How Construction Technology Startups are Changing the Game

Posted On: 
Aug 31, 2018
How Construction Technology Startups are Changing the Game

In the past, construction has primarily been a skilled labor job that offered a decent wage and required specialized skill set. While it’s an innovative industry, its use and integration of cutting edge technology has been slower when compared to other industries, maybe because there hasn’t seemed like a crossover was needed. Traditional construction has been the way things have always been done, and even with challenges, it presses on. But things are changing, and it’s exciting. One of those ways was discussed in a previous blog, 3D Printing and its Impact on the Construction Industry. But that is just one way of how the construction industry is changing with technology. With a lack of skilled labor necessary to complete construction projects as quickly as they need to be finished; with the focus of the build and design industry quickly moving toward sustainability, resiliency, and regeneration; and with the explosion of venture capital backed construction technology startups, the traditional construction method is going through big changes.

David Barista, Editorial Director of Building Design+Construction Magazine, says in the August 2018 issue, that most of the talk at BD+C’s Accelerate Live! Conference in May “referenced the AEC market’s ongoing angst about a tech-industry takeover of AEC, with traditional companies getting squeezed out by hotshot VC-backed startups and enterprising design and construction firms”. Barista suggests that the pace of innovation and tech adoption by AEC firms is happening at a phenomenally quick rate.

The Technology That’s Changing the Game

There’s a slew of ways that startup construction technology is introducing changes, but there are three prominent areas trending right now.

  • Collaborative Software: Construction is about collaboration, so if technology can streamline and simplify that, then that positive effect trickles down to all aspects of a project. This can eliminate administrative costs; miscommunication between suppliers, project managers, architects, and the office staff handling the paperwork; and can reduce costs in all areas. Some of the leading construction management apps include ProCore Technologies, Plangrid, and Clarizen. But there are also more niche apps, like FastTac, which enables the design and construction teams to share drawings and revisions in real time, without reprinting and redistributing them the old way.
  • Offsite Construction: This is the red-headed step-child of the construction industry. It’s been talked about, its value is known, it’s not going away, yet it’s largely ignored. Off-site construction is a blog post of its own, really, but it includes the planning, design, fabrication, and assembly of building elements at a location other that their final destination. The two most talked about companies presently are Katerra, which is the largest and fastest growing prefab Contech startup right now, as well as BluHomes, which has faced some setbacks recently. But the industry, which is primarily in the single-family house realm right now, is exploding into commercial and multifamily and has enough diversity in how it can be used that its growth won’t slow down anytime soon.
  • Big Data and Artificial Intelligence: Money and time is saved when construction teams are better informed through predictive data analysis and automation tools. Being more informed can preemptively predict equipment maintenance, reduce risks on-site, streamline and manage the work week, and automate processes that used to need a human to do. Leansite is one notable app, as well as Uptake Technologies.

Construction Technology and Product Specification

As a product manufacturer, your product may not fit in right now with this construction technology boom. So, what do you do?

One obvious choice is to start looking at ways to change your product to apply to a broader range of specifiers, but that’s not always feasible. Another option is to diversify your product selection, if possible. Both these options are applicable, because while technology is booming in the construction industry, the traditional ways will still be needed. Product manufacturers goal must be figuring out how to stay relevant and still grow with the industry, while maintaining what they’ve already built.

In that sense, traditional tactics are still necessary:

  • Market your product—Being seen by as many specifiers as possible is the most consistent way to market your product. One way to do that effectively is to sponsor a continuing education course.
  • Obtain transparency documents—With the move toward sustainability and regeneration, transparency documents are going to be required by every specifier sooner rather than later. Elixir Environmental can help you with HPDs, Declare Labels, and connect you to Mindful Materials and SM Transparency Catalog.
  • Use your sales team—It’s important to know who you’re selling to, and to know what they know. So again, with the growth of sustainability and regeneration, having at least one, if not more, sales team members who are LEED Green Associates can increase your specification opportunities. We offer a free LEED Exam Prep course, as well as other courses to increase our sales team’s knowledge.

Have you had any experiences with new construction technology? How do you see it improving the industry?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank