A look at the top news and happenings shaping the construction industry in California.
Webinar Highlights Top 2021 Construction and Engineering Technology Trends
By Carol Eaton
Over the last decade or so, the construction industry has been transformed by the growing adoption of new technologies and increased digitization. The onset of a global pandemic in 2020 only accelerated the pace of this change, fueled by remote work, greater demand for remote collaboration tools, continued migration to cloud-based programs and more.
A recent webinar by global software company Egnyte, “Ten Construction and Engineering Technology Trends to Watch in 2021,” highlighted some of the major innovations, trends and technology-related challenges facing the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries today.
Omar Sheikh, senior professional services manager at Bluebeam, and Ronen Vengosh, vice president of AEC and Business Development at Egnyte, joined moderator and construction technology consultant Carole Filion for the March 3, 2021 technology forum. They discussed trends relating to remote technology, the growth of mass quantities of digital data on projects, 3-D modeling, design technologies such as building information modeling and other virtual design and construction tools, cloud computing, collaboration technologies, automation, design-build, data interoperability and systems integration.
“The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption across the AEC spectrum,” Sheikh noted. “Before the pandemic hit, a study showed that 44% of projects in the U.S. were still relying on paper. Hopefully that number has now shrunk significantly.”
A few of the take-aways from the webinar (as well as from an offline conversation with the panelists) include the following:
Nation’s Infrastructure Grade ‘C-’ by ASCE
The state of America’s infrastructure has received an overall “C-minus” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The grade, released within the “2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” in early March, represents what ASCE called “modest but meaningful” improvements that raised it out of an overall “D” range for the first time in 20 years.
“We’re headed in the right direction, but a lot of work remains,” according to the executive summary of the report, which can be accessed at www.infrastructurereportcard.
The ASCE report graded 17 categories of infrastructure individually, with grades ranging from a B in rail to a D- in transit. There were incremental gains in five categories of infrastructure – aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways and ports. Just one category, bridges, went down. Eleven of the 17 categories remaining in the “D” range, illustrating the continued need for more funding. Those D range categories included aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, stormwater, transit and wastewater.
The report pointed to three overarching trends worth noting. First, it pointed out that maintenance backlogs “continue to be an issue, but asset management helps prioritize limited funding.” Secondly, the report said that state and local governments have made progress. It cited the fact that 37 states raised their gas tax to fund infrastructure investment since 2010, and 98% of local infrastructure ballot initiatives passed in November 2020.
A third trend highlighted in the report: data is scarce or unreliable in some infrastructure sectors like school facilities, levees and stormwater.
ASCE used the report, which it issues every four years, to highlight the need for major new investment in infrastructure. It noted that the long-term infrastructure investment “gap” has increased from $2.1 trillion over 10 years to nearly $2.59 trillion over 10 years.