Top Tech Trends to Watch

From regenerative residential villages to SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), to quantum computing, technology is changing how the construction industry does business—both in the office and at the jobsite. It is also changing how homes, communities, buildings, and cities are built, as contractors are incorporating new advances into projects across the globe. From research being done in universities, to unique projects being performed in rural villages, here are the top five tech trends to watch in the months ahead.

… technology is changing how the construction industry does business.

Regenerative Villages

By 2050, nearly 10 billion people will live on earth. Through the use of  advanced technology, the construction industry can help build new communities that are designed to help to preserve natural resources. Enter ReGen Villages, www.regenvillages.com. The first pilot community is in Almere, Netherlands, with plans to expand across Northern Europe, the United States, and Asia. These are off-grid neighborhoods that are comprised of homes that leverage renewable energy, water management, and waste-to-resource systems. The neighborhoods power and feed families. These villages also leverage IoT (Internet of Things) to gain surplus energy, water, and organic food. The demand for these integrated, smart neighborhoods will only continue to grow, as the world’s population continues to explode and natural resources become scarce, offering a new opportunity for construction companies to build smarter communities in the future. Keep an eye on these new, smart, regenerative villages in the months ahead.

SLAM for Construction

A concept that has been gaining increased interest in the technology and academia community—and could soon make an impact in construction—is SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), which attempts to solve the problem of trying to simultaneously localize sensors with respect to its surroundings, while at the same time mapping the structure of that environment. Much of the research surrounding SLAM involves ground-based robotics equipped with laser scanners. For instance, at Carnegie Mellon University, www.cmu.edu, Pittsburgh, Pa., research has been done as it relates to articulated robot motor for SLAM. With this, it can perform simultaneous localization and mapping in the configuration space of the robot. How can this technology help in the construction industry? Rather than building up a map of a surrounding environment, SLAM can be used to build a 3D reconstruction of an object by moving a camera around it. This technology can help give a better look at a building or structure’s surrounding.

A Quantum Leap for Construction

Quantum computing could potentially solve problems that would take conventional computers an extensive amount of time. New research is now being done at Purdue University, www.purdue.edu, West Lafayette, Ind., as it relates to the study of quantum mechanics. Researchers here have created a new rotor, which in the past have been used to discover things like the gravitational constant and density of Earth. The new rotor is one of the fastest in the world, and researchers hope that as they become more advanced, they will be able to study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of a vacuum. Quantum is coming of age now due to a number of factors including the need, in several industries including construction, to leverage data to quickly and easily solve problems. As research in universities continues, this will offer new technologies to businesses in the future. For instance, in construction, businesses will be able to leverage data faster in order to make decisions both in the office and at the jobsite.

Sustainable Concrete Materials

Sustainable concrete materials aren’t necessarily new, but they are continuing to evolve. One group at North Carolina State University, www.ncsu.edu, Raleigh, N.C., has been working on several different aspects of sustainable concrete materials. Researchers have discovered that to quantify crack densities of concrete requires high temperatures to determine if new, sustainability mixtures respond the same as conventional mixtures to aggressive exposures. The research group additionally developed software tools to provide hydrologic design of concrete pavements. Now, designers can mitigate the deleterious effects of urbanization on stormwater runoff and receiving water quality using technology. Further, a sedimentation app can address the challenge of accumulating sediment during the life of the pavement. Finally, these researchers have also examined non-portland cement based mixtures to help reduce the CO2 emissions. The result will be more sustainable concrete materials that can be used in construction.

Visualize the Building Envelope

As most construction professionals know, it is important to have a continuous and stable boundary between the conditioned interior spaces and the unconditioned outdoor spaces. Today, many home inspectors and energy auditors use infrared imaging technology to evaluate the performance of the thermal envelope, but these images are typically only two-dimensional and can be low resolution. The University of Massachusetts Amherst, www.umass.edu, Amherst, Mass., is doing research on the visualization capabilities of IR (infrared) in conjunction with 3D models of buildings. While this is one example, the use of 3D is general has gained more traction in the past several years, as a means to better visualize all components of a building—including the building envelope—and it will continue to change the way construction professionals build structures in the future. Going forward, construction professionals can expect that technologies such as infrared imaging and 3D will continue to advance, giving new data to workers.