The Future of Technology in Construction

Augmented reality is expanding boundaries in the construction scene

By Mike Mraz

As our world continues to transform and endure new challenges, technology is keeping safety at the forefront when contact can be hazardous.

Augmented reality (AR) is the use of technology to enhance our view of the world via virtual images — like seeing a digital temperature reading and hourly forecast when you look outside. The technology has already been used for applications ranging from surgical training and flight simulation to archaeological research. But what does this type of technology offer for the construction industry particularly when safety needs to be implemented for normal day-to-day tasks?

Having spent more than 15 years in real estate and construction, I’ve watched our trade evolve through ongoing conversations, novel techniques and the development of safer, higher standards for our work. As we move into a new decade and adapt to new technologies and requirements, many in the industry are trying to understand how these changes impact our daily jobs, project lead times and safety precautions.

At Rockford Construction, we strive to use the latest technology on the market to ensure we are offering our clients the highest caliber of results and safety needs. AR has become a game changer when planning for and implementing new developments. The digital information available through AR gives residents and potential tenants a literal view into their future. What may appear to be just a pile of dirt or an empty lot is given visual life through AR to show potential tenants how their home could look. Given the power of the technology, it’s no surprise AR technologies are anticipated grow to more than $90 billion in revenue within five years.

This technology provides an immersive, socially distant experience for the buyer, giving them a glimpse of what a building will look like and allowing them to experience the space in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Architects, future residents, and construction teams first began using blueprints to map out a project, then moved to renderings and eventually 3D renderings for a more holistic look at future spaces. Even with all of these very useful tools, the buyers, tenants and investors still had to visually extrapolate to determine what the finished project would look like.

As an example, Rockford Construction formed a partnership in 2019 with one of the leading AR companies in the nation, Carnevale. Through this partnership, we created an app with one of the largest AR datasets in the world. The technology allows users to view designs at a variety of scales — from small-scale to large-scale, 360-degree views — of the upcoming Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building along the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Digital scales of this magnitude let residents, customers and tenants walk the virtual space with their mobile device in hand at the actual site or view the building from the comfort of their own home or anywhere in the world. AR provides an ideal way to show people the future of their space in real time, before construction has even begun. It helps to eliminate errors and confusion and identifies potential problem areas before ground has been broken. It not only advances the planning process, but helps ensure everyone is on the same page, even before development begins.

We are in a Golden Age of new technologies. As our industry continues to grow, advance, and require increased safety standards, we look forward to providing more resources, tools, and opportunities to support customers in development and construction. We believe AR will be an increasingly important tool in that toolbox.

Mike Mraz is the president of Rockford’s real estate development team. Mraz oversees all aspects of the real estate development process including financing, acquisitions, leasing, project management, investor relations and owner’s representation.

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