Big Data Reduces Costs in the Construction Industry

Thanks to Big Data, it is now technically possible to drastically reduce construction costs in the building industry. In addition, Data Visualisation techniques allow better planning of the work by previewing the buildings in detail.


Currently, the material waste and remedial work represents 35% of costs in the construction industry. In this sector, Big Data analysis can therefore be used to significantly reduce unnecessary costs.

Data analysis has always been at the forefront of construction projects. However, with the emergence of Big Data, this industry is now facing a new challenge. a major lagging behind other areas such as finance or retail.

According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, in 2009, the total of data stored by the construction industry amounted to 51 petabytes.. In comparison, the government data, for example, represented a volume of 846 petabytes. This huge difference is related to several factors. The lower number of commercial transactions, the high rate of small businesses in this industry, or the low presence of digital tools. This last point is changing thanks to the multiplication of sensors installed on work machines.

Construction companies are only beginning to show interest in real-time analysis of large volumes of unstructured data stored in the Cloud. In fact, these methods are the best solution for simplifying relations between architects, engineers and owners at the origin of the work.

LENS, Data Visualisation for Construction

The American company JE DUNN, in charge of some of the biggest construction projects in the In the United States, it has managed to reconcile the interests of these different players by forging partnerships with technology companies. The objective of this collaboration was to develop tools specific to the construction industry.


As John Jacobs, CIO of JE DUNN explains, construction requires combining 2D, 3D and financial data, but also internal documents and technical information such as weather planning or forecasting. Traditional professional communication platforms, such as Dropbox or Gotomeeting, do not offer the necessary resources to accomplish this task.

To remedy this problem, JE DUNN has partnered with the software publisher Autodesk. Together, they developed a system designed for real-time predictive analysis of construction-related data. Called LENS, this system combines Autodesk’s visualization technologies and estimation techniques of cost of JE DUNN. The result is a powerful data visualization tool.

The software offers the opportunity to model changes directly envisaged by the client of a construction company. For example, if the user wishes to add a floor, he can directly view the rendering of this modification and know the impact of this change on costs.

This technology considerably accelerates the design stages, and also makes it possible to cut down on unnecessary costs. Changes can now be viewed instantly, whereas they previously required several weeks of communication.

With this BIM (Build Information Modelling) software, the cost of building a $60 million civic centre was reduced by $11 million. Construction was also completed 12 weeks ahead of schedule by streamlining the pre-construction phase.

Better organized and more harmonized work

According to a study conducted by ConstrucTech, the biggest challenge in the construction industry is to collect the right information at the right time on various construction sites. A feat made difficult by the large volume of data and low interoperability between project management technologies.

Thanks to Big Data analysis, it is possible to better manage project deadlines and budgets by collecting information from different sources. Indications such as the availability of the hand ofwork or the price of materials can be studied more easily and updated in real time to reduce costs and make smarter decisions.

Sharing data in real time between all members of a project also reduces the risk of delays. Schematics, templates, contracts and other material lists must be accessible to the different parts of the project, regardless of the geographical distance between them. This avoids the risk of a document expiring before arriving at the port of call, which happens regularly on international shipyards.


Sensors on machines and vehicles for more accurate tracking

By equipping vehicles and machines with sensors on a construction site, and combining the collected data with project planning and road traffic information, an algorithm can determining the best routes to take to reduce fuel costs and speed up work on a very large construction site.

The sensors also allow to geolocate the machines and to know their status. In this way, a company can easily check whether equipment needs to be replaced or maintained. Maintenance costs and the risk of delays are thus greatly reduced.

Overview thanks to Cloud Data

As in many industries, the main impediment to Big Data analysis in the construction sector is data isolation. The companies that collect these data keep them carefully so as not to give an advantage to the competition. This prevents you from having an overview on the economic and market situation.

By migrating to Cloud storageI DUNN remedies this problem. The stored data can now be made available to anyone who might need it. Moreover, data can be stored in real time, for a minimal cost, in a space that can be extended to infinity.

Site managers can thus have an overview of the data on quality assurance, safety, security, hand ofwork or the state of the equipment. Performance can be easily measured, and risks and problems are anticipated by the software. In this way, the cost of corrective work is greatly reduced.

External data also brings a considerable advantage. So far, weather conditions could delay a project for days. By studying the effects of inclement weather on construction sites around the world and forecasting changes in the weather, it is now possible to effectively anticipate these hazards. On larger construction sites, this method is also applicable to economic or political changeThe cost of materials and labour may be affected.

For Hamar Hanspal, Senior Vice President of Products at Autodesk, “Data is the new dollar.”. In his eyes, it is inexcusable that material waste represents 25% of construction costs, and remedial work 10%. on their own, even though digital tools now make it possible to remedy this. In this context, collaborations between construction companies and technology firms are bound to multiply after years of reluctance.

By collecting, analysing and exploiting data, it is now possible to improve communication between architects, engineers, owners, but also subcontractors and suppliers. Risks, Errors and delivery times are reducedThis increases the margin left by the various links in the chain.


In addition, the growth of augmented reality offers new perspectives for the industry. For several years now, virtual reality has been used to visualize the final rendering of work thanks to 3D models. However, augmented reality offers the opportunity to contemplate the construction site through glasses such as Microsoft Hololens, in order to preview the result when finished. With this technology, the customer can, for example, change the location of a window and check the lighting changes caused by this change. Augmented reality will soon be associated with JE DUNN’s BIM.

The future of the construction industry

By 2030, the construction industry is expected to experience a growth of 85%, to 15.5 trillion of dollars. In this context, Big Data will be essential to meet the challenges generated by this growth, in terms of security, supply, innovation and competitiveness.

Similarly, as buildings become larger and more complex, customers are more concerned about the environment and businesses must find effective solutions to adapt. Here again, data analysis is the best recourse.

For Steve Cooper, Managing Director of Conject Ltd, the construction industry is not yet ready to exploit Big Data. The specialist has a general fascination with BIM, which is not yet fully understood. do not allow to process really large volumes of data and especially unstructured data such as photos, graphics, videos, audio documents, web pages, PDFs, or PowerPoints.


In his view, companies must turn to more efficient tools. For example, General Electrics’ Predix platform allows to create applications to collect and manage large volumes of data on any machine or other equipment on a job site.

The future now belongs to the construction companies who will make the wise choice of partnering with technology firms to adapt to the changes and transformations in this industry. They are the ones who will shape the future of the building sector.

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