The construction industry began with brick and mortar experiments by the ancient Romans. Engineers and architects are using game-changing materials and techniques to build much taller, stronger, and more majestic structures.
The construction space has evolved from simple mud and lime houses to magnificent creations with glass curtain walls, steel girders, and earthquake-proof foundations. The industry that started with baking bricks in the sun is now churning out new ways to build structures beyond imagination.
Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries are advancing daily with the development and adoption of new technologies. Industry processes are becoming much more innovative, streamlined, and futuristic.
The industry now has 75% BIM adoption, and there has also been a 50% increase in virtual and augmented reality adoption in the construction industry in just one year.
However, this is just the beginning of the digital revolution in the construction industry. 3D modeling ushered in 21st Century construction, but the future holds more. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are guaranteed to propel the AEC industries further into the future.
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How are futuristic technologies changing construction?
Construction companies are evolving to meet growing construction demands. Companies and individuals are embracing different futuristic technologies that are changing the industry's operations.
First, technological advancements have paved the way for new materials and methods. Contractors can now recycle old concrete and reduce waste. Scientists are developing more eco-friendly construction materials such as carbon fiber.
Innovative tools such as 3D printers are now available, making prefabrication much easier. Forward-thinking construction companies are exploring 3D printed houses which can be printed offsite and transported to the construction site for assembly.
New technologies are revolutionizing the job site. Tools like drones are used on a broad scale to enable precise surveying; contractors can now control processes remotely. Drones can also monitor productivity and keep clients updated on the status of a project.
Drones and other mobile devices allow contractors and project owners to track what materials are needed. Companies are saving costs and reducing waste because it is easier to determine the required quantities. The remote access also allows sites to communicate with each other and share resources.
New technologies are improving safety in construction. Drones and mobile devices allow professionals to monitor job sites remotely. Site workers can report hazards as soon as possible. Project owners and contractors can deliver instructions on mitigating dangers remotely.
Wearable tech can monitor workers and report the time spent on the job. This data allows supervisors to improve schedules and ensure workers are resting. Exhaustion can cause errors that cause injury.
There is also an increase in the adoption of AI and machine learning which promote predictive analytics. While construction companies are yet to adopt driverless vehicles, these vehicles are now available and may soon reduce the need for drivers.
Companies can market their services more effectively using machine learning and predictive analytics. The same technologies help develop work schedules and promote site safety. Companies use AI to forecast needs and potential problems.
Fifth, virtual and Augmented Reality can bring projects to life through simulated realities. Ditch the 2d drawings and 3D models for virtual reality to give clients an immersive VR experience.
Virtual reality is the new way to design and plan your projects, allowing you to envision potential challenges in advance. Consider wearable tech that uses augmented reality for a more innovative and safer job site.
The following ten technologies could open the door for futuristic construction trends.
1. 3D printed houses
Small-scale 3D printers have been around for a while, but 3D printed houses are a relatively new concept. Large-scale 3D printers use plastic source material to print out life-sized plastic house components. The Kamermaker 3D Printer can print components that are up to 7ft by 11ft.
2. Smart Bricks
Smart bricks are like giant modular legos that interlock tightly and reliably. Smart bricks are made of high-strength concrete. These bricks are versatile and can control substantial energy.
Their modular and interlocking design allows for the installation of plumbing, insulation, and electricity. Smart bricks are changing the construction industry by reducing costs through rapid deployment.
A single design and supply of these bricks can produce many buildings in less time and with less training. There is also less need for physical processes hence reduced labor costs.
3. Permeable concrete
Runoff rainwater is a significant source of water pollution in the United States. Rainwater from storms carries a lot of surface debris and pollutants from parking lots, roadways, and sidewalks into sewers and streams.
Since soil has a natural way of filtering out toxins from water, engineers have created permeable concrete to allow runoff water to pass into the soil instead of directly into sewers and streams.
Permeable concrete is made of larger grains of rock and sand that leave at least 15% of open spaces for water to pass through pavements. Permeable concrete is a suitable replacement for asphalt pavement as it reduces runoff and reflects sunlight so that pavements and parking lots stay cooler during summer.
4. Transparent aluminum
Transparent aluminum is an excellent construction material because it is ultra-lightweight and strong. This type of aluminum is as strong as steel and can withstand the elements, but it is also easy to transport and use.
Transparent aluminum helps construction companies to maximize the possibilities of a small plot of land due to its strong but lightweight nature. It allows the safe construction of tall buildings.
The lightweight material can be transported and used efficiently, reducing transportation time and costs.
5. Aerogel insulation
Aerogel is a semi-transparent silica structure created by removing liquid from air. Aerogel is made of 90% air that is almost weightless but holds its form and is used to create thin sheets of aerogel fabric. Aerogel, also known as “frozen smoke,” is an excellent insulator.
Aerogel insulation is revolutionizing insulation in the construction industry due to its ability to its insulation power four times that of foam or fiberglass. Aerogel fabric reduces cooling and heating costs and preserves heating and air conditioning systems. It is also affordable and completely safe to use.
6. Smart roads
Smart roads are the future of transportation as they give drivers real-time traffic insights regarding weather conditions, traffic congestion, and parking. Smart roads, also known as smart highways, use sensors and IoT tech to make driving safer and environmentally friendly.
Smart roads can generate energy to charge streetlights and electric vehicles. Experts are exploring ways to embed wireless charging technology into smart roads so that they can charge moving vehicles.
There is potential to develop smart roads that can absorb sunlight and generate electricity or convert the vibrations of moving cars into usable energy.
7. Self-healing concrete
Henk Jonkers invented self-healing concrete in 2006 after three years of experimenting. Self-healing concrete contains bacillus - self-healing bacteria that are activated by water.
Self-healing concrete reduces the costs of maintaining and restoring roads, bridges, and tunnels. When water enters a crack in the concrete, the bacteria is activated to produce calcite which “heals” the crack.
8. Carbon nanotubes
Creating materials at the “nano” scale may seem ridiculously impossible because a nanometer is one billionth of a meter, but scientists and engineers have managed to create carbon nanotubes.
For perspective, a sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick, and a strand of human DNA is 2.5 nanometers wide. Scientists and engineers have successfully created carbon tubes of 1-nanometer thickness using electron beam lithography.
Due to their impossibly small size, carbon nanotubes have a large surface area to mass ratio. This means that they are the strongest material on the planet. Carbon nanotubes can stretch to over a million times longer than their thickness.
Carbon nanotubes are embedded into concrete, metals, wood, and glass for added density and tensile strength. Currently, engineers are exploring the possibilities of nanoscale sensors that can monitor the internal stresses of building materials and identify potential cracks and fractures.
9. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is the technology that allows digital devices to communicate with each other. With IoT, everything can be interconnected, including vehicles. The IoT dominates today’s world, from mobile devices to home appliances.
As technologies become more connected, power loads will reduce, significantly saving energy costs. We can consume much less energy without lifting a finger.
10. Modular construction
Modular construction involves prefabricating a building’s components off-site and then assembling these components onsite to create the desired structure. Modular construction includes using 3D printers to create parts of a building.
Modular construction reduces material waste and construction time, offers flexibility, promotes safety, reduces delays due to weather changes, and promotes job site safety.
The construction industry has faced a lot of technological disruption in the past few decades. Innovation and technology are increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and protecting the environment. Construction companies must evolve and stay updated on futuristic technologies that are taking the industry by storm.
However, there is great potential for further innovation in the construction technology space to promote eco-friendliness, reduce costs and improve efficiency.