Technological innovations are transforming the building industry and stretching the boundaries of what is possible in construction. These innovations can, in various ways, improve the aesthetics, quality and scope of projects, as well as having a broader impact on encouraging better, more sustainable, practice.
Here are some of the innovations that made an impact in 2017:
Environmentally friendly asphalt
In recent years, recycled bottles and other single-use plastics have been used in asphalt. In Sydney, recycled printer toner is being incorporated into an environmentally friendly asphalt mix. Other, sustainable, alternatives like algae and cooking oil are also being explored.
Two concrete bridges, in Spain and the Netherlands, were constructed on-site using commercial 3D printers last year. The benefits of this method are that fewer resources are needed i.e. structures require only the amount of cement that will be used, require no formwork (lessening waste), and can be built into shapes previously only achievable with extensive CGI work.
Several new applications are being deployed on construction sites, including SAM (Semi-Automated Mason), the bricklaying robotthat works alongside human masons to increase productivity and reduce physical strain on workers. This has the potential to fill in the gaps left by labour shortages.
Virtual Reality (VR) in Preconstruction
VR is being used by developers to review immersive, 3D environments of architectural designs. Using a combination of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology and VR headsets, those involved in the project i.e. architects, project managers and engineers, can identify design flaws and better map their approach to building it.
Augmented Reality (AR)
This technology is still very much in the development stage, but has the potential to be used on-site as a tool for creating the structure exactly as the design envisioned it by projecting virtual images into the user’s line of sight.
These innovations are becoming more and more applicable and less theoretical. Earlier this year, the government called on the housebuilding industry to embrace the latest innovations to ensure we are “raising the bar on the quality of new homes”. With the aim of delivering 300,000 new homes in England by the mid-2020s, ministers have declared it essential that better quality design is employed.
This should encourage first-time buyers and foster more community support for new build developments. For instance, virtual reality could be used to visualise proposed new housing from the homebuyer or neighbours’ perspectives so “communities will be able to see how development can visually contribute to the area from an early stage, even before planning permission has been granted.”
At Bryburn, we are very keen to see how these latest innovations develop and benefit our industry, and will be keeping our eyes and ears to the ground.