How the 4th industrial revolution results in smart construction

Digital technology has caused a transformation process in a large number of industries. Nowadays, we follow each others life via social media. We’re no longer dependent of the TV-guide and playlist of our favorite radio station, but thanks to platforms such as Netflix and Spotify consumers can choose the content, where and when they want it. Stores are changing from brick-and-mortar to click-and-mortar.

The first Industrial Revolution was characterized by the use of steam engines and iron, which slowly “moved” the world meaning that horses were no longer needed to create mechanical energy. This evolution went on during the Second Industrial Revolution. What was previously seen as a large distance was bridged thanks to steel, electricity, turbines and petroleum.

The Third Industrial Revolution occurred halfway through the 20th century, transforming the world even more. Distance was no longer a problem, since there could be communicated from anywhere to every place. Globalization became possible, as well as faster and cheaper production methods.

Construction industry

The implications of each of these revolutions are most visible in the construction industry. The raw materials and techniques that were used changed rapidly and this requires constant flexibility from builders. At first, almost all construction projects were still executed by hand and then computers started taking over more and more tasks. Thanks to digital and smart technologies, the way we are building is has been shaken up again.

Infrastructure, buildings and products are better designed, built, operated and maintained. Techniques such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), prefabrication, wireless sensors, robots and 3D printing are increasingly taking place in the workplace, especially now that the cost savings and higher productivity that it entails are becoming more and more visible.

Need for smart construction

Large-scale urbanization, climate change, scarcity of raw materials and demand for smarter cities and solutions cannot be ignored. In addition, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find technically trained professionals. For example, good carpenters are hard to find, while an increasing amount of higher educated designers and engineers are ready to take over.

Smart construction methods

The figure below shows 10 of the most important smart construction methods.

For example, there is the possibility of prefabrication and modular constructions. These are techniques that work towards pre-built parts and (sections of) buildings. Through standardized processes, parts or sometimes even entire buildings are built on an external location, after which they are placed as a complete part. This is more efficient because identical parts can be prepared for different construction sites and the construction time is drastically shortened.

The construction industry can also benefit from advanced building materials.

A few examples:

Translucent concrete, which combines the strength of concrete with the light and translucence of glass fiber.

SensiTile is a tile that lights up according to your destination. For example it illuminates a route from your bedroom to the refrigerator in your kitchen. It can be used in floors, bathrooms and ceilings, and it’s also very decorative: a twinkling-light mode is a guaranteed attention grabber.

E, a form of wood that is supplied with a source of electricity, so that you can easily attach lighting to it.

Richlite is a worktop that is made from recycled paper that has been treated with resin and is therefore extremely strong.

3D-printing and additive fabrication is used more and more. The big advantage is that required parts can be made quickly and on site, to the exact specifications that are required. Or even an entire house are possible. These techniques enable on-site and real-time fabrication: parts don’t have to be ordered anymore, making building-on-demand possible.

Autonomous construction

Autonomous construction enables us to build without human action. Especially now that there is a huge shortage of skilled professionals, the use of autonomous machines and equipment can offer a huge leap in effectiveness. In addition, there is also the safety argument: dangerous, heavy or complicated tasks can be carried out with the accuracy of a computer. Think of activities that have to be carried out in a small space or where enormous forces are released.

Robots are a good example of an application of autonomous construction. These machines can be trained precisely to perform a certain task or series of tasks. But you can also think of autonomous excavators or cranes.

Augmented reality and virtualisation make it possible to view and analyze projects in detail before the first stone is laid. Thanks to advanced software packages, the entire end product can be studied, so that possible bottlenecks and problems can be identified in time. It is also a good idea to immediately show the customer your vision and to make choices.

Big Data and predictive analytics can be useful in the construction industry to learn from activities. For example, the construction site can also be made smarter: smart lighting, which recognizes when staff are present, smart security if the site is closed for the night, and smart meters to optimize energy consumption and water consumption.

Other ways in which construction can be made smarter include wireless monitoring and connected equipment, with which devices and vehicles can be monitored more closely and can be found more quickly as soon as they are needed; cloud & real-time collaboration in which several parties that are part of the construction project keep each other virtually informed of project progress and can collaborate better without being physically present at the construction site.

3D scanning can be used to analyze the extent to which the building corresponds with the specifications; and all this can be combined in a Building Information Modeling solution, a way to collect all information about the project in a central location and to map from first sketch to final delivery.

Development of the IOT revolution in the construction

It’s clear; the construction industry will continue to develop into an increasingly virtual and connected field. Autonomous construction methods and building-on-demand solutions are guaranteed to lead to higher effectiveness and productivity within the sector, while a focus on advanced building materials and prefabrication makes the industry as a whole more sustainable and cleaner.

Especially now that the amount of skilled professionals continues to steadily decrease, the decline in manual work will be a welcome development. The sky seems to be the limit, and now that building projects are becoming increasingly more innovative and risky, the banned solutions will usher in the beginning of a new building era.


Heida, M. (2018, August 9). Blog. Retreived from Internet of Things Nederland: