How Technology is Changing the Construction World


By: Aaron Miller

The construction industry is growing at an enormous rate.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to add over 800,000 jobs between 2016 and 2026, finishing top amongst goods-producing industries.  Part of the reason for such a high rate of growth in the construction industry is the advent of new technology which not only enables contractors to keep costs down, but has been a big factor in the construction industry being able to add more jobs at such a high rate.
One of the fastest-growing technological advancements assisting the construction industry are drones.  While lower-end models can cost a few thousand dollars, the upper models can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.  Although this may seem like a substantial cost, there are substantial cost-savings and benefits associated with the use of drones.  Drones can assist with multiple areas of construction, such as 3-D mapping for site surveying of unstable or inaccessible terrain, inspections of unsafe locations, and damage assessments.  It is expected that over the next few years, the influx of new models into the market will make the cost much more palpable, even for smaller projects.
While drones are readily available to assist in construction projects in the present, technology will drastically change the construction industry in the not so distant future.  Researchers at MIT are currently working on robots, called Fiberbots, a digital fabrication platform that utilizes a series of small robots that work cooperatively to create fiber-based structures.  While the robots have so far only built tubular structures that are more for show than utility, the structures did survive outside during the Massachusetts winter, proving that they could be used in the future on permanent construction projects. In addition, the robots would be able to reach tighter areas less suitable for a human worker.
With the advent of new technology, comes new legal concerns as well.  The use of drones and robots opens up users to a variety of new legal issues. For example, who is contractually responsible for the use of the technology, the provider or the purchaser?  Is additional training for construction workers required? How should risk be allocated if an injury or building defect occurs due to use of the advanced technology?  While the advent of AI and other new technology will no doubt benefit the construction industry, we can expect legal developments will follow.
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