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Identifying Emerging Technologies and Skills Required for Construction 4.0

Alex Sander Clemente de Souza
1,* and
Luciana Debs
Department of Civil Engineering, Federal University of São Carlos, São Carlos 13565-905, Brazil
School of Construction Management Technology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Buildings 2023, 13(10), 2535;
Submission received: 22 August 2023 / Revised: 18 September 2023 / Accepted: 26 September 2023 / Published: 7 October 2023
(This article belongs to the Section Construction Management, and Computers & Digitization)


Connectivity, digitization, and emerging Industry 4.0 technology such as AI, automation, robotics, IoT, and cyber-physical space have transformed social relations, the means of production, and the world of labor. The construction industry has also been transformed by Industry 4.0 technologies, mainly through Building Information Modeling (BIM)-based digitization. This revolution in the construction industry has been called Construction 4.0 and is based on the use of innovative technologies that promote digitalization and automation of design, construction, and management processes. Furthermore, the workforce for the construction industry in the context of Construction 4.0 must have adequate skills for this new scenario. Previous literature reviews have analyzed the idea of transitioning the construction industry to Construction 4.0 and implementing specific technologies in the industry. However, there has been limited exploration of the skills necessary for the Construction 4.0 workforce. This article aims to address this gap by identifying the technologies and skills that have been scientifically researched and applied in the construction industry, specifically related to the concepts of Industry 4.0 and Construction 4.0. Utilizing a scoping literature review in the Scopus database, this study seeks to identify: (i) emergent C4.0 technologies in the AEC industry; and (ii) which skills or competencies are demanded when using these technologies. All of our bibliographical searches are inserted and restricted to the concept of Construction 4.0. A total of 108 articles related to technologies and 15 related to skills in the Construction 4.0 context were selected for analysis. Twenty-one technologies were identified and grouped into five sets according to their similarities and applications: AI-assisted technologies, Advanced manufacture, Smart tools, Digital simulation/Visualization, and Data acquisition/detection. The skills were identified and grouped into soft and hard skills. However, the findings point out that the new skills needed by the workforce are described in a dispersed way, without a central theme of research in the context of Construction 4.0. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the transformations towards Construction 4.0 and provide data for industry and universities to respond appropriately to the new demands of the construction industry.

1. Introduction

Compared to other industrial sectors, there is a common sense that the construction industry is conservative, has low productivity, and significant waste. However, new technologies, digitalization, and the modernization of production processes can change this scenario. The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, has been characterized by innovative technologies, digitalization, and connectivity (machine–machine and human–machine), ensuring smarter production processes and changing deeply social, commercial, economic, and educational relationships [1,2,3,4,5].
The construction industry has followed and benefited from Industry 4.0 technological advancements. This new scenario has been called Construction 4.0. According to Forcael et al. [6], the first time ‘Construction 4.0’ was mentioned in association with Industry 4.0 was in 2014. However, it was only in 2016 that the term ‘Construction 4.0’ was characterized as a concept. Therefore, the concept of Construction 4.0 is derived from the context of Industry 4.0, focusing on the industrialization of construction, digitalization, the use of new materials, new administration, communications, and marketing procedures. The term Construction 4.0 is not a consensus and has been dynamically and continuously evolving. Moreover, researchers have developed frameworks presenting key concepts and emerging technologies in order to characterize architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) in the context of Construction 4.0 [6,7,8,9,10]. The most relevant Construction 4.0 key concepts are automation, connectivity, digitalization (digital access/digital data), and industrialization of the construction process [6,7,8,9,10].
In addition to frameworks and concept definition, previous research has shown that the transformation of the construction industry toward Construction 4.0 can result in increased productivity, improved quality, greater added value, better sustainability indexes, optimization of natural resources, reduction of waste, and better safety conditions for workers [6,7,8,9,10]. However, profound changes are needed throughout the design and construction process and its stakeholders to successfully introduce the innovative technologies reported in the literature [6,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18].
Automation processes in construction manufacturing [19,20] have been identified as a key point in transforming the construction industry towards Construction 4.0. Furthermore, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems [21,22,23,24,25], virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) [26,27,28,29,30,31,32], artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, and machine learning [33,34,35,36], and blockchain and cybersecurity [37,38,39,40,41,42] are some technologies originating from Industry 4.0 that have been mentioned in research on the construction industry in the context of Construction 4.0. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the main process pointed out by the industry and the academy that allows digital integration planning, construction, and operation of buildings and infrastructure [43,44].
With so many transformations and the availability of new technologies and processes, it is essential to clearly identify which technologies/processes have been adopted by the construction industry in the current scenario and the future trends. On the other hand, it is also essential to understand how these technologies interact with each other and how they modify planning, design, construction, and operation procedures for buildings and infrastructure works.
From the above, it is easy to see the impact of moving to Construction 4.0 and how this new era has been influenced and directed by Industry 4.0 technologies. However, in addition to changes in the construction processes, the convergence of Construction 4.0 technologies will impact and potentially change the role of the workforce and the relationship between industry employees and industry society.
If, on the one hand, Construction 4.0 technologies can significantly reduce unhealthy tasks and make the work environment safer, on the other hand, there is a fear of job reduction and wage decrease. All job categories linked directly or indirectly to the construction supply chain could be affected somehow. The application of robots and automation suggested that increased productivity will not necessarily reduce total jobs in the long run and that new jobs and opportunities will be created. However, the changes have been profound and fast, and the construction industry stakeholders need to be prepared for the constant training and requalification of the workforce to meet current needs and future demands [45,46,47]. There is already a knowledge and skill gap and a fear among employees of losing their jobs due to the lack of skills required in Construction 4.0 [48,49,50,51]. A strategy to reduce the skills gap must involve reskilling (training an employee to relocate to a new position) and upskilling (teaching a worker new skills to optimize their performance) to prepare the current workforce in 4.0 paradigms to improve soft and hard skills [49]. Furthermore, the future workforce needs to be trained to meet the skills that this new scenario will demand in construction. In this context, the transformation of the curricula of engineering courses needs to follow the transformations brought about by Industry 4.0 and Construction 4.0. This transformation starts with identifying which skills professionals require for different roles and tasks in the context of the rise of Construction 4.0.
Considering the upcoming technological changes driven by Construction 4.0 and its effects on aspects related to the performance and training of new engineers and upskilling or reskilling of current ones, this paper aims to identify the leading Construction 4.0 technologies and their impact on transforming professionals’ activities. Additionally, our paper identifies and analyzes which skills are necessary for implementing Construction 4.0. The use of new technologies in the construction industry has been reported in the literature in isolation and with a focus on the description of the technology itself, and often not contextualized within a larger Construction 4.0 transformation. This article fills this gap by delimiting its analysis to technological innovations and skills directly linked to Industry 4.0 and Construction 4.0 concepts.
Understanding the technologies utilized in the construction industry and the essential skills required by professionals in the sector will aid in developing effective training programs for the current workforce and preparing the future workforce for the era of Construction 4.0.

2. Materials and Methods

We conducted a scoping literature review to address the aforementioned gaps and analyzed the quantitative and qualitative results. Our analysis focused on identifying key themes and relationships between them by establishing word frequency. Scoping literature reviews have proven to be an effective way to evaluate and interpret thematics in the Construction 4.0 technology area and identify knowledge gaps and tendencies [52]. Our protocol for this study was based on [53,54] and included: (1) defining research issues, (2) the search process, inclusion and exclusion criteria, (3) data selection, and (4) data analysis. To visualize bibliometrics data and networks, we used VOSviewer software Version 1.6.18 [55].

2.1. Research Questions

Construction 4.0 is a dynamic and multi-perspective concept. However, this study focuses on emerging technologies and new skills required of the workforce, especially construction engineers and managers. In this sense, the main research questions are:
Research question Q1: What are the emerging technologies in Construction 4.0, and how do they affect the construction industry and engineering professionals?
Research question Q2: What skills are required in engineering and construction management for Construction 4.0?

2.2. Literature Research Process

This section describes the search process and its inclusion and exclusion criteria. The papers evaluated in the present study represent the publications from 2017 to 2023 and only include journal and conference papers written in English from the Scopus database.
This study is limited to the concepts of Construction 4.0. In other words, we are interested in the technologies and skills linked to these concepts in recent research and applications. The intention is to analyze the new technologies and skills directly related and in synergy with the 4.0 concepts. Therefore, the primary term for the conducted searches was “Construction 4.0”.
Search 1 had three stages. An initial search was performed, which resulted in 168 documents. By analyzing the titles and documents classified in the review type, 11 documents were selected for preliminary reading, which allowed the identification and definition of 46 terms related to construction technologies 4.0 (Appendix ATable A1). During the second stage, we narrowed down our search to those 46 terms associated with the technologies that we had identified earlier. We carefully reviewed the titles and abstracts to exclude any duplicated documents and documents with incomplete or unavailable references. As a result, we selected 108 documents for the next stage (stage 3), which included bibliometric analysis, classification by technology, and content analysis—Figure 1.
Search 2 also occurred in two stages. Firstly, we searched 24 documents with the primary term “Construction 4.0” and terms related to skills and competencies shown in Figure 2. We then thoroughly reviewed the titles and abstracts to eliminate duplicates or documents that did not match our research goals (to identify skills and their impact on the workforce and training). This led us to select 15 papers for the next stage (stage 2), which involves bibliometric analysis, classification by technology, and content analysis—Figure 2.
To apply the inclusion and exclusion criteria and obtain the final selection of articles for analysis, titles and abstracts of the initial selection documents were read. In this study, we analyzed the frequency of words and phrases in the papers, as well as bibliometric data. To create a co-occurrence keyword map, we utilized VOSviewer. We selected the “all keyword” and “full counting” options to analyze the co-occurrence keywords. The keywords were extracted from the abstract and title fields of the references, and we applied the full counting method with a minimum of five occurrences. A cluster was defined as having at least five items.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Search 1—Construction 4.0 Technologies (Question Q1)

In stage 1 (Figure 1), 168 documents were pre-selected using the term “Construction 4.0”. The search included complete documents, written in English, covering the period from 2017 to June 2023, published in a journal or conference proceeding. Books, book chapters, work in press, and editorials were excluded.
The 46 terms identified in stage 1 (Appendix A) and their variations were used to refine the initial search, which resulted in 122 documents in stage 2. After analyzing the abstracts, 14 documents were eliminated, resulting in 108 documents for analysis in stage 3. The exclusion criteria removed duplicate documents, papers without complete bibliographic information, and those which did not present objectives related to technologies in the Construction 4.0 context.
Therefore, the 108 documents selected for analysis in stage 3 represent a critical global view of research focused on Construction 4.0 and emerging technologies. The first five documents were published in 2019; in 2022, there were 41 publications; and by June 2023, there were 13 publications. The annual growth rate of publications was 69.2% between 2019 and 2022. The leading countries in this field’s publications were the UK (n = 16), USA (n = 13), and United Arab Emirates (n = 9). The predominant subject area was engineering (n = 39, 35.77%), but there was an essential contribution from computer science (n = 20, 18.34%) and social sciences (n = 10, 9.17%). “Buildings” (n = 14), “Sustainability” (n = 9), “Proceedings of the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction” (n = 8), and “Automation in Construction” (n = 6) were the most relevant publication sources.
Table 1 displays how often 21 different technologies are identified and mentioned in the 108 selected documents and the total number of articles focusing on each technology. We obtained the frequency of citations through bibliometric analysis in VOSviewer using the “Full keyword” and “Full count” options. We determined the total number of articles for each technology through content analysis.
Furthermore, we note that of the 108 original articles, 82 focus on Construction 4.0 technologies. The other 26 articles consist either of systematic review papers (n = 11) that cover 46 different technology-related terms presented in Appendix A [6,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18], or documents (n = 15) discussing technologies in a broader sense and their effects on the civil construction industry, including sustainability, education, life cycle, infrastructure works, customization, and lean construction [56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69]. Further analysis focused on the 108 papers that focused on Construction 4.0 technologies. All 108 documents were analyzed for bibliometric and content analysis to identify emerging technologies and their impact on the construction industry within the context of Construction 4.0.
Figure 3 displays the co-occurring keywords. The node size indicates how frequently a keyword appears in the literature, and the link density between nodes illustrates how often they are cited together.
We can see three clusters with the expected synergies between the construction industry/Construction 4.0 and Industry 4.0. The first cluster (red) is centered on BIM, the second cluster (green) focuses on Construction 4.0 and technologies, followed by a third cluster (blue) around automation. Table 2 presents the items that form each of the clusters. These three clusters encompass research on innovative technologies and processes used in the Construction 4.0 context. There is also a strong link between the three clusters, as highlighted in Figure 4.
Furthermore, Table 1 summarizes the 21 emergent technologies found in the 108 selected previous literature. These studies reflect the work of researchers from various countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and South Africa. The global representation of research efforts suggests that these technologies are widely used and recognized globally.
The findings require thorough discussion as some items mentioned as “technologies” may not fit that definition. Additionally, there are instances where the same technology is referred to using different terms, such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Sometimes, technology is mistaken for a concept, process, or equipment. Furthermore, Building Information Modeling (BIM) can be seen as a technology and a digital process utilized for planning, designing, constructing, and operating buildings and infrastructure [70].
In the same way, we did not consider prefabrication or modular construction [71] as a technology in itself. These construction processes have been in use at scale since the 1900s. Embedded systems are not a technology but one or a set of technologies installed in equipment with specific purposes, for example, the scanner or thermal camera installed on a drone. We believe this generalization is due to the lack of an adequate taxonomy that defines and differentiates technologies, processes, and equipment within the context of Construction 4.0.
By analyzing keyword co-occurrence and links (Figure 3 and Figure 4a, and Table 1), we see that BIM undoubtedly plays a central role in the digitization of the construction industry towards Construction 4.0. BIM has aroused the interest of both industry and academia [11] and consolidated itself as a trending theme for research and application in all phases of the construction life cycle [43]. Our findings indicate that BIM, as a process of virtual representation of buildings and infrastructure, has advanced with the incorporation of AR, VR, Blockchain, and IoT, among other technologies [72,73,74,75]. Beyond that, we believe that BIM is an enabler of using those technologies. This is because BIM allows for the digitization of design and construction data. Without this data, using many other technologies would not be feasible.
Computer vision applications such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been used in the whole building lifecycle from the planning, construction, operational/maintenance stages, and workforce training. Virtual tours can be created as a sales tool, allowing potential buyers to immerse themselves in the designed spaces. The workspace can also be simulated virtually with AR and VR to train or predict risk situations. Moreover, as already mentioned, integrating these technologies with BIM has improved design and management processes [26,27,28,29,30,31,32].
As a result of the digital transformation, large amounts of data are generated. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology incorporating deep learning, machine learning [1,33,34,35,36], and learning systems have been used to systematically analyze these data and develop predictive models. Big data, cloud computing, blockchain, and cybersecurity [37,42] have been used to store, manage, and share large amounts of data. Intelligent systems transform data into shared information and support decision-making, management, and monitoring at various stages of the construction life cycle.
Several technologies, such as laser scanners, GIS, GPS, and RFID, have been employed for data acquisition in the context of Construction 4.0 [76,77,78]. These systems can be embedded in tools, equipment (trucks, excavators, etc.), and personal protective equipment. They can also be embedded in autonomous vehicles such as drones ensuring more flexibility, speed, economy, and security in these data collection operations [79,80,81].
Construction data can be collected in real-time and transmitted to other devices via the Internet of Things (IoT). The collection and processing of data in real-time associated with connectivity between equipment and predicting behavior through digital twins form what is called cyber-physical systems (CPS) [21,25].
Construction industrialization as prefabricated and modular construction has been taken to another level with automation robotics in manufacturing [19,20] and additive manufacturing as 3D printing that can be used to manufacture components or entire buildings on-site or off-site [82,83,84,85,86].
In Table 1, there are various technologies that are commonly mentioned, such as cyber-physical systems, deep learning/learning systems, big data/digital storage, and embedded systems. However, the number of articles that specifically address the implementation and effects of these technologies in the construction industry as a part of Construction 4.0 is limited.
The co-occurrence, frequent words, and cluster analysis allow identifying the relevant technologies and the relationships/connections between them and with activities inherent to the planning, construction, and operation. However, it does not make explicit the differences in perception or interests between academia and industry.
For example, research conducted by survey indicates that in China, only Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) had common interest from industry and academia [6], while there are significant differences in perceived technology use and level of implementation between academia and industry; 3D printing and artificial intelligence are the technologies with the most common interest in the USA [12]. Another survey conducted with construction industry professionals in Nigeria [14] revealed good knowledge about automation, the Internet of Things, Building Information Modeling (BIM), 3D printing, and big data; moderate understanding of cloud computing, radio frequency identification (RFID), robotics, and augmented/virtual reality; and low knowledge about cyber-physical systems (CPS) and embedded systems.

3.2. Search 2—Construction 4.0 Skills and Competencies (Question Q2)

Search 2 returned 15 documents and presented a global vision of research focused on skills driven by Construction 4.0. The first documents were published in 2020 (n = 2), showing significant growth in 2022, with 11 published articles. The leading countries in this field’s publications were UK and South Africa (n = 3 each) and Malaysia, Spain, and USA (n = 2 each). “Buildings” (n = 4) and “Frontiers in Education Conference—FIE” (n = 2) were the most relevant sources. The co-occurrence keywords are shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5 visually represents the connection between Industry 4.0/Construction Industry (red) and Construction 4.0 (green). These two research groups involve identifying and analyzing skill requirements within the construction industry. The third group (blue) focuses on engineering education and how emerging technologies can be used as learning tools for developing Construction 4.0 skills among engineers and the workforce. However, we did not find any research cluster that looked explicitly at the impact of emerging technologies on the workforce and the skills that are in demand.
Our results indicate that the impact of emerging technologies on demand for new skills/competencies and professional engineering roles has not yet become a significant Construction 4.0 research theme. However, it is possible to identify from the existing literature key competencies that are driven or demanded by construction 4.0 [45,46,50,51]—(Appendix BTable A2).
Overall, 34 skills related to Construction 4.0 were cited in the literature review. There is agreement among authors on the relevance of soft skills, emphasizing Communication, Problem Solving, Learning Agility/Active Learning, and Team Building/Collaboration. Digital literacy [46,50,51], and Programming/coding [45,46,51] have been identified as fundamental skills for all workforce positions in the face of the digitization process of the civil construction industry. Specific competencies such as management, quality control, automatic manufacturing, the skill to use BIM, and cybersecurity have also been identified as necessary for Construction 4.0.
The division of skills into technical and personal/interpersonal skills is evident. In this paper, we will use the term “hard skill” to refer to technical skills and soft skills to personal and interpersonal skills. Based on content analysis, we separated the documents found in Search 2 into two groups. The first group of research focuses on identifying the skills required for construction 4.0 and the new role of the workforce in this digital transformation scenario. There is a consensus on the radical change in business models, the roles of the workforce, and the need for new skills and abilities for Construction 4.0 [46,48,49,50,51,87,88,89,90]. The second group focuses on engineering education research. Its objective was to find ways to teach Construction 4.0 technologies or use them as a tool for teaching and learning [47,91,92,93,94].
The impact of new technologies on the construction industry goes beyond the roles and skills of the workforce. Garcia de Soto [46] points out organizational changes and new workforce roles brought about by digital fabrication that blends prefabrication, digitization, and construction automation. In digital fabrication, the role of project manager, engineers and designers, construction manager, and site supervisor will be less demanded by companies, and they must adapt to the use of new technologies and new interaction and communication protocols with stakeholders in construction projects. However, other positions and roles will be created such as digital fabrication management, digital fabrication management coordinator, digital fabrication programmer, digital fabrication technician, and contractor’s digital fabrication programmer. These new functions are related to using Construction 4.0 processes and technologies such as BIM, automation, and robotics.
The other works analyzed follow a different line from Garcia de Soto [46], focusing on identifying and discussing the necessary competencies without explicitly defining new roles of the workforce in the context of Construction 4.0. For Bolpagni et al. [45], the critical elements of Construction 4.0 are technologies, concepts/methodologies, and skills. The main obstacle to developing Construction 4.0 is the lack of personal and interpersonal skills (soft skills) such as communication, relationship skills, leadership, problem-solving, capacity to learn, change, adapt, and evolve.
Adepoju and Aigbavboa [51] recognize the importance of interpersonal/personal skills (soft skills); however, relevant gaps still need to be identified in these skills. On the other hand, the author identified a more significant technical skill gap (hard skills) in Human–Machine Communication, Data Analysis, Cybersecurity, and Computer Programming. The findings were the results of a survey approach research on gaps in knowledge and skills among professionals in the construction industry with a focus on ten pre-selected skills.
Yang [50] identified 22 construction-related competencies in a literature review focused on leadership skills. These competencies were categorized into four groups: cognition, interpersonal communication, business, and strategy. While not explicitly stated, the competencies are separated into personal/interpersonal skills (soft) and technical skills (hard). They are intended for management roles in the construction industry, specifically leadership positions. In the same way, lack of leadership, poor managerial skills, and workforce education and skills gaps are identified as significant barriers for the construction industry [70].
The construction industry is currently facing a challenge to train its workforce, which may become even more difficult in the future. To investigate this issue, data from the European Union–Eurostat statistical office and scientific papers published between 2015 and 2020 were analyzed by [88]. The findings revealed significant gaps between the skills currently possessed by the workforce and those needed in the construction industry [88].
In the current context, we need to focus on training future professionals in the construction industry and the current workforce. Survey research on the construction sector in Central Europe shows that employees fear losing their jobs because of new technologies and insufficient skills [48]. In order to improve the productivity of the current workforce, it is important to offer training that helps them acquire new skills and enhance their current skills [49].
Despite the necessary skills, Construction 4.0 technologies must be used in civil engineering, construction management, and architecture curricula teaching–learning processes. Our findings indicate an emerging research niche linking the concepts of Construction 4.0 and its technology with engineering education. Strategies and activities seeking developing skills related to digital technologies, programming, digital twin, VR, and AR have been discussed in the literature [47,91,92]. Additional general discussion about introducing emerging technologies in the engineering curriculum and teaching is also present in the Construction 4.0 literature [93,94].

4. Synthesis

After conducting research, we have identified 21 technologies and processes to respond to the first part of question 1. The top five most cited technologies and processes are BIM, cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things (IoT), automation, and robotics/industrial robots. Additionally, the five technologies and processes with the most publications and specific studies are BIM [43,44,95,96,97,98,99,100,101,102,103,104,105,106,107,108], digital twins [21,92,109,110,111,112,113,114], automation [19,20,76,115,116,117,118], robotics [118,119,120,121,122,123,124], cybersecurity [41,42,125,126,127,128], and Internet of Things (IoT) [75,129,130,131,132].
Previous review articles have identified and analyzed the importance and use of emerging technologies in the context of Construction 4.0 [6,7]. These technologies have caused profound changes in the design, construction, and management processes, bringing more integration between the different phases of the construction as well as between professionals, investors, clients, and others involved in projects in the construction industry.
The digitalization of design, construction, and management processes is already a consolidated reality through the use of Building Information Management (BIM) [95,96,97,98,99,100,101,102,103,104,105,106,107,108]. The integration of BIM with other technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) means an advance in the visual representation and simulation of construction processes, allowing everything from improvements in business strategies (sales and contacts with potential customers) to the prediction of risk situations for workers [26,27,28,29,30,31,32].
However, the digital construction industry needs data. Data are collected to feed digital systems that generate more data that need to be transformed into information. In this context, technologies for data collection gain importance, such as laser scanner, Geographic Information System (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), and radio frequency identification (RFID) [56,77,78]. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been used to mine data, transforming it into information to make decisions [33] and the Internet of Things (IoT) allows the systematic sharing of data and information. For data security and online contractual or financial transactions, the construction industry has adopted blockchain [39,40] and cybersecurity [41,42].
AI-based tools can be used to generate innovative designs and improve construction and operating safety, reducing embodied and operational energy requirements, reducing operating costs and payback periods, and increasing sustainability [34,35,36].
Real-time data acquisition, processing, and sharing technologies can be used to create digital twins that allow the simulation of physical systems (e.g., buildings, bridges, dams, or infra-structure) for testing different scenarios, predicting risk situations, need for preventive maintenance, or improve performance [112,113,114]. The integration of sensing technologies, digital modeling, and networking into physical objects connecting them to the internet and to each other are named cyber-physical systems [23,25].
The contextualization of some of the Construction 4.0 technologies in the previous paragraphs outlines a new profile for the construction industry with profound impacts that are not yet completely known.
Although no studies were explicitly conducted to analyze the impact of innovative technologies on civil construction, to answer the second part of question 1, the literature provides insights and projections about the changes these technologies are expected to bring. The introduction of innovative technologies and the subsequent digital transformation of the construction industry are expected to enhance productivity, promote greater integration among the various stakeholders in the sector, integrate among the multiple phases of the construction process, reduce waste, and improve labor safety at construction sites [8,10,58,59,60,70].
New technologies have brought about safer work environments for the workforce. However, there is a concern about potential job loss resulting from job closures or changes to job roles. The need for continuous knowledge updates at all levels of the production chain also directly affects the construction industry workforce [46,47,48,49].
Few studies were found that have classified or grouped technologies according to their use within different stages of the construction project lifecycle [16,18,70]. In [16], five clusters are used to group the concepts and technologies of Construction 4.0: Data Intelligence, Robotics and Automation, Virtual environments, Smart objects and technologies, and Advanced manufacturing, but it does not address application per project stage. Paper [70] discusses the construction project lifecycle’s current and future applications of BIM, AR, VR, AI, robotics, drones, and 3D printing. It suggests that robotics and 3D printing will play a more significant role in the construction phase, while BIM, AR, VR, AI, and drones have applications throughout all stages of the work’s life cycle. However, in [71], technologies are treated independently and not grouped in clusters. Meanwhile, a description from [18] details the application of 47 “technologies” in the construction industry through the construction project lifecycle. The clustering of technologies per project stage allows for a high-level understanding of the implications of technology development in each phase of the project life cycle.
Existing classifications have failed to establish a clear distinction between technology and processes. Therefore, based on the findings, we suggest grouping and classifying technologies based on their similarities and applications. Based on our literature review research synthesis, we propose a classification system that categorizes technologies according to the tasks performed in the construction life cycle, specifically in planning, construction, and operation/monitoring. The adopted guidelines for grouping and classification were as follows:
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) encompasses a set of technologies, such as machine learning and deep learning, which constitute learning systems that use data for analysis and decision-making. Good data storage, mining, and sharing practices require the simultaneous use of cloud computers, blockchain, and cybersecurity systems. This group was called “AI-assisted technologies”.
  • The construction industry utilizes a range of technologies for automation, such as robotics for industrial construction, drones that operate with minimal human intervention, and advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing that can function independently in both the site and off-site construction. These technologies were classified as “advanced manufacturing”.
  • BIM as the process used in the planning, management, and operation of buildings can be associated with visualization technologies such as virtual reality and improving and expanding the level of digital models towards digital twins and cyber-physical systems—CPS. These technologies were classified as “digital simulation and visualization”.
  • Wearable and portable technologies, embedded tools, and portable equipment connected through IoT form a group called “smart tools”. This category is limited to portable technology or can only be attached to workers’ equipment and clothing.
  • Various technologies used for data acquisition, including laser scanners, radio frequency scanners, and location and geographic information systems, are grouped as “data acquisition and detection” technologies. These technologies are mainly utilized in specific construction sites or integrated into autonomous or non-autonomous vehicles, such as drones, to optimize monitoring or data acquisition.
The technology groups defined and presented in Figure 6 can be used in all phases of the work, as shown in Figure 7. In addition, Table 3 summarizes the activities that might be influenced by these technologies, grouped by construction project stage. In the literature, definitions of these technologies and their potential usage in civil construction tasks can be found in [6,8,9,10,16,18,60,70]. However, explanations of these technologies as phases in the life cycle of the construction work, where each technology has a more significant impact, are rare [9,10,16,18].
Related to education and training for Construction 4.0, there is a consensus on the radical change in business models, the roles of the workforce, and the need for new skills and abilities for Construction 4.0 [46,48,49,50,51,87,88,89,90]. Furthermore, new professional roles in the construction industry require hard skills, which are knowledge and skills for using and developing new technologies in the Construction 4.0 context. In this sense, knowledge about BIM and its various uses and integration with other technologies stands out. Consequently, knowledge of programming, data analysis, and visualization plays a fundamental role in the activities of civil engineers and construction managers.
Civil engineers, construction managers, and the workforce in general must have knowledge and skills for planning, managing, and executing constructions by manufacturing and assembly processes. Therefore, we propose a grouping based on the competencies mentioned in the literature, grouping them into technical skills (hard) and personal/interpersonal skills (soft) that we believe will contribute to understanding the new roles of the workforce in the construction industry—Table 4.
Communication, teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking are relevant soft skills, according to Construction 4.0 literature review [45,46,50,51]. In Leadership, we group together skills mentioned in references such as Learning Agility, Persuasion, Active Listening, Building Trust, Vision, and Time Management. Analogously, Social Perception/Relationship, Active Learning, Empowerment/Encouragement, and Failure Tolerance were grouped under Resilience.
Regarding technical skills, digital literacy and programming/coding are unanimous in the literature [45,46,51]. Other technical skills cited in the literature were grouped into Planning or Management. Automation and BIM are the technological processes identified as having the most significant impact on the construction industry, and therefore, the knowledge and skills to use these processes are essential.
Personal and interpersonal skills are crucial in all fields, especially the construction industry. These skills play a key role in advancing the industry towards Construction 4.0. However, there is still a gap in research when it comes to technical skills. It is challenging to identify, classify, and categorize skills clearly and relate them to different professional positions in the job market, especially for engineering and architecture professionals. This is because there is no consistent definition of technologies, their application throughout the design and construction process phases, and how they affect the workforce and organizational structure.
Based on our research, we did not observe a clear connection between the technologies we identified and the necessary skills or new position responsibilities of engineers and construction managers. However, we propose an initial association in Figure 8 that shows how the different technology groups are linked with the skills we identified in our Construction 4.0 findings. This association could be further tested and developed by future research.
Insights from cited documents throughout this article have been used to create a Figure 8 scheme. It highlights the importance of both soft and hard skills in the construction industry. Soft skills are necessary for all positions and activities, while digital literacy seems to emerge as an essential hard skill required in every aspect of the industry [46,50,51]. For example, the general construction workforce must have digital literacy to use smart tools and operate data collection equipment. Moreover, data processing and management through AI-assisted technologies will require programming/coding and data analysis skills [45,51]. Automating construction processes with technologies from the advanced manufacturing group and the project with simulation and visualization technologies required BIM, management, and planning skills [46].
In order to adequately train engineers for Construction 4.0 and equip them with the necessary skills, it is imperative to modify the curriculum of engineering courses. These changes must involve developing a competency-based curriculum that offers insight into emerging technologies and utilizes technologies as teaching–learning tools. The goal is to ensure students are well-prepared to handle and develop advanced construction technologies.

5. Conclusions

This study employed a scoping literature review method to identify and analyze emerging technologies and Construction 4.0 professional skills in the Construction 4.0 context. Our findings reveal that industrial technologies in Construction 4.0 have captured the interest and attention of researchers and industry. On the other hand, the impact of technologies on the workforce and the identification of skills required by this new technological scenario in the construction industry is still an underexplored topic. Through our results, discussions, and synthesis, we propose the following summary considerations.
The literature review identified 21 technologies related to construction (Table 1). BIM, cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things (IoT), automation, and robotics/industrial robots are the most cited in the context of Construction 4.0. BIM, digital twins, automation, robotics, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things (IoT) are the five technologies and processes with the most publications and specific Construction 4.0 framework.
However, only some frameworks are currently available to categorize and group these technologies based on their usage, construction phase, or level of maturity. This lack of organization can confuse defining these technologies in the context of Construction 4.0. To address this gap, we categorized various technologies into five groups based on their similarities and applications: AI-assisted technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Digital simulation/visualization, Smart tools, and Data acquisition/detection.
According to industry and academic perspectives, BIM plays a significant role in the digitalization of construction. Research has shown a clear trend in integrating BIM with other technologies such as VR, AR, and digital twin that can be used from the planning phase to the operation phase. According to our findings, discussion, and synthesis results, this convergence and integration of technologies is a trend in transforming the driven construction industry, Construction 4.0.
Despite the emergence of new technologies, few studies have systematically investigated their impact on the construction workforce. However, it is generally agreed that the workforce will need to develop new skills to adapt to the changing demands of Construction 4.0. This necessitates the development of strategies to train and re-skill the current and future workforce.
The skills required for the 4.0 workforce are still unclear, particularly in the context of Construction 4.0. However, both personal/interpersonal skills (soft skills) and technical skills related to emerging technologies (hard skills) are deemed equally important. Among the hard skills, programming and BIM expertise in all its applications and interactions with other technologies seem essential.
In our analysis and synthesis of the results, it was not possible to identify clear correlations between technologies, processes, and skills. It is also not clear what the new roles of the workforce will be in this new scenario of technological innovations contained in Construction 4.0. Nonetheless, the research findings presented and analyzed can help define strategies for universities and companies in the change processes towards Construction 4.0, whether in the adoption of technologies or in workforce training. The research findings help better understand how emerging technologies are being incorporated into the construction industry and how they affect the workforce’s roles, particularly regarding training and skill demands, and points out the need for continued future research on this topic.
For future research, we suggest (i) identifying technologies and competencies through survey and Delphi studies with participants from industry and academia; (ii) analyzing differences in perception or interests between academia and industry about Construction 4.0 technologies and skills that will impact the construction industry in the next decade; (iii) identifying and comparing workforce roles and skills for unskilled laborers, skilled laborers, administrative, and professional positions in the context of Construction 4.0; and (v) further exploring the connections between Construction 4.0 technologies and the respective skills required proposed in this paper. These research suggestions can enhance the presented findings by exploring antecedents that enable industries to develop strategic plans for ongoing technological transformations. Additionally, universities and educational institutes can adapt to prepare professionals for the job market in line with the principles of Industry 4.0, particularly in the field of Construction 4.0.
The study was limited in identifying only 4.0 technologies and skills related to the construction of 4.0 key concepts, and it relied solely on the Scopus database. The research criteria established in the methodology with “Construction 4.0” as its primary key goal only allowed the inclusion of research that establishes links between technologies and skills with the concepts of Construction 4.0. Therefore, this article did not consider or cite other emerging technologies and skills that have been studied outside this context. Furthermore, a detailed description of the identified technologies and their applications is outside the scope of the work.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.S.C.d.S. and L.D.; methodology, A.S.C.d.S. and L.D.; validation, A.S.C.d.S. and L.D.; formal analysis, A.S.C.d.S. and L.D.; writing—original draft preparation, A.S.C.d.S.; writing—review and editing, A.S.C.d.S. and L.D.; supervision, L.D. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Data Availability Statement

The data is available upon request.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Identified emergent technologies terms in previous research.
Table A1. Identified emergent technologies terms in previous research.
Emergent Technologies TermsReferences
1Augmented reality (AR)XXXXXXXXXXX
4Virtual reality (VR)XXX XXXXXXX
5Big dataX XX XXX XX
6Robotics XX XXX XX
9Cloud computing X XXXXXX
10Artificial intelligence (AI)X XXX X XX
11Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/UASs)X XXX X
12Mobile computer/deviceXX X X X X
13Cyber-physical system (CPS) X X XXX
14Blockchain X X XX X
15Sensor X XX X
16Simulation model XXXX
17Machine learning (ML) XX X
18Cybersecurity X XX
20Drones XX
21Prefabrication/modularization XXX
22Wearable technology X
23Digital signature X X
24Automation X X
25Active bridge monitoring X
26Advanced submersible X
27Neural network (NN) X X
28Deep learning (DL) X X
29Digital twin X X
30Laser scanning X
315G X X
32Social media X X
33Scanning and photogrammetry X X
34Human–computer interaction (HCI) X X
35New materialX X
38Distributed grid X
39Proximity equipment safety technology X
40Realtime audio translation X
41Smart materials X
42Smart vehicles and equipment X
43Supercomputing X
44TLS—Terrestrial laser scanning X
45Horizontal and vertical system integration X
46Product-lifecycle management (PLM) X

Appendix B

Table A2. Mentioned competencies/skills for Construction 4.0.
Table A2. Mentioned competencies/skills for Construction 4.0.
3Learning agility/active learningXXX
4Critical thinking XXX
5Team building/collaborationXXXX
6Programming/codingXX X
7Digital literacy XXX
8Persuasion XX
9Social perceptiveness/relationshipX X
10Strategy plan developmentX X
11Decision making X X
13Active listening X
14Ethical X
15Trust-building X
16Financial management X
17 Talent management X
18Resource allocation X
19Empowerment/encouragement X
20Visioning X
21Environmental scanning X
22Partnership development/coordination X
23Tolerance to failure X
24Gathering information X
25Purpose-oriented X
27Cyber security X
28Human–machine communication X
30Capacity to change, adapt, and evolveX
31Knowledge of BIMX
32Control the manufacturing and assembly processesX
33Cost and quality control X
34Time management X


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Figure 1. Literature research process—Search 1 for the research question Q1.
Figure 1. Literature research process—Search 1 for the research question Q1.
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Figure 2. Literature research process for the research question Q2.
Figure 2. Literature research process for the research question Q2.
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Figure 3. Co-occurrence keywords for search 1.
Figure 3. Co-occurrence keywords for search 1.
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Figure 4. Co-occurrence keywords for search 1: (a) cluster 1; (b) cluster 2; (c) cluster 3.
Figure 4. Co-occurrence keywords for search 1: (a) cluster 1; (b) cluster 2; (c) cluster 3.
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Figure 5. Co-occurrence keywords.
Figure 5. Co-occurrence keywords.
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Figure 6. Proposed Construction 4.0 technology groups. Source: Authors’ text with icons from (accessed on 7 July 2023).
Figure 6. Proposed Construction 4.0 technology groups. Source: Authors’ text with icons from (accessed on 7 July 2023).
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Figure 7. Technology groups and construction phase.
Figure 7. Technology groups and construction phase.
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Figure 8. Linking technologies and skills.
Figure 8. Linking technologies and skills.
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Table 1. Technologies and processes mentioned in the option “all keyword” and number of articles (n = 82).
Table 1. Technologies and processes mentioned in the option “all keyword” and number of articles (n = 82).
Technologies/ProcessesKeyword Frequencyn. Articles/Year
2Cyber-physical systems18---1-3
3Internet of Things (IoT)18-11215
5Robotics/industrial robot15--2316
7Learning systems/deep learning12----22
83D printing1212---3
9Digital twins11--5218
10Embedded systems11-----0
11Machine learning11-12-14
12Artificial intelligence9-111-3
13Augmented reality7-12--3
14Big data/digital storage7---1-1
15Virtual reality7---325
19Terrestrial laser scanner (TLS)4---2-2
21Prefabrication/Modular construction3--1--1
The total number of articles focusing on each technology82
Table 2. Cluster content.
Table 2. Cluster content.
Cluster 1—RedCluster 2—GreenCluster 3—Blue
BIMConstruction 4.0/Construction IndustryAutomation
3D printingconstruction projectsAI
ARCyber-physical systemsInternet of Things (IoT)
Digital twinscyber securityMachine learning
VRRoboticDeep learning
Building/Constructiondigital technologies/digitalizationLearning systems
Architectural designembedded systemsBig data
Industry 4.0/industrial revolutionslife cycleProject management
Lean constructionRisk assessmentConstruction management
Sustainability/sustainable development
Table 3. Construction 4.0 technology groups and applications.
Table 3. Construction 4.0 technology groups and applications.
Technology GroupTechnologiesApplications
AI-assisted technologiesArtificial intelligence
Blockchain/big data
Machine learning
Deep learning/Learning systems
Cloud computing
Feasibility analysis
smart contracts
Architectural and structural designSmart contracts, supply chain, financial flow, equipment management, labor management.Labor management, building management, and durability monitoring.
Advanced manufacturing Robotics
Unmanned vehicles
3D printers
Internet of Things (IoT)
Site assessment and reconnaissance using drones Loading material, dangerous tasks, pre-fabrication construction, producing concrete, steel, and wood components.
Smart toolsInternet of Things (IoT)
Embedded systems
Radiofrequency identification (RFID)
QR code
Construction site management, control, location, and quality control of materials, equipment, supply, and workers. Real-time operation and monitoring in use (vibration, deformation/displacements).
Digital simulation
and visualization
Virtual reality
Augmented reality
Digital twins
digitalization, architectural and structural design, management Construction monitoring in real-time.Operation monitoring in real-time.
Data acquisition and detectionGIS/GPS
Laser Scanner
Data acquisition Site construction monitoring. Operation monitoring.
Smart home/smart building.
Table 4. Grouped mentioned skills.
Table 4. Grouped mentioned skills.
Personal/Interpersonal SkillsTechnical Skills
CommunicationDigital Literacy
Problem-solvingData analysis and management
Critical thinkingManagement (construction, manufactory, human and natural resources)
LeadershipPlanning (construction, manufactory, human and natural resources)
ResilienceAutomation processes
Decision makingBIM process
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Souza, A.S.C.d.; Debs, L. Identifying Emerging Technologies and Skills Required for Construction 4.0. Buildings 2023, 13, 2535.

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Souza ASCd, Debs L. Identifying Emerging Technologies and Skills Required for Construction 4.0. Buildings. 2023; 13(10):2535.

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Souza, Alex Sander Clemente de, and Luciana Debs. 2023. "Identifying Emerging Technologies and Skills Required for Construction 4.0" Buildings 13, no. 10: 2535.

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