Digital Twins are slowly making their way into construction. A digital twin is a virtual model of a building that collects real-world information about the structure via sensors, drones and other wireless technology. The “twin” continuously learns from multiple sources, including advanced analytics, machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to gain valuable insights about the performance, operation or profitability of a project, whether built or in progress (source). In the future, graphical BIM models will feed the Facilities Management environment, including sources like energy usage data, service requests, and preventative maintenance. The future potential involves linking BIM to FM on a city-wide basis, not just building-wide.
Artificial Intelligence. A vast amount of information is collected by the BIM model during the design and construction of a building. Interpreting and learning from the data collected from BIM models and past projects helps to avoid future errors and improve the design and construction process. However, this information is more than can be processed by people. AI-assisted BIM is a trend that makes use of this vast information in order to speed up the time it takes to process the data and make the building process a lot more effective. By using AI, BIM software can learn from data and identify patterns. They can then make independent decisions on how to automate and improve the building processes. AI and collected data can be used to improve and even generate the design.
Digital models as legal document. BIM models may soon be assigned the same official status as PDFs have been for 2D documentation. Recognising and standardizing BIM models as legally binding construction documents in the same way as paper plans have been in the past will move BIM closer to a common practice in construction projects.
Easy-access to BIM models in Cloud services. Cloud services simplify construction projects. Instead of everyone involved in a project sending updated models to one another once a week, only for one party to discover that the wall they have been working on seems to have been moved, everyone can now work in the same model in real time. Everyone has access to the latest information and can be certain that it is correct, allowing the work to be completed more quickly.
Robots make their way to the construction site. In the near future, it will be more common to see robots out on building sites using BIM models to carry on construction tasks on-site. At the moment, only a small number of all industrial robots make it to the construction sector, and most of those are used in prefab production. However, several companies are currently working on the development of mobile robots for the construction industry.
3D printing for building construction. All over the world, people are trying to make buildings using 3D printers. Researchers in California have succeeded in printing and building a house in just 24 hours using this technology. In China, such experiments have been taken one step further, using a 3D printer to produce as many as ten houses in one day in the factory. The building material consists of recycled construction material, material left over from the industry, and cement. Such tests are also being carried out in Europe. The benefits associated with 3D printing include reduced material waste and increased recycling. The technique also offers space for greater architectural freedom, as 3D printers can handle curved shapes that are harder to make by hand.
Prefabrication and modular construction is a renewed trend thanks to advances in BIM. Accurate and detailed design of building components means that an increasing number of components can be manufactured off-site. Modular and prefabricated construction can reduce the time of the construction project and increase its efficiency because the prefabricated components can be built in optimal factory conditions and construction companies do not have to deal with limiting factors on-site such as weather or daylight.
Sustainable construction. One trend that is clear for everyone is the way that development is moving more and more towards energy-efficient, sustainable buildings. On 1 January 2021, the new, more stringent European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive will come into effect. All buildings constructed after this date will need to be highly energy-efficient. There are a number of sustainable construction certifications with different areas of focus, such as LEED, BREEAM and GreenBuilding and digitalisation can help to make sustainable construction easier. Environmental calculation tools can produce building lifecycle analyses, calculate the environmental impact of different buildings and help determine how companies can reduce emissions by revising their material choices or production methods.
VR/AR/MR. The use of Virtual Reality (VR) in construction projects is becoming increasingly common. For example, you can now take a VR stroll around the virtual building and see how it will look once the construction is complete. VR helps to provide a better understanding of the project for everyone involved: builders, decision-makers and residents alike. This technology is going to see heavy expansion, and the function will be built into mobile phones. Instead of putting on a pair of big VR glasses, all you’ll need to do is hold up your phone.Augmented Reality (AR) means adding digital information to the real world around. The uses of AR in construction are numerous. For example, AR technology can be used to illustrate installations in existing buildings, such as how a pipe runs through a roof or a wall. Mixed Reality (MR) is a combination of VR and AR. This means that the virtual object in question is anchored so well in reality that it seems to be part of the real world – just like a hologram. With this technology, a building owner can walk out onto their site, put on their glasses and see their as-yet-unbuilt building in full scale. You can see how it will look if you make a few tweaks or zoom in on the details. You can even go into the house and experience it before it is built, see the view from different windows, check how moving a wall will affect the feel of the room, or look at a cross-section of the wall. This technology will also be important for the installation industry.