By Andrew Nah, law clerk at Queen City Law
The construction industry has seen constant and significant leaps and bounds in technology.
Now that we have entered a new decade, this is a good time to take a look at what new technologies are being used in the construction sector and what we should be keeping an eye on.
Drones are being used in construction sites around the world. These eyes in the sky can take images and videos, perform surveys and make maps, monitor and inspect the construction site, and other useful tasks. On top of that drones can do all of these things faster and easier than doing them in person.
Virtual reality headsets allow users to “see” and even “walk” through a computer generated simulation of the completed project as if they were really there. It allows users to understand the 3D space more clearly, which helps prevent different systems like HVAC and electrical wiring from accidentally occupying the same space.
Exoskeletons are robotic frameworks that you wear, and they contain motorized muscles that literally do the heavy lifting for you.
These new advancements do not need to make your previous tools obsolete — they can actually enhance them to a whole new level. Drones and virtual reality have already been integrated into different BIM projects, enabling data to be gathered more easily and accurately than ever before. This of course has great benefits in terms of management and design of a project.
As exciting as all of these new toys are, its important to consider the legal issues surrounding them to understand the costs and benefits of the technology beyond the price tag.
One key benefit of adopting these technologies is that they allow data to be gathered more accurately and precisely than ever before, and then display this information in ways that are easy to understand. This allows for better management and planning on projects, which reduces the chances of a dispute arising if something goes wrong.
Even when disputes arise, accurate information gathering and recording will give contractors a better fighting chance to prove their case. A drone’s ability to quickly take photos of the construction site from almost any angle would be very useful for settling claims, for example.
But as these technologies are new, there is a level of uncertainty around them.
For example, legislation about drones is constantly evolving as more cases of them being used dangerously occur. This means that you would need to keep a careful eye on drone and aviation legislation in order to maintain compliance with the law.
Another thing to think about is data and privacy. These new technologies can record data on an unprecedented scale, but this also means that they’re likely to pick up on private and personal data.
What should you do with any personal data that your technology picks up? What about confidential information? Data protection policies will need to be scrutinized carefully when adopting these technologies.
Health and safety can both benefit and be hindered by introducing new technology onto the construction site. Machines like exoskeletons can help provide health and safety compliance by boosting the wearer’s physical abilities to prevent them from injuries, but when used improperly these same machines could cause significant harm to the wearer and those around them. Health and safety policies will need to evolve alongside technology in order to prevent accidents occurring in the workplace.
Autonomous robots and AI are being implemented into the construction industry, but who owns the intellectual property of the machine’s “brain” as it learns how to do things more efficiently?
Will it belong to the contractors who “taught” the robot what to do? Will it belong to the manufacturers of the robot? How will this change if a contractor is merely renting a robot instead of purchasing it? Should contractors be compensated for training a robot? What value does a robot’s potential to learn have and how will this impact contracts?
It is important to consider not just the monetary costs and benefits of new technology, but also the legal aspects of it too.