Construction – Building the Future

19 September, 2018

In recent years, we have seen many industries revolutionised and disrupted due to technological advances. While these changes have been harder to weather for some more than others, the majority have resulted in significant progress.

Unsurprisingly, technological developments are having an ever increasing impact on the construction sector in both design and building. From the use of BIM, AI and virtual reality, to the creation of buildings from unusual materials or those with additional properties, the construction industry is moving forward.

Here we explore six of the most interesting scientific and technological advances that could become everyday reality for construction professionals in the not too distant future.

Bio-concrete

Concrete is one of the most ubiquitous materials in construction, but it is not without its faults. One scientist, Henk Jonkers from Delft University in the Netherlands has been working to create a self-healing bio-concrete to tackle the issue of cracks that occur due to weathering or land movement.

By adding bacteria and calcium lactate capsules to concrete, Jonkers has developed a material that is able to rebuild itself on the application of water. The water dissolves the capsules of calcium lactate, awaking the bacteria which consumes the material. Bacterial consumption of calcium lactate results in the production of limestone, which heals the cracks in the concrete, reinforcing it and protecting the steel core.

Pollution Absorbing Bricks

Designed by a professor at Cal Poly, the Breathe Brick is a material that sucks in pollutants from the air via a cyclone filtration system, and releases filtered air. The bricks are designed to be used as part of a building’s ventilation system, layering the Breathe Bricks on the outside, and standard insulation on the inside.

Hydroceramics

Students at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catelonia have created a new cooling material by combining clay and hydrogel, known as hydroceramics.

The hydrogel in the material allows the absorption of water up to 500 times its weight, which is then released to reduce the temperature inside the building on hot days by up to 6 degrees Celsius.

Virtual Reality

The rise of virtual reality in the construction sector is something that those who are already adopting BIM may already be aware of.

The use of visual technologies such as headsets and even pop up structures that allow designers, contractors, and clients to step in to their building pre-construction, allow clients to see how a finished project should look. If used early on, the technology can have the benefit of raising any problems with the design before the planning stage is over, saving on cost and improving client relationships.

An example of the use of this technology in the UK is London’s 22 Bishopgate skyscraper.

Autonomous Vehicles

Many of us will be aware of the imminent arrival of driverless cars and buses on our roads, but there is also a move towards the use of autonomous vehicles on construction sites.

Prototypes of some autonomous construction vehicles have already been created, and are being suggested as the answer to improved efficiency and safety on site, as well as the solution to labour shortages.

Exoskeletons

Perhaps the most futuristic of our line-up are the wearable mechanical exoskeletons that can be worn by construction workers to help with the lifting of heavy equipment or machinery.

Designed to help human workers overcome physical weaknesses and prevent injury due to repetitive tasks, companies such as Lockheed Martin are manufacturing these exoskeletons worldwide, available for use on a site near you.