The construction industry is slowly adopting new technologies due to complexity, cost concerns, regulatory and safety concerns, as well as cultural resistance. However, digital transformation is necessary for the industry to remain competitive and efficient. Malaysia has yet to fully implement IR 4.0, making production problems worse. Smart cities are becoming the leading paradigm for future technology innovation and adopting it into our lifestyle. The Malaysian construction industry has moved up by leaps and bounds with large-scale infrastructural development. New technological advancements and applications should be implemented in work procedures to improve safety at construction sites. Smart construction brings added revenues, opportunities for new projects, and heightened credibility within the industry. It also reduces the construction time for an assignment, which helps owners start earning money faster. It takes the most important data from the field and creates an ecosystem of information to use in making decisions. The construction industry currently faces two main concerns: rising energy costs for fuel and building supplies and the increased need to produce materials such as cement and bricks. Safety is also a major concern, with over 1000 job-related deaths recorded in Europe each year and many more injured or sickened. The construction industry has high demand in Asia and Europe, with over 900 billion euros spent annually. In emerging markets, such as Bahrain, India, and China, demand for construction is likely to increase as the market grows.
Ts. Zulkifflee Mohamad1, Kamarul Ariff Omar2 & Nur Suraya Mustafar3
1Senior Principal Analyst I
2Research Analyst II
3Research Analyst II
1.0 Introduction to IR4.0 in Construction industry
The Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) is a modern digitalization technology that has the potential to enhance business operations and communication networks across a variety of sectors. Technology innovation is rising tremendously in parallel with the new smart city paradigm, and the construction industry is becoming the leading paradigm for future technology innovation and adopting it into our lifestyle (Li et al., 2022).
The construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies for a variety of reasons including;
complexity and fragmentation,
regulatory and safety concerns,
and cultural resistance to transformation.
Among the gaps highlighted towards construction transformation are customer demand, construction inputs and characteristics, and market rules and regulations, which hinder construction progress in supporting IR4.0. Construction shall foresee, as per Figure 1, industrialization, new materials, digitalization, and the introduction of new entrants with digital skills into the labor force.
However, there is increasing recognition that digital transformation is necessary for the industry to remain competitive, improve productivity, quality, and efficiency. Although technology is readily available, IR 4.0 has yet to be fully implemented in Malaysia's building sector. Smart construction sites are an innovative management mode that employs various smart technologies to enable real-time information communication, collaboration between project stakeholders, and intelligent decisions on site.
2.0 Smart Construction toward Digitalization
Smart construction is about leveraging advanced technologies to transform traditional construction practices and industrialized manufacturing techniques to improve productivity, minimize whole-life costs, improve sustainability, and maximize user benefits.
Digitalization in smart construction involves the integration of digital tools, processes, and data across the entire construction project lifecycle. Smart construction is about collaborating and looking for job site automation options to optimize the workflow.
As an example, smart construction technology streamlines construction processes through job site automation by creating a digital twin of the job site and providing increased collaboration, efficiency, productivity, and safety. The global Construction 4.0 market size, as shown in Figure 2, was valued at $11.9 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $62.2 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 17.7% from 2022 to 2025. It uses technologies such as BIM, AI, and others to avoid human errors, reduce repetitive work, and improve productivity. It also adopts technologies for decision-making and remains connected through sensors and internet connectivity for construction activities (Construction 4.0 Market by Size, Trends, and Forecast Analysis 2031, n.d.).
2.1 Priorities of Digitalization
The internet of things, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing offer new opportunities for smart construction. Potential benefits include improved industrial processes, products, and services, greater dependability, and lower operational costs.
It stimulates a new wave of highly dependable, available, reliable, safe, secure, and performing smart applications.
These technologies have already been used in parts or jointly to build applications that provide various benefits, such as;
• improved logistics,
• and security.
Smart construction has the potential to deliver huge benefits for everyone involved in the industry (seeTable 1). Digitalization can also help construction companies meet the following strategic priorities: Figure 3 shows a wide-ranging spectrum of new tech adoption across Asian markets, with China leading the index and India scoring the lowest, while Malaysia has a positive adoption rate of 110. This suggests that marketers should launch new tech products in Malaysia as the interest and take-up rate among Asian consumers are on the rise.
2.2 Technology Examples
Through the adoption of digital tools, the industry will benefit from increased profitability by working more efficiently, as well as making the workplace safer for everyone involved.
Digital technology and real-time data enable schedulers to make better-informed decisions around scheduling labor and materials for a project
Figure 4 illustrates ten disruptive technologies in construction, as predicted by the World Economic Forum. The graphic shows the massive impact Construction 4.0 will have on the industry as change is coming from all directions.
These new technologies can eliminate the need for manual data entry and provide the data required to assess project status and identify trends and areas that should be addressed. Digital transformation optimized operations to provide actionable data that can put projects back on track quickly.
New technological advancements and applications should be implemented in work procedures to improve safety at construction sites, such as incorporating the use of sensors and wireless devices to connect machines and personnel to a common system (the Internet of Things) (see Table 2).
2.3 Smart Construction Best Practices
2.3.1 Wuhan IBS Hospital
During emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, China utilized smart construction technologies to rapidly build emergency hospitals. Prefabrication and modular construction techniques were extensively used to accelerate construction timelines.
Building components, such as walls, floors, and rooms, were manufactured off-site in controlled factory environments (see Photo 1). These prefabricated units were then transported to the construction site
and assembled rapidly, significantly reducing construction time.
This included the use of large-scale construction machinery, such as tower cranes and high-capacity concrete pumps, to increase construction speed and efficiency. Advanced formwork systems were utilized to simplify concrete pouring and ensure structural integrity. The implementation of these construction technologies enabled China to construct emergency hospitals in record time (10 days), providing critical healthcare facilities during the pandemic.
By embracing prefabrication, digital design tools, advanced logistics, and stringent safety measures, China demonstrated the effectiveness of modern construction techniques in responding to urgent healthcare infrastructure needs.
2.3.2 The Redevelopment of Battersea Power Station
The Battersea Power Station redevelopment project in London, UK, incorporated various elements of smart construction to transform the iconic site into a modern mixed-use development.
Smart infrastructure and connectivity features include;
the integration of high-speed internet connectivity,
smart parking systems,
smart security solutions,
and smart building management systems (see Photo 2).
Digital project management tools and collaboration platforms were utilized to enhance communication and streamline workflows.
Sustainable and energy-efficient design practices were emphasized, including smart technologies being integrated to optimize energy usage, renewable energy sources such as solar panels, and data analytics and operations management platforms were employed to collect and analyze data from various airport systems and processes. These technologies help identify operational inefficiencies, optimize resource allocation, and improve decision-making.
2.3.3 Changi Airport, Singapore
Changi Airport is a technologically advanced and sustainable hub that incorporates smart technologies to improve passenger experiences, enhance operational efficiency, and contribute to the airport's
Sustainable design and construction are key focus areas, with renewable energy sources, waterefficient fixtures, and green building practices. Photo 3 exhibits the Jewel design of Changi Airport, a
$1.3 billion experience extravaganza, opened in 2019 and is a 1.46 million square foot entertainment and retail complex of a ten-story tall (five of them underground). It features 2,000 trees and 100,000 shrubs, a terraced rainforest, multiple gardens, 300 retail and dining facilities, miles of walking trails, movie theatres, a hotel, art installations throughout, and a Rain Vortex, the world's tallest indoor waterfall at five-story tall. Canopy Park occupies the highest level, with leisure attractions such as the hedge maze and immersive mirror maze, a four-story slide, two gardens, a suspension bridge, a bouncing net, an experience studio, food and beverage sites, and more.
3.0 Transforming Malaysian Construction Industry
The construction industry is still lagging in technology adoption and adaptation compared to other industries such as
• and healthcare.
The increasing population of the world leads to the provision of affordable housing, social services, transportation, and infrastructure, which requires the industry to prepare for the technological and cultural changes in digital construction. Digitalization brings the benefits of digitalization, especially in smart devices, increasing the number of smart buildings and cities, along with green technology and sustainability initiatives, benefiting the construction industry. To better drive the transcendingtechnological waves of today, it is very important to select the appropriate technologies that can bring great improvement to the industry.
The Ministry of Works Malaysia, through the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and in collaboration with parties with interests in the construction industry, has developed a Construction Strategy Plan 4.0 (2021–2025) to transform the Malaysian construction industry into a more competitive and productive sector. The construction industry needs to embrace innovation and digitalization to move ahead of the traditional way of doing things, as the world economy has changed tremendously through innovation and digitalization.
3.1 Embrace Technology and Innovation to Grow the Technology
Bolstering the adoption of technology and automation is essential to increase productivity in construction activities. This will involve the mechanization of conventional methods and the incorporation of IR4.0 elements. This will help standardize and commoditize construction elements and components. Robotics and automated systems have the potential to revolutionize the construction industry by reducing injuries and freeing workers from dangerous tasks.
They can be divided into four categories: off-site prefabrication systems, on-site automated and robotic systems, drones and autonomous vehicles, as well as exoskeletons (Digitization of the Construction Industry: Digital Transformation Takes Hold, 2023).
3.2 Develop Talent that Meet Industrial Demands
Strengthening training centers for new technology and skills familiarization is essential to producing a highly skilled and knowledge-intensive workforce, equipping them with AI, IoT, and ICT knowledge to prepare them for smart construction. There is no excuse for Malaysia’s construction workforce’sreadiness towards Construction 4.0 with the increasing percentage of semi-skilled workers, as shown in Figure 5. Advances in Building Information Modeling and computer-aided design software have made blueprints more collaborative and affordable. Six digital skills are becoming more relevant for the construction industry: automation and robotics, building information modeling, on-site connectivity, prefabrication, project imaging, and three-dimensional printing (Digital Skills That Are Impacting the Construction Industry in 2022, n.d.).
3.3 Conducive Business Eco-System Development
Industrial growth requires the development and modernization of physical and digital infrastructure. Digital infrastructure is essential for adopting the Construction 4.0 ecosystem and promoting digitization
and connectivity to speed up construction work. Remote monitoring during construction is also encouraged through pilot autonomous or remote tele-construction.
The construction industry is increasingly using digital tools such as;
• artificial intelligence
• machine learning
• and robotics.
This is just the beginning of the transformation, as digital tools can make planning and construction projects more transparent, reliable, and less prone to errors. Software that creates a digital twin of a
real building is used to do this.
4.0 Moving Forward for Smart Construction in Malaysia
The future of smart construction in Malaysia holds significant potential for advancing the construction industry's efficiency, sustainability, and productivity.
By embracing emerging technologies and innovative practices, Malaysia can create smarter and more resilient built environments, contributing to the country's overall economic development and societal well-being.
Robotics and automation could speed up production even more and make it even safer. Collaboration on a global scale is key, and one way to do this is to develop a blueprint for so-called Global Powerhouse
Hubs that connect industry players all over the world.
Technology has helped many of us weather the crisis, and now is the time to tap its potential in the construction sector, putting humans at the center to make a positive impact on communities all over the world. One good example of transforming Malaysian construction in the future is via a Smart Integrated Construction System (SICS), as shown in Figure 6, by the Singapore Housing Development Board (HDB), aimed at facilitating data-sharing and synergizing construction processes across industry partners through a central digital platform.
We would like to thank our members, associates, and all stakeholders involved for the tremendous action towards construction transformation and hope that our insights and thoughts will give extra input and ideation towards better construction landscape transformations and improvements.
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8. Williams, A. (2022, October 12). Mixed-use development brings new energy to Battersea Power Station. New Atlas. https://newatlas.com/architecture/battersea-power-station-redevelopment/