The construction and building industry is rife with innovation. Presently there are all kinds of technologies that are making a big impact. The 2020 pandemic has brought virtual and augmented reality to the forefront. Remote working in construction and for consulting has also become a norm. Commercial contractors are also already making use of drones. Another game-changing tech is BIM (read more about BIM in our article about how construction prices are rising). Modular construction is yet another new entrant making waves. Additionally, 3D printed houses are also becoming a new trend.
Research and development of new technologies is expensive and difficult. In the end, the results are almost always for the best. Automation and innovation leads to lower prices, shorter build times, and higher build speed. With higher efficiency comes a smaller environmental impact as well.
But what about future technologies? Nobody can really predict the future, so of course it’s hard to say. What we can do is look at existing trends. Technologies in the works can tell us what the big technologies of tomorrow will be.
Exoskeleton technology has been in the works for decades now. However, it has always been prohibitively expensive and not quite good enough for use. In the future, as robotics improve, we can expect to see these futuristic devices on construction sites.
What are exoskeletons? Exoskeletons are large robotic frames that people wear and are harnessed to. They support a person’s skeleton and muscular system with a metal framework and/or powerful motors. Effectively, an exoskeleton increases a person’s strength and load-bearing abilities. These devices were first made for physical rehabilitation. Their possible uses however, have an extremely wide range. Military, goods delivery, and of course building are some of the most prominent uses. Check out this animated guide for more details on how they work, and how they can be used.
Presently there are two main types of exoskeleton: mechanical and electrical. Mechanical ones redistribute weight, reducing the chances of injury/strain. Electrical ones use powered motors to increase strength, improving worker strength and speed.
There are some drawbacks however. Keeping electrical skeletons powered is a big issue. A worker might have to handle constant recharging, or electric cables. The exoskeleton also adds weight. This increases the hazard of working in certain environments, such as scaffolding or incomplete flooring.
Regardless, exoskeletons are an interesting future technology. As battery and power tech improves, we can certainly expect to see these devices on construction sites.
Robotic Swarm Construction
Currently this is a project in the works at Harvard University. Construction with robotic swarms is a promising new innovation. The basic idea behind robotic swarm construction is that a large group of small drones will act similarly to an insect hive, quickly building structures using finely-tuned group programming. What makes this technology particularly unique is that these robot swarms are closely based on natural systems. Termites, ants, bees, and more can make massive structures in short time.
Artificial intelligence and robotics are only improving. In the future the robots could even become semi-autonomous. That is, they could be simply given a blueprint and materials to complete a build. The robots can use advanced programming as well as sensors to detect materials that have already been placed. Their sensors would also detect other robots so they could work together to build quickly and efficiently. Form factors for the robots can include flying drones for delivery and materials. Four-wheeled robots could be used for building on the ground, as well as moving and laying heavier materials, like bricks.
The possibilities for using groups of robots to build are almost endless. They can be used in a wide variety of places, in particular, where it’s deadly for humans. Robots can be used in a variety of dangerous locations, so that human builders don’t have to risk their own lives. Where could good use be made use of robotic swarms? Undersea constructions, high elevations, radioactive areas, and space stations are all possibilities. Anywhere where it’s hard to get human workers food, water, and/or oxygen. As for now, it’s only a technology in its infancy. Some day however, we may even see robotic swarms working on bases on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars.
Buildings that fight pollution
Of the technologies mentioned in this article, this one is the closest to becoming a widespread reality. There are already projects in the works to get them going. Depending on their cost, effectiveness, and lifetime, we might be seeing many more in coming decades.
These are essentially high rises with large spaces for growing trees on many floors. Trees are one of the most effective things that remove carbon dioxide from the air. Thus, this tech poses a highly cost-effective solution to air pollution in cities. Green space also has many benefits to the psychology of people who live nearby. People who spend time in nature and around green spaces are more relaxed and have better mental health.
Titanium dioxide is a metal that harmful removes nitrogen oxides from the air. Light speeds up the natural process called photolysis. In this process, the nitrogen oxides are removed from the air and converted into salts on the building surfaces. The salts are washed away naturally by rainwater. Buildings can have a titanium dioxide exterior, or simply be painted with it. When a whole building- or buildings- are covered, the process can happen on a massive scale. This process cleans city air, reducing pollution-associated deaths. Unlike other technologies mentioned here, we are already beginning to see titanium dioxide covered buildings in big cities.
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