Innovation in Capital Projects

Best Practice in Capital Projects through Innovation

State of the industry

I said in one of my blogs that Construction is an early adopter of technology and received some feedback on that comment, perhaps it is not as pioneering as I thought with reflection (and subsequent discovery)!

Today I want to talk about innovation in capital projects, specifically, technology. I will explore the what, why and how of some elements of best practice, starting with Why.

Why innovate?

The Construction sector is one of the lowest investors in research & innovation of all the sectors. Investing in technology and innovation to develop better, safer projects faster at lower cost, can deliver benefits far beyond the original investment of time and money. Using data to make better decisions can affect the bottom line in a monumental way.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?


The first and most obvious barrier is that innovation requires investment. It requires having a vision, budgeting for that vision, doing the groundwork to understand the why and how, resourcing the project, and measuring it. This is not always (or necessarily ever) easily conquered battles, but I think this is not the main barrier to innovation. I believe the main barrier is organisational change. The fundamental human part of the project. I have spent some time in ‘change management’ and humans are the single most crucial factor to project success. It is a larger topic than space in this article however in short – organisational change driven by humans. If you can get your team on board and identified your goal, you could be 90% of the way there!

  • Needs investment
  • Vision – cannot imagine benefits
  • Requires transformational change – difficult
  • Lack of understanding about goals, tools, approaches


I include some examples of innovative technologies. These might seem unrealistic, but adoption will transform the industry:


Obviously, drones can be used for surveying land. This can be helpful for infrastructure improvements, surveying equipment and security monitoring. Drones can be expensive (especially if you lose one!) but with drone insurance becoming more mainstream should become more attainable.


Overcoming big brother fears now, wearables are becoming accepted as a useful tool for health and project planning. Wearables can decrease operational risk by providing jobsite information to managers, monitor vital signs and environmental risks to worker health and even reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.


Blockchain is ‘a new way to store and record transactions.’ In reality, it stores transactional historic data in its substance which can help for example verifying the provenance of diamonds. So what does this mean for construction?! There is a bit of a functional gap to wide adoption of Blockchain including for example lack of crypto currency adoption, but one example of Blockchain in Construction could possibly be ‘Smart Contracts’, removing middlemen from an inspection process such as for a wall.


Another buzzword, BIM or Building Information Modelling has been around since the 1970s but only really hit the ‘mainstream’ in the 2000s with the UK forming international standards in 2007.

In short, BIM is a digital description of every aspect of the built asset in the form of a 3D model that can be used throughout the project for design and document building projects.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is closely linked to BIM and has several applications in Construction and related industries such as training, project planning, measuring & design, modelling, collaboration and project information as it can overlay different elements of a site such as walls, switches, pipes etc., allowing identification of any issues without seeing the physical structure. Kit can be expensive with a Hololens costing in the thousands but perhaps with time and greater adoption the savings will outweigh the cost, at least for some projects

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service.  In practice, in Construction, digital twins can help understanding. A “digital twin”—or digital replica of a physical entity—can aid construction projects by accelerating and automating traditional design, production, and operational processes. As such, it can serve as the backbone for prefabrication and as a more significant means for achieving industrialised efficiency.

In conclusion, in a new age of technology and innovation, even if not all initiatives become mainstream, investing selectively in technology and innovation can result in better, safer projects faster at lower cost.

SMART sites: using wearable technology to track workers and alert site managers about clusters could be a good strategy for your site. Beable, an award-winning technology created by EMS is an easy-to-use system using self-monitoring and wearable devices (no phones) and simple on-site beacon self-installation. Contact EMS today to find out more.

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