Construction...... innovation?

For some reason the construction industry in Australia is often seen as lacking when it comes to embracing innovation, taking on change, or seeking new ways. There are a number of reasons for this and often we look at the short term value compared to the overall benefit of innovation, but as I’ve mentioned before the current pace of change in the world doesn’t allow for the national industry to sit and watch what is happening around us otherwise we’ll be left behind, or left further behind as many industry experts believe.

So what innovations are available to us and what has the industry taken on over the past decade that has had a positive impact on the quality of building?

There are industries like retail that have used big data analytics to not only learn more about how consumers shop and what grabs their attention, but understand their habits to pin point what they look at and where. This has been a major windfall for corporate retailers enabling them to understand what the best positions are in store for product placement and optimise sales for products through increased volumes and charging suppliers for the privilege to be on the shelf at these “hot spots”. So where can big data analytics be of use for the Construction industry? Data analytics are being used in some developed markets to track the performance of projects by pinpointing people movement, the way materials are being used and better understanding waste that is then generated. The hidden cost of waste in the industry ultimately finds its way into the final cost of the building, and while the end user and design focus is on the cost of materials selected, the volumes of waste generated will wipe out these assumed material savings by up to 2-3 fold thought to have been gained on material selections. This is one example of how the use of data analytics in construction will not only deliver better valued projects but can have other positive impacts on the environment and landfill issues that we need to address. Other gains are there to be made by the industry from this innovation if they dare to delve deeper.

Building materials still remain the primary driver of innovation into the industry, but unfortunately not driving at the rate many of us would like due to the “same old same old” attitude that prevails in mainstream construction because accepting the lowest possible price gets the nod before the blinkers are taken off to look at innovative building methods that in many cases deliver an overall cost saving. We’ve seen developments in glazing products, external cladding systems, heat reflective coatings, acoustics and energy efficient systems for buildings that have been more prominent in the building space over the past decade. These have modernised the aesthetics and quality of construction but remain as premium extras instead of standard items in construction due to the “lowest price wins” mentality which is for the immediate short term and often to the detriment of progress. If we look closely into the various sectors of the Australian construction industry there are several innovative products on offer providing product performance benefits, time and cost saving features and green/eco advantages yet we’re often slow on the uptake as it seems easier to keep doing what we’re doing. With a minority of the industry engaged and searching for these types of innovations, a mindset change is needed to flip this minority into the majority.

So where are the other product innovations that are on offer or will be? They range from big ticket items such as Geopolymer concrete to prefab light weight high strength wall panels/floor cassettes, and Nano technology based materials from building consumables to aesthetic specialty coatings. These are just a few of the clever innovations available to us, and to ensure our contribution remains to the industry Gripset have released a patented Gripset GC4 membrane, providing a 2 in 1 waterproof and sound impact underlay for internal and external wet area floors that has a multitude of benefits like no other membrane we’ve been able to offer in our range. For those interested please check this out …Gripset GC4 Waterproof and Sound Impact Underlay.

So can Australia be a country like our overseas counterparts in Scandinavia where building innovation is embraced or will we remain followers? Is it resistance or reluctance for change? We’re living in the most exciting period of mankind where there is almost nothing technology can’t provide us with to find ways to break through and do things better, use better processes and have access to great products that will provide us with better homes and buildings. Do we lead or do we follow? If we understand the real payoff then the answer to that question is a simple one.