Article

The ethical and social challenges of implementing Construction 4.0

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Civil engineers need to look closely at the ethical and social impacts of the so-called fourth industrial revolution in construction. Fred Sherratt of Anglia Ruskin University reviews the potential pitfalls highlighted in the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Management, Procurement and Law journal.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is poised to transform the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector from a project-based industry to a market-based industrialised process. Yet, its (s)low uptake can be attributed to the current emphasis on technological adoption. In this briefing note, it is argued that ignoring non-technical aspects such as the social will to change and ethical choices can result in Industry 4.0 failing to deliver its transformative power in the AEC sector. Rather than focus on technology, questions are raised around systemic change by considering people and process issues. Furthermore, instead of focussing on the calculative value of Industry 4.0, there is also a need to consider (ethical) values when making decisions in the data-driven world of Industry 4.0.
Article
Construction 4.0 makes many promises. The use of technologies will not only improve productivity in the construction of future built environments but will also enhance their operation and maintenance as they become smart cities. These latter stages in the built asset project life cycle are impacted by Construction 4.0 technologies able to both automate and optimise their operations, thus bringing benefits for facility management while also linking the built environment fabric to wider societal and governmental systems. However, there is growing concern that Construction 4.0 is directing the industry towards a ‘smart dystopia’, a situation with as much vulnerability as resilience, without due consideration or challenge. For example, the automation of operational processes arguably increases vulnerabilities to cyberattacks, corruptions of data or energy loss, while the constant collection of worker and citizen data by smart buildings and infrastructures raises concerns around surveillance and privacy, as well as issues of exclusion. Although Construction 4.0 has the potential to enable the industry to support the delivery, operation and maintenance of an e-topia, such ethical and social challenges should perhaps be considered before its technologies are unquestioningly embedded within built assets for use throughout the duration of their life cycles.
Article
Craft workforce is the main productive factor in traditional construction. Construction 4.0 visions are based on automation and digitalization, meaning that human site activities will require/stipulate changes. The extent to which manual tasks done by humans in construction will be replaced is uncertain. This might vary considering the context or type of work. Construction 4.0 includes craft workforce activities, as these can benefit from technology, fostering digital transformation in the short/medium term. The research scope is workforce-innovation-management using data from job sites. A framework is developed based on data future use involving: Electronic Performance Monitoring, Building Information Modelling, Smart Contracts and Artificial Intelligence. A Systematic Scoping Review is developed to identify legal/ethical issues in connection to technological aspects. The discussion and findings focus on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance to apply the proposed framework. Optimised human-machine-controlled environments must be ethically managed by pre-established collective-agreements and must rely on each worker awareness and consent. The findings suggest that the human aspects if improperly addressed could result in a digital transformation advances bottleneck. Along with the framework, the paper provides a step-by-step, streamlined review of the regulations and requirements that need to be considered when implementing workers electronic monitoring.
Article
Construction 4.0 is bringing change to the industry through digitisation and technological innovation. Such change deliberately impacts ‘traditional’ ways of working, as it actively seeks to disrupt the norm and so enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of construction project delivery. Yet technology is not neutral; it brings with it an autonomy and an amorality that is potentially a cause for concern. The authors used Ellul’s theory of technique, as associated with technology, to unpack Construction 4.0 from critical perspectives and explore the potential it has to bring social and ethical challenges to the industry and specifically its people. For example, trade workers may become usurped by technologies that automate their work, while professionals may find their roles within the design, engineering and construction processes become more heavily influenced and shaped by the technologies themselves. Indeed, the role of the ‘technology owner’ may become more powerful than any traditional profession in the future as they become dominant actors within the construction industry space. This paper aims to stimulate discussion and debate in this area and encourage the development of a more critical voice to supplement the technocratic optimism that currently surrounds Construction 4.0.
Article
Rapid increases in processing power and speed of computing coupled with development of self-learning algorithms capable of autonomous decision making are central to current technological developments. This has fed dystopian visions of either out-of-control robots malevolently destroying humanity or benevolent robots enslaving humanity as a result of acting for its own good. A more nuanced assessment demonstrates that inherent in any benevolent intent is the unintended potential for harm, which must be addressed in parallel with if not in advance of developments in the field. This paper examines the hazards and challenges presented by artificial intelligence in respect of construction. In conjunction with developments and guidelines on machine ethics, it outlines the issues and posits how they may be addressed by governments, designers, contractors and worker organisations to access the growth potential of the sector as a socially responsible industry.
Article
Construction 4.0 is, at its heart, centred around greater digitisation. The ISO 19650 series is the result of 4 years of development and is a game changer in standardising the process of digital information management. It is being actively implemented across the world, from Europe to Australia, but does it progress or hinder the agenda of Construction 4.0 or does it sit outside that movement? This paper provides a critical analysis of the operation of the ISO 19650 series in addressing the legal and contractual impacts of the digitisation of information management. It also considers the related consequences of the legal community’s continuing struggle to understand the consequences and meaning of digital information management and considers how progress can be made in this area.
Article
In 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched the UK Industrial Strategy, inviting society to ‘choose the future’. By way of government support for and investment in digital innovation, particularly in the construction industry and public infrastructure, the strategy was aimed at stimulating the UK’s industrial productivity and wealth. This paper examines the UK Industrial Strategy by applying it within the context of the utopian/dystopian literature genre and through a feminist lens. The paper finds that the strategy looks set to deliver outcomes similar to the themes of the dystopian literature genre, which imagine that technological progress can be achieved only at the expense of social equity, suggesting that the currently gendered idea of Construction 4.0 could exacerbate current gender divisions and inequalities that currently blight the construction industry. Given more balanced strategic support and investment, Construction 4.0 might actually, in a new reality, offer opportunities to resolve issues of gender equity in the industry. The paper concludes with a timely call to researchers and industry professionals to intersect gender inclusivity across all aspects of future research, innovation and strategy in relation to Construction 4.0, so that the chosen future will support the careers and contributions of all genders that choose to participate in it.