Lessons we learned from this year’s ENR Future Tech
As the premier forum for construction technology, ENR Future Tech brings together industry innovators to discuss how they are applying new technology to improve quality, safety, productivity and profitability.
With nine Skanska employees in attendance from around the country, ENR Future Tech included more than 21 presentations and panels on construction technology trends in AI, automation, robotics, sustainability, data and more.
This was highlighted by Skanska’s keynote presentation, “Drones to the Max,” which covered our company’s innovative use of drones at the $2 billion redevelopment of the Portland International Airport (PDX) terminal in Portland, Oregon.
Below are key takeaways from our keynote and the most important lessons we learned at ENR Future Tech 2023.
“Drones to the Max” keynote
To gather vital data and perfect the installation logistics for PDX’s new, 2,200-piece prefabricated roof, Skanska Superintendent Larry Curran connected with Emerging Technology Manager Brooke Gemmell to deploy drones on site.
Despite the tremendous value drones bring to construction jobsites, there was no precedent for flying drones over an FAA-controlled airspace with more than 160 daily flights.
This required our team to navigate unknown regulations for flight approval.
We worked closely with the Port of Portland to get buy-in on the value of drone flights and provided pilot and drone registration, proof of insurance, and detailed flight and safety plans before approaching the FAA for authorization.
With the proper documentation and the Port of Portland onboard, the FAA provided authorization for our project team to take flight.
The impact was immediate. Drone-captured photos, videos and 3D models provided the construction team with the data necessary to build detailed logistics plans and give the client comprehensive, real-time reports on project progress.
Taking the opportunity even further, Brooke and Larry have been exploring innovative use cases for drones, including airport inspections, infrared building envelop scans, and the capture of high-quality photorealistic 3D model assets with Luma software.
Ultimately, drones helped ensure the 18 million-pound roof fell within the 3/8-inch joint tolerance and they continue to have a transformative impact on this once-in-a-lifetime project.
Moving forward, we are partnering with the FAA to add clarity around airport-specific drone regulations.
Other key trends from the conference
Technology integration and adoption
The construction industry is experiencing a rapid influx of new technologies.
It’s crucial to identify and adopt the right solutions that enhance core operations, improve efficiency, and address specific challenges.
The process may involve piloting multiple solutions before finding the most effective ones.
Continuous learning initiatives ensure that workers can effectively operate, manage and collaborate with emerging tools, maximizing their potential and improving performance.
The integration of AI, robotics and automation technologies is revolutionizing the construction sector.
Robots equipped with AI algorithms, Lidar and 3D modeling capabilities can automate tasks, improve accuracy and enhance productivity.
Examples include automated design, layout planning, inspections and multi-trade layout.
Data utilization and connectivity
Emphasizing the value of data, construction companies are leveraging AI and machine learning to extract insights from various sources, enabling better decision-making.
The construction industry is still early on in its digital transformation, but there is significant movement towards unified digital environments, connecting IoT devices and software systems to enhance productivity and safety.
Client expectations and sustainability
Clients are increasingly interested in leveraging technology to achieve their goals, such as reaching net-zero carbon targets.
Solutions that can be used to reduce the carbon footprint and minimize wood waste during demolition are becoming more prevalent.
Construction firms must diversify their business and align with market demands.
To not mention/endorse a product: "Solutions that can be used to reduce the carbon footprint and minimize wood waste during demolition are becoming more prevalent. [CP1]
Efficiency and optimization
The adoption of advanced technologies, including AI, robotics and generative design, is driving increased efficiency in construction processes.
Automated inspections, rapid design generation, and optimization based on parameters can lead to time savings, cost reductions and improved constructability.