4IR will drive the post-pandemic construction industry

The integration of technological advances will revolutionise processes – and in some cases already is.
The impact of Covid-19 on public infrastructure budgets has made enhanced efficiencies and greater levels of productivity even more necessary. Image: Supplied

Fundamental changes that are taking place in the construction industry will enable the sector to play a turnkey role in South Africa’s post-pandemic recovery.

Read: Building the post-Covid SA calls for greater vigour

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), with its emphasis on technology-driven solutions and innovation, is already having a profound impact on the way in which established as well as emerging participants in the construction sector prepare for the future.

It is well-known that the Covid-19 pandemic placed an initial serious damper on economic activity in the country.

The construction sector experienced this slowdown most severely, as building activities ground to a halt and contractors were confronted with a new range of imponderables.

These ranged across occupational health and safety concerns, in addition to the uncertainties of when, and how, the economy would recover.

The initial pause in construction caused by pandemic concerns did, however, also give the sector the opportunity to reimagine its future and consider how the profound changes that are brought to the fore by the 4IR can lead to a more agile, responsive and transformed industry.

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Considerable scope for improvement

This is an important leap because, globally, the construction industry has acquired a poor track record on issues as diverse as health and safety, ethics and malpractices, and lack of regard for the wellbeing of its workforce and stakeholders.

The sector is characterised by low productivity and high unpredictability in both cost and quality – and there are justifiable concerns about the lack of transparency, which often leads to rampant corruption.

4IR offers strategic solutions to most of these issues and can lead to significant transformation in the way in which infrastructure is planned, procured, delivered and maintained.

Construction 4.0 – the integration of 4IR advances into the industry – will revolutionise processes across the entire spectrum of activity.

Some of these innovations are already being deployed with great success in South African industry.

A glimpse into the future …

Designers and building clients can have an advance look at the final product through 3D modelling.

Robots can access areas of projects that may be unsafe for humans.

Drones can provide progress reports, thus reducing the cost of time and travel for project managers.

Big data is increasingly being used to further reduce costs and increase access to information.

South African construction is not insulated from the factors that affect the global industry. Our aim must be to move along the leading edges of 4IR innovation and apply the knowledge gained through such research to transform our own build environment.

We should be especially interested in advances made in materials technology which have brought to market a new range of building materials that can improve efficiencies, reduce costs and mitigate the environmental impact of the industry.

Modularisation and prefabrication can contribute to higher productivity and improve the quality of construction products. Automated equipment and robots can assemble prefabricated units, which can significantly reduce the cost of buildings and improve industry occupational health and safety.

Emerging entrepreneurs are already benefiting from the knowledge gained by Construction 4.0.

Innovation in Sasolburg

Two female entrepreneurs from Sasolburg, Kedibone Tsiloane and Kekeletso Tsiloane, have created an innovative product that uses recycled plastic to manufacture bricks that are strong, durable, fire retardant and environmentally friendly.

Testing done by a facility accredited by South Africa National Standards has concluded that these bricks are stronger and less absorbent than cement bricks.

Through their company, Ramtsilo Trading, the entrepreneurs purchase plastic from waste pickers and buy-back centres and recycles all types of plastic, including those which usually end up in landfills or the environment.

These types of innovations point towards the direction in which the South African construction industry should move.

Helping to drive SA’s economic recovery

Covid-19 has placed additional constraints on already diminishing budgets for public infrastructure and there is an ongoing need for greater construction efficiencies and higher levels of productivity.

The Construction Industry Development Board (cidb) works to promote uniformity in construction procurement, ensure efficient and effective infrastructure delivery, and contribute to skills development that will lead to the transformation of the industry.

To accelerate the adoption of 4IR trends in the sector it has initiated a project to collate and analyse research that will add value to the industry.

The first phase is the development of a database that documents all relevant research, both published and in-house.

This will be followed up by a database of educational programmes offered in the tertiary sector and an overview of 4IR technologies used by participants in the construction sector, from designers and project managers to facilities managers and maintenance practitioners.

Through this project the cidb will stimulate interest in the vast potential that 4IR holds for the technological transformation of the South African construction sector. And it will open further doors for new participants in an industry that will be critical to the country’s ability to emerge in a post-pandemic environment.

Bongani Dladla is acting CEO of the Construction Industry Development Board.

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The marketing ploy defies logic and nature and contributes only a distraction from normal business functioning and development. These types of hype are the hallmark of political ambitions to spend public money on campaigns that have no measurable value or objectives. The usual corruption ensues, as it always has done.

This is a dreamy advertorial.

Don’t give me a glimpse, tell me what tangible and measurable impact you have made with your budget spend and what your KPI’s are?

I would bet that the author cannot name the first 3 industrial revolutions, just like the deputy president couldn’t. There’s very little of substance above except for some gimmicky gumpf.

And here we are, talking about 4IR but one have to go to a bank to get your smart ID because the tax payer-funded infrastructure is useless. Then it was also reported that about 62% of municipal councilors battle to use a computer.
Africa has a significant wealth gap compared to the 1st World. Watch another gap growing exponentially in Africa when it comes to technological advances…..

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