Skyscraper | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

My Ph.D. thesis, Design in the Digital Age: In Search of a Collaborative Paradigm, was all about finding novel ways to help designers interact with their clients. I had envisioned a tablet-based Virtual Reality environment with Augmented Reality elements for the client, thus allowing them to better understand what the architect or designer was trying to achieve. As for the architect or designer, Artificial-Intelligence software would significantly speed up the design process.

My thesis was published in 2000. Unfortunately, my vision has yet to be brought together by a software company, even though most of the elements I was describing are now widely available.

Futuristic Construction Technologies

However, that doesn’t mean that technology hasn’t changed in other ways. As an article in IndiaCADworks explains, in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, new technologies are advancing with each passing day that makes the process of construction smarter, more streamlined, and indeed futuristic.

Already, 75% of the construction industry adopting BIM or technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality have seen a 50% climb in popularity in the construction industry in just one year.

The technology revolution in the construction industry is only just beginning. Whereas 3D modeling and CAD took the industry from the 20th century to the 21st century, the advent of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more are poised to bring today’s AEC industries into the future.

So, if you’re writing a near-future novel that has any kind of engineering in it, check out these nine technologies that are poised to become the next big things in construction:

Augmented Reality

3D modeling software took architects off the paper drafting table and onto the computer. In a similar trajectory, augmented reality (or AR) is poised to take the industry from viewing models on a computer screen to seeing them in front of their very own eyes.

Augmented Reality

How the tech will be used:

  • New ways to visualize designs: Augmented reality allows you to place models and visual changes on physical spaces in front of you, making you see and feel those changes before they’re implemented, thus transforming the planning, designing, and customer experiences.
  • Cost-efficient planning: By allowing designs to be visualized before implemented, AEC gets to benefit from the same benefits as rapid prototyping in getting feedback without having to implement changes.

Virtual Reality

Whereas augmented reality allows viewers to see new models on top of physical spaces, virtual reality (or VR) can transform them into completely modeled spaces that haven’t even been built yet.

Virtual Reality

How the tech will be used:

  • Virtual Tours: The use of virtual reality means that potential buyers or renters of a building can feel what it’s like to physically walk through a space no matter where they are, even if they are across the world of the building is yet to be built.
  • 3D Visualization: While CAD models could communicate a building’s blueprint, VR allows AEC companies to pitch models and designs to clients through a more immersive 3D visualization that will wow clientele.

Internet of Things

The increasingly connected world is being dominated by the Internet of Things, or IoT, which lets digital devices communicate and interact with each other. Everything can be connected to the IoT, from refrigerators to light bulbs to vehicles and more.

Internet of Things

How the tech will be used:

  • Energy savings in operation: The more connected technologies on the Internet of Things in a building, the more efficiently run it can be. By reducing power loads on unnecessary heating/cooling, lighting, and other appliances, occupants will use much less energy without having to lift a finger.
  • Smart cities: The more connected a series of buildings are, the closer we’ll get to truly smart cities. In such an arrangement, the IoT will enable buildings to communicate with each other, share clean energy sources, and ensure reliability and affordability of resources.

Self-healing Concrete

Self-healing concrete may sound like a technology that’s straight out of a sci-fi film, but it’s a technology that’s already available today. By including bacteria that get activated by water, this material can literally rebuild itself.

Self-healing Concrete

How the tech will be used:

  • Extended material lifetime: Self-healing concrete is able to restore itself when cracks occur, extending the lifetime of the key building material and thus the lifetime of the building.
  • Decreased maintenance costs: When a typical concrete block gets damaged, it could mean costly and time-intensive repair. But self-healing concrete simply needs water, and it will get the job done for a tiny fraction of the effort.

Smart Bricks

It makes sense when phones become smart, or even when televisions become smart, but what is a smart brick? Basically, giant Legos: they are created in a way that interlocks tightly and reliably in a modular manner. This allows for rapid deployment and construction for a fraction of the effort.

Smart Bricks

How the tech will be used:

  • Rapid building processes: By eliminating many of the needs for physical processes to connect different building materials that require heavy labor, these smart bricks can allow buildings to go up much faster.
  • Modular construction: Smart bricks are also quite adept at modular construction, meaning a single design and supply of smart bricks will allow teams to build large amounts of these buildings where they’re needed with less training and less time.

3D Printing

In every sector it touches, 3D printing has been a revelation of efficiency and cost savings. In the construction industry, 3D printing can be used to manufacture small parts needed for buildings, create physical models of designs, or even to print an entire house!

3D Printing

How the tech will be used:

  • Rapid prototyping available for models: A hallmark of the construction and architecture industries has been a physical model of a building presented to a client. 3D printing allows firms to take their CAD models and automatically print out a real-life model.
  • New rapid construction processes: Taking that small 3D printed model to a new scale, 3D printers are capable of printing out all the parts necessary to construct an entire building with the right design, allowing for modular and rapid deployment of housing and other structures that may be needed in an emergency situation.

Robotic Swarm Construction

The most compelling technologies humans create often emulate the phenomena already available in nature, hardened over millions and millions of years of evolution. Robotic swarm construction is an AEC example, using a large team of small robots to complete construction tasks with the efficiency of a team of termites.

Robotic Swarm Construction

How the tech will be used:

  • Reduced construction costs: Any automation that can reduce the need for paid construction workers in an effective manner means the total building construction cost will go drastically down, especially at scale.
  • Reduced construction timelines: Robotic workers don’t need days off and can work more effectively without breaks. This means that robotic swarm construction can lead to more rapid building constructions in the future.

Aerogel Insulation

Aerogel insulation is the result of removing liquid from a gel, creating a silica structure that’s almost entirely air. However, this semi-transparent material, sometimes referred to as frozen smoke, is a great insulator.

Aerogel Insulation

How the tech will be used:

  • Decreased heating/cooling costs: The more effective a building’s insulation is, the less heat will escape. That means heaters and air conditions need to do less work, saving on the energy bill in the building system accountable for the greatest amount of energy consumption.
  • A high degree of occupant safety: Some old forms of insulation have been found to be hazardous to occupant health. But aerogel insulation is not only light, affordable, and effective, but it’s entirely safe.

Transparent Aluminum Strong as Steel

Material for building needs to be as strong as possible to enable it to withstand the elements and the weight of the whole building. However, lightweight materials are valued for their ease in transport and use in construction. Transparent aluminum combines the best of both worlds, as it’s as strong as (or even stronger) than steel but also ultra-lightweight. The possibilities are mindboggling for how this can transform what we know about the AEC industry.

Transparent Aluminum Strong as Steel

How the tech will be used:

  • New possibilities: A material this lightweight and this strong means that buildings could be safely built to be taller than ever before, maximizing the possibilities for a limited amount of land.
  • Ease in construction: With the material being so lightweight, it also reduces a lot of the stressors associated with building materials, especially in large and tall buildings. That efficiency in transportation and construction will reduce construction timelines.

Check out the full post on IndiaCADworks and happy writing!

 

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