Technology Disruptions & Opportunities In The Construction Industry

Garapati Radhakrishna, Chairman & Managing Director, RKEC ProjectsRadhakrishna currently oversees the end-to-end operations of RKEC Projects, a leading services provider in the construction industry of India

India is set to become the third largest construction market in the world by 2025 with a size of $1 trillion, according to KPMG research reports. What is your perspective on this market trend and how do you see the future market opportunities?
A. We are quite positive on this market trend as the sector is expected to become largest employer in India, providing employment opportunities to over 75 million people. The urban population is expected to become 580 million which will require more housing facilities and this trend will also move towards the rural areas. There is a great push for developing quality infrastructure with 432 projects worth Rs. 6.5 trillion in pipeline for development of roads, more than 400 projects worth Rs.6 trillion for railways, 70 projects worth Rs. 670 billion for airports and 75 projects worth Rs. 551 billion for ports.

Government’s push for Smart Cities coupled with increasing urbanization has ramped up activities in the construction of roads, railways, buildings and urban infrastructure. What according to you are key factors driving the civil construction and real-estate market in India?
A. Currently, urban areas house 40 percent of the Indian population and it is supposed to increase in the coming years. This demands comprehensive development of physical, social, economic, institutional infrastructure and shift gears towards Tier-II cities which have the potential to become commercial and skilled hubs. Smart city project is an innovative initiative by the Government of India towards improving the quality of life of citizens and attracting investments. It is also likely to draw private investments into core sectors like roads, railways, airports, ports, buildings and others.

Smart cities also offer an excellent investment options with a sustainable scope for price appreciation, especially for a longterm investment purview. Evolution of these smart cities will increase the demand for office spaces as well as hotels, in addition to service apartments and shopping malls.

Inadequate funds and resources is one of the major challenges faced by the construction industry in India. Optimal utilization of resources and better construction management and strategies help improve productivity and efficiency. What are various other challenges hindering the growth of the industry?
A. The challenges being faced by this industry are plenty which are making projects more complex both in terms of design and functionality. Firstly, the geographical location of the country which is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and cyclones. Second is the cost of constructions materials, especially after implementation of GST has increased phenomenally. Finally, non-availability of land within city limits has increased the overall costs for companies and stakeholders.

Technology has transformed both in-house and on-site operations related to the construction. Can you please present your views on the adoption of technology solutions in the construction landscape and its implications?
A. Laser based survey equipment and laser guided excavation and tunnelling equipment have brought in better precision. CAD enabled construction design has led to fasttrack the construction process and reduce the interferences. Introduction of drones allowed for aerial surveying and mapping of a place. People are also using advanced materials like honeycomb structures and foams for greater strength, polyester fibre for improved durability in the refitting of sewage and water pipes.

Because of the potential economic and safety impacts of the lane closures, minimizing traffic disruptions is a goal that should be elevated to a higher priority when planning bridge related construction projects

Theother technologies include cloud-based solutions, allowing changes and updates to documents and schedules in real time, facilitating better communication and collaboration. Mobile technology allows for real time data collection and transmission between the job site and project managers in the back office.

The impact of latest technology innovations on the construction industry is immense. Robotic technology provides the construction industry with a variety of advantages. Robots are being deployed to increase productivity and reduce the risks involved in the construction. How do see this new trend to minimize the role of human in the construction activities?
A. Construction industry is a labour intensive industry which is fraught with dangers therefore the importance of construction robots has grown rapidly. Application of robotics in the industry started in early 90s aiming to optimize equipment operations, improve safety, enhance perception of workspace and ensure quality environment for building occupants. Robotics and automation in the industry have brought in revolutionary changes in the sector resulting in,
•Higher safety for both workers and the public through deployment machines for dangerous jobs.
•Better quality with higher accuracy than that is provided by the skilled worker.
•Improvement of the work environment with reduction in manual work
•Increased productivity and work efficiency with reduced costs.

Unlike ships, the marine offshore structures are designed for a particular location. What are the major challenges involved in the construction of marine offshore structures taking into consideration the uneven fluid structure interactions? How does technology help to overcome these challenges?
A.The challenges of marine construction are multifold which vary from site to site. There is limited choice of locations for Greenfield and Brownfield projects with back end integration of support facilities and logistics. The challenges can be addressed by taking the following measures
•Deciding the suitable layout plan by taking advantage of the natural factors such as current, siltation pattern soil strata etc.
•The design of the structure with load bearing capacity considering the soil sliding.
•Adopting the option of retaining wall in case of locations having threat of landslides.
•Going with nature, the marine structures can be planned by extending offshore with approach trestle.
•Rely on pile foundation and allow free flow of water.
•Assessment of soil strata under seabed by sufficient bore holes to preassess the uneven soil strata.
•Design to interconnect piles with beams to distribute load
•Use of precast deck slabs,hydraulic piling rigs.

Lane closures during the construction or renovation of bridges and roads in large urban areas with heavy traffic have a significant impact on commercial and industrial activities of the area. How can technology be leveraged to minimize the traffic disruptions at the bridge and road construction sites?
A.Because of the potential economic and safety impacts of the lane closures, minimizing traffic disruptions is a goal that should be elevated to a higher priority when planning bridge related construction projects. Heavy lifting equipment that is more compact and can handle more weight can be used to take the pieces of the bridge and put them into place. Use of construction cameras can also reduce significant risks on the construction sites.

Technology has been reshaping the construction industry with latest innovations like IoT, Robotics, AI etc. How do you foresee the future technology trends that would propel construction industry growth?
A. Technology is impacting the construction industry like never before. From cloud-based collaboration and the development of digital twins to robots, super materials, wearable tech, pollution eating buildings and artificial intelligence an array of technological developments are helping to improve the sector. These technologies have brought about a sea-change in the construction industry that has helped businesses optimize the resources.