It’s been around 2.5 million years since the Stone Age, when people lived in caves and used tools made of various sorts of stone. We have witnessed tremendous exploits in the realm of building innovation throughout the evolution of humanity – and possibly the highlights of the construction revolution have occurred within the last 40 years. Joe Bradbury of Buildingspecifier.com examines the top ten construction inventions of our time to reveal our outstanding technological heritage:
To truly comprehend the revolutionary impact of mechanisation, we must go back a great deal further than 40 years.
The introduction of hydraulic and pneumatic devices in the mid to late nineteenth century was a truly astonishing innovation for our species, leading to the development of earth-moving equipment and other gear that are today standard in our business. These nineteenth-century technologies have greatly reduced the time and effort required for large-scale undertakings.
Fast forward to the early twentieth century, when mechanisation began to exhibit more advanced functioning and capacities. We introduced cherry pickers, concrete mixers, cranes, and power tools around this time. During this period, the internal-combustion engine appeared, replacing hand shovels, wheelbarrows, and working animals with forklifts, tractors, and bulldozers.
2. Prefabrication and Construction Industrialization
It can be challenging to assemble huge sophisticated components on-site, exposed to the elements, piece by piece. Off-site fabrication has significantly boosted the efficiency of this process.
A huge heat exchanger built in a vendor’s shop, for example, will not only arrive on site ready to plug in, but will also benefit from better management of components and material inventories, as well as increased efficiency and production. The return on investment rises, while waste and inefficiency decrease.
When components such as concrete insulated panels, timber frame panels, pump units, compressors, and instrument panels are manufactured in a factory rather than on-site, significant time savings are realised.
3. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) (CAD)
During the height of the Middle Ages, architects, draughtsmen, master stonemasons, and builders produced some of the world’s most stunning buildings employing ground-breaking design and construction technologies.
These approaches remained mostly unaltered for several centuries. However, in the latter half of the twentieth century, computer-aided design (CAD) appeared, permanently altering construction – for the first time, disagreements during the design process were rendered evident.
Previously, issues such as separate systems, electrical conduits and high-voltage alternating current ducting for example, competing for the same physical space bedevilled architects and builders, with their two-dimensional plans and section drawings.
4. Building Information Modelling (BIM)
While computer-aided design (CAD) revolutionised the role of designers, Building Information Modelling (BIM) has proven to be astonishingly versatile, allowing architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to collaborate on the fine details of design and construction by using the same database and computer model.
All project stakeholders collaborate on a detailed 3D model that incorporates all of a structure’s functional systems – such as pavement or curbs, beams and girders, HVAC and electrical installations, as well as the aesthetics of walls, arches, roofs, and railings.
Because BIM is a collaborative process from start to finish, it enables all preconstruction partners to visualise and analyse design decisions, as well as identify interferences and other problems, before work begins on site.
Working cooperatively saves contractors countless resources because building does not begin until all parties have submitted their plans, guaranteeing disputes are found and corrected quickly, easily, and ahead of the ground being broken on site.
5. Mobile Devices
In various different ways, mobile technology has drastically altered the construction sector. One of the most significant for contractors is the improvement in project management. All parties involved can collaborate utilising the same consolidated information sources via smartphones and tablets, ensuring that no one is left out of the loop, no matter where they are.
Real-time analytics in construction have also been made possible by mobile devices. Instead of needing to write a report at the end of the day, foremen may now keep track of performance, conditions, and costs throughout the day utilising reporting tools. Project managers can use mobile business information to predict necessary modifications, allowing them to respond immediately to keep things on track and within budget. Plus, reporting apps ensure that all stakeholders have access.
6. Robotic Total Stations
Traditionally, a team uses building drawings plus a tape measure, spirit level, and theodolite – a precision equipment for calculating angles – to find attachment sites for things like cable trays and pipework.
This approach, however, does not function well with more complex structures. It is time-consuming and labour-intensive, with a large margin for error that can result in major implications such as confrontations with other construction services and prefabricated systems that do not fit, wasting time, money, and materials.
Enter the Robotic Total Station (RTS), an electronic theodolite with an electronic distance measurement that can be controlled remotely from a distance. The layout can be accomplished by a single person using a tablet equipped with the necessary software, with RTS ensuring higher efficiency, improved accuracy, fewer mistakes, and less paperwork, as well as lower labour expenses.
7. Eco-Friendly Building Materials
As the construction sector seeks ways to cut carbon emissions, it is turning to more sustainable building methods. This includes the use of environmentally friendly building materials such as Cross-Laminated Timber, salvaged wood, bamboo, recycled rubber, and a variety of other novel materials. Consider a construction made of straw bales, rammed earth, Hempcrete (a concrete-like substance manufactured from hemp), or ferrock (concrete-like material made from steel dust); some of these materials absorb and trap carbon dioxide, indicating that they are carbon-neutral.
Using sustainable building materials benefits the environment while also lowering construction costs, improving structural energy efficiency, and increasing property value. The reduction in operational costs reduces overall building costs by 5 to 15%, depending on the green material utilised. In some locations, there are also regulatory incentives that make sustainable building more appealing.
Buildings that are created in a sustainable manner are in high demand. They frequently have higher occupancy rates and rental prices than traditional-built structures. Green construction materials may also benefit occupant health. Green construction is a win-win-win situation for the industry, the residents, and the earth.
8. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
While personal protective equipment (PPE) is significantly less technologically advanced than the other items on this list, there is no doubt that it has helped to revolutionise the construction industry in terms of health and safety during the previous 40 years.
Protective apparel has gradually evolved as the hazards encountered by construction workers have increased.
For decades, the high-vis jacket and hard hat have been the cornerstones of construction site safety apparel. This will remain the case, but new technologies are on the horizon that will expand the capabilities of protective garments to provide better safety and extra services to their users going forward.
9. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is at the heart of the digital construction revolution. Prior to cloud computing, project data was constrained by hardware constraints. You may now outsource data processing and storage to powerful devices that are available from anywhere. As a result, there is nearly limitless storage and a totally connected workplace.
Real-time data is made available to all stakeholders by leveraging the power of cloud computing, allowing for easy sharing and collaboration. The team is no longer dependent on time-consuming in-person status checks and device storage capabilities.
For contractors, storing project data in the cloud is a no-brainer. According to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America in partnership with Sage Construction and Real Estate, 85% of contractors have implemented or planned to implement cloud solutions. Cloud computing not only simplifies data storage and access, but it also safeguards you against data loss, damage, or theft. Secure cloud storage protects data while increasing team accessibility.
10. Digital Twins and As-Builts
Despite the fact that the phrase “digital twins” was coined in 2002, the notion of digital twins and digital as-builts has been in use for decades. NASA was among the first to employ a variant of the technique in the 1960s. To avert additional calamity, engineers tried solutions on a digital duplicate of Apollo 13.
As project teams move away from manual, time-consuming paperwork, the usage of digital twins is expanding in the construction sector. A digital twin, also known as a digital as-built, is a virtual counterpart of a physical object that provides real-time data throughout the development and maintenance processes. These computer representations can be used to anticipate carbon footprints, simulate situations, and collect real-time data via sensors installed in the environment.
Considering the Future
What is the future of construction technology? Keep an eye on this space to find out – buildingspecifier.com is dedicated to keeping you informed of industry developmen