The digital future of construction

Digital technologies are impacting every area of our lives and the construction sector is no exception.

And that revolution is already off the ground. A vast list of possibilities is now available for architects and construction companies including cloud computing, wearable technology, mobile solutions, BIM and VR/AR software, collaborative solutions, survey drones and digital mapping, robots and 3D printers, and the Internet of Things.
To take just one solution, the ‘smart’ movement, smart houses and cities are already commonplace in a range of countries across the world. According to the UN, the number of people living in cities will reach 7 billion by 2050, and smart cities – those that use interconnected automation systems – can resolve some of the social and infrastructure issues this population density will bring. 
Companies such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Google are already competing to provide services for the smart house and city concept, an industry that is expected to be worth $1.3 trillion in five years’ time. Bill Gates has even bought a 100 plot of land in Arizona, USA to build a smart city of 80,000 homes.
How is the Turkish construction industry embracing digital?
Turkey has already made huge gains in transitioning its cities to smart cities. It has already introduced smart LED city lighting with sensors, smart traffic lights, smart waste management and waste-to-energy systems, free Wi-Fi, city information and disaster management centres, solar power generation and lighting, remote water meter reading, SCADA systems to control water usage, and electric buses to its major cities. The near future should bring smart electric car sharing and high-resolution CCTV systems, including facial recognition technology for security purposes. 
The Turkish Ministry of Development has launched a top-down/bottom-up approach offering national level financing for local authorities to motivate them to implement smart city solutions as well as for the private sector and universities to finance smart city projects.
How are those on the ground in Turkey using digital technologies?
The subject of digital technologies is high on everyone’s agenda across the construction sector. This year’s 8th International Quality in Construction Summit, held by İMSAD Turkey, the Association of Turkish Construction Material Producers, was titled ‘Invest in the Future: Digital Transformation’.
Sessions covered the risk of cyber-attacks and how to avoid them, interoperability between computer systems, and the process of transitioning to digital technologies.
"Integrating digital platforms and applications into projects will be achieved by horizontally integrating data. In other words, we are talking about collecting data from suppliers, producers, business partners, dealers, distributors, building markets, architects, engineers, contractors and end users and converting it into information to optimise traditional processes and goals. 
“We are talking about choosing traditional materials, switching to innovative, lightweight, environmentally friendly materials that produce data, and wandering inside the customer’s mind instead of wandering inside the house,” said Ferdi Erdoğan, President of İMSAD Turkey, at the summit.
BIM, building information modelling, is now integral to projects across the country and is being used on the Istanbul Grand Airport, the world’s largest airport project. 
Dr. Ozan Köseoglu, Director of BIM for Istanbul Grand Airport told BIMIreland magazine, “BIM has a strategic role in improving the efficiency of the design and construction which is a key driver for us to be on time and even ahead of schedule on site.
“BIM controls the subcontractors and eliminates any unforeseen cost overruns while reducing waste on site. It is also crucial to be aware that BIM leads to success not just because of its technological advantages, but because how it brings people together within a virtual collaborative environment. 
“The BIM adoption process has already accelerated in Turkey. Replacing conventional methods of construction with a complex know-how is the most challenging part in the adoption process. Creating cultural change is only possible with vision; strategy and proper execution. That is why only having a grasp of the theoretical background of BIM is not enough, but defining the clear vision, outlining the right strategy and seamless execution are essential.”