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The construction industry have been concerned with the erection of buildings since man wanted shelter and the ability to live near natural resources that fed and clothed them. Simple housing led on to large communal structures that need detailed planning and management. The techniques have evolved but are common approached are recognizable through the ages.

In the modern era some industries are laggards and some leaders when it comes to the adoption of new technologies.  Finance and the tech sector have for example tended to lead, and heavy industry and construction have tended to follow. 

History records the first industrial revolution being associated with mechanization, the

second industrial revolution with electrification, and the third industrial revolution is associated with digitisation. The construction industry is now advancing fast, both is the use of new materials; technologies for the build itself and for ensuring the right resources are on site when needed. The use of Building Information Management systems (BIM) is driving a major digital transformation in the construction industry.

The creation of digital twins seen in many sectors, but with BIM systems the process of design build and maintenance of structures can now advance rapidly.  

 

Designers can now let their clients “walk” through a virtual version of their creation before a foundation has been dug or a brick laid. Increasing use of automated scanning systems has helped during the build phase to check the accuracy of the build, but that is atime consuming process often done many days or weeks after the scan. Now Augmented Reality is changing that and high precision system such as that from XYZ Reality make it possible to see a hologram of what should be built from the BIM design laid over what the user can see in front of them on site.

In these two examples the user can easily see that the pipe has been laid to the left of where it should be, and the concrete column has been constructed too high.  This kind of system can also be used to add information to the BIM once the structure is complete to ensure the as-built matches the digital twin and also add information that can be used later for maintenance and operation of the building.

Getting the right materials and manpower on site when needed is also key.  New smartphone based apps can help here; both with managing the material flow and also through apps like Pickr.works ensuring the right staff are on site when they should be. This is done by providing the contractor with a system to specify what workforce is needed when.  The workers can then use the app to apply for roles and when accepted the app will help manage the process of ensuring the staff have the right training also can use the clocking on to site. 

New materials and off-site manufacturing of section also have the potential to change construction for the better. Concrete that heals cracks itself through a particular bacteria that helps produce limescale can help both the appearance and function of concrete.

 

Recycled plastics can be turned into a glue that that can be mixed with other materials. Nilo Global are pioneering in this area.  The process requires minimal energy and produces negligible emissions. These adhesives when combined with other materials (many of which can be other waste streams such as construction/ demolition, ocean plastic, wood, e-waste, paper, tyres) produce a range of durable products for the transport, construction, packaging, and other marketsAdvanced materials based on timber are easy to use and relatively cheap and help capture carbon in the process. New types of bricks can absorb pollution. the Breathe Brick sucks in pollutants in the air and releases filtered air.The material is designed to be part of a building’s standard ventilation system. It has a two-layer facade system, with the specialist bricks on the outside and standard insulation on the inside.

Offsite construction consists of the planning, designing, fabricating, and assembling of building components at a location other than their final installation point, or outside of the construction field. Prefabrication and modular construction both fall under the offsite construction umbrella.

3D printing will also find a place on site. Demonstrations have shown whole structured being “printed” using a massive 3D printed that guides a pour of concrete into the required shape to form the walls of a building. However in practice this technique is more likely to be used for constructing components just in time on site.

All in all over the next 10 years there will be a revolution in the way construction operates; what out, that laggard industry is catching up.

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