The construction industry in the UK accounts for only 6% of the UK’s GDP, and yet represents one of the most important corners of industry in the nation – or even globally. The construction industry is responsible for national and private infrastructure, and investment in the industry has spurred growth and innovation that has benefited countless other industries. What follows are three ground-breaking innovations in construction, which were developed as a result of construction.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Computer-aided design, or CAD for short, has been nothing short of a revelatory development in engineering and construction. The technology has now been in use for decades but represented a bellwether moment for contemporary construction when adopted on a more mainstream basis. The use of CAD enabled contractors to draw up complex and accurate designs with ease and to reproduce them without difficulty or opportunity for error.
The use of CAD technology has also improved logistical elements of construction, with project management made far easier by virtue of access to comprehensive and accurate plans. It is also easy to generate further plans breaking down sections of a build.
Mechanisation was the first step in the development of contemporary building practices, as early industrial technologies enabled the creation of power tools and automated machinery to carry out heavy-duty tasks – and eventually complex ones. Early mechanisation involved steam-powered machinery for the transportation and deformation of heavy materials, but the last century of design and technology has seen mechanisation progress exponentially.
Today, even the simplest of tasks have been mechanised. Where a roofing tiler may previously have had to spend an afternoon pinning tiles by hand, nail by nail, the task today can be done in a matter of hours by using a Milwaukee nail gun. The effect of mechanised processes and tools, on the large and small scale, has shaped the modern construction industry; there are vanishingly rare examples of non-mechanised worksites, save for period-faithful renovation works on listed buildings.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The provision of personal protective equipment at work has been a legal requirement since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 – legislation which brought the safety rights of workers to the forefront and spurred proper consideration of worker safety. Today, personal protective equipment is a defining characteristic of the worksite, from hi-vis clothing to hard hats and safety goggles.
PPE is a work in progress, though – as is construction’s adoption of it. A recent study by the TUC and Prospect found that 57% of women on construction sites felt underserved by their PPE, as a result of it fitting them poorly. New innovations in PPE design are taking these results into consideration, providing inclusive PPE designs in order that contractors and construction companies can properly accommodate their staff.