Construction: At the brink of the future

  • Construction: At the brink of the future

    For long, humans have been stuck in the mud using nothing but man power and the help of noisy b-grade, high-emission equipment that are today considered obsolete.

    The technological façade of construction is shifting with the rise of innovative technologies entering the home of digital and load bearing sliding doors. Backyarders has helped lend a hand into how we operate certain machinery in the space of our own innate building lifestyle – let’s not forget how it all began with just sticks and stones from the good old primitive cave man times.

    Next to the tool shed where you’d find most of your tools in different shapes and sizes outlined on the metal tin shed, a not so distant future is among us. Solidifying the foundations of taking construction to a whole new playing field, the shabby connotations are run down to the ground of what used to be the dirty profession of construction, and now: a futuristic re-construction.

    From throwing a spanner in the mix, to a 3D printer creating a spanner to fix. If you haven’t noticed it yet, the future is here, staring down at us from the tip of Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest skyscraper stands almost a kilometre tall and features earthquake resistant technologies, and power-generating elevators: something that wasn’t imaginable a hundred years ago. Now, the pendulum has swung and the wrecking ball has powered its way through an ancient construction wall into a high-tech site full of hot construction gadgets.

    Here are 5 technologies facing the future of construction right now:

    Carbon dioxide (CO2): Gas to brick

    Discharged from power plants and vehicles, carbon dioxide is one of the largest greenhouse gas emissions on the planet causing global warming and damaging our environment. So, what if this impurity could be eradicated, and converted to something much more practical and robust: bricks. A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has effectively used genetically modified yeast to convert CO2 gas into solid, carbon-based building materials. Now, we can build with care. A beaker full of genetically modified yeast can produce 1 kilogram of solid carbonate from only 0.5 kilograms of C02 [source: Trafton]. Imagine how many carbon bricks could be made with 30 billion metric tons of CO2.

    Self-healing Concrete: Holding the future

    Believe it or not, concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. [source: Crow]. In fact, it is the second-most consumed substance on Earth, after water [source: Rubenstein]. If you think about all the buildings in the world, every property contains a chunk of concrete. Concrete is inexpensive, but it’s also susceptible to cracking and deterioration under extreme weather conditions. Whenever concrete would crack, the only way to fix it was to patch it, reinforce it, or knock it down and start all over. Gone are those days. In 2010, an engineering professor invented ‘smart’ concrete that heals by itself – almost like concrete is now sentient. The concrete is rooted with tiny capsules of sodium silicate. When a crack forms, the capsules rupture and release a gel-like healing agent that hardens to fill the void [source: URI]. Extending the life of concrete has major environmental and financial benefits. Smart concrete would not only ensure safer structure, but also cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

    Now, to the more exciting facts.

    Robot Swarm Construction: Termites that don’t destruct

    Nature has helped influence a change in construction. From what used to be regarded as a chaotic micro destroyer rampaging homes across the world, is now an architect’s little helper. Termites acted as a useful tool for researches at Harvard robotics because the insects taking orders with a brain the size of a grain. Each termite acts alone, according to the programming in their behaviour made possible by the inventors. Together, as a swarm of single-minded individuals, they create mud with structures. Researches at Harvard’s Self-organizing Systems Research Group have manufactured tiny robotics programmed to work with other robotic-termites. The termites can lift bricks onto each other, they have sensors to identify other robots and rules for getting out of each other’s path. Like termites, they aren’t being controlled, rather, they are programmed to collectively construct a design. Swarming robots can soon be building designs in places unimaginable such as in sewers, underground, in hazardous and chemically infected areas or even on Mars.

    3-D Printed Houses: From paper to solid walls

    3D printing has gone mainstream. Printing houses could soon be a thing. With 3D printers, you can print out nearly anything that comes to mind. From what used to be words transposed to paper, ideas are now physically being printed in the hands of the creator. Machines now have the capacity to print cosy homes. A Dutch architecture firm has launched an ambitious public art project to build a 3-D printed house. In order to achieve something as big as a house, they needed to build the world’s biggest printer called the Kamermaker or “room maker.” The material is mostly printed out in LEGO type figures which can then be laid out to construct a complete sized house. Meanwhile, there is a Chinese construction company that is building houses using a giant 3-D printer that sprays layers of cement and construction waste to bring together the homes. According to the company, it is proposed that each house could cost as little as 5,000 each and can produce up to 10 a day, a solution into house affordability.

    Temperature-Reactive Tiles: Colour changing technology

    A company called Moving Color manufactures glass decorative tiles coated with thermochromic paint that “come alive” with changing surface temperatures. For instance, at room temperature, the tiles are a glossy black, but when you touch the tiles — or hit them with direct light or warm water — the colors transform like the Northern Lights into iridescent blues, pinks and greens. The coolest application has to be the colour-shifting shower. [Source: HowStuffWorks].