Information Technology and Construction Industry

Information Technology and Construction Industry

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5291-9.ch001
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For thousands of years, construction engineering has played a vital role in the advancement of human civilization. Humans have always aspired to build taller, grander, and more robust constructions either for civilian purpose or to defend cities and towns from invading armies. The architectural splendour of the pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China are not only awe-inspiring examples for the engineering feats of the ancients but also remarkable for the robustness in evidence for having stood the test of time for over thousands of years since these were built. Modern civil construction engineering, too, requires optimum resource utilization, speed of execution, and adherence to best engineering practices. The rapid strides made in information technology makes it possible for architects and engineers to achieve those goals. This chapter discusses the role and impact that information technology has in the domain of civil engineering and construction sector.
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Definitions Of “Construction” And “Information Technology”

The term “construction” generally describes activities that are related to erecting buildings, plants, roads, bridges, etc.; or the very structure of a building itself. Unlike in most other manufacturing processes, civil engineering production usually takes place at the very site itself where a structure is to be located and used. Projects involving erection and commissioning of such civil engineering artefacts can stretch over extended lengths of time. By contrast, most other manufacturing processes in other engineering sectors require fraction of the time involved. When we speak of civil engineering construction process, we think in terms of creation of designs and drawings, and the final construction process itself. However, for a comprehensive definition of construction to take root in our minds, it is necessary to discuss the operations and maintenance aspects. Information produced during design and construction phase, are extremely vital for the operations and maintenance of a building, a plant, a road, or a bridge throughout the erection stage and beyond. Traditional construction process models often do not include information on the manufacturing of the very building materials required for construction. Rarer still are traditional construction process models known to include planning and inspection activities. Despite this, it still is important to include these factors to produce a holistic construction process to move decrease overall maintenance costs and time involved to effect maintenance and repairs.

The term “information technology” is deemed to mean all forms of computers; associated equipment and peripherals; software; storage systems; firmware; transfer and process of data and information; technologies and services that support or otherwise govern the manner in which computers, peripherals, software, and services are conceptualized, manufactured, and deployed. In the initial years that saw personal computers slowing gaining popularity, the term electronic data processing, or EDP, was quite common. That term was closely associated with data processing using computers for the purpose of storage and presentation of data in assorted formats. This term is slowly falling into disuse as information technology has progress far beyond those days when data processing was prevalent throughout organizations irrespective of the sector or size. Computers of today are no longer to be found within confines of air-conditioned rooms that were also often sterile and kept dust-free as far as possible. Information Technology has today progressed to a stage where physical dimensions of computers have shrunk, and are a far cry from the days when computers were only to be thought of as huge machines housed in large air-conditioned halls. The smartphones or tablet PCs now has more processing power per device than the predecessors of the modern personal computer. The average person carries enough computing power and software applications in one’s pocket than what would have been considered possible even a decade ago. We have grown ever so reliant on information technology in all facets of our daily lives that to think of spending a day without our mobile devices, which are more than double up as true personal computers, can throw our routine out of gear.

The definition of Information Technology, thus, does not exclude our phones. Nor does it make a distinction insofar as photocopying machines, telefaxes, or scanners are concerned. These devices that “talk” to one another across wires and networks are as much a part of information technology as traditional computers and allied systems are deemed to be. The modern avatars of phones, faxes, etc. are produced by their respective manufacturers in a way that these can be seamlessly connected to computers and each other through wired or wireless means. Software applications and firmware integration now make it possible for most laptops, personal computers, and phones to send and receive faxes as well as emails. Thus, it does not come as a surprise to observe the gradual and often inextricable link up of information technology with construction.

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