Technological advances are reshaping the global construction sector. The South African building industry cannot afford to be left behind. By embracing technological advances, local projects are implemented with more efficiency resulting in a productive sector with a direct positive impact on citizens’ lives.The local construction industry needs radical transformation to keep up with demands to provide structures for the population to live, work and thrive in. Puleng Roestoff, CEO of Step Change Trading identifies three areas of focus; embracing technological advancements, focusing on increasing productivity and ensuring projects are designed and built to be sustainable. Puleng comments, “By disrupting the Construction Industry and adopting digital construction methods, we have the potential to solve many of SA’s problems. The sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and job creation is massive; in 2020 alone, it contributed around 83 billion Rand to GDP and employed an estimated 8 percent of SA’s workforce. Progress and construction go hand in hand, new infrastructure leads to better lives for citizens. There is much work to be done. The question is no longer when we should come together to overhaul practices and processes, change is here now.” Technology, Productivity, and Sustainability are cornerstones for the future of construction. Cutting-edge technology. Players in the construction industry will benefit from deploying cutting-edge technology to improve sustainability and efficiency. A clear and well-coordinated strategy to support digital transformation and adoption will lead to increased revenue and a reduction in costs. Digital transformation is more about people than tools and requires a much broader adoption of technology as well as cultural change. New digital technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) make it possible for projects to be built virtually before they are constructed physically. Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are paving the way for digital transformation. Driving adoption and increasing awareness among industry stakeholders will help lower the barrier to entry and make it easier for more countries to become part of this digital revolution. Internationally, governments are deploying BIM mandates or Governmental BIM requirements. This means that all centrally procured government construction projects, no matter their size, must be delivered using BIM. Although BIM mandates aren’t extensively implemented in Africa yet, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Nigeria have started to explore the possibilities. In South Africa, BIM and other technological advancements are gaining traction. Low productivity impacts social and environmental sustainability Historically, the construction industry has underperformed, project failure is high and poor productivity has a detrimental impact on society. It is reported that 98 percent of megaprojects suffer cost overruns of more than 30 percent. Those big projects are crucial to society and have a direct impact on people’s lives as they are often paid for by tax revenues.
By using cutting-edge technology and sustainable construction methods and practices, costly design flaws are avoided, the construction process is improved, and costs are lowered.Transforming the building industry is beneficial for the planet In addition to the impact on social sustainability, the sector is a major contributor to the climate emergency. The construction industry is responsible for around five to eight million tons of construction and demolition waste each year. And with 90 percent of all the general waste produced in South Africa going to landfills, our country is rapidly running out of space to dispose of its waste. Globally, the industry accounts for 40% – 50% of worldwide CO2 emissions with SA ranked as no 13in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, buildings, and construction account for 38% of worldwide carbon emissions. To solve the climate change problem the building industry must contribute, by transforming the construction and building industry. This can be done by leveraging technology and improving efficiency and sustainability. Customer expectation is also pushing the building industry to transform. Customers are becoming increasingly concerned with the well-being of the environment. People’s behaviour patterns are necessitating more construction. Worldwide, an estimated 1.3 million people move into cities every day. By 2040 it is estimated that 65% of the world’s population will be living in cities. The pace of urbanisation required significant investment in infrastructure and housing to accommodate regional population shifts. Urban sustainability is a top priority. Smart choices must be made about how cities are built, inhabited, and maintained. These decisions will have long-term global impacts on the environment. The move towards smart cities is already well entrenched. Compact cities, with well-designed services and infrastructure, reduce the cost of energy provision, transport, and other services that businesses need. This, in turn, increases productivity and efficiency and encourages private investment for economic growth.