Evolution of Construction Technology

Evolution of Construction Technology

The digital disruption brought upon by the evolution of technology has caused 52% of Fortune 500 companies to have disappeared in the last 15 years. Remember Blockbuster, Borders, Eastman Kodak? Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook replaced these brand icons.  Digital disruption can be attributed to more than just technology. It has changed the way we purchase and process information. Similarly, the evolution of construction technology is forcing transformative change in the way construction workers work. Construction companies that can adapt to the change will have a good chance of staying in business and not disappearing like many iconic brands.


Let’s take a look at the evolution of construction technology and what companies need to do in order to evolve with technology.

1980s – Computer


The introduction of the personal computer in 1984 was the beginning of the machine-based processing of information. Computers enabled individuals to process large amounts of information quickly.

Developers targeted early construction software for workers in the office – design team and the accounting team. Computer-aided design software improved the 2D drawing process with the ability to perform complex structural calculations and manual drafting. Users completed designs faster and with less errors.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software transitioned complex business functions of accounts payables, account receivable, payroll, and other accounting functions.  from general ledger books. Because ERP software was expensive, larger construction companies were the primary users.  Smaller construction companies utilized either Lotus 1-2-3 or Microsoft excel spreadsheets to manage their accounting functions on the computer.


1990s – Mobile Phones

In the early 1990s the transition from analog to the digital network allowed for more calls transmitted in the same amount of radio bandwidth. Digital network combined with smaller more portable devices made mobile phones more commercially available for the average consumer. The capabilities on mobile phones began to expand to include SMS and email. When the Blackberry 6210 was introduced in 2003 and offered email, texting, web browser, and messenger service. Now the construction worker in the field can call the people in the office for quick clarification of issues. Similarly, the office can communicate directly with the field team to relay information.


2007 – iPhone

When the iPhone was introduced, mobile phone and internet accessibility was already in use with Blackberry. But the iPhone introduced a camera to capture digital photos and the touch screen interface provided greater ease of use. Over the years the iPhone has continued to make improvements including GPS, video, and higher resolution camera. The introduction of third-party apps in the App Store to help users in their day to day use of the iPhone began to really change the dynamics for mobile computing. Although the iPhone continues to be the market-leading smartphone in terms of users, Android devices are quickly gaining market share.


2011 – iPAD and Tablet Devices

The iPad delivered the ease of use and functionality of the iPhone into a larger screen. The larger screen provided more usability to perform work-related functions such as email. The combination of internet connectivity, tablet devices and web-based applications provided field workers the opportunity to be more productive in the field. The portability and durability of tablet devices made them a more flexible solution for the jobsite in lieu of the laptop in the construction trailer.


2016 – Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is beginning to make its way into construction. Providing a computer-generated simulation, virtual reality shows clients what a building design can look like in real life. Being able to fully experience the building before construction begins reduces costly rework and change orders to save time and money.


Digitial technologies continue to move at a rapid pace. Some of the leading construction companies are ahead of the curve and have been early adopters of technology. Their teams utilize virtual reality in their pre-construction process and their field teams have with internet capable tablet devices. However, some construction companies are still using spreadsheets and other manual processes for project management. In order to be successful, construction companies must assess their internal processes and determine how the evolution of construction technology can improve their productivity and efficiency. Those that can deploy and adopt these technologies will be better equipped than their competitors at delivering quality projects and higher satisfaction among their clients.



Harvard Business Review

Construction Executive