A new Building Design + Construction study of tech adoption and innovation at the biggest AEC firms in the country found that around 42% of these AEC “Giants” believe that they are ahead of their competitors in terms of adopting advanced tech innovations.
Even more firms reported success with implementing new technology. About 63% of AEC firms said they had a success rate of at least 40% on new tech innovations. Two-thirds of the major AEC firms surveyed had hired some kind of industry outsider within the prior two years to better help with tech adoption. Most commonly, the outsiders hired were software programmers.
Eighty percent of respondents ranked “better project team coordination” as the standout business result of successful tech implementation. That was followed by improved client relations, improved work quality, increased speed of work and automation of mundane tasks, which were each picked as the most significant impact of tech by about 40% of respondents.
The report looked to measure what new tech implementations large AEC firms are considering, how widespread the implementations are, how they impacted construction jobsites and what innovations they’re looking to on the horizon.
The most noted tech innovation practices with a high return on investment were 3D laser scanning, real-time rendering and design computation. Practices like 3D scanning, data analytics and VR were commonly used by the larger companies that indicated they felt ahead of the competition in tech adoption. Companies that feel as though they’re falling behind — about 16% of those surveyed — often still use those practices, but far less so than their confident competitors.
Nearly 80% of contractors felt that the biggest boon from successful tech implementation is that they lead to better project team coordination and collaboration. Just under 50% indicated that better identification of errors was a major impact of tech adoption. Around 44% of contractors felt that it increased the quality of work, while just 38% said tech helps increase the speed of work and automate mundane tasks.
Just 24% of contractors said tech innovation provided a significant boost to their firm receiving more work.
Over half of responding firms said they used virtual reality tools, 360 degree photo and video or real-time rendering tools on at least five of their projects. Augmented reality, data analytics and mixed reality were listed as the three most common tech innovations or practices currently piloted by firms. Even then, only about 20% at most are doing those pilot programs.
The most considered technology that firms have not yet implemented on any jobsites was artificial intelligence, with nearly 46% of responding firms saying they’re considering finding a way to begin using AI.
Handling those new technologies often depends on an outside hire. While 35% of firms hired software programmers within the last two years, about 30% hired a data analyst and 16% hired gaming or VR experts.