New York City

The technology that’s remaking construction

Developers in New York City are angling to legalize drone use.

A drone being used at a construction site.

A drone being used at a construction site. Shutterstock

Construction may be one of the last industries to begin incorporating technology into day-to-day operations, but now that construction’s digital revolution is upon us, stakeholders in New York are looking at how they too can innovate in the field. At City & State’s Rebuilding NY Summit on Tuesday, Leena Panchwagh, chief innovation officer at the New York City Department of Buildings, and Youssef Kalad, program director of NYCx at the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, weighed in on what New York is doing to be at the forefront of innovation in construction and development.

Much of Panchwagh’s work at the DOB has been focused on internal innovation, as the department is in the process of a full digital transformation, putting its services online and moving away from paper. And while Kalad’s work doesn’t focus on the construction industry, he said there’s a wealth of technologies that have the potential to make productivity and safety gains in construction and development. “I think you should see, over time, projects delivered at a more rapid rate as you combine data sources and begin to put out sensors and IoT devices, and use more sophisticated mapping technologies,” Kalad said. “And you should be able, over time, to also increase safety at sites by creating geofencing zones and equipping workers with handheld devices, wearables, whatever to ensure that they're always in the proper zone, or if they fall, you recognize that.”

Some technologies still face hurdles. Developers in New York City, for example, are angling to legalize drone use in the city in order to use the technology to speed up building and inspection processes and reduce costs. City Council legislation to legalize their use, however, has stalled.