Construction is a costly and time-consuming process and like every business, any money saving measure counts. It would not be wrong to presume that managing a construction project flawlessly in terms of budget and organising is almost impossible. Starting from employees to suppliers and logistics, there can be one tool that can aid and help the multifaceted building process: big data.
Retailers, airlines, banks and almost all other services industry have all started to leverage their big data to make more accurate predictions to give a boost to sales and also expand operations. Whereas, the construction industry is in its infancy in analysing its databases to gain insight to boost performance.
A growing number of contractors and construction companies are working to find ways to make their existing software more useful by incorporating additional analytics, to help them better estimate projects, manage finances and seek out future market opportunities.
The concept of Building Information Modelling (BIM) involves using 3D virtual models to help a team better plan, design, construct, and manage building structures. Even though BIM has been around for decades, it’s only now that many have started to call for the integration of big data into the process. By adding data, these programs could also allow designers to more easily spot trends or make predictions on a project.
Big data can help track and manage projects:
Data related to weather, traffic, community and business activity can help determine optimal phasing of construction activities. To make machines more efficient, sensor inputs to show active and idle time can be processed to draw better conclusions about the buying or leasing the equipment. Moreover, it can also help in determining the most resourceful way of fuel consumption keeping in mind costs and ecological impacts. Geolocation data of equipment will allow logistics to be improved, spare parts to be made available when needed, and downtime to be avoided.
Data proponents have been praising analytics’ ability to give reliable and easy-to-understand status updates to teams. Regular updates follow better decision making and also makes way for steps for the projects to be evaluated more regularly. Temperature, humidity, and stress can also be analysed to determine how it affects a particular building and to alert the team to any sudden changes.
Big data for better budgeting and planning:
For commercial companies, access to the right data would also mean the ability to better evaluate subcontractors working on a project. With proper data and analysis, one can determine how reliable a potential partner could be. Most construction companies work with various other companies to get all the required material and other resources; with accurate data, the companies will also get the ability to analyse the risks involved with a potential partner. Removing a less resourceful partner from the setup could have far reaching results on any project and can also help drastically cut wasted resources.
The other development that big data can offer is simulation. Since predicting outcomes is a major component of data analysis, being able to predict possible outcomes of a project could yield unprecedented results. The various layers, as well as locations of construction projects, could have several unforeseen problems.
Thorough simulations will enable contractors to identify the actual problem area even before the situation arises. Recognising the real world limitations of a project might not always be possible, but data can definitely help reduce the likelihood of problems arising unexpectedly.
Big data from sensor technology:
The development of sensor-based technologies has greatly improved information collection, data transmission and processing, which can serve as the foundation of the modernisation of construction safety management. After nearly two decades of development, sensor-based technologies have facilitated the transformation from experimental exploration to practical applications. The applications of sensor-based technology in construction safety management have become the focus of current research.
Furthermore, the data from the intelligence of sensor-based technology helps construct an interactive management platform, which is the integration of hardware and software for data processing, significantly improving the construction site monitoring capacity and providing guarantees for construction safety
The road ahead for data in construction:
Construction firms are starting to move into arenas such as real-time, cloud-powered analytics of large and unstructured datasets. Such methods have the potential to redefine the traditionally fraught relationships between the interested parties.
In an industry where 35 percent of costs are accounted for by material waste and remedial work, counting the cost of every screw can make a difference in delivering on budget and bankrupting an organisation financing a build.
Despite the drastic change that big data can bring into the construction industry, as compared to other industries, an obstacle in construction is that much of the data which has been collected has been siloed. The data has been held in isolation by the business department or division which collected it, where it is useful for their own analytics but can’t contribute to the big picture. What could be effective in the long run is having set up a process that can give access to the required data to builders and contractors.
Another reason big data has not yet been fully integrated into commercial construction is that of its complexity. Adding a team of dedicated data scientists to every project isn’t always possible or even cost effective. The cost of big data systems and highly skilled analysts would likely undermine any chance of data becoming thoroughly integrated into the field in the near future.