Publication date: 
What does the public think about the Czech construction industry? This was the aim of the survey conducted by the National Centre for Construction 4.0. One thousand respondents answered questions focused on negative phenomena and the biggest problems of the construction industry in the Czech Republic, awareness of modern trends and innovations in the construction industry, the prospects of studying the field and personal experience with construction or reconstruction. Perhaps surprisingly contrary to how the industry is often presented, the survey shows that the Czech construction industry is perceived as a field of innovation and as a promising field of study with practical applications. The survey also clearly shows that today's construction industry is not perceived as a field of digitisation, automation and robotics, which NCS 4.0 and its partners are trying to change.

How building on data happens

"Construction is very often perceived more as the implementation of buildings. The concepts of automation, robotization or digitalization in connection with it already resonate in society, but not to the extent that is actually needed," says Ing. Patrik Minks, Autodesk representative for construction and infrastructure.

If we focus on the use of modern technologies, their dominant effect should come in the initial stages of projects, i.e. in planning and design work. If the optimal technologies are not used in the design phase, it will not be possible to make full use of modern building technologies later in the construction or subsequent operation of the building. The possibility of automation or effective planning in these phases will thus be very limited.


Artificial intelligence and machine learning

In the recent past, the introduction of BIM (Building Information Model) in all phases of a project was seen as the pinnacle of technological progress. However, its deployment is now more of a necessary foundation. Other innovative practices such as generative design, traffic simulation, IoT, digital twin, artificial intelligence and machine learning are pushing to the fore. In other words, advances are happening, but there is still a lot of room for wider application of modern technologies.

"Design teams have to cope with ever more demanding requirements and targets, as well as the actual implementation of buildings. Information technology can generate a plethora of design options, while other tools help to detect the most appropriate and maximally functional models. However, it is not only the acquisition of data that drives progress; the ability to use it is also crucial. And this is only happening to a small extent so far," continues Patrik Minks.


Digitalisation in the context of sustainability

The declining environmental impact of the construction industry is one of the hottest topics and, not least, an increasingly frequent demand from clients. Construction has an impact on the environment in two areas. The first is the building as a structure, which, by the way it is designed and subsequently operated, has a certain 'carbon footprint'. That is, the degree to which the environment is burdened by what materials it is made of and how much energy it will need. The second area is defined by how efficiently the building was actually constructed, with implications for the efficiency of construction activities, work practices and logistics.

"In general, the first area is more perceived by the public. Less well known is the planning and projection phase, when it is possible to eliminate negative impacts and focus on lower energy and material consumption. Using modern technology, it is also possible to positively influence occupational safety and health. In addition, such planning enables a dramatic increase in efficiency in terms of construction logistics and gives all collaborating teams the opportunity to work fully from anywhere. Another positive feature from an environmental perspective is the ability to select the most appropriate design option and reduce waste. All this happens for those entities that make sufficient use of simulation and analysis in the early stages of the project," explains Patrik Minks.


Robots for construction will not replace humans

The research also focused on awareness of modern technologies used in the construction industry. After augmented reality and laser scanning, 3D printing of buildings wins. In terms of modern technology, the construction industry is perceived to be evolving in this area - although it is not currently perceived by the majority as a field of automation and robotics or digitalisation, there is overwhelming agreement that it is undergoing a massive wave of digitalisation and modernisation. It is already perceived by the majority as a field of innovation and invention that is not outdated and not modernised.

People most often heard about 3D printing of concrete, up to 34% of respondents. 20% of respondents had heard about the use of augmented reality and laser scanning. Overall, however, half of respondents had not heard of any modern trends and innovations in the construction industry.

"The potential for 3D printing of concrete is huge, although it is still under development. In the future, this technology should help solve the major problems in the construction industry: lack of people, expensive materials and low labour efficiency, which is also associated with slow construction," explains Dominik Stupka, 3D printing project leader at ICE Industrial Services, which operates the first Czech 3D printing farm. "Concrete printing should dramatically speed up the rough construction of a house - it can be ready in just three days. All this with up to seventy percent savings in material, which can also be used from local sources. The printers can also be mobile, which, in addition to normal production, also brings advantages in crisis situations, when it is possible to quickly print, for example, flood or fire barriers," adds Dominik Stupka.

"Massive use of 3D printing in practice will still have a long way to go, as not only technical but also legislative aspects need to be resolved. Much closer to production automation today is the transport construction industry, where 3D guidance of construction machinery has been used for years. In terms of robotization, we are definitely much closer to the time when it will be possible to use autonomously controlled construction machines on construction sites", says Ing. Lukáš Kutil, BIM and Digitalization Department, STRABAG a.s. and member of the NCS 4.0 Robotics and Automation Group.

The idea of a robot replacing a construction worker is still unrealistic. There is a consensus among automation experts that it is not good to automate human-centric processes. Robots created for industry are difficult to use on construction sites. There should be robots for the construction industry. "It is not wise to robotize human-set processes. Human and robot - they are completely different worlds (for now), and that's why we need to change the construction industry and bring those robots closer to it, and likewise bring robots closer to the construction industry. Now we have robots for the automotive industry and humans for the construction industry and we are trying to combine them in a roundabout way and we are surprised that we are not very good at it," adds Radoslav Sovják, Director of NCS 4.0.

The NCS 4.0 survey involved 1,006 respondents from all over the Czech Republic who independently filled in an electronic questionnaire. The questionnaire contained 13 questions focused on negative phenomena and the biggest problems in the construction industry, awareness of modern trends and innovations in the construction industry, prospects for studying the construction industry and personal experience with construction or reconstruction.

Contact person: 
Tamara Almeida