The changing face of construction

4 minute read

16 March 2021

By Peter Springett

Head of Content, Upstart

Historically referred to as “bricks and mortar” the engineering and construction industry is being increasingly digitised.


Some players remain resistant but the digital push is undeniable and accelerating, with the coronavirus pandemic contributing massively to technology adoption. As per JLL’s State of Construction Tech Report, the rate of tech adoption last year was triple that of a normal year

While the industry is certainly reshaping itself, is it doing it fast enough? What part can AI and machine learning play in improving productivity as well as the safety of construction? Can harnessing “digital adoption” ensure compliance at each stage of the construction journey?

So What?

Construction projects are historically plagued with delays, with millions of pounds lost in revenue. Pressure for change comes from many areas, not just business stakeholders and investors. Safety in construction projects is paramount. 

Following recommendations in the landmark Hackitt Review and Report, it was recently announced that a new product regulator has been appointed in response to the Building Safety Bill. Digitisation is not just transforming the face of construction, it’s crucially ensuring a safer, more connected environment. But why, and how?

  • Client-centric connectivity. Clients expect to lead more “connected lives” both at home and at work. Construction needs to take into consideration the Internet of Things (IoT) allowing for spaces to serve specific needs. These might include energy optimisation, advanced security protocols or monitoring and tracking of health needs. It’s a topic we touched upon in a previous BLOG where we reviewed how connected homes were coming of age.

Digitisation isn’t just about operational efficiency; it’s about delivering a more client-centric service. Take services like Oculo for example. Using something called SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) they’ve developed a system to monitor, map, record, and relay in 3D what is happening on a construction site without the need for GPS. 

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM). An alternative to the SLAM model, BIM includes elements like 5D integrated planning tools. Machines and workers are connected to ensure constant progress and incident monitoring with robotic related innovations automating the execution of repetitive tasks, creating a safer working environment. 

Cloud based platforms like BIM are, according to, integral to the shift toward remote working in construction. 

  • New wave of skilled professionals. Besides advancements in technology paving the way for new possibilities (virtual and augmented reality, use of drones and robotics) we now have far more skilled professionals eager to adopt non-traditional digital tools. 
  • Decentralisation. A theme we talk about a lot at Upstart. Historically large construction companies have been highly federated, often with multiple divisions working to their own specific set of standards and practises. 
  • More interactive work processes. We are witnessing more dematerialised and on-site updates with instant coordination of all aspects of the construction lifecycle, from bidding to selecting and finally contracting. 

New systems and software might increase productivity in the short term, but operational change first needs to be identified.

“It’s important to not just install IT solutions but to fix the pain points. ”

So Now What?

Digitising the construction industry isn’t just about adopting new technologies. It’s about shifting behaviours and perceptions. To be successful, beyond implementing new processes, it requires the nurturing of talent and cultivating an early adopter’s mindset to ensure success. 

Here are a couple of areas we recommend you reflect upon further:

Look at how you can broaden your network. The digital world is an open one, there are less traditional boundaries in place, and it may be advantageous to forge alliances and strategic partnerships.

How can you collaborate remotely and fix issues in real-time?

By putting in place a strong framework. It is likely there will be more remote silos working on projects, so a flexible framework needs to be in place to track progress and ensure successful outcomes are delivered. Use of digital processes can accelerate decision making.

At Upstart, we believe that getting clear on your digital strategy is a necessity. Digitisation is reinventing one industry after another, construction included, and the time is now to take advantage of these opportunities. 

Why not get in touch with Upstart today and find out how we can help you deal with digital disruption. 

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