The future of building comes a few steps closer with new technology
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Two recent news items reveal that revolutionary advances in building technology are just around the corner. Both how we build and what we build may radically change within the next decade. These innovations have the potential to make construction safer and more affordable, as well as faster and more malleable.
Technology has become a hot topic in the construction industry, says Construction Dive, relating that it dominated the presentations at this year's Construction Management Association's conference and trade show. And with good reason.
It used to take years for new technologies to make their way into practical applications and trickle down to the work site, but that window keeps getting narrower. Within the past couple of weeks, a number of industry news sites have posted articles about how the use of drones, modeling software and apps for smartphones and tablets are changing how builders work and collaborate with others.
Construction Business compiled a list of top technology trends that includes the potential use of augmented reality (i.e., virtual reality), like Microsoft's HoloLens, to provide builders and designers with a 3-D plan developed from a BIM model. A 3-D rendering could then be pushed out to workers on a job site via a tablet or smartphone. Workers could receive updates and alerts via wearable devices like the Apple Watch or Google Glass.
And what if those alerts could be up-to-the-minute and sent out from the site? Civil engineers at Purdue University are developing a new project management technology that uses sensors at the site and on equipment combined with an operational model of the project site to provide managers with real-time operational status updates, reports science news website Phys.org.
"Traditional software provides managers only a high-level view by specifying what work is to be done, but not how," says Joseph Louis, a doctoral candidate in Purdue's Lyle School of Civil Engineering, who is co-developer with Professor Phillip Dunston. "Our technology allows for the analysis, monitoring and control of operations. By having the required level of detail in the operational model, it then becomes possible to specify and automate how exactly the work gets done."
Dunston and Louis point out their technology could be especially useful on projects using robotics, a growing field in construction. Last week, Asmbld, a Brooklyn-based robotics company, announced the debut of a new system they call "DOM Indoors," which can reconfigure the layout of a room in five minutes employing a team of tiny robots residing inside cubes created from 5-inch tiles and aluminum studs that make up the floor of a room.
YThe technology is still in the developmental stage but could be a game-changer in leased spaces or adaptable/flexible environments such as offices or public libraries. You can watch a simulation below:
Along with robotics, 3-D printing continues to evolve in astounding ways. At the University of South Florida in Tampa, Clark Builders Group is teaming with Denver-based Prescient to build a 163-unit, seven-story off-campus housing complex using 3-D printing. Prescient claims its process is "faster, better, greener, cheaper," reports the Tampa Tribune.
Pieces of the building will be printed at Prescient's facility and shipped to CBG for assembly. The entire project is expected to take only a year to complete.
In addition to reducing costs and schedule times, these technologies may help address two other critical issues for the industry: a shortage of skilled labor and safety. Observes Ralph Barszcz, safety director at Leopardo Companies, Inc., writing for commercial real estate news site RE Journals.com, "New technology has significantly advanced safety standards, helping contractors to plan safer job sites, improve collaboration and information sharing, correct safety situations before projects begin, as well as reduce costly injuries and delays."
New technologies will require new sets of skills, but they can help reduce the number of workers required for a given project and thus allow for a more effective allocation of the available labor force.
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