The 30 year mark for predictions made by the movie Back to the Future has come and gone, which has sparked a lot of speculation as to what the next 30 years will look like on Earth. Though we didn’t get everything that the movie had promised, the amount of technological advances that have already been made obsolete by newer and better technology is nothing short of amazing.
Dr. Ian Pearson, a Doctor of Science and full time futurologist in conjunction with Hewden, a UK equipment rental firm, recently created a report to show us what he believes the construction industry will look like in the year 2045, titled 2045: Constructing the Future. In the report, Dr. Pearson discusses advances in material technologies, building practices, half human/half machine workers, augmented reality, and smart buildings.
Dr. Pearson’s report indicates that overall, building materials will not only continue to be stronger, but also lighter, making it easier to build oddly shaped structures. We’ve seen it a lot in recent years, so don’t expect that to change on the future. He’s not just talking about structural elements either, even glass and composites will be made stronger and lighter, with the use of Graphene, Carbon Nanotubes, and other currently non-existent materials. One of the more interesting predictions he makes in this section is spray-on solar coatings, which would make solar panels next to invisible.
3D printing, which has made waves in the news in the recent past will also make humongous strides forward, as you might imagine. Ultra-fine detail work will become easier and easier, so we could be seeing more buildings that could bring back some of the charm the world’s older buildings have.
Humans and Robots
Exoskeletons are currently being developed and used that allow paraplegic adults to walk upright and allow construction workers to hold 50 pound pieces of equipment with no effort. The report predicts that technology will continue to progress, ultimately making a human operated robot with many Inspector Gadget-like features, see picture below.
It’s certainly getting easier and easier to build mega tall structures, with 9 buildings currently in development that would dwarf America’s tallest building, the Willis Tower. Dr. Pearson concludes that this trend will continue and the buildings will be treated more like mini-cities, just like the Burj Khalifa. He goes as far to say that London could potentially have a building that stands 18 miles high with a space pod on top. If that’s true, it’s only a matter of time before the extreme sports enthusiasts try to find a way to jump off of it. The photo below is a rendering of the London Skyline in 2045
Not only will buildings be built taller and taller, Dr. Pearson predicts that they’ll be built with less windows, as well. The windows will instead be replaced with either augmented reality or projection displays, which would reduce maintenance, reduce cost, and make the rooms attractive without a “view” of the outside.
We certainly encourage you all to check out the full report that Dr. Pearson and his colleagues spent so much time on, so, for that reason, we’ll skip over the transportation section and tease you with the picture below:
Impact of Technological Advances in Construction
So what does this all mean for the poor saps working in construction right now and who plan to still be working in 2045? Well, don’t be too worried about all those robots. Dr. Pearson points out that all of the new materials and techniques will require workers to learn new skills, but that those new roles could lead to higher salaries and satisfaction with their jobs. Workers in the future will start to think of robots as their “colleagues,” instead of, like we do with the equipment now, as just machines. The economic impact is bright as well, with estimates that, by 2045, the construction economy will double.
To download the full 13-page report, follow this link http://www.constructingthefuture.com
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.
3D printing has had to overcome plenty of obstacles, including materials, mobility, weather, and height. Slowly, but surely, technology companies are beginning to overcome these challenges. A 400 square foot house was recently printed in concrete on-site, in less than 24 hours and in freezing temperatures. Other companies are working on perfecting 3D printed steel for pedestrian bridges. Height limitations seem to be the hardest problem to solve, however.
Remote sites have extreme challenges, like finding enough staff to work the jobs and being able to get materials to the site. Large mining operations have turned to self-driving dump trucks, like this 320 Ton mega machine, for a few years now. But, Lockheed Martin, a giant in the world of global security and aerospace, has a different solution for remote sites.
3D printing technology faces major issues when it is required to leave the shelter of a warehouse and step foot on a construction job site. 3D printers are extremely large, heavy, and rely on precise calibration for accuracy. Even the first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which was completed last year, had to actually have its components printed off site and assembled on site. But, Apis Cor, a 3D printing company, believes it has created the technology to print a full structure completely on site.
Road construction is rarely an ideal place for many things. It’s unsafe for workers, it causes traffic issues, and nearby businesses can suffer from it. One more thing can be added to the list, as self-driving cars are also having a hard time navigating construction zones, as well.
In the construction world, 3D printing technology has traditionally focused on buildings and other static structures, like this 3D printed bridge in Madrid, Spain. Not anymore, though, as the world’s first 3D printed excavator was officially unveiled to the attendees at last week’s CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 in Las Vegas.
Augmented reality on construction job sites has been a focus of several technology companies in recent years. As of now the clear leaders in the category have been the DAQRI smart helmet and glasses and the MIcrosoft Hololens. Early this year, DAQRI introduced their new smart glasses, which are the lighter and more mobile version of their fully protective smart hard hat. The new DAQRI product is a clear competitor for Microsoft’s Hololens, which is also a smart headset product. Backed by the powerful construction technology company Trimble and in a partnership with the University of Cambridge, the Hololens is getting tested with 2 new concepts specifically for the construction industry: Automated Progress Monitoring and Automated Bridge Damage Detection.
The concept of a bubble has surprisingly inspired many designers within the construction industry in recent years. There’s the inflatable bubble building in Shanghai that is supposed to help air and light quality, the inflatable tunnel that will protect pedestrians and business during road construction in Canada, and even a solar cell that was created to be lighter than a soap bubble. We can now add Binishells to our list.
Construction workers work long hours in some pretty rough exterior conditions a lot of the time and there’s no doubt that fatigue is a major factor in job site accidents. In recent years, we’ve seen a few technological advances that will either reduce worker fatigue or sense it, including robotic attachments, lighter and less vibratory power tools, and camera systems on CAT machines that sense when drivers are closing their eyes too much. Recently, a company out of Australia has been developing a smart hard hat that sensors when mental fatigue has set in.