A report looking at the role that technology will play in the construction industry in the future, has revealed that 3D printed walls, drones and a roof made from recycled plastic bottles from the Ocean will all be possible by 2025, thanks to advancements in technology.

The report, written by renowned future gazer, Dr. Ian Pearson BSc DSc(hc) and commissioned by Colmore Tang Construction and Virgin StartUp, also revealed that floating buildings or apartments will be possible by 2050 thanks to carbon foam, which is lighter than air.

By 2025, drones will be able to carry large materials up construction sites and even more remarkably, plastic bottles recovered from the world’s oceans will be recycled to create a roof.
Over the next decade, artificial intelligence (AI) will be commonplace, linking to sensors and cameras around construction sites, ensuring that buildings are being developed according to the architect’s plans. Humans will work alongside AIs and will not only see these robots as clever tools, but also colleagues and even friends as they start to develop unique relationships.

Looking more than 50 years into the future, by 2075 Dr. Pearson suggests that self-assembling buildings under AI control will allow a new form of structure – kinetic architecture – where a structure is literally thrown into the sky and assembled while gravity forms the materials into beautiful designs.

However, it is 3D printing that will steal most of the construction headlines in the immediate future, according to the future-gazer. Cheap homes, built quickly using 3D printing, will essentially put an end to the housing crisis.

The report was launched by Colmore Tang Construction, who has partnered with Virgin StartUp to deliver a £10m innovation fund that is open to entrepreneurial companies in a construction industry-first technology accelerator programme called ‘ConstrucTech’.

The fund will be provided to those companies that can successfully show how their innovation and technology could improve the sector’s productivity, sustainability and skills issues.
Futurologist, Dr Ian Pearson BSc DSc(hc), said: “By 2025 we will already see huge changes in the construction industry thanks to technology with drones, AI and 3D printing all becoming commonplace.

By 2050, we could see floating buildings or apartments that could save the housing crisis using carbon foam that’s lighter than air – the possibilities for this really are endless.”

Andy Robinson – Group CEO, Colmore Tang, said “The forward-thinking report has shown that technology can have a positive impact on the construction industry, however, we need to discover those exciting and innovative start-ups, whose products and services could deliver the technologies and innovations that will be the key to future success.

“We are hopeful that our partnership with Virgin StartUp to create the ConstrucTech programme and £10m innovation fund will be the start of a new dawn within the industry, where the future innovations predicted become a reality.”

Virgin StartUp is a leading business support organisation which has run a number of successful accelerators and supported 11,000 entrepreneurs across the UK. Construction in the UK has been slow to embrace innovation and adopt new technology and Colmore Tang has identified a number of key areas within its business, and the industry as a whole, which it believes could benefit from the contribution of enterprising start-ups.

Colmore Tang and Virgin StartUp are calling for businesses to apply to the ConstrucTech programme to address the following problems:

  • People: improving analysis of performance, sharing best practice across building projects, measurement of quality and also implementation of health and safety.
  • Data: using data to pre-empt potential delays, more efficient material ordering, more effective use of labour along with use of performance data to improve cost, timescales and estimates of new projects for future clients.
  • Smart Materials: design and implementation of materials to improve sustainability; improve safety and finding materials which are digitally connected.

Colmore Tang is providing start-ups with the opportunity to use the programme as a test bed and development platform to bring products and ideas to the construction sector. It’s hoped the £10m innovation behind ConstrucTech will be the spark to improve lacklustre productivity levels and also begin addressing the need to re-skill over half a million construction workers to suit the industry’s future Mace Report – Moving Construction 4.0.

A private company in Shanghai used 3D printers to print 10 full-sized houses in just one day.

Many believe 3D printing could a viable solution to alleviate slum housing in the world and provide shelter to disaster-stricken communities. Is 3D printing the future of construction?

The video shows a 3D printer creating a structure using a special material, comprised of recycled rubble, fibreglass, steel, cement and binder. Once pumped into place, the material takes just 24 hours to dry completely.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a pioneer of 3D printing at the University of Southern California, who is currently working with NASA on 3D-printed lunar structures, believes that we could one day live and work in 3D printed cities. “I think in about five years you are going to see a lot of buildings built in this way.”

He also suggested that the innovative technology could help tackle a worldwide shortage of low-income housing. “I think it is a shame that at the dawn of the 21st century, about two billion people live in slums. I think this technology is a good solution.”

Watch the video below and see for yourself. How to you think 3D housing will affect the construction industry? Will its impact be good or bad? Let us know in the comments section below!

Whilst plans were released last year, Apis Cor company have now successfully finished the residential house printing project (built in Stupino town, Moscow region) using mobile 3D printing technology.

In December 2016, the Apis Cor company in cooperation with PIK proceeded to print the building using a mobile 3D printer. Construction took place at the Apis Cor company’s test facility in the town of Stupino, on the territory of the Stupino aerated concrete factory. Printing of self-bearing walls, partitions and building envelope were done in less than a day: pure machine time of printing amounted to 24 hours.

After completing the wall structures, the printer was removed from the building with a crane-manipulator. The overall area area of the printed building is 38 m².

According to their website, construction is based on Apis Cor’s unique 3D printing technology. A distinctive feature of the printer is its design, which is reminiscent of the tower crane, allowing the printer to execute the printing process of constructing the building both inside and outside.

The printer is small in size, easily transportable and does not require long preparation before the commencement of the construction works because it has a built-in automatic horizon alignment and stabilization system.

The printing process itself is automated as much as possible to eliminate the risk of human error.

On the inside the printed house is no different from a conventionally built home — cozy and comfortable. The interior comprises a hall, a bathroom, a living room and a compact functional kitchen.

The construction cost of the printed house amounted to approximately £8100, which is around £220 per square meter. The cost of the building is surprisingly low, considering the unusual design of the building and the premium quality of the materials specified. Even more impressively, this cost also includes all the works that were done to make a complete house – such as work and materials for the construction of foundation, roof, exterior and interior finishing works, installation of heat insulation of walls, windows, floors and ceilings.

Watch the video below:

Dubai has seen the completion of the world’s first 3D printed office building – called “Office for the Future.”

The opening of the first 3D-printed office in the world comes just less than one month of launching Dubai 3D printing strategy, which showcases a modern model of construction.

The building was constructed using a 3D-printer with automated robotic arm – measuring 20 feet in height, 120 feet in length and 40 feet wide. The office took 17 days in total to print offsite, and the structure was erected on site in just two days. Additional mobile printers were also located at the construction site to add the finishing touches.

Saudi newspaper the Gulf Today quoted Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as saying, “The UAE has emerged as one of the major incubators of innovation and future technology in the world today and its focused initiatives to shape the future have become global models that can be emulated in all sectors. The opening in Dubai of the ‘Office of the Future’, the first 3D-printed office in the world, is another shining example of how the Emirate adopts novel initiatives and ideas and also encourages teams to adopt innovation in their work.”

There can be no doubt that the competitive advantages of 3D printing, in terms of lower costs and faster delivery, will make the UAE one of the most important sustainable economic hubs, enabling the effective use of this technology to establish future cities in all sectors.

What is highly interesting in the case of the 3D printed office is that the labour cost could be cut by more than 50% compared to conventional buildings of similar size.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority released an Expression of Interest for the construction of 3D-printed laboratories, to conduct research on drones and 3D-printing technologies at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site project in the world. The Solar Park would be able to generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030.

Sheikh Mohammed recently mentioned that the future is not built on possibilities and numbers but on clarity of vision, planning, action and implementation.

In the medical products sector, the focus will be on developing 3D printed teeth, bones, artificial organs and medical and surgical devices and hearing aids.

The Sharjah-based daily concluded by saying, “It is heartening that the UAE is successfully embracing technology for the service of entire humanity.”

First we saw hand-production methods, with highly skilled craftsmen wielding untold knowledge and expertise over the structural properties of material and the best way to implement them within a design. Then the industrial revolution changed everything, with machinery and complex equipment trumping traditional handiwork. As the digital age ticks on and technologies such as 3D printing ever improve, is the construction industry on the brink of yet another industrial revolution?

Development of 3D printing actually began in the 1980’s, however it wasn’t until around 2010 that the technology experienced a paradigm shift in opinion regarding its usefulness. Initially considered ‘newfangled,’ expensive and improbable to take off, the process of 3D printing soon began to grab the attention of avant garde architects, designers and progressive construction professionals worldwide.

The pros

In contributing to the built environment, 3D printing has thus far been used to create small, complex components to be implemented in a hybrid design of new and old methods and even to ‘print’ entire buildings. Chinese materials firm Yingchuang New Materials recently produced 10 3D-printed buildings in just 24hrs, using a custom-built printing machine that outputs layers of construction waste mixed with cement. See video below:

With government aims to end the housing crisis within a generation, could 3D printing exponentially shorten the ETA?

Other technologies that are rapidly developing within the sector are also abetting a future that will lean heavily towards 3D printing. Industry-wide use CAD and the rise in usage of building information modelling (BIM) in particular will enable greater use of 3D printing, as much of the information necessary to create a building via computer aided manufacturing will exist as a result of the design process.

3D printing would allow faster and more accurate construction of complex structures and components, whilst simultaneously lowering labour costs and waste production. It might also enable construction to be undertaken in harsh, dangerous environments previously unobtainable by a human workforce – expanding our horizons.

The cons

As well as a wealth of positives, there are equal concerns regarding a 3D printed future. Systemised construction has never been highly successful in the UK. There was a brief boom in panelised systems for high-rise apartment blocks and pre-fab housing following the Second World War, but frankly they were ugly, lacked character and were plagued with condensation problems.

Printers could also pose a threat to the existing workforce, reducing employee numbers throughout the industry, as ostensibly the 3D printer could do the majority of the work.

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Currently, only a limited number of materials can be used, since the same printer might not be able to print the required multiple materials to deliver the rich and diverse built environment we all need to thrive. In addition, utilising the technology on a building site would require expensive and complex equipment, and whilst it is possible to envisage using some simplified version to manufacture specialist components on a more industrial scale, it remains debatable as to whether the method would offer an attractive return in comparison to bricks and mortar.

The bigger picture

Obviously 3D printing has infinite potential in a wide variety of areas outside of construction, such as creating clothing, instruments, prosthetics, art, food, tools and – controversially – weaponry; to name but a few examples. As it becomes easier for businesses to transmit designs for new objects around the globe via the medium of internet, the need for freight services, manual skills and traditional manufacturing and transport techniques might deplete massively. This would result in an entirely different culture; a society free from import and export which could ultimately make or break entire global economies.

American economist and Nobel Prize winner Michael Spence says “the world we are entering is one in which the most powerful global flows will be ideas and digital capital, not goods, services, and traditional capital. Adapting to this will require shifts in mind-sets, policies, investments (especially in human capital), and quite possibly models of employment and distribution.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day but perhaps one day it could be printed in one. We just may be on the brink of the next chapter in our commercial and industrial history, will you say “viva la revolución” or do you stand as a proud Luddite, protecting our current way of life against the influx of technology that could serve as a blight to us as a species?

What are your thoughts on 3D printing? Let us know in the comments section below!