembled modules, can lower costs and speed up construction while improving quality and safety’’. (Agarwal et al., 2016: pg10)

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2.3 Artificial Intelligence

AI use cases in construction are still relatively nascent, though narrow set of start-ups are gaining market traction and attention for their AI-focused approaches (Blanco et al., 2018). As AI can analyse large data sets it can have a considerable impact into the reduction labour shortages, construction safety can be improved by analysing algorithms that look at photos and look for safety hazards.

3.0 Advantages of Digital Technology

The advantages of Digital Technology within in Construction are endless, in Balfour Beatty’s ‘’Innovation 2050 – A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry’’ paper considerable claims on what the Construction site of 2050 will entail; it states that ‘’the construction site of 2050 will be human-free’’ and ‘’ Robots will work in teams to build complex structures.

Fundamentally the introduction of Digital Technology can help to reduce increase profit margins, reduce cost, improve time efficiency and enable better collaboration and enhance productivity.

Furthermore, there a numerous strategies such as ‘’Building a Britain fit for the future’’ and ‘’ Get it Right Initiative’’ which support the implementation of Digital Technology.

3.1 Advantages of Artificial Intelligence

AI is far superior to human intelligence when it comes to analysing data sets, being able to deal with vast amounts of data and specifically identify trends and during construction which can assist the Project delivery team in every aspect of project delivery.

4.0 Disadvantages of Digital Technology

Crotty (2011) states that ‘’the underlying reason why project fail is because the industry persist in trying to build highly complicated things using incredibly poor-quality information’’.


  • Agarwal, R., Chandrasekaran, S. and Sridhar, M. (2016). Imagining construction’s digital future . Available from [Accessed 31 December 2019].
  • Barbosa, F. et al. (2017). Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution. Available from [Accessed 30 December 2019].
  • Blanco, J.L. et al. (2018). Artificial intelligence: Construction technology’s next frontier | McKinsey. Mckinsey & Company. Available from [Accessed 31 December 2019].
  • Hudson, V. (2017). Innovation 2050: A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry . Balfour Beatty. Available from [Accessed 30 December 2019].


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