An ultra-energy-efficient home being built in Washington Township, Berks County, is equipped with sensors to monitor and log temperature and humidity so data can be recorded through the internet and uploaded to the cloud.
In essence, this home monitoring system was the co-creation of architect Richard Pedranti and homeowner Shawn Soeder and was designed to have an internet of things capability. All data recorded go to Soeder’s computer to be stored.
“This thing we developed is in its infancy, and the idea is to put this in every one of my projects,” said Pedranti, owner of Richard Pedranti Architect of Milford, Pike County.
“This is a passive house, which means that everything gets measured down to the penny when it comes to how much energy consumption is taking place in the home.”
This is one small illustration of how IoT is being used in the industry to make construction sites more efficient, allowing contractors to save time and money. Some say it will even transform the industry. And, in the Greater Lehigh Valley, construction companies – mainly large ones – are using the IoT platform with increasing frequency.
IoT is being employed for heavy equipment with sensors that communicate what is happening with machinery on a daily basis, drones used for surveying, employee and vehicle tracking, tracking of materials, energy-efficient materials and building models designed online that have pre-fabricated parts.
“When you think about what IoT offers, it is a way to take an inanimate object, in this case a building, and watch how it moves and behaves,” said Pedranti, who also is working on a passive house in Nazareth. “We spend so much time on creating a building, and we do not know how it behaves after it is built.”
OUT WITH BLUEPRINTS
According to Joe Perpiglia, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter, top-tier construction companies in the Greater Lehigh Valley are more prone than small firms to use the IoT platform on job sites.
He said it is common to go to a construction site and find site superintendents or managers with iPads in hand, tracking progress with their devices and using online data to prefabricate materials for a building.
Building information models have replaced blueprints. Teams of 10 to 12 can be found with computers on-site tracking everything from equipment movement and malfunctions to tracking material deliveries and employees, Perpiglia said.
Perpiglia said construction firms are using drones to survey land. They are flying over rooftops and checking on things that are not easy for the construction crew to see from the ground.
Through IoT processes, all aspects of a building, from walls to interior workings, are created and stored online.
The model of the building is very detailed so that construction crews have these specifics before they even step on a job site.
In Breinigsville, Brian Proffit is vice president of business development and smart cities infrastructure for Adtell Integration. The company provides fiber optic services, and, as Proffit explained, fiber optic cables in the ground support IoT processes.
This fiber is the communication component that allows devices to stay connected and controls the sensors that work to run IoT efficiently, he said.
Some of Adtell’s clients are construction companies that work daily with IoT, but IoT techniques are not yet widespread in the industry and throughout the area, Proffit said.
Proffit said IoT practices are being used more often for construction projects dealing with infrastructure – roads and bridges, for example.
Pennsylvania bridges are getting updated, which means that trusses are being hauled in on trucks, and those trucks have sensors that communicate their arrival. The movement of materials is easily traced through computers and IoT communication.
“A wind turbine is being constructed – we are seeing several of these in Pennsylvania – and all those components are going on trucks with transmitters, and the computers are providing the expedition of materials to tell us when deliveries will be made,” Proffit said.
Proffit and others said the internet of things is transforming the building industry, how construction is managed and how a project exists after being built.
At ABC, Perpiglia said the use of the IoT on construction sites “is getting there for sure.”
He said he believes it won’t be long before even small construction companies are using the principles of it.