The construction industry is transforming technologically to address its nagging pain points. Design-build firms and subcontractors know too well how expensive it is to miscalculate costs, miss design flaws, hire incompetent workers and waste materials. Despite these challenges, construction stakeholders have slowly adopted modern technology.

The nature of the business also prevents smooth digital transformation. Projects are usually fragmented, are almost always unique endeavors and typically involve new sets of organization. Employee turnover can be high and large enterprises tend to be decentralized. Inefficiencies arise from these challenges, but modern innovations have thankfully been easy to embrace. This year, even smaller construction companies are investing in solutions to maximize efficiency at every turn.

Construction Technology Trends During Design Phase

The best place to start is at the beginning. Here are four exciting trends maximizing construction efficiency at the design phase.

1. CAD

Continuous adoption of CAD software is unsurprising. Manual drafting is archaic, and no self-respecting architect in North America will choose pen and paper over CAD to make the drawing process more efficient.

This tech is trendy not only in 2024 but also in the future. Civil and construction industry observers estimate the CAD market will grow at a CAGR of 6.78% from 2023 to 2028. One of the drivers of its momentum is the growth of the construction industry.

Considering the world is facing a housing crisis and the looming threat of global warming calls for building upgrades and retrofits to make existing structures climate-resilient, the upward trajectory of CAD software popularity is almost guaranteed. Moreover, the mounting pressure on architects to reduce design time and automate the design development process fuels CAD’s adoption.

2. BIM

BIM adoption in the United States shows no signs of slowing. Americans were some of the first to implement this tech worldwide. As trailblazers, U.S. construction professionals had to go through the painful process of trial and error to learn what works and what doesn’t. The crucial implementation mistakes early adopters commit include:

  • Lacking an execution plan.
  • Working on unsuitable hardware.
  • Contending with inaccurate and excessive information.
  • Using external content with abandon.
  • Having maladaptive modelers.
  • Undervaluing quality control.

Since BIM has been around long enough, numerous case studies are available for new adopters to examine to avoid the usual pitfalls. Contemporary construction professionals can still encounter implementation hiccups. Fortunately, they can also benefit from others’ best practices — such as investing in full-fledged BIM software instead of any 3D modeling program, addressing issues with models early, and setting up schedules correctly — to successfully eliminate common inefficiencies during this construction stage.

3. AR and VR

AR and VR enable construction stakeholders to superimpose 3D models onto an actual environment or see them in a virtual world. These visualization solutions allow viewers to scrutinize building designs and make modifications in real time.

These technologies sound intimidating since they still seem too futuristic to some, but investing in them doesn’t have to break the bank. Buying high-end headsets costing hundreds of dollars is even optional. Retrofitting AR or VR functionality to common mobile devices is budget-friendly.

4. Prefabrication

Interest in prefab construction is surging because it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Prefabricated component manufacturing occurs in a controlled environment, so it’s efficient time-, energy- and material-wise. Prefab building sections, especially modular ones, are fast to assemble. They can speed up construction and lower labor costs, making projects more manageable.

As of 2024, Mordor Intelligence estimates the prefabricated building market size in the U.S. to be worth $40.91 billion. Forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 5.94% every year until 2029, it will cross the $54 billion mark before the decade ends.

Manufactured housing is driving demand. Assembling prefab multifamily properties is in its early days in the States. Most of the players in the space concentrate on wood-framed units inspired by single-family, modular and mobile homes. Steel modular construction is no longer experimental since a 24-unit building made with it already exists.

Technology Trends During Procurement Phase

Procurement is essential, too. HR technology is speeding up the rate at which employees can filter job candidates, helping wrap up lagging projects sooner.

5. HR Tech

More and more hiring managers are loving HR tech since it automates their functions. In construction, such specialized software simplifies background checking — crucial in vetting prospective workers, independent contractors and subcontractors. HR tech can also collect critical information from new hires promptly and securely.

HR professionals spend about 85% of their time on admin work, so automating most of it is a significant time-saver. It allows hiring managers to dedicate more of their finite resources to finding and scrutinizing candidates, and helping new team members acclimate to the organization or project.

ConTech Trends During the Construction Phase

Of course, speeding up the actual build is a significant boon. Here are a couple of advancements taking job sites by storm.

6. Connected Construction

One of the latest construction technology trends is about data integration. It aims to create a centralized network where information can seamlessly flow between systems.

Siloed recordkeeping is a challenge connected construction technology attempts to fix. A device’s hard drive might fry and lose company data if an unexpected outage or damage occurs, so ensuring all information and analytics are in the cloud is vital. Doing so enables interoperable devices to ensure instant and reliable knowledge exchange, enabling stakeholders to collaborate to boost construction work efficiency, among other things.

7. Drone Technology

Drones are some of construction’s shiny toys. They’re helpful in various project phases, but their utility is valuable regarding inspections. Sending a drone up allows property owners and construction managers to monitor the work’s progress.

Aerial job evaluation is faster than a walkthrough because it collects more information in less time. A drone’s camera can harness data for insightful site maps and capture details physical inspections typically miss.

Drone operation promotes safety because crewless aerial vehicles can reach places too dangerous for people to access. The problem is flying a drone can be a hazard in itself. Guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration can prepare you, but this task can have a steep learning curve. Proper pilot training is in order.

Technological Transformation — A Work in Progress

The construction industry needs more work to reduce inefficiencies meaningfully throughout all project stages. With these construction technology trends, adopters will make noticeable inroads in 2024.