Over the past decades, digital technology has revolutionised the construction industry.
The industry has slowly evolved into one increasingly dependent on digital tools, and this is picking up pace in recent years. Digital transformation is now a priority for over 80% of construction and engineering firms.
Read on to discover how digital solutions reshape civil engineering projects, from design to construction and maintenance.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Civil Engineering
AI profoundly impacts civil engineering, offering opportunities to reduce computational processing and improve design.
AI can assist in understanding soil behaviour, flood detection, and forecasting and even reduce computational time by more than 98% in some cases, according to ICE.
AI’s application in numerical and simulation use cases is already established but is now being channelled towards design processes, particularly in the form of generative building design platforms like Autodesk’s Fusion 360.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Following on from the above, BIM has evolved in recent years, becoming a vital part of the digital transformation in construction.
Originally a tool for designing and constructing buildings, BIM now plays a broader role in managing and sharing information across the entire lifecycle of a project.
AR, Digital Twins, and IoT
The construction and civil engineering sector is also leveraging building technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, and augmented reality (AR).
IoT is used for real-time monitoring and data collection from construction sites, aiding in predictive maintenance and efficient resource management.
Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical assets, enabling engineers to simulate and analyse real-world conditions and make informed decisions.
Augmented reality (AR) allows engineers to visualise projects in digitally representative environments, enhancing design accuracy and client communication.
Digital engineering with AR and digital twins enables engineers to experiment in non-destructive environments.
Challenges of Digital Transformation
The path to digital transformation is not without its challenges.
One of the key obstacles is the integration of new technologies with existing systems.
Legacy systems in civil engineering are often incompatible with modern digital solutions, requiring significant investment for upgrades or replacements.
Another challenge is the skills gap. As the industry evolves, there is an increasing need for professionals skilled in both civil engineering and digital technologies. Training existing staff and attracting new talent with these hybrid skills is key.
Data security and privacy are also leading concerns, as cited by a report by RICs.
As civil engineering becomes more reliant on digital data, protecting this information from cyber threats is paramount, particularly as IoT and digital twin systems can be vulnerable to attacks.
Furthermore, there is a need for standardisation in digital practices. The industry must develop and agree upon common standards and protocols for data exchange and interoperability among different digital tools and platforms.
Cost is another factor. The initial investment in digital technologies can be substantial, and not all firms, especially smaller ones, may have the resources to invest in such technologies.
Demonstrating the long-term value and return on investment is vital to gaining wider acceptance of digital practices in civil engineering.
Digital transformation in civil engineering, exemplified by technologies like BIM, AI, and IoT, is transforming the way the industry operates.
This transformation is not solely about adopting new tools – it represents a fundamental shift in how projects are conceived, executed, and managed.
Digital advancements enable more efficient, sustainable, and collaborative practices, setting a new standard for construction and design.
Here at Clegg, we are fully embracing this challenge by implementing new software and training as we look to the future.
For expert guidance and innovative solutions in civil engineering that leverage the latest digital transformation, contact Clegg Associates.