IOT: Powering the digital economy

Australian government provides millions in funding for scheme looking to transform construction

Key Points
  • The Australian scheme, called Building 4.0 CRC, is made of up 30 partners.
  • Technology is transforming the construction industry in a number of ways.
EschCollection | Stone | Getty Images

A collaboration focused on cutting delays, emissions and waste from building projects has received a grant of 28 million Australian dollars ($16.40 million) from the country's government. 

The scheme, called Building 4.0 CRC, is made of up 30 partners including Lendlease, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the Donovan Group.

In an announcement Wednesday, the University of Melbourne said the funding would leverage 103 million Australian dollars from research partners, government and industry.

While the University of Melbourne's own statement did not go into specifics, it did lay out several aims for the research initiative. These include: Harnessing digital technology and off-site manufacturing to cut project costs by 30%; reducing construction waste by 80%; and lowering carbon dioxide emissions by 50%.

The collaboration will also look to use things such as artificial intelligence and data science. According to the Building 4.0 CRC website, other targets include training 36 PhDs and 1,000 Masters students as well as "training 7,000 apprentices in new technologies."

In Australia, CRC refers to the Australian government's Cooperative Research Centres Program, which backs research, industry and the community through grants.   

"Our vision is to create a world where people can visualise and realise buildings in real time," Gavin Tonnet, who is Australian CEO of the Donovan Group, said in a statement. 

"The purpose is to transform the way that consumers and builders design and buy buildings by providing easy-to-use browsing-based software that allows them to custom-design, visualise and price buildings in an engineering compliant way," Tonnet added.

Technology is transforming the construction industry in a number of ways. These include processes such as building information modeling, or BIM. The multinational business Arup has described BIM as a "virtual prototype" which enables "any aspect of a design's performance to be simulated and assessed before it is built." 

In an interview previously broadcast by CNBC, Dean Banks, from international infrastructure group Balfour Betty, outlined some of the changes that could take place in the construction industry.

"In the future we think that robotics will play a big part," Banks, who is CEO of U.K. Construction Services at the firm, explained.

"We've seen drones making decisions, we think information modelling will be in place, (and) 3D printing," he added. People would be operating a building site from a control center elsewhere, Banks said, something he described as "quite a massive change."