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5 Technological Advancements We're Excited to See More of in 2023

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Dredging and the civil engineering and construction industry are in desperate need of a technological overhaul. Material shortages, labor crises and sustainability issues are the biggest problems facing companies and contractors worldwide. Thankfully, new developments could turn the industry around.

Here are the top five technological advancements that will make waves in the civil engineering and construction industry in 2023.

  1. Building Information Modeling
  2. Machine Learning
  3. Hydroelectric Power
  4. Augmented and Virtual Reality
  5. Autonomous Machinery

How do Marsh Buggies and Amphibious Equipment help with Dredging

Building Information Modeling

Building information modeling is perhaps the most important advancement for the dredging sector. As anyone in construction knows, a structural engineer's design plans undergo constant changes before and during the project. The adjustments might be necessary, but they can prolong the timeline and lead to more mistakes due to simple misunderstandings or miscommunication.

Traditional blueprints and design plans are no longer efficient, especially with specific jobs like dredging that are difficult to monitor and have long-term effects on the environment. BIM offers an all-in-one solution to these problems, providing 3D digital plans of the work area that employees can easily review and edit in real time. 

BIM also enables simulating different schedules and design plans, providing an accurate completion time estimate. This benefit is crucial for dredging, which usually takes a few weeks for larger bodies of water. The scheduling assessments even include recommended maintenance procedures to keep the site in good condition.

The environment also stands to benefit from BIM. Although dredging is relatively eco-friendly compared to other construction sectors, it could still use some improvements. Altering the underwater soil composition can stir up harmful pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, contaminating the water. 

BIM can help dredge operators avoid these environmental hazards by allowing them to test different sustainable solutions. Comparing other dredging models is already a common practice in the environmental impact assessment stage, but BIM improves the comparisons by simulating the potential effects. BIM fills in the gaps where knowledge is lacking. 

Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subcategory of artificial intelligence that enables machines to make accurate predictions based on gathered data. This technology has many useful applications in the construction industry. For starters, it can assist BIM in optimizing project designs. Instead of leaving human employees to identify all the deficiencies, a machine learning model can help by providing a more objective view.

Critics have raised concerns about machine learning’s impact on fairness and equity. However, new research has shown that there is no trade-off between accuracy and fairness when developers give machine learning models enough information about the people or places being analyzed. The construction labor force can confidently formulate a plan with machine learning’s backing.

Machine learning also helps improve job site safety, whether working on a residential project or a dredging barge. AI software and models like Smartvid.io and VINNIE have reduced incident rates by up to 50% for some of their major clients. These incidents include injuries and illnesses, including COVID-19 outbreaks.

Poor working conditions are one of the main reasons the construction industry has seen widespread resignations. Machine learning is making the sector much safer, which will attract more people to the labor force in the future.

Hydroelectric Power

Switching to sustainable energy sources is one of the top items on the construction industry’s to-do list. Hydroelectric power is one clean and affordable alternative that could drastically reduce fossil fuel reliance. It comes from an ecosystem’s natural running water systems, converting the streams of kinetic energy into a high-voltage electrical current. 

Harnessing hydroelectric power requires massive concrete dams and turbine systems. They can turn 1 gallon of water into 1,000 watts as long as water levels remain steady. The Hoover Dam is the most well-known hydroelectric dam, producing 2,080 megawatts of electricity per second. Other dams around the world create double or triple that amount.

Aside from providing the construction industry with another energy source, it also helps the dredging sector specifically by limiting water pollution around the dam. Less pollution means better visibility and fewer debris on the water’s floor. It also reduces the chances of a dredging barge stirring up contaminants.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has quickly evolved from a cool gaming device to a valuable resource for employee training. It enables new hires to develop their skills in realistic project simulations rather than on the fly in real high-risk situations. VR can even produce replicas of previous projects to help employees retain more knowledge and experience.

VR also works with BIM and machine learning to optimize project designs. Its 3D capabilities allow project managers to fully immerse themselves in the design plan. The artificial intelligence in the VR headset can simulate different design plans and sustainability practices to see which ones are most effective.

Augmented reality takes the technology one step further, allowing project managers to walk through their current project simulations in real time, observing the progress of specific tasks and identifying safety hazards. Dredging barge captains can see everything happening onboard without leaving the helm.

Autonomous Machinery

Wouldn’t it be great if some machines did their jobs automatically, without human intervention? This dream has already become a reality in some areas of construction. Autonomous robots powered by AI can dredge, drill, weld and do many other complex tasks with great speed and accuracy while eliminating human error.

Other automated tools like drones and wearable sensors improve the safety and security of construction sites. They might have been designed for recreational purposes, but they provide many professional benefits. They perform in-depth surveillance of the job site and each employee’s activity levels, identifying potential hazards before they lead to disaster. 

Autonomous machinery also benefits the environment by generating less waste and using the least amount of materials necessary to complete the job. Dredge deckhands are responsible for building and maintaining cribbings, floats and other essential equipment. A self-operating machine could make their jobs much safer and more efficient.

2023 Is a Pivotal Year for Construction

The last few years haven’t been kind to the construction industry, so 2023 is a pivotal year in many ways. Dredge barge operators and other industry leaders must embrace these technologies in the coming years to address the ongoing supply, labor and environmental challenges.

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