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In Focus: Construction Tech Adoption Speeds Up

Despite the bleaker impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic has created the opportunity for construction technology adoption to dramatically accelerate.

Q1 2021
Faced with the urgent need to both enable remote work and safeguard job-site activity, U.S. construction firms significantly ramped up tech investments in 2020, condensing three years worth of adoption into a single year.

According to JLL’s State of Construction Tech report, mature technologies — including digital collaboration platforms, virtual scanning tools, and safety-focused wearables — were forecast to see strong growth in 2020, thanks to proven value and low barriers to adoption. But once the pandemic struck, these tools proved more than nice-to-have — they’ve become a veritable lifeline for companies of all sizes to keep projects alive through this public health crisis.

Indeed, the novel coronavirus pressed tech adoption onto most every industry, as office-based workers moved en masse to remote work environments. But for the construction sector in particular, time-tested tech tools have proven essential to keeping job sites open, while enabling social distancing.

How COVID-19 Fueled Adoption of Established Contech Categories
In particular, the pandemic boosted adoption of mature tech tools that help facilitate remote work as well as on-site execution. Following are four ConTech categories that received a high boost in adoption directly owed to COVID-19:
  • Digital collaboration — Like all industries, construction firms leaned into cloud-based collaboration during the pandemic. These tools have not only helped firms keep office employees working from home during shutdowns, they’ve also enabled teams to keep in-person numbers down at job sites, keeping projects flowing while meeting social distancing needs.
  • Time-tested tech tools have proven essential to keeping job sites open, while enabling social distancing.
  • Scanning — Tools like automated optical cameras and laser scans enable teams to collect building and site data at unprecedented rates. Whether they’re handheld, mounted on tripods, strapped to helmets, or mounted on robots, these solutions pair with analytics and visualization tools to allow users to conduct virtual walk-throughs and tours. This helps keep on-site numbers down, while supporting collaboration and also improving data quality and efficiency.
  • Safety/wearables — By harnessing the Internet of Things-powered wearables that can be clipped on or embedded in hard hats, vests, and boots, construction teams help keep real-time track of employee and contractor health and safety. Amid the pandemic, these safety measures can also help social distancing and facilitate contact tracing.
  • BIM/CAD — As the foundation of all other types of construction technology, these modeling systems have only gained more traction in a post-COVID world by providing a single source of truth for construction technology.
The overall picture is bright for construction technology investment. Still, tighter budgets and lower profit margins mean some technology categories have less certain futures. Working with fewer discretionary dollars, construction leaders may be cautious about investing in emerging technologies like robotics and 3D printing.

Overall growth in construction tech may be tempered by a thinning out of startups working in nascent categories. Ultimately, however, established ConTech tools have moved firmly into the must-have category for firms working to sustain business through and beyond the pandemic.

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