How Construction Companies Can Make the Most of Technology Advancements

By Lyndsey Christofer | June 15, 2020

As one of the oldest industries, construction has been notoriously slow to adopt technological advancements and embrace the digital age. However, in the last decade, many innovative technologies have gained traction in the construction industry.

TechCrunch reports that between 2017 and 2018, U.S.-based construction technology startups saw a 324% boom in funding, reaching nearly $3.1 billion. So as we enter a new decade, we can only expect implementation and adoption to become more widespread.

While such advancements are making construction sites smarter, safer and more efficient than ever before, technology also introduces new exposures and questions around liability. In turn, risk managers, agents and brokers need to understand the associated risks.

Following are three emerging technologies — along with some of their related risks and rewards — that risk managers, agents and brokers should continue to evaluate as we enter a new decade of innovation.

Modular Construction

Modular construction can have an enormous impact on project completion speed. Now workers are able build project elements like walls, floors or exterior panels at an offsite location while others simultaneously begin the core and shell work of a building onsite. The end result: the number of hours it takes to complete a project can be reduced drastically.

For example, GenieBelt estimates that projects can be completed up to 65 times faster when implementing modular construction.

As the industry enters a new decade of innovation, the pace is only expected to pick up: According to McKinsey & Company, as modular construction becomes increasingly commonplace and more materials need to be transported to offsite locations, artificial intelligence (AI) may be used to optimize supply chain coordination making processes even more efficient.

It is important to note that modular construction does more than increase efficiency — it can also help improve safety. The offsite locations where prefabricated building components are created are often controlled environments. This means that for certain construction projects, fewer contractors have to spend hours working at extreme heights or exposed to weather elements, in turn potentially reducing their exposure to injury.

While the combination of controlled conditions offsite and less labor onsite can greatly enhance safety and efficiency, it does not fully eliminate risk.

Modular construction practices can create new liabilities that require additional insurance coverage.

For example, the production of certain elements offsite can result in transportation-related exposures, including physical damage or liability in the event of an accident. Additionally, safety managers need to ensure that they have the appropriate coverage not only on the project site, but also at the modular yard where the prefabricated materials are built. Consideration should also be given to the “your product” and “your work” exclusions on your general liability policy to ensure adequate coverage for liability arising out of the prefabricated components.

Building Information Management (BIM)

BIM technology is continuing to render old-school project management processes obsolete.

For instance, by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, such technology can analyze historical data to better predict scheduling, costs and required manpower — ultimately leading toward a more accurate bid.

BIM can also help with design capabilities, allowing architects, engineers and construction companies to digitize blueprints and models that will identify any issues prior to breaking ground. Should there be a required structural change once construction is underway, BIM can incorporate the adjustment and advise on how other building components will be impacted.

While BIM’s benefits can increase efficiency, this technology also poses a newer risk for the industry: cyber security. As a result, risk managers need to take necessary precautions to make sure any data BIM is using is protected and that access to it is controlled.

Risk managers should work with an independent agent or broker to ensure that they have the appropriate cyber insurance coverage in place in the event of a cyber disruption or data breach. It can be especially useful to purchase a cyber policy that includes proactive risk mitigation services that can help identify and address any vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

Wearables

Recently, the construction industry has seen an influx of contractors testing wearable sensors with a wide array of functionality and benefits. Some devices can monitor workers’ body temperatures and heartrates in order to identify symptoms of exhaustion and heatstroke or alert a worker when he/she is approaching a potential hazard.

Other contractors are testing devices that can alert a supervisor if a worker is hurt, has fallen or is otherwise in danger, as well as whether there are any safety concerns with physical equipment.

While we can expect wearable technologies to become more commonplace in the next decade, construction companies should not forget about the risks — including cyber — that these devices may impose. Wearables, along with all the emerging technologies discussed above, are meant to enhance current safety practices, not replace them.

In the next decade, the construction industry will become increasingly digital. Innovative technologies are already starting to shift the way the industry operates, helping improve efficiency, accuracy and safety.

In the next decade, the construction industry will become increasingly digital.

Independent agents and brokers are uniquely positioned to help construction companies capitalize on the industry’s digital transformation while also managing their newfound exposures. By working with a carrier, agents and brokers can help construction companies implement comprehensive risk management programs so they have sufficient coverages in place to respond in the event of a technology-related claim.

About Lyndsey Christofer

Christofer is a senior vice president at Chubb. She is responsible for the strategic development, underwriting, growth, profitability and distribution of Chubb's Primary Casualty Construction business across the country.

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Insurance Journal West June 15, 2020
June 15, 2020
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Construction Market & Risks Report; Markets: Umbrellas (Personal & Commercial)