How slow adoption of new construction technologies is worsening Australia’s housing crisis

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
6 Min Read

The slow adoption of new construction technologies could be an overlooked cause of Australia’s ongoing housing crisis. 

Experts say historical reluctance to adopt new building technologies could further slow the already sluggish construction of new homes across the country. 

Outdated build methods and archaic planning software are leading to project inefficiencies, delays, increased construction costs and missed deadlines. 

And with new home builds already lagging 50 per cent behind the pace needed to reach the government’s goal of 1.2 million new homes by the end of the decade, the construction industry has started pointing the finger at technology adoption as another contributor to Australia’s housing woes. 

A post-pandemic migration surge, smaller household sizes, building material costs, and a lack of skilled workers have previously bared most of the blame for Australia’s housing supply shortage. However, reliance on past technologies also deserves its fair share of the blame. 

Experts say a failure to learn faster and more reliable construction practices has contributed to the scarcity of available housing units, particularly in high-demand areas – intensifying challenges related to housing affordability.

Leon Ward, a digital construction specialist at construction management software group PlanRadar, says it’s about time slow tech adoption was recognised for its role in worsening Australia’s housing crisis. 

“Over the last five years, Australia has seen significant challenges in maintaining sustainable levels of new residential builds…while numerous factors contribute to this deficit, it’s important to recognise that unequal access to and adoption of construction technology tools have also played a significant role in creating this divide,” he said. 

“In addressing the current challenges within the Australian residential construction sector, it is crucial to prioritise technology adoption. 

“Embracing digital tools goes beyond mere advancement; it plays a key role in shaping a more efficient and robust future for construction in Australia.”

Ways digital tools can improve home construction 

Building information modelling (BIM):

Enables architects and designers to create detailed, accurate 3D models of buildings, facilitating better design visualisation and planning. 

This leads to more efficient use of space, improved functionality, and reduced errors in construction.

Project management software:

Up-to-date project management platforms allow for better coordination and communication among stakeholders, including architects, contractors, and subcontractors. 

Real-time collaboration and access to project data help streamline workflows, minimise delays, and ensure that construction projects stay on schedule and within budget.

Optimised resource tracking:

By using new digital technologies to track costs, construction managers can improve projects’ use of materials, labour, and equipment, leading to 

Quality control:

Quality control software allows firms to monitor construction processes and track progress in real time, allowing for better consistency and early detection of potential issues.

This ensures that construction projects meet quality standards and regulatory requirements, reducing the likelihood of costly rework or delays.

Health and safety:

New digital technologies such as drones, sensors, and wearable devices can be used to monitor construction site safety and identify potential hazards. 

Energy efficiency:

Using the latest digital-driven construction methods, such as prefabrication and modular construction, can help reduce waste, optimise energy usage, and promote sustainable building practices.

So what’s the hold-up?

While the construction industry has historically been slow off the mark when implementing most new methodologies, the unprecedented level of demand and various benefits has left Aussies asking why the industry still hasn’t broken ground on widespread adoption of many of the abovementioned digital techs.  

Nationwide implementation of digitally driven construction strategies encounters various challenges that persuade industry bosses to stick with the tried and tested methods they’re already familiar with and comfortable with. 

One of the most significant challenges is the substantial initial investment required for software, hardware, and training, particularly for smaller construction firms. 

With many home building firms struggling to stay afloat amid continued rising material costs, the last thing most construction bosses want to do is take a financial gamble on a piece of software they’re still unsure they’ll be able to integrate successfully.

Additionally, as with introducing any new methods, the technology will likely cause a teething period among staff and company workflows, temporarily leading to more errors, time-consuming delays and costly re-works. 

Lastly, a potential skills gap in digital literacy among construction workers, a particularly ageing workforce likely unfamiliar with the technology, underlines the need for investment in training and upskilling.

Ultimately, this has seen many naturally cautious construction companies knowingly press the pause button on executing the latest digital technologies within their firm, as tight profit margins combined with the abovementioned difficulties make implementation too risky. 

However, Mr Ward explains that leaving the transition too long could also cause firms to get overtaken by rival competitors while missing out on the opportunity to set themselves apart.

“We believe that integrating smarter, standardised digital tools into housing construction brings tangible benefits for both construction companies and homeowners,” he said.

“From efficiency gains to cost-effectiveness and sustainability, embracing digital tools is a significant support driving positive outcomes in the Australian real estate sector.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.