Historically, the construction industry has taken its time to embrace new technologies. However, in recent times, a change has been observed in that trend with construction companies incorporating digital solutions to resolve project shortcomings and improve the final product. Nowadays, one cannot imagine a job site sans construction technology. With this constant evolvement, the need of the hour is for the various stakeholders involved in the construction of a building, namely architects, project managers, engineers, workers, owners to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in construction industry technology whilst preparing for your future.
To enlighten one and all with the latest developments in the field of construction, here is a list of 10 recent technological advancements in architectural construction that every person should be aware of.
1. Virtual & Augmented Realities
Virtual reality, popularly known as VR, offers an incredible opportunity to architects, solving the age-old problems of a halt in construction due to blueprint inaccuracies, design-related disagreements between the client and architect, and other unforeseen issues. With this advanced technology of virtually simulating reality, the entire construction process can be exceedingly seamless, engaging the stakeholders right from the advent, providing them a wholesome experience of the design with a simplistic tool.
Taking it one step ahead, Augmented Reality or AR is now finding its niche in the field of construction. While VR is essentially a digital experience, AR takes VR to real-time scenarios. The technology involves superimposing images and information on real-world situations, thereby, providing the opportunity of creating the structure exactly as was intended at the site. Enhancing team collaboration, detecting faults at an early stage, on-site measurements, and modifications and improving safety are some of the benefits of these technologies that have already created a stir in the architecture community.
2. 3-D Printing
3-D Printing has become a household name in the past few years. With this exceptional technology, just about anything can be printed at the click of a button. The construction industry is not far behind in using this world-class technology to the best of its ability by printing entire houses and buildings using 3D printing. As the technology continues to develop, its utilization will spread wider with prototypes of printing using concrete (Contour Crafting), sand (D-Shape 3D Printer), metal (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) already in play.
Several advantages of using 3D printing in the field of construction are time-saving, economical, diminished risk of site injuries, stabler construction safety, minimal environmental impact due to lesser generation of waste, and of course, the ability to innovate in design. With its ability to construct houses in a matter of days or hours, 3-D printing seems like the solution to combat the housing crisis faced by several developing countries throughout the world.
An acronym for Light Detection & Ranging, LIDAR creates three-dimensional imagery with detailed accuracy using laser and remote sensing technologies. With application in dozens of fields including archaeology, agriculture, crime scene investigation, et al, the LIDAR technology has found widespread usage in the construction industry as well. The LIDAR system can be mounted atop any instrument, from a tripod to an aircraft or drone. The versatility and precision with low toleration for error have enabled its extensive application in the building sector.
Three-dimensional models of existing spaces, shadow analysis, land classification, and mapping, scanning the structure throughout construction stages for errors and quality check, urban assessment, tunnel surveying, elevation modeling are a few examples displaying the comprehensive application of the LIDAR technology in architecture and construction.
4. Humanoid Laborers
Developed by Japanese researchers, humanoid robots are not a technology of the future but have already come into existence. These robotic laborers can alleviate the troubles faced by human laborers in the construction industry by doing more dangerous and back-breaking tasks. The robot can perform multiple actions essentially 3D-measurements, object recognition, full-body control with the freedom to regulate its arm, leg, waist movement, and managing execution. Although humanoid laborers have their set of advantages, they are a threat to the labor-intensive construction industry of developing countries like India where there is already an extensive shortage of employment opportunities for the unskilled population.
Drawing inspiration from the humanoid laborers, numerous other typologies of robots have been invented with differentiating usages. Robot swarms, for instance, are a cluster of tiny robots, functioning together as a unit. As the name suggests, researchers at Harvard (Termes project) have designed the four-wheeled robots as a swarm who can perform tasks like building a brick wall in cohesion. These robots are programmed for a specific task and do not require any supervision.
Another group of researchers at ETH Zurich (Flight Assembled Architecture) displayed cutting-edge innovation by building a prototype of a brick wall using flying machines. With these independent robots coming to life, the job of laborers might be at risk in the coming future. Suffice to say, the pressing priority is to upskill and retrain the laborers to make them reliable and autonomous.
6. SmartBoots & Connected HardHats
Wearable technology gadgets have become a part of our everyday life with several being developed for the construction field as well. Smartboots & connected hardhats are two such examples that do more than just track heart rate and click pictures. Smartboots are enabled with sensors to detect fatigue, convey messages to responders, and communicate with machines to prevent accidents or failures. Besides, the boots are powered by energy generated by the worker himself and can keep a log of the entry and exit time as well as provide the site manager the ability to assign tasks to the workers, thereby improving efficiency. On similar lines, connected hardhats can monitor temperature, location, and motion, sending alerts if the workers are distressed or ailing. These electronics help improve overall construction management whilst facilitating improved workmanship and increased safety.
7. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is a relatively nascent technology which if adopted judiciously will increase the efficiency in the entire value chain- from design to planning, production of materials, pre-construction, and the on-site construction phase. AI, a cumulative term for intelligent machines with the ability to mimic humans’ cognitive functions, encompasses a wide array of applications with a universe of possibilities for the field of architecture and construction.
The first stage of a construction project’s lifecycle, ideation, and design can be streamlined using generative design, an AI-based design exploration process that generates design alternatives based on specified requirements. AI-based solutions can assist during the construction and execution phases with the help of autonomous construction machinery with the ability to perform repetitive tasks such as pouring concrete, welding, bricklaying, efficiently and increase construction safety by developing algorithms scanning the site photos for any lapses or deviations. The multitude of advantages offered by AI and machine learning make it the next frontier for the world of construction.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a 3D-model based collaborative process offering architects, engineers, and construction professionals a singular platform to efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings with smart workflow planning tools. Amalgamating Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality(AR) technologies, the software allows integration of architecture, engineering and MEP drawings facilitating the sequencing of construction and decision making throughout the project life cycle.
The realistic model created on the software enables a cohesive visualization of the built structure, the ability to run alternative scenarios and real-life based situations such as energy efficiency, temperature check, etc. while at the same time providing the opportunity to detect clashes or deficiencies at the design and planning stage itself. Additionally, the long term benefits of the BIM model are limitless.
The popularity of drones in the world has been on a constant upward graph, and the construction industry is not behind in this movement. Having seen large scale application in the field, the versatility of drones encourage on-site personnel safety, regular updates of the ongoing construction project, hassle-less remote monitoring, fast-track surveying, and improved site security. With project managers, site engineers, and architects leading the charge of bringing drones to the site, these instruments have helped reduce the issues faced by a typical project of overshooting the budget and/or the schedule.
The increased acceptance of drones in the construction industry has led to the formulation of strict UAV laws in the country hindering the movement of these miniature vehicles through the numerous federal aviation and zoning hurdles. Nevertheless, over the past couple of years, drones have enabled aerial transportation, bird’s eye photography, and easy execution of difficult inspections on site.
10. Material Advancements
The progression in software and equipment in construction technology is being complemented by the innovation in materials as well. Self-healing concrete can repair its cracks and can last for a long time without a restoration. Air cleaning bricks are a passive system to improve the indoor air quality by filtering the air particles entering the building via the brick walls. The world’s lightest seismic reinforcement systems called Strand Rods have been developed in Japan, having an aesthetic appearance and weighing 5 times lesser than a typical metal rod of the same size. Light-generating cement is another such innovation that absorbs and radiates light when touched with low energy usage. Translucent wood is an alternative to window glass with good strength and biodegradable nature. With the ability to reduce pollution, increase sustainability, and decrease costs, the aforementioned examples along with a plethora of other innovations are changing the way construction is practiced in the world.