Technological Advancements in Construction

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By: Praveen Gopal -- Lead Analyst, Engineering & Construction

16 November, 2019

technological-advancements-in-construction
ARTICLE

technological-advancements-in-construction

Abstract

Historically, the construction industry has been slow to adapt to new technologies. In the recent years, however, the construction industry is continuously being updated and upgraded with the latest technologies to improve the cost, safety, efficiency, and quality of construction. Technology adds significant value at every stage of construction—from planning to commission—by optimizing efficiency and productivity. The best technological advancements and the most adopted technologies, processes, and materials in the construction industry—along with their impact on the time and cost of construction—discussed below.


1. Technological Advancements

Technology Scope Impact
Time   Cost
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) Drones are successfully being used by construction companies in Japan and the U.S.—among others—to conduct surveys of construction sites and to monitor the progress of ongoing construction. UAV’s have also proven useful in providing surveyors, general contractors, and project/construction managers with up to date information on the project schedule and available resources on site, improving the management of the project. It also assists in the generation of 3D models, aerial images, and maps. High Low
Autonomous Robots The concept of autonomous robots is gaining importance in the construction industry, mainly due to huge labor shortages. The autonomous robots developed by Kajima are called A4CSEL (Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability). A set of instructions are programmed into the system and the robots process and perform the required functions efficiently. These robots were used in the construction of the Oita and Fukuoka dams in Japan. High  Low
Robotic Bricklayer A robotic bricklayer that was invented in Australia last year is capable of laying bricks at a speed of 1,000 bricks per hour with 100 percent accuracy. A robot bricklayer named ‘Tiger Stone’ is successfully being used in the Australian construction industry to lay bricks on pavements as well as roads. These robots work with four times the speed of human labor and with increased efficiency. High Low
Augmented Reality (AR) While virtual reality has been an emerging trend over the past few years, this technology is quickly becoming outdated, compared to the benefits and uses of augmented reality. With AR’s ability to not only visualize the real world digitally , but also add to it, the opportunities for the construction industry are endless. Even though it is not cheap, it is a revolutionary step forward in how things can be projected and built for construction companies that can afford it. It is a trend that will undoubtedly grow exponentially in the near future. High Medium
Internet of things (IOT) The internet of things (IoT) is a network of physical devices that are embedded with sensors and network connectivity to allow those objects to connect and exchange data. The data received is collated and analyzed to make informed decisions. In the construction industry, IoT is being used in many ways, such as remote operation and monitoring, supply replenishment, construction tool tracking, and equipment service and repairs. In the future, it could impact how we construct all buildings and infrastructure, leading to more efficient and responsive buildings and cities. High Hight
Machine learning Machine learning technology allows construction companies to operate more safely and efficiently, increase automation, and reduce equipment downtime. Construction companies that are looking to streamline and advance their operations are increasingly turning to AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered solutions and programs. For example, machine learning technologies are powering a new generation of programs that allow companies to continuously monitor their heavy equipment on site in real time. If any component malfunctions or breaks down, the system proactively alerts the operator, increasing on-site and worker safety. High High



2. Process Advancements - Piping

Process Scope Impact
Time   Cost
Glass fiber Reinforced Epoxy Pipe System

This system is a complete solution for difficulties concerning the marine environment and factors such as highly corrosive fluids at various pressures, as well as temperatures, and adverse soil and weather conditions (especially in oil exploration, desalination, chemical plants, fire mains, dredging, and portable water) 

 Advantages:

  • Durable and Corrosion Resistant
  • Lightweight – Easy to Install
  • Installation cost is 80 percent of the cost of carbon steel pipe
Medium Medium
PVC/ CVPC

FRP and GRP pipe systems are corrosion resistant pipes. This gives them an advantage over conventional pipe systems. They are being widely used in the chemical industry in various applications.

Advantages:

  • Highly Corrosion Resistant
  • Non Toxic
  • Longer Service
Medium Medium
Use of FRP and
GRP pipes to replace conventional pipes
A robotic bricklayer that was invented in Australia last year is capable of laying bricks at a speed of 1,000 bricks per hour with 100 percent accuracy. A robot bricklayer named ‘Tiger Stone’ is successfully being used in the Australian construction industry to lay bricks on pavements as well as roads. These robots work with four times the speed of human labor and with increased efficiency. Medium High



3. Construction Materials 


Material
 
Scope
Self-healing concrete Concrete is an excellent building material, but it can deteriorate over time. As concrete ages and dries out, cracks form and it grows weaker. Self-healing concrete could add many years to a building’s lifespan and be an enormous advantage, both time-wise and financially. The science behind this technological marvel is apparent when water enters a crack. The water reactivates the bacteria that were mixed in during the mixing process. When the bacteria are activated, it excretes calcite, which then heals the crack.
Thermochromic roofs Thermochromic tiles and roof panels have been thrust back into the spotlight due to the market demand for eco-buildings. Thermeleon—the ‘smart’ material these tiles and panels are made of—is a composite of layers that makes it thermochromic, meaning that upon exposure to heat, it changes colour from black to white. The result is that when the sun is shining, a black roof tile covered in Thermeleon turns white, reflecting up to 80 percent of the sunlight, thus keeping the building cooler. This could result in a 20 percent reduction in cost to keep the interior at a comfortable temperature in the summer.
Aerogel insulation Aerogel is semi-transparent and is produced by removing the liquid component from a gel, leaving behind the silica structure, which is 90 percent air. Despite being almost weightless, aerogel holds its shape and can be used to create thin sheets of aerogel fabric. The construction industry has been starting to use Aerogel fabric due to its incredible insulation properties. Aerogel insulation has up to four times the power of fibreglass or foam insulation, contributing to energy and cost savings due to the reduced loss of heat or cool indoor air. It is user-friendly, recyclable, and reusable.
Transparent Aluminium Transparent aluminium is a new bullet-proof material that is almost as strong as steel. Despite its phenomenal strength, it looks like glass, which is four times weaker and shatters easily. Transparent aluminium a see-through metal that is just making a breakthrough in the construction industry and adds a futuristic feel to buildings. This new material is an advanced construction technology that it is made from aluminium oxynitride (AION) and by the use of laser technology.
Fiber Cement Siding Fiber cement siding is a building material used in both commercial and domestic applications to cover the exterior of a building. Fiber cement is a composite material made of sand, cement, and cellulose fibres. Fiber cement board may come pre-painted or pre-stained, or it can be treated or painted after installation. Fiber cement siding has several benefits; it is resistant to termites, does not rot, is impact resistant, and has fireproof properties. Fiber cement siding is not only used as an exterior siding, but can also be utilized as a substitute for timber fascias and bargeboards in high fire risk areas.
Thermally modified Wood Thermally modified wood is wood that has been modified by the process of controlled pyrolysis, which is when timber is heated (> 180 °C) in the absence of oxygen. This induces chemical changes in the structures of the wood’s cell wall components (lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose) to increase its durability. The low oxygen conditions prevent the wood from burning at these high temperatures. There are five different thermal modification processes: Thermowood (or Premium wood) in Finland, the Retification process (Retiwood, New Option Wood) and Les Bois Perdure in France, the Plato process in the Netherlands, and the Oil-heat treatment process in Germany (OHT-Process).


4. Case Studies
 

Technology: Green Concrete and sustainability

Firm: Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd

Project Overview: Tampines Concourse was built for City Developments Limited.

  • This was the first structure in the Asia Pacific Region that makes use of an indoor, non-compressor, fresh air cooling system that controls temperature and humidity levels in the building
  • The building’s cooling system uses water as the cooling agent instead of chemical refrigerants
  • The elimination of a compressor ensures energy efficiency, as fresh air is used, considerably reducing energy consumption
  • This structure was also the first to use ‘Green Concrete’ in Asia
  • All the structural portions of the building were constructed using recycled and sustainable materials


Technology: Recycled Concrete Aggregates

Firm: Samwoh Corporation

Project Overview: This structure is the first of its kind in Singapore

  • The amount of construction and demolition waste produced annually is about 2 million tons. The disposal of this waste is a difficult task, due to various reasons
  • In an initiative by the Building and Construction Authority, the Samwoh Corporation, and Nanyang Technological University, a method to recycle construction and demolition waste was developed to form Recycled Concrete Aggregates (RCA). RCAs can replace regular concrete in building construction
  • The Samwoh Corporation’s Eco-Green building was the first to be constructed entirely with RCA


Technology: Human Centric Lighting

Firm: Casambi

Project Overview:

  • In a new project in Glasgow, Scotland has embraced the concept of Human Centric Lighting in its newest office at St. Vincent Plaza building
  • Registers of Scotland—a government agency—established a new office, and lighting firm Casambi was engaged to provide a lighting control system for 300 LED lights in the office with an area of 17,300 sq.ft.
  • All the LED lights in the entire office space—including the meeting rooms—were divided into eight groups and are controlled by iPads that are wall mounted around the office
  • The color and brightness of the lighting can be controlled by the iPads


Technology: Laser Scanning Technology

Firm: China Construction Eighth Engineering Division

Project Overview:

  • In 2014, CSCEC83 embarked on a new project; the construction of the Jiangsu Grand Theatre. The team decided to adopt a 3D scanning method to compare the data obtained onsite with the building’s blueprint. CSCEC83 chose the FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D X 330
  • The Focus3D X 330 scanner is part of FARO’s latest generation of 3D Laser Scanners and has a maximum scanning distance of 330 m and the ability to scan up to 976,000 points per second
  • The process of 3D laser scanning is not only fast but also highly accurate. A job that takes an entire week or more can now be accomplished in two days with the Focus3D X 330 scanner, which leads to a vast improvement in productivity


Conclusion

The construction industry has been far slower than many other industries to adopt new technology and is only now beginning to undergo a technological transformation. The industry has also been slow to adopt new strategies, but companies are now starting to pay more attention to a building’s total life-cycle. Construction technology trends will always follow similar principles; how to build quicker and smarter and how to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable in various ways. This study addresses the latest existing technologies that are potentially useful in project construction and administration and how they facilitate the work and improve performance. Technology plays an important role in a project’s overall cost, schedule, and occupational safety. This article provides a picture of possible future construction trends by defining various technologies, processes, and materials, showing the impact on cost and time. The benefit of these technologies—such time and cost savings are crucial to the users for these technologies.


References

https://geniebelt.com/blog/10-futuristic-technologies-that-are-changing-construction

https://connect.bim360.autodesk.com/construction-innovation-2017

https://www.raconteur.net/business-innovation/five-technologies-changing-construction

https://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/10-futuristic-construction-technologies10.htm

https://www.constructionjunkie.com/blog/2018/1/7/the-16-most-interesting-advances-in-construction-technology

https://www.nbmcw.com/report/construction-infra-industry/37216-new-age-technologies-for-construction-industry.html

https://www.forconstructionpros.com/profit-matters/article/12191275/6-areas-where-technology-is-revolutionizing-the-construction-industry




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