The Crucial Role of Big Data in the Construction Industry - By : Hamidreza Pourzarei,

The Crucial Role of Big Data in the Construction Industry

Hamidreza Pourzarei
Hamidreza Pourzarei Author profile
Hamidreza Pourzarei is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering & Systems Engineering Department.

Digitizing the construction industry

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Big data, as the name implies, is using big quantities of data that can be properly analyzed and deployed in a meaningful way. With different tools and algorithms, these huge amounts of data are used for improvements in various fields. In other words, big data refers to extremely large data sets, which makes computers able to predict market trends, identify and understand customer preferences, and optimize business processes [5, 7].

The construction process is one of the complex processes in industry that involves different people utilizing various types of data for different purposes. All the data and information are connected, which has an influence on projects. While it was impossible before to access and analyze all the information, big data is changing that [7].

Big Data in the Construction Industry

Just like in other industries, big data in the construction industry applies to a huge amount of data and information [3]. Several types of data and information are consistently used in construction projects and generally, they are unstructured and paper-based [1].

Using a tablet on a construction site


Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping enterprises to collect and use data and information on projects over the years in order to predict future outcomes, bringing various benefits, such as improving the decision-making process, productivity, safety, and many other issues. Big data can easily become a vital tool for the construction industry as construction projects are becoming more complex [3].

Big data is already used in construction projects at different phases, for instance:

  • Big data, containing building design and modeling, environmental data, stakeholders input, etc., can be used for assessing what to build and where to build.
  • Big data can be gained from weather, traffic, and community and business activities in order to analyze and determine the optimal phasing of construction activities.
  • Big data can be gained by sensors from buildings, bridges and other types of construction to monitor different levels of performance. The data could be fed into a Building Information Modeling (BIM) application to schedule maintenance activities as required [3].

Big Data in the construction field


Benefits of Using Big Data in the Construction Industry

In recent years, the construction industry has made significant progress on big data technology, as follow:

  1. Optimizing processes – for a better understanding of where improvement is required and to discover the best way to implement them thanks to high-quality analysis provided by big data [1].
  2. Improving workers’ productivity – the main focus of productivity in construction refers to machines and technologies, although the human factor is also important. Tracking workers and their work progress with big data can improve work productivity. With big data, companies can also analyze how workers interact on the site, and replace tools and materials [1].
  3. Sharing data – sharing data is necessary inside and outside the construction industry and one of the major axioms of big data is the interoperability between software solutions and tools. It is almost impossible to share data, even internally, without interoperability [1].
  4. Creating accurate budget estimates – big data offers the expertise to improve project planning. Better planning implies precise budget estimations, better timing, and cost understanding [4].
  5. Managing safety – future risks can be predicted by analyzing the available data. In order to eliminate safety hazards, especially for temporary workers and contract staff, companies can make adjustments in advance [4].
  6. Making better business decisions – The right data, tools, and people can provide new and improved insight into the projects. It also means that construction companies can make more information-driven decisions [4].

Artificial intelligence in the construction sector


Influencing the Future of Construction

Big data will continue to improve in the entire construction industry. Although companies need to learn how to benefit from using big data, it should be said that big data is undoubtedly the most trending tool for this industry [1].

As artificial intelligence technologies are developing, construction companies will be able to use these technologies and big data to predict future outcomes on projects [2]. Big data analysis can provide possibilities to enhance different building aspects. According to a survey of construction companies in 2014:

  • “57% want consistent, up-to-date financial and project information;
  • 48% want to be warned when specific situations occur;
  • 41% want forecasting, allowing them to better prepare for best- and worst-case building events;
  • 14% want online analytics to see, for instance, precisely which factors are affecting profitability and by how much”[3].

Big data has already affected the construction industry, and it is only a matter of time before the pen-and-paper approach will be forgotten. The construction industry is transforming into a tech-based industry and heading toward digital solutions [5].

Hamidreza Pourzarei

Author's profile

Hamidreza Pourzarei is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering & Systems Engineering Department.

Program : Construction Engineering 

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