New study: over a third of construction using ‘immersive tech’

A new report on construction’s digital transition has revealed that 36% already use ‘immersive tech’ such as AR, VR, and MR within building projects, 22% use AI and machine learning, and usage of digital twin technology is up by 50% since 2021.

Construction technology Interest in AI and machine learning has seen a sharp rise within the past year, according to the report

NBS’ 2023 Digital Construction Report surveyed over 700 construction professionals, from architects/engineers and other consultants, contractors, clients, and suppliers, revealing that the industry’s use of technology is growing. However, despite this increase in usage, nearly half (47%) are concerned the industry is behind the times and 36% of respondents worry that they will be left behind when it comes to digital know-how.

With 26% saying that construction has finally found its ‘digital feet’, it suggests that the digital divide in construction could be widening between those who have adopted new technology and those who have not.

Usage of digital twins is still relatively low, but has increased by 50% since 2021 from 16% to 25%. Just over half (55%) of those that use digital twins, do so to mirror construction from other projects and to create an ‘as-built model’.

Figures relating to the number of projects using elements of off-site construction also showed an increase. Over half of professionals (57%) had been involved in a project that used Modern methods of construction (MMC) in the past twelve months. In 2021, this figure was hovering at around 50%. Suppliers were the most likely (70%) followed by contractors (63%) and consultants (58%).

The increased uptake of off-site construction has also been reflected in project data from Glenigan. Its industry intelligence shows a value-adjusted percentage of 11% of new-build projects using MMC during the first nine months of 2023. Glenigan predicts further growth to this figure over the next few years, with nearly 9% of new-build projects securing detailed planning approval during the first nine months of 2023 involving an off-site element.

The study also flagged a growing appetite for the use of immersive technologies, such as AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), and MR (Mixed-Reality). More than one in three professionals are already using this type of technology and a further one in five plans to within the next three years.

Overwhelmingly, its main use is for stakeholder engagement (74%), where upcoming or ongoing projects can be digitally generated to present detailed plans. However, for two in three users immersive tech offers a way to visualise design interfaces, so they can better understand how construction projects fit within existing surroundings. Just over a third use it for marketing purposes, particularly amongst suppliers who recognise its value when selling products and systems.

Interest in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning has also seen a sharp rise within the past year following the launch of ChatGPT and other similar models. In 2020, 38% said they were unsure if their organisation was using it, of those who did, just 9% were using AI. Although the use of AI in construction is yet to take its grip (43% said they have no plans to use it), signs of early adopters are already visible. More than one in five have already adopted AI, and a similar number said they will do so within a year.

Eight in ten now also use a form of cloud computing as part of their daily workflow. While mainly in the form of storage, including Google Drive, OnePoll, DropBox, etc, the study revealed that over seven in ten use it to share documents and information with clients. Three-quarters also use it to collaborate with other team members, particularly on 3D models and specifications. 


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Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
Eleanor Shefford Brand Manager Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786 236 E-mail: [email protected]