Top 10 construction technology trends
Written by construction and building insurance specialist, CRL, here is a list of 10 future construction technology trends to be on the lookout for in the near future.
10 | Self-healing concrete
Concrete is a fantastic building material, but it can deteriorate over time. As concrete ages and dries out, cracks form in the material and it grows weaker. Eventually, concrete with too many cracks will crumble and fall apart. Researchers from US universities, Binghamton and Rutgers, have found that embedding a certain fungus into the concrete during the manufacturing process can dramatically extend the lifespan of concrete structures. The research is still in its early stages, but someday the end result could be concrete that heals its own wounds.
9 | Aerogel insulation
Although gel is traditionally thought of as a wet substance, aerogel is created by removing all liquid, leaving only a silica structure that is up to 99% air. The unusual properties of aerogels open the door to a new range of opportunities for their application in building. One of its main benefits is excellent insulating abilities, providing energy and cost savings due to the reduced loss of heated or conditioned indoor air. Above all, it is user-friendly, recyclable and reusable.
8 | Thermochromic roofs
Whilst not an unknown material for construction, thermochromic tiles and roof panels have been thrust back into the spotlight due to the market demand for eco-buildings. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have invented a smart roofing material that takes a new thermal-management approach to eco-design. Their Thermeleon material is a composite of layers that makes it thermochromic, meaning on exposure to heat it changes colour from black to white.
The upshot is that when the sun is shining, a black roof tile covered in the material turns white, reflecting up to 80% of the sunlight and thus keeping the building beneath it cooler. The result? A 20% reduction in cost to keep the interior at a comfortable temperature in the summer, a figure which also comes with an eco-friendly drop in electricity supply demands.
7 | Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) has finally made its way out of the gaming industry and into the real world. From 3D walk throughs to sell a property, to 3D VR modelling used to pitch architectural projects, there are numerous benefits to adopting this technology. In addition to the increased efficiencies and reduced costs, it can allow builders to stand out from the crowd when marketing their property to consumers and gain an edge on their competitors.
One such VR process which is widely used in construction is building information modelling (BIM). Using this system not only provides a model, it also offers data management capabilities that can keep the project team on the same page at all stages of the build, from conception to construction documentation and maintenance.
6 | Wearable technology
While the construction industry has been slower in the adoption of technology, it is now recognising the enormous benefits of implementing technology on the job site. Although relatively new, devices such as smart vests and helmets could transform the industry by boosting productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. Daqri’s smart helmet, for example, connects people, data and machines with its pull-down smart visor.
5 | 3D printing
While still in its infancy in the mainstream, 3D printing has been hailed as a technology with reams of potential. It relies on scaled-up printers that produce individual components, which are then used to put together a building. Most recently, San Francisco-based startup Apis Cor worked with Russian home-building company PIK Group, to create a house that was printed in less than 24 hours. The building is the closest anyone has come to 3D printing a fully-formed house.
4 | Bricklaying robots
Robots that can lay six times as many bricks per day as human builders are set to turn the construction industry on its head. New York-based firm, Construction Robotics, has developed a robot called SAM (Semi-Automated Mason), which can lay 3,000 bricks a day – that’s significantly more than most human builders, who can lay an average of 500 bricks a day.
The aim of the SAM robots is to help make the construction site work smarter, and while the device has the ability to pick up bricks, apply mortar and lay them, the robot needs to be heavily supervised. Workers still need to set up the robot, supervise health and safety and assist with laying bricks at difficult angles, as well as clear up.
3 | Machine learning
The rise of machine learning technology is rapidly redefining the entire concept of how work will be performed in the near future. These technologies are allowing construction companies to operate more safely and efficiently, increase automation and reduce equipment downtime. Construction firms that are looking to streamline and advance their operations are increasingly turning to AI-powered solutions and programmes. For example, machine learning technologies are powering a new generation of programmes that allow companies to continuously monitor their heavy equipment on-site in real time. Should any component malfunction or break down, the system proactively alerts the operator, increasing on-site and worker safety.
2 | Predictive analytics
Often, the difference between a successful company and a struggling one, lies in the ability to manage risk. The introduction of predictive analysis is about to make risk management much easier. The software analyses data from subcontractors, materials suppliers, design plans, and the site itself to examine risk factors and flag any potential dangers to avoid issues further down the line.
1 | Internet of things
Put briefly, the internet of things (or IoT) is a network of physical devices that are embedded with sensors and network connectivity to allow those objects to connect and exchange data. The data received is collated and analysed to inform future decisions. In construction, the internet of things is being used in many ways, such as remote operation and monitoring, supply replenishment, construction tool tracking and in equipment servicing and repair. In the future, it could impact how we construct all buildings and infrastructure, leading to more efficient and responsive cities. This will also improve the environment, impacting everyone’s quality of life.