Construction is the largest industry in the world, accounting for 13 percent of the global GDP. According to the experts at Zippia, U.S. construction put in place in 2021 is valued at $1.589 trillion, and roughly one out of every five workers is employed by the construction industry.
The industry is alive and well while also encountering numerous obstacles and challenges. There is no shortage of articles outlining material and labor shortages due to COVID-19 and other difficulties.
The construction industry is responding to the challenges by leveraging technology and 21st-century innovations to make construction more efficient, sustainable, and safer. Major industry trends include building information modeling, virtual reality, and modular construction.
In this post, we highlight three groundbreaking innovations that are reshaping construction as we know it.
1. Construction Robots and Drones
No, robots are not taking all the construction jobs! However, they assist in managing labor shortages and easing the physical burden for multiple trades. Think of it as an upgrade to existing jobs rather than stealing jobs.
Construction robots are automated machines that assist in construction. There are four main types of construction robots: industrial, drones, self-driving construction equipment, and humanoid laborers. Self-driving equipment and humanoids are certainly in continued development and even use, but we focus on industrial and drones in this post.
Articulated, cartesian, and collaborative are three categories of industrial robots. Articulated robots, made to resemble the human arm with joints, have made their mark in the manufacturing and welding industries for years. Cartesian robots are increasingly popular given their ability to assist in 3-D printing. And collaborative robots, or cobots, are machines that work alongside humans, making a job more efficient or accessible.
Image Source: Construction Robotics
Cobots are gaining traction in the construction industry as the industry reacts to the physical demands placed on workers and labor shortages. The average mason worker lifts over 3,000 pounds per day. Construction Robotics asks the question, “What if everyone on your team could lift 150 pounds with ease or avoid lifting 6,000 pounds on an average day?” They have created MULE (Material Unit Lift Enhancer), a portable machine built to handle and place heavy material on construction sites, reducing fatigue and injuries while improving production. Similarly, Advanced Construction Robotics has created TyBOT, a rebar-tying robot that performs up to 1,100 ties per hour.
Cobots create an incredible opportunity for the construction industry to ease physical burdens, improve safety, and increase production.
The Latest in Drone Technology
Commercial construction drone use is seeing a 239% increase in use annually, higher than any other industry.
The ability to capture real-time data and measurements and a unique aerial advantage make drones one of the most versatile innovations we will see in 2022. Progress tracking and communication remains the primary function of drone in construction. Other drone tasks include topographic mapping and surveying, a must on large-scale projects, equipment tracking, personnel safety, surveillance, inspection, and photography.
What does drone use in construction look like in the future? Industrial drones such as Kaizen Arial Solutions’ xFold can lift up to 1,000 pounds, providing a better option for transporting heavy materials on site. Other developments include the ability to direct and guide autonomous vehicles.
Drones’ current capabilities and future possibilities allow them to cut costs, risk, and time. Drone use will continue to rise and streamline the construction process.
2. Living Building Materials
Living building materials? Sounds sciency. It is!
As the world grapples with climate issues like global warming and CO2 emissions, the construction industry is growing in awareness and creating ways to avoid adding to the problem and work against it.
Architectural Design defines living building materials as biological materials in which microorganisms participate in the manufacturing of the material. In this process, the bacteria or other microbes work as mini-factories that develop building materials that can live, multiply, heal cracks and also absorb harmful toxins from the air.
Concrete is the most common building material globally and has been for centuries. But it is also the building material that emits the most carbon. According to BBC, if the cement sector were a country, it would be the third-largest carbon emitter, behind China and the U.S. New living building materials such as self-replicating concrete and self-mending biocement are being developed to address this mind-blowing statistic.
Concrete is durable, but all concrete cracks. Over time, this can create structural and aesthetic deficiencies that result in further production costs and emissions. But self-healing concrete utilizes enzymes and microorganisms that fill concrete cracks, allowing the material to heal and stay in place.
Image Source: WPI
3. Offsite Construction - 3D Printing
Traditionally, the construction of a building is performed wholly on site. This makes construction susceptible to weather and material delays and often results in significant material waste.
One of the emerging construction trends, offsite construction, allows designing, manufacturing, and fabricating building elements in a factory. Offsite construction transforms the construction process, reduces waste, improves worker safety, and increases quality.
Modular construction, pre-engineered metal buildings, and panelized construction are three categories of offsite construction. 3D printing is another category that is trending in 2022.
3D printing is gaining traction in the construction industry for many reasons, including efficient material usage, increased speed, and quality control. 3D printing is still in infancy for large-scale projects, but the world’s first 3D-printed office building is already complete.
Image Source: Architect Magazine
The 3D housing industry alone is estimated to reach $40 billion by 2027, a massive growth from the $70 million market in 2017.
As 3D printing continues to evolve and develop, the question for the construction industry is not whether 3D printing is an effective construction method. The question is how can we best implement this technology to solve the industry’s greatest difficulties.
Construction robots and drones, living building materials, and offsite construction are three trending innovations that have the construction industry set up to succeed in the future!
March 2nd, 2022 |