With the increasing accent on timely completion of Projects and without compromising on quality and safety requirements in construction there is a growing need and awareness now than ever before to adopt newer concepts and imbibe latest technologies in the overall lifecycle of any construction Project. During the last decade or so the technology being used has varied depending on the type of construction performed and in general the technological changes have largely been evolutionary only, far from being radically significant. The recent technological innovations fast emerging as viable solutions have direct impact on performance of specific construction activities besides bringing along substantive changes in the management of construction projects chiefly in the areas of planning and execution with enhanced quality and safety. Innovations in construction design, equipment, expert systems and methods are the major differentiating factors which are going to play a key role in illustrating the desired advancements in construction.
At the planning stage the technology associated with Building Information Modelling (BIM) software affords integrated scheduling to make design, procurement and contract an integral part of the Master schedule with its ability to create 3D to 7D Models through mapping of current condition of the site to scheduling and then to estimating. It basically helps create the 3D digital model of the building, facilitating collection of building data organized into a structural database. A well-developed BIM Model is composed of virtual equivalents of all elements of actual building having both physical and logical characteristics of their real counterparts and act as the digital prototype of building elements like walls, columns, windows, doors etc., such that it allows us to simulate the building we intend to build and understand its behaviour in a computer environment much before the construction starts on the ground. This greatly helps in design decision by enabling us to readily compare different design alternatives. As modifications made therein automatically replicate in each view (plan, elevation and section) it helps to hasten the creation of documentation besides affording impeccably seamless and perfect design by automatic coordination to different views.
At the project management stage Tools such as Oracle Primavera and more prominently Candy and Build Smart help a great deal in ensuring organized development. Candy provides a uniquely interactive link between BOQ and Master schedule and thereby an exceptional solution by aligning time and money, the 2 vital factors in construction / engineering projects. By combining all powerful features into a single user interface, it has several benefits by being user friendly, versatile, scalable, speedy and accurate apart from auditability of estimation and Project controls. New versions and updates can be downloaded at no extra cost once activation is done initially, at low cost. It has built-in dynamic integration with Build Smart for upfront purchase control and Budget vs actual cost analysis and reporting too with associated convenience and control on Project costs.
During the project execution phase there are quite a few advancements at various stages. At the excavation stage EPS Pulse Plasma Rock fragmentation method is of non-explosive type and much safer to use as against the usual drill and blast method which is noisy and dangerous. Adoption of technology related to prefabricated / offsite construction has lot of advantages like faster completion, increased quality and environmental-friendliness and scale of economy and so is gaining quicker acceptance among all. Other notable developments in construction include specialised form work technologies like hybrid formwork, plastic formwork, self-climbing form work, Aluminium formwork, crane enabled composite table formwork, composite panel form (consisting of vertical and horizontal panel formwork systems for columns and slabs respectively), voided slabs, Aluminium shuttering, drywall panels, CLC block work (a version of light weight concrete), block jointing adhesives which offer higher bond strength than does the regular mortar, ready mix plasters, tile fixing adhesives that afford better workability and adhesion. These technologies are not just cost effective, they have advantages like minimum requirement of labour, high durability and earthquake resistance, large carpet area, smooth finishing and low maintenance. Usage of elevated working platforms and mobile hydraulic platforms are becoming imperative from a safety perspective.
In the finishing stages, provision of factory-assembled pre-hung doors with architraves that conceal uneven joints to improve visual appeal by closing gaps between frames and doors and limiting the cracks between the frames and the walls is turning out to be a good development. From a quality checking perspective, usage of Moisture meters and Leak detectors are some of the new developments. When it comes to adoption of new technologies in the building, state-of-the-art VRV systems and VFDs for HVAC, high performance glass, use of recycled and environmental-friendly materials conforming to green building norms, radiant cooling systems for HVAC and installation of large solar panels on the terraces are some of the systems and measures coming up for wider usage in the new Projects.
As the shortage of skilled labour is growing high by the day, mechanisation is slowly gaining ground to save Project completion time. Aluminium formwork, commonly known as MIVAN, has almost redefined the Project timelines paving the way for focusing on improved quality and increased scale of construction with optimum timeline. Slip forms and jump forms are being increasingly used, of late, even on housing and commercial projects. Post-tensioning of structures and pre-cast technology are a few more things, if executed diligently, go a long way in improving the quality of concrete used in some vital building elements. In some projects, factory-produced reinforcement, where bars are cut and bent in the factory and even assembled sometimes outside the project site, are also being used. For doing screed concreting on larger planes, laser-guided screeds are being used by some contractors on a regular basis as it helps meet the exacting requirements of flatness and level surface as warranted in today’s warehouses and large commercial buildings. The new generation of laser screeds like Somero S-840 allow casting of even up to 5000 sft of concrete slabs per hour requiring lesser labour but ensuring higher level of quality than was possible earlier. In case of building interiors, adoption of drywall construction to create partitions with precast panels and products like Samurai walls from Novara, Japan is resulting in saving execution time and offering flexibility to Interior furnishing. These are EPS sandwich panels of light weight and reusable type and allow for faster installation besides obviating the need of plaster.
Alu-Form construction process is an extremely progressive technology that represents a highly innovative method of construction that allows for speedy, consistent and accurate casting of all columns, beams, walls, floor slabs and stairs etc., of a concrete building. It being an integrated system that merges wall and slab panels into a seamless unit it results in a vast reduction of form-jointed sections leading to the final product becoming highly resilient to wear and tear and degradation. Due to lesser thickness of walls, greater carpet area can be achieved. It involves using extremely efficient, light weight and flexible materials and the panels used have a usage cycle of as much as 200 times which means a significant reduction in wastage. Over all, Alu-Form is a major leap forward in sustainable construction. Though initial cost of material procurement is high it reduces the construction time considerably. This provides an apt solution where timely delivery of the project is a prime concern due to regulatory reforms and increasing costs of construction.
Another type of construction technology that is fast gaining acceptance is Prefabricated construction, also known as offsite construction which requires meticulous planning and detailing apart from eye for quality and precision. They are basically of 2 types namely, Pre-engineered buildings (PEBs) and Pre-cast constructions. PEBs use steel columns, beams and other structures which are fabricated in an outside plant, then brought to site and assembled to the final form. These are widely used in industrial construction and warehouses. In precast construction, structural members, namely, frame (column and beam), wall and floor slabs are cast in concrete in outside plant, then brought to site and assembled.
The notable advantages of precast concrete, mainly owing to factory-controlled prefabrication environment are:
- Reduced construction cost and time
- High quality product with improved aesthetic value
- Cleaner and safer construction sites
- Greater unobstructed space (due to requirement of lesser columns and beams)
- Increased quality of structural elements and productivity
- Increased durability and load capacity of structural components (due to high structural strength and rigidity)
As there are a few challenges associated with this technology like high capital cost, requirement of skilled and well-trained labour, limitations in doing modifications post their casting and difficulties in transportation and handling it is basically suitable for high rise buildings and flats, housing estates with uniform design, large stadiums, warehouses, factories, airports and hangars where the scale of construction is large enough to ensure sizeable profit to offset the initial heavy capital cost.
Presently there is a boom in construction Industry in India owing to Government’s thrust on urban development and Missions like Smart Cities and Housing for All by 2022 in line with growing Indian economy. Therefore, there is a real need for the industry to embrace new construction technologies to keep pace with growth, simultaneously laying enough emphasis on adherence to stringent timelines and quality to avoid penalties. Yet, one must tread the path of growth with caution as internalizing new technologies inevitably call for upgrading the skills of artisans at ground level to equip them with thorough understanding of concepts. Else, lack of knowledge and wrong instructions can result in compromised integrity in construction, safety and project lifespan.