C+S April 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 4 (web)


Globally, earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) from construction activities are, on average, just 5.5 percent of sales. International chal- lenges from Asia, supply chain constraints and rises in material costs will put further strain on margins which have traditionally always been relatively small compared to other sectors. Fortunately, there are signs that the sector is starting to embrace digita- lization. Professional services firm, EY, recently found that 98 percent of respondents agree that digital solutions will be critical to the future viability of their company and more organizations are starting to em- brace AI, autonomous vehicles, sensors, thermal imaging, and digital twin technologies. One of the most significant technological breakthroughs is Building Information Modelling (BIM) which is gaining currency as a platform for central integrated design, modelling, planning, and collaboration. It provides all stakeholders, including architects, surveyors, engineers, building owners, and facility managers with a 3D digital representation of a building’s characteristics throughout its lifecycle. Sitting at the heart of BIM is digital technology which extends 2D technical drawings into 3D virtual information models, with project management and visualization tools. This means that spatial relation- ships, light analysis, geographic information, and quantities and prop- erties of building components can be identified. One innovation helping engineers integrate BIM into projects is si- multaneous localization and mapping technology (SLAM), which can contribute to the reduction in program time, lower costs, and increase in productivity on-site.

With greater pressure on engineers to deliver innovative building de- signs more efficiently, new digital technology can be hugely beneficial in keeping costs to a minimum. The U.S. engineering and construction sector enjoyed a robust year in 2019 as the country benefited from some of the slowest increases in construction costs anywhere in the world. Prospects for growth are looking promising for the year ahead as firms compete to build con- nected, “smart” towns and cities. There are a number of exciting infrastructure projects ahead as $287 billion was invested following the Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019. This act will enable the Highway Trust Fund to maintain and repair America’s roads and bridges and keep the economy moving, not to mention kickstart smart city projects in Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco. Despite forecasts revealing that growth in the construction sector will rise by a staggering 70 percent across the world by 2025, it’s fair to say that compared to other industry sectors, construction and engineering players have been slower to embrace digital technology. Many firms are also facing significant challenges such as labor shortages, low pro- ductivity, and a significant requirement to minimize costs.


april 2020


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