A career in construction is often thought of as more about using physical skills than any others, but the reality is that it’s a far more varied industry.
Digital skills are vital to most construction projects, with the latest technologies being used to innovate and develop buildings and infrastructure.
This guide will show you which digital skills can help you in a construction career and the roles available to you. Although you can always browse all types of construction role to find the best fit.
What is digital construction?
Digital construction is the use of technology and digital tools in the construction processes, like design, gathering of materials, and project planning. Any type of digital software or technology used as part of a construction process can be considered digital construction.
What digital skills are impacting the construction industry?
As we talked about in our piece on construction adapting for the future, the construction industry is changing to reflect the more common uses of digital technology. New skills are having an impact on almost every aspect of how a construction project works.
Mobile technology, including apps and instant messaging software, has improved communication and time-management on construction sites. It means that changes, accidents, design questions, any communication you can imagine, can be communicated using mobile tech, to keep everyone up-to-date almost instantly.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is when buildings and infrastructure are designed with the help of interactive digital models, rather than traditional paper blueprints. It’s an important development as it means closer collaboration between contractors and clients as they can all see the design and all information related to it, as well as ask questions and suggest changes.
Commonly referred to as VR, developments in this area means more efficient planning for construction projects thanks to designers and consumers being able to ‘see’ the finished project before work has begun. You can also show more complex ideas, so everyone is on the same page, and iron out problems before any materials or labour are wasted.
AI is about using machines or software that can copy human functions and process enormous amounts of data. In construction, this could be robotics or machines that take on the manual labour aspects of a project to save time and money, or programmes that take data and turn it into 3D models of projects so they can be analysed for safety and cost-effectiveness etc. before they are physically built.
3D printing helps to create scaled down complex or bespoke design structures, reducing material and labour costs and producing less waste. It might also allow for construction to be completed in environments not suitable for people to work in or used to reduce accidents.
What digital careers are available in construction?
Digital construction is exciting because it’s only just getting started. The changes it is influencing across the industry are having a positive impact, including a rise in eco-friendly materials and more in-depth planning for projects of every size.
So which roles should you look for if you want to work in digital construction?
A building information modelling technician will use computer software and technologies to gather all information about a project, and put it in one place. The model will appear in multiple dimensions, with all the vital components for each person working on it.
A Building information modelling manager works with designers, clients, and architects to make sure all the production materials and designs are created and managed throughout the project.
A computer-aided design operator uses computer software to produce 2D and 3D drawings for construction and manufacturing projects. As a CAD operator, you may be designing buildings, machinery or component parts. You’d be taking complex information and using it to produce technical building diagrams for architects, engineers and other construction workers.
An architectural technologist specialises in presenting building designs using technology. They provide technical guidance to clients and liaise with construction design teams to bring new structures to life. As an architectural technologist, you’d be working with architects to help develop building models, ahead of construction taking place.
A technical co-ordinator handles technical aspects of a project. Depending on the area of construction they work in, they could be handling enquiries, helping to produce and interpret technical diagrams, plans and paperwork, drawing up delivery schedules, and dealing with project administration.
Stories of people working in digital construction
It always helps to see real people in roles, so we’ve got some stories below of people working in digital construction roles. Click on each name to learn more about the work they do and how they got the job.
Meet Ryan Donoghue, a BIM co-ordinator in Essex. Ryan took part in a school leaver’s programme and completed an HNC in civil engineering, and now spends his days planning exciting projects using BIM for BAM Construction.
Lead digital engineer
Kate Evans has worked on projects including Terminal 5 Heathrow, The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the Second Severn Crossing Maintenance site – all as a student engineer. Kate is now a Lead digital engineer at Laing O’Rourke.
Trainee CAD technician
Daniel Young used work experience and academic study to build his qualifications in construction. He’s currently a Trainee CAD Technician for Stepnell Ltd. creating designs, drawings, and models of buildings and other projects.
Digital Construction Week
A free event dedicated to the exciting world of digital construction, Digital Construction Week is held in November each year. It’s a great place to hear from experts, discover new ideas and meet like-minded people.