For many years in the construction industry, engineers had to hand-draw plans, file them, and workers had to communicate through voices and eye contact. For many years, the sector remained unchanged, with manual processes being the order of the day. Then technological revolution began, and most of the aspects of the construction industry changed.

In the 20th century, the construction industry saw many more rapid technological changes than any other historical period. Today’s construction industry is characterized by digital records, smart construction software, 3D imaging systems and plans, drone system, to mention a few. It is very different from what our ancestors left a century ago. Here are critical changes witnessed in the construction industry over the 20th century.


In the 20th century, mechanization in the construction industry led to more advanced capabilities and functionalities. It marked the invention of crane parts, power tools, concrete mixers, and cherry pickers. It is also around this time we witnessed the development of the internal congestion engine that replaced wheelbarrows, hand shovels, and other working machines such as tractors, bulldozers, and forklifts.

Computer-aided construction designs

In ancient times, builders, architects, stonemasons, and drafting technicians created the most iconic structures of the world using designs and methods that marked their time, most of which involved manual processes. For the better part of the last centuries, these methods remained the same, but in the 20th century, we witnessed the invention of computer-aided designs in the construction industry. Before, architects and builders experienced many challenges with their 2D plans, such as electrical conduit and high voltage alternating current scrambling for the same physical space.

Building information management

Although computer-aided designs simplify things for construction designers, building information management (BIM) simplifies processes for every professional involved in constructing a structure. It allows engineers, architects, contractors, and subcontractors to work together on every detail of design and construction by using the same computer model and database. BIM incorporates all the construction project stakeholders such as mechanical, plumbing, and electrical professionals to collaboratively develop a 3D detailed model that integrates all the structure’s functional systems. Some of the functional systems include electrical installations, heating, ventilation and cooling systems, plumbing, roofing and wall aesthetics. It is a collaborative process that allows the project members to pinpoint errors early enough before construction begins.

Smart gadgets

One of the most apparent features of a construction site in the 20th century is that everyone has a phone to keep them connected to other workers. Before, that was unheard of. The most beneficial part about smart gadgets like phones is that they facilitate communication between workers on a job site. That makes it easy to communicate instant changes on instructions, plan change orders, and other pieces of information disseminated from the office to the construction site.

Safety and health standards

In the 20th century, we witnessed health and safety standards observation has become a part and culture of the construction industry. Before, fall protection measures were not taken with much consideration. However, the modern construction site is characterized by workers with helmets, masks, reflectors, boots, and other gear to keep them safe during work. Many construction companies have insurance covers to protect workers in cases of construction accidents.

Concluding thoughts

The digital age of the internet continues to change the construction industry rapidly. We can expect remarkable technologies in the future that will further revolutionize the construction industry.

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