The tech industry is promoting innovation in construction on an ever greater scale, bringing to the table new solutions designed to enhance productivity, improve the functionality of materials, and offer wider choices to both crew and client. With an eye toward growth, progress, and sustainability, here are five innovations in construction to keep an eye on in 2019.
Construction materials have come a long way over the years. From the use of timber and concrete to cigarette butts and cardboard, builders are looking for newer and more effective materials for their projects. Builders are taking advantage of innovative solutions that will reduce the time and cost of designing new structures.
Green Design and Construction Technology
Also continuing into 2019 is the trend toward green design and technology in construction. Every construction project is expected to increase their participation through green design aiming towards the LEED certification. This trend, which started some years ago, will continue to rise in 2019. The essence of green design and construction is the effort to create resource-efficient and environmentally responsible construction projects. It includes every aspect of construction, including planning and design, demolition, and clean-up.
With 20 percent of global emissions directly attributable to the construction industry, green building practices can go a long way toward supporting, rather than harming, the environment—especially at a time when aging buildings make new construction so critical.
The Brave New World of Robo Builders
In line with timber towers is the invention of robots that assemble complex wooden structures rapidly and with far greater ease than their human counterparts ever could. These machines, which look and function much like the large robotic arms used in vehicle manufacturing, follow programmed algorithms to cut wood and position it for the completion of sophisticated structures. Humans lend a hand in securing the structures with nuts and bolts once everything is in place. However, due to the precision of the manufacturing and assembly, the metal plates and bolts typically required by architects to reinforce beams are not needed here, thereby reducing cost as well.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
There is one single tool that can increase effectiveness and collaboration like no other tool: BIM (building information modelling). BIM is a technique of creating computer representations of buildings, roads, and utilities. It is used by architects and engineers to predict job costs and show how building materials and structures will hold up over time. It is increasingly required for many RFPs and government agencies, who insist on understanding the issues a project will face before investing. Building owners can also use BIM to develop maintenance schedules.
BIM not only increases collaboration but also reduces construction costs and promotes a safer, faster building process and fewer safety incidents. BIM will soon be a requirement of construction and building codes. If you are not BIM-ready, try to get a sub-contractor that can become your BIM expert.
Modular, Prefabricated Buildings
In 2019, construction with modular, prefabricated building units will gain more followers and fans in the real estate and construction industries. In residential building, modular constructions can offer particular benefits to young telecommuting professionals and millennials who seek new housing outside metro areas, in remote suburbs and rural areas where they can enjoy closer contact with nature.
Modular homes constructed off-site reduce the impact to the landscape and offer a faster way to develop residential areas. Construction of modular components can be underway offsite even while permits are being secured and financing is being finalized. Because components are built in factory environments, weather delays are virtually non-existent. And there is very little waste since scraps and leftover materials are immediately recycled. Modular homes tend to be cheaper and quicker to build, as crews are familiar with assembly methods.
Some modular homes can even be moved from location to location as owners follow employment opportunities or seek new neighbourhood environments.
The Internet of Things (IOT)
As we see a continued rise in adoption of data-driven technology in construction, we will also see innovations in how this technology is utilized to create new efficiencies. Embedded sensors on a connected worksite create huge opportunities for collecting and managing data on safety, material performance, and operational workflow, just to name a few. Smart devices and wearable construction technology, as well as sensors and on-site cameras can be tied in to construction management software and give a much clearer picture of building progress and real-time status reporting.
This integration will affect not only the flow of a project, but also provide vital data that can be examined after handover to become a part of operational management. Sensors that provide information on environmental conditions and structural performance are of particular importance in this area.
In an effort to make concrete structures more durable, programmable cement can be used to achieve water and chemical resistance. Programmable cement is essentially a form of cement that can be designed to achieve less porous and more chemically resistant shapes. These innovative shapes limit damage to concrete and increase the durability of structures.
Cracks in concrete have been a long-standing problem in the construction industry. A small crack often becomes larger and wears away the structure over time. Self-healing concrete can be used to solve this challenge. This innovative building material consists of living spores and water capsules within the mixed concrete. When damage occurs, the capsules crack open and mix with water. This mixture produces calcite, a material that fills the damaged area and later solidifies in place.
By using self-healing concrete, structures such as tunnels, buildings and bridges will cost less to build and maintain.
Illuminating cement is a new material that will influence road construction in 2019. This cement traps light from the sun during the daytime and releases it at night.
Illuminating cement creates a glowing surface that allows builders to save on lighting costs. This material can also be used to light up swimming pools, footpaths and roadways; reducing dependency on street lighting.
New construction materials are also improving the quality of indoor air. Because air quality is always a top concern for commercial structures, using passive air filtration systems can significantly benefit builders and building owners.
Air-cleaning bricks are innovative construction materials that can filter incoming air to remove pollutants. These bricks are placed on the outside of a building and they filter heavy air particles as air flows indoors.
Cigarette butts are another innovative material that can be used in construction. They can be infused into bricks, where they provide durability and efficiency to building materials.
Because cigarette butts result in millions of tons of waste every year, using them as a construction material helps clean up the environment and reduce material costs. The bricks made from cigarette buts are often lighter, more convenient to use, and highly energy efficient.
Over the years, the use of timber steadily decreased in commercial construction projects. Concrete and steel have been the preferred option due to their strength and fire resistance. However, timber is making a comeback in 2019 in the form of mass timber, which is essentially solid wood that has been laminated and panelised to increase strength and durability.
Using mass timber allows builders to lower the carbon footprint of buildings by trapping carbon from the atmosphere, and to reduce the cost of building materials.
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