The Pandemic Has Accelerated Use Of Technology In The Construction Field

The coronavirus has forced the construction world to adapt and evolve by increasingly using technology to get projects done, those in the field say.

Over the past seven months, the pandemic has accelerated the use of technology across worksites to preplan, communicate and make jobs run more efficiently as contractors attempt to complete projects. With less manpower due to social distancing requirements as well as slowdowns in the supply chain, technology is needed in a way it never has been before, developers, construction technology experts and construction company leaders said on a Bisnow webinar about construction and development Thursday.

“You can’t just keep hiring as many people as you need,” Silverstein Properties Development Project Manager Jamison Divoll said. “So this just really fast-tracked [the use of technology]. … We went from, ‘Let’s do a lot of research and find what technology will work best for our business’ to ‘OK, now, in 2021, how are we going to leverage technology to do what we need to do with the uncertainties of what construction is going to look like?’”

With no foreseeable end to the construction labor crunch, not to mention social distancing requirements that prevent packing workers onto job sites, technology has become essential to how timely the project gets done, he said.

“How are the contractors and the design team and ourselves going to use technology to improve efficiency on job sites where you can’t just add more people anymore?” Divoll said. “You need to be more thoughtful about how you have to work in place. I think that’s kind of what concerns me in the coming year and what I am most interested to learn more about.”

Mike Powers, a sales manager for construction software company Autodesk, said his company is seeing a lot of that increased usage. Larger general contractors and developers are using the technology for increased communications, while smaller companies are using it to soften the blow of the delays prompted by the pandemic, he said.

“[Smaller] GCs and contractors … maybe have full workloads and the backlog started to dry up, so they are cutting back on not just software but employees,” Powers said. “So we’re mitigating that and talking about you can leverage technology to pick up some of that in the future.”

The increased use of technology has saved those in design money before getting on the project as well, Powers said.

“If they’re able to see design changes upfront in the design process, they can change that, and instead of having a $10K change in the construction field, they’re having a $10 change by moving a pipe or something like that along the [design] process,” he said.