Embracing Technical Innovation: How Construction Companies Can Thrive

Let’s Talk About Technical Innovations in Construction

Technical innovations in construction; let’s talk about it. The construction industry isn’t like a typical market space. Unlike other industries, the ‘product’ of construction isn’t simply a service or a good but is instead the client-invested, unique outcome of each project.

When you ask a construction company to prepare a site for construction, you enter into a long-term relationship that’s more than a one-off exchange. Depending on scope, it could take months or years to finish a given project.

And the length of these projects and the quantity of materials needed means there’s a lot at stake – financially and otherwise. And while change, in any industry, can bring unforeseen pitfalls, the high stakes of construction make risk aversion even more appealing. With so much on the line, it’s not surprising to see that the construction industry has been wary of adopting new technologies.

But with an aging workforce and a significant skills gap, construction companies of all sizes and specialties have to begin onboarding new technologies to avoid or mitigate future industry challenges.

Below are a few specific reasons why the construction industry has been a technological holdout. We also discuss the ill effects this holdout is having on stakeholders and the benefits of shifting to a more progressive mode of tech adoption.

The Technology Adoption Dilemma

Upfront Cost

Perhaps the most obvious reason for stifled technical growth is the cost of bringing new technology online. It often requires significant upfront investment in hardware, software, and training before you can see any dividends. This can be a barrier, especially for smaller firms operating with tighter margins.

Risk Aversion

Construction projects are high-risk endeavors, demanding rigorous adherence to tight schedules and constrained budgets. Introducing untested technology means adding unknown variables to an already complicated equation. For this reason, new technology carries perceived risks of disruption, errors, or compatibility issues – all of which encourage a conservative preference for tried-and-tested methods.


With new tech may come new compliance. Making sure you comply with government regulation can be a challenge all its own, requiring not just financial investment but the allocation of employee labor in updating current standard operating procedures.

Complexity and Learning Curve

There is an immediate and unavoidable time sink in adopting new technology – and its personnel allocation. While we may mitigate the fiscal costs of new tech, it will always take time for our people to cultivate proficiency with new software and modes of operation. 

And while it may be difficult to admit, there is a growing gap between the technological skills required for modern construction and the traditional skills many laborers currently possess. 

This means that employee training is not only an unavoidable cost, but an essential one. With the construction market already dealing with labor shortages, upskilling your current workforce is a necessary requirement for future labor.

At James White Construction, we can attest to the benefits of an empowered workforce. Learning and training are lifelong objectives that cultivate continuous improvement and thereby give continuous returns. Investing in your people always pays off, and developing their skills with today’s advanced technologies not only brings them in-line with current standards but puts them at the forefront of the field.

Fragmented Industry Structure

Construction involves multiple stakeholders – owners, contractors, and subcontractors – with varying levels of tech readiness. Implementing a new system often requires getting everyone on board, which can be a daunting coordination challenge.

Comfort with the Familiar

Word-of-mouth has been the predominant strategy in construction for decades. It’s been largely successful, too, leading many conservative leaders to rely on those strategies exclusively going forward.

This and an overreliance on  ‘legacy tech,’ or tech that’s appeared effective to date, leads to a parochial view of what works and what doesn’t – making blindspots in planning even bigger.

Put another way, sometimes what keeps change from happening is just comfort. But what keeps construction leadership comfortable is also what breeds a host of negative stereotypes – like being ‘backwards’ in an technologically advancing world.

These kinds of perceptual deficiencies have often deterred younger laborers from signing on – meaning the aged labor force only gets grayer (though there’s evidence this is changing, thankfully).

Lack of Standardization

Unlike some industries, construction lacks widespread standards for data exchange between different software systems. This can hinder data flow and add technical complexities that create gaps in communication or slow the transmission of information.

Finding the right software takes time, but pays off. Focusing on software that’s not just user-friendly but flexible enough to pair with disparate tech can help make life easier on collaborative projects.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Firms often struggle to quantify the clear benefits of new technology compared to the investment required. Without hard evidence, convincing skeptical stakeholders to adopt it becomes difficult.

Technologies to Focus On

Despite the construction industry’s technical lag, options for innovation are growing every year. Here are some examples:

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIM creates digital 3D models of buildings, housing all physical and functional data. This enables better visualization, clash detection (between design elements), and collaboration across the project lifecycle.

3D Printing

Allows direct fabrication of building components or models from digital files. This offers benefits for prototyping, customized parts, and potential on-site printing of structures in the future.


Robotics is poised to change significant parts of the industry in the next decade. Potential uses include bricklaying, demolition, and other repetitive or hazardous tasks. Advanced tools like the semi-automated masonry system (SAM) allow for faster construction, while also making sites safer, improving work allocation, and increasing productivity. 

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

Augmented Reality overlays digital information on real-world views, aiding in site visualization.

Virtual Reality offers immersive training and design walkthroughs. This new equipment offers a valuable opportunity to not only improve training regimens but lowers costs for worker onboarding and upskilling.


These versatile tools can create 3D maps of construction sites – called orthomosaics – that enable accurate measurements, improve planning, and promote better communication with stakeholders.

Orthomosaics are created by stitching together multiple aerial photographs, then using specialized software to align and blend the images into a single, uniform map. These maps provide a detailed cartography that can even go so far as to note dirt tonnage in a pit.

But drones aren’t just for meticulous mapping. They have great versatility, producing aerial surveys, progress monitoring, safety inspections, and high-quality videos for marketing. They also make punch lists more transparent, offering visual proof of completed work and tracking progress on any current reworks.

Construction Management Software

While ‘Construction Management Software’ is an umbrella term for various tools that streamline project management and communication, it’s arguably one of the most useful tools in a new-age construction arsenal. Key components include:

  • Construction Reporting: Automated generation of project progress reports, inspection forms, and other essential documentation.
  • Geolocating: GPS tracking of equipment, materials, and workers, optimizing resource allocation and preventing theft. This service also allows for the creation of real-time, interactive maps of work sites. These maps facilitate communication, allowing workers to pin important locations, note observations, and provide follow-up insight.
  • Estimation Software: Aids in accurate cost estimation, bid preparation, and change order management.
  • Digital Plans Management: Secure storage, distribution, and real-time updates of blueprints and other design documents.
  • Safety Management and Analytics: Tracking safety incidents, training, compliance, and utilizing data to improve safety practices.
  • Proposal Tracking: Managing the bidding process, client communication, and organizing proposals.
  • Fleet Maintenance/Fuel Tracking: Scheduling preventive maintenance, monitoring fuel usage, and optimizing fleet performance.
  • Equipment Scheduling: Efficient planning and allocation of equipment to minimize idle time and conflicts.

Why Embracing Technology Matters

As mentioned above, there can be a number of benefits for embracing technological change, but the biggest emergent benefit of embracing new technology is the closure of ‘communication gaps.’

Poor communication between stakeholders (owners, contractors, subcontractors, and workers) often leads to delays and errors. Technological solutions can offer better project tracking, status transparency, and allocation of resources. And this benefit is seen all across the board – from preventing payment delays in finance management to shortening close-out processes on the field.

While the individual benefits of new technologies can ‘speak’ for themselves, the ability to better gather, organize, and transmit specific data more quickly and clearly is the biggest advantage that new tech brings.

Building a Better Future

The construction industry is at a crossroads. Embracing technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity for survival and growth. By overcoming the barriers to adoption and harnessing the power of innovation, construction companies can unlock a new era of efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

At JWC, technological transformation is a necessity to growth. We are confident that by continuing to invest in and leverage technology, we will not only maintain our position as an industry leader but also help to shape a brighter future for the entire construction industry.