Construction Technology: The future of the industry

Who says that with the $2.9 billion invested so far in 2021 in the ConTech ecosystem, or Construction Technology, this does not become a crushing trend in the industry?

Last 2020 the ConTech industry closed with $1.3 billion (USD) invested and over 100 deals closed. This year, the overwhelming figures seem to turn this discipline, of which all the great leaders of construction have been speaking of for a while now, into a trend that will redefine construction as we now it today.

What is construction technology?

In an era in which construction continues to operate as in the last century, everyone wonders how to attract innovation to it, optimize times and costs, and reduce the carbon footprint caused by its processes, among many other issues. On the horizon of all these challenges arises what is known as ConTech, short for Construction Technology. The objective of this movement, where companies and key players in the industry coexist, aims to solve the challenges offered by construction using technology.

Cranes and a sunrise

The inclusion of new technologies in different sectors is the key to promoting innovation. In recent years, an endless number of neologisms appear, almost as many as verticals and industries itself, which forge a vision of successful transformation that technology facilitates in different businesses or disciplines at a global level. In addition to ConTech, it is increasingly common to read terms such as Fintech, Proptech, Wealthtech or Legaltech in current news.

How does this improve the construction industry?

It would be bold to say that all industries use the same technologies or that they have all achieved immediate success by using the trending technology of the moment in their processes. We believe that the real quid of how to achieve success with technological inclusion in the industry is not so much the application, but to understand the pain point and then test its solution through different technologies.

“The real challenge that startups must consider when developing a solution for the construction industry is to understand very well the challenge that it intends to solve and identify if it´s possible to attack more than one pain point with it” said Gonzalo Galindo, Head of CEMEX Ventures. 

Therefore they must explore how ConTech solutions, in their use as emerging technologies, offer a satisfactory solution to the industry in different ways:

  • They help build the metropolises of the future by promoting smart cities and buildings with the best resource efficiency. Alternatives that use technologies to offer solutions based on resilient and collaborative cities, with new energy sources, adequate asset management and that ensure an appropriate demolition or second use.
  • They support key industry players to get goods and services in the right place and at the right time, optimizing different resource sources, fleet tracking and inventory management.
  • They mitigate the carbon footprint that the construction process and life cycle of a structure could generate, from technologies that capture carbon in the production of materials, systems that facilitate the connection between demand and supply, new plastic recycling technology for use in construction systems, use of sensors for the better management of energy resources, processes that promote renewable energies through better storage and use with innovative designs.
  • They optimize the design, engineering, and planning process, and provide appropriate techniques and tools to maximize the efficiency and quality of a construction project.
  • They improve productivity, efficiency, and quality in the daily management of work on site, promoting plans in continuous updating and communication with what happens in the space, and optimizing the working capital cycle.
  • They offer an evolution in materials, as well as new methods that modernize the way in which the industry builds, allowing cheaper, faster developments with better functionalities.
  • They provide scaling of new financial sources, optimize loan and credit management, and foster new standards of transparency in the construction ecosystem.
Robotic arm: and example of construction technology

What are the benefits for those involved?

In addition to the pain points that may appear in the day to day of construction, this industry is divided among the numerous intermediaries involved to obtain a final product. Therefore, the advantages that technology offers are many and varied, depending on the actors and needs that occur in each of the phases of construction.

“The fragmentation of the sector is a great challenge to solve among all the people involved in the value chain of the construction industry. From the design and planning process to the management and maintenance of a structure, achieving more cohesion among all involved would lead to streamlining, reducing costs and times, and better use of resources in general. The new trends focused on ConTech and the benefits they bring are allowing us to increasingly close the gap and drive the industry towards a more innovative and promising one,” added Galindo.

Mentioning the most significant advantages that apply to all segments involved in the industry highlights the reduction of time, optimization of resources and cost control:

  • Quick access to information and easy communication: being a fragmented industry, it is vital to improve communication between all the actors in it. For this, technologies under construction such as BIM appear and sit in the same scenario as all the actors in a digital and collaborative environment with the aim of reducing execution times, errors and, therefore, expenses.
  • Simplify tasks: through robotics, processes that become expensive, insecure, or complicated through human labor are optimized. With robotics and the Internet of Things we can have a connection to devices and machinery allowing great advantages for users.
  • Improvements in transport: Advances in transport systems have been very noticeable and new alternatives are increasingly being proposed that allow material goods to be moved more quickly, accurately in time and avoiding deterioration.
  • New jobs: As technology advances, challenges arise that need innovative solutions and this creates new job opportunities. Whether with the demand for professionals linked to software engineering, the development and execution of novel machinery or specialists in data analysis.

5 Examples of construction technology impacting the industry

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence uses machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, physical robots, and robotic process automation. It allows to optimize time and efforts in monitoring the progress of the works throughout the compilation phase as it predicts and corrects the risks before it materializes it.

In addition, Artificial Intelligence can be used to map multifunctional processes in real time, generating useful information in both operational and strategic decision-making.

Construction technology: Smart city

BIM

BIM technology, or Building Information Modeling, integrates intelligent information with tangible aspects of a building. It directly impacts the industry by facilitating an increase in efficiency and improving communication and collaboration by integrating all the actors involved in the project in the same framework. Because of its digital nature, all interested parties can access plans and other related documents whenever they need it.

Worker safety on the construction site has always been a priority for both CEMEX and the industry. Today, BIM allows to improve safety processes through 3D models that help identify hazards and potential damage in a much easier and faster way than through 2D drawings of a structure.

3D PRINTING

This technology allows the creation of a three-dimensional object by superimposing successive layers of material. There are numerous solutions and projects spread throughout the global geography that generate different structures still being tested. Even so, many continue to optimize their ink to obtain the full structural benefits offered by traditional construction.

Among its main advantages, 3D printing in its application in the construction industry helps to generate more flexible designs, automates construction processes, and accelerates the execution of projects by involving fewer actors. On the other hand, it reduces costs and waste.

A 3D printing

IoT and sensors

The connection between everyday devices and the internet is becoming more frequent. It allows to know atmospheric behaviors and the environment by facilitating the design and planning phase of a project. In the management and logistics phase, the installation of IoT sensors combined with BIM technology can nourish production and logistics plans with information.

On the other hand, it supports predictive maintenance and operations, facilitates time and cost savings thanks to the prevention of new investments in equipment, and avoids delays in construction. Sensors installed in the building materials themselves can also detect risk of collapse in areas at high risk of natural disasters, anticipating threats in construction and monitoring the condition of buildings after natural disasters.

Marketplaces

The last decade has become the era of the marketplace after the creation of multiple platforms that optimize the supply chain. The concept takes on a new meaning if it scales up to the construction industry. With its implementation in the construction sector they reduce costs, allowing suppliers to directly manage their products and services and improve efficiency in the supply chain by promoting a centralized management of supply and demand.

In addition, it facilitates greater control of products, goods and services contracted and increases transparency by being able to make decisions based on the information provided, such as the performance, price and availability of products, goods, or services.

What is CEMEX Ventures doing to improve the ConTech ecosystem?

CEMEX Ventures is positioned as a leader in transforming the construction industry through innovation and as a key player in the ConTech ecosystem. Due to its privileged position in the value chain of the industry, CEMEX Ventures serves as a link between the different stakeholders of the industry, being of great benefit to the startups with which it maintains a relationship and develops solutions.  In addition, it focuses on capitalizing on sustainable business models that serve to overcome the main challenges facing the sector, involving novel technologies that benefit construction professionals.

In this process, it seeks the participation of numerous stakeholders such as startups, entrepreneurs, universities, other leading companies in the industry to together shape the value ecosystem of tomorrow.

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