2015 was a year of innovation in the construction industry for many reasons. The introduction of new design approaches, materials, and energy sources, along with advances in digital technology and big data, allowed for a level of efficiency never before seen in the field of construction.
Among the most impressive stories from 2015 was a pre-fabricated building that went up in the Hunan Province of China called T30. It required only 200 construction workers on-site to erect the building in just 15 days. The unbelievable speed of construction is largely attributable to the fact that the majority of the construction work took place using pre-fabricated materials built in an off-site factory.
Even though the technology to design and construct multi-story buildings off-site is new, industry leaders expect it to be commonplace soon in the commercial building sector. This change is expected to disrupt the industry in a huge way. With a reduced amount of human labor required and impacts from weather delays minimized, construction companies can reduce expenses and more consistently meet budgets and timelines. While this change will benefit consumers, it will likely drive some organizations out of business who do not adapt to the changing times.
More of 2015’s Most Disruptive Trends in Construction
The following developments may not be as significant as T30, but they still show potential to positively impact the construction industry in a big way. These innovations include:
Drone Technology: Drones were one of the big construction trends of 2015. They are increasingly appearing overhead at construction sites as they offer foremen and project managers the ability to get an aerial, real-time snapshot of the job-site a work progress that previously required a much higher amount of time and expense through the use of cranes. Using reality capture and 3D scanning software, a series of images captured by a drone flying overhead can be digitally stitched together to create a 3D modeling of the construction site and job progress.
Self-Healing Cement: Although construction workers use cement more than any other type of material, it’s not without its problems. Due to its tendency to crack, water and chemicals can get into a structure’s foundation and release harmful toxins into the environment. Industry researchers are currently developing a type of cement created from microcapsules and bacteria that will automatically germinate when water begins seeping into a crack. This process would prevent erosion before it starts.
Photovoltaic Glazing: Heating and energy costs make up a large portion of recurring expenses for any commercial structure. A new technology known as Building Integrated Photovoltaic Glazing (BIPG) would make it possible for buildings to independently generate electricity by using their own windows, roofs, and facades as solar panels. As explained by a UK provider of BIPG solutions, “The PV panel replaces conventional building cladding materials with a multifunctional building material… delivering the functional weatherproofing of glass but with the added benefit of renewable electricity.”
Cloud Collaboration: The ability of architects and engineers to collaborate with other members of a project team in real time is proving invaluable. The ability to review various elements of the project, such as the installation of light fittings and steel beams, while the work is in progress increases efficiency and reduces costs. Early reviews of a cloud-based program called Basestone indicate potential cost savings of as much as 60 percent. Much of the savings comes from the ability to review and notate designs on a mobile device rather than relying on a paper-based method of review.