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Has Data Ushered In a New Era of Construction?

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COVID-19 has been the focal point of everyday conversation and its impact has been seen across the board. The construction and real estate industry is no exception and it is important to understand COVID-19’s impact on the industry and what industry leaders are doing to mitigate risk.
A panel of experts that included Keith La Rose (CopperTree Analytics), Hamid Alemohammad (AOMS), John Boktor (PCL Construction), Brian Kmet (PCL Construction), Elliot Samuel (Eddy Solutions), and Brenda Beckedorf (Alberta IoT) discussed “Analytics for Smarter Buildings – From Post Construction to Preventative Maintenance”, exploring examples of how the industry is using data and analytics to stay ahead in these tough times.

Brenda Beckedorf, Executive Director, Alberta IoT, moderated the panel discussion

While it cannot be denied that Covid has negatively impacted the industry, on the positive side, it has helped accelerate the adoption of technology specifically in the IoT space, according to John Boktor, Manager, Digital Construction at PCL Construction. He cited the example of site monitoring where property managers or builders now know that they can use IoT devices to monitor their site remotely.
Hamid Alemohammad, CEO of AOMS Technologies said that there are interesting examples of IoT applications like companies using technology for contact tracing using wearables and other tech to contain the spread of the virus. He further added that sensors that collect data (material performance, environmental conditions, detecting emergency events such as water leakages) can help improve scheduling and assist in being more predictive and proactive by monitoring tasks in critical paths in construction jobs. Data analytics is an important aspect of achieving the goal of making the jobsite efficient and safe.
Speaking about the importance of mitigation and improvement of labor productivity which is important at a time when the industry is facing a shortage of skilled labor, Brian Kmet, Product Manager, JSI, PCL Construction remarked that any digital technology that addresses this issue is welcome on a job site. He added that buildings are becoming smarter which means there is more work to be done with less available labor, and analytics is helping bridge this gap.
On the topic of buildings facing lower occupancy, Elliott Samuel, Senior Director of PropTech and Sales at Eddy, said it should be seen as a silver lining as this allows building owners to try out technology that they couldn’t with higher occupancy. Keith LaRose, Director of Sales and Marketing, CopperTree Analytics, concurred saying that it is important to record and track performance to check what is working during times of low occupancy so that they could use that data to operate buildings at a higher efficiency when the occupancy rate gets back to normal.
Brian Kmet alluded to a McKinsey Article which rated industries based on how digitized they are, where construction ranked almost at the bottom, just ahead of hunting and fishing. He spoke about PCL’s IoT implementation and how it was founded on 4 pillars (to integrate data, advanced analytics for insights, the capability to be mobile,  and cloud compatibility) and 3 principles (make PCL a better quality builder and extend that to the industry, improve operational excellence on the jobsite, and thirdly smart construction). This move towards smart construction is an important component in working towards smarter cities.
What has been heartening to the industry is the amount of investment it has seen recently. Quoting a couple of sources while making his point Brian Kmet said “Venture capital in 2019 contributed to construction technology at 15 times the pace of other industries. In the past 5 years, investors poured over 25 billion dollars into engineering and construction technology which was up from 8 million dollars in the previous 5 years. People are waking up to that the fact that there is a market here and that there is a need to improve productivity, mitigate risks, and improve schedule”. Technology is no longer a cost item and people are investing because they are realizing that the benefits outweigh the costs.
It was also interesting to learn about the quantity of data that companies have to deal with if they are to make smart decisions. Keith La Rose spoke about CopperTree’s project with PCL where they work on 60,000 data points every 5 minutes (17 Million samples a day!), make sense of that data in an automated way, and help in making decisions.  Analytics helps to see 100% of the systems in a building on an ongoing basis to ensure that the building is being delivered to the specifications and the high-quality standards expected of modern buildings.
The panel also strongly pointed to the fact that while data coming from IoT on its own is great, it needs to be combined with other data coming from enterprise and third-party sources which will place us in the world of predictive or prescriptive analytics. And, it is not enough to just have data from multiple sources, all stakeholders need to come together too. Keith La Rose echoed this point when he said, “No one company can solve all problems, the IoT PropTech space is a huge ecosystem and there will have to be lots of collaboration between companies, platform developers, innovators, vendors who are developing new IoT sensors and technologies”.
Perhaps the importance of analytics to the industry was summed up by Brian Kmet when he said “Data is the new oil was a phrase that was common years ago and I think it is the new cement, steel, and plywood used in construction”.
Watch the full discussion here.
About the Author: Parthi Radha

 
Parthi Radha is a marketing professional and is currently working with Eddy Solutions as an Events Marketing Coordinator.
 

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