From drones to AI: how new tech is an asset to the industry

10 January 2020

Drones can be used for video surveillance or industrial inspection

How are technology advances boosting the construction sector? The CIOB’s insurance partner, Premierline, explains.

We’ve all heard of drones and artificial intelligence, but how can these technological advances be an asset to those working in construction?

3D printing

While 3D printing is not a new concept, it’s now allowing parts of the construction industry to be more creative and cost efficient as it has become more commercially affordable.

Architects and project managers can use 3D printing in their designs and can be more creative with the materials used. In July 2018 a family in France became the first to move into a 3D-printed house, which only took 54 hours to build and cost 20% less than a house of the same design not made with a 3D printer.

CIOB insurance with Premierline

For insurance that’s right for your business, whether you use these technologies or not, call the CIOB insurance team on 0330 102 6158, or email [email protected]. Visit our website for more information at


More commonly known for their ability to take stunning bird’s-eye-view photographs of hard-to-reach areas or for causing problems at Heathrow airport, drones are being increasingly used in the construction industry to map out sites, particularly in hazardous or hard-to-reach areas.

These drones take images of sites that can be used to create 3D renders with a high degree of accuracy. 

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) allows you to see what your project will look like before construction has even begun.

Used alongside 3D modelling, which helps project managers visualise their creation, VR can allow you to walk around the project, explore the model and perform vital checks to make sure all is as it should be before work begins.

Not only that, but images and videos can be saved as VR files and shared between users wherever they are in the world – meaning collaborative adjustments can be made and agreed in no time at all.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is similar to  VR except it allows the user to see their creation in a real-world environment.

For example, in 2011, the University of Canterbury created an app which allowed city planners in New Zealand to rebuild the area following the Christchurch earthquake. It meant planners and project workers could build based on previous plans and see their designs in the area where the buildings once stood. 

Artificial intelligence

When we think of artificial intelligence (AI), we often think of blockbuster movies and the downfall of humanity, but its use is increasing in our lives – from Siri and Alexa using AI that learns from the questions you ask to give the most appropriate response, to Netflix using an AI algorithm to analyse what you watch in order to recommend similar shows.

AI can help CIOB members by helping them to plan projects, creating materials and equipment in production lines or with the design. Perhaps even one day AI may be used to create robotic systems to carry out jobs considered high risk to human workers.


It seems a long time ago, it was a long time ago! that we carried out an experiment with BRE to assess the value of contracts each month by a static time lapse camera following the profile of the building and matching the profile to a value of work completed.
A good idea, but it did not work for finishing's, services etc and in reality took more work than a normal valuation
Still with the somewhat primitive equipment we had at the time 1960'or so it was a good try.

John Lyons, 14 January 2020

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