Currently, there aren’t a lot of tech applications that you could call a game-changer, but thankfully there’s no shortage in the effort. Startups are now starting to see the benefits of investing in the field. They work hand-in-hand with researchers who are constantly improving the materials and components available today.
Here are some of the construction industry technology trends we should be aware of and some of the startups behind them.
Everything’s better with smart materials
In line with the effort to discover new materials that could be stronger, tougher, and cheaper to produce, there are startups who are investing in the discovery of “smart materials.” They’re reconfiguring the chemical structures of some of the most common building materials in hopes of turning them into something better.
You might be surprised to know that there’s already an abundance of these smart materials in the market today. Some of them are already being used in modern homes, boundary-pushing buildings and structures, vehicles, and more. You’ve probably heard about self-healing concrete, thermal insulation aerogel, kinetic footfalls, and photovoltaic glazing, right? These are all smart materials, and they’ve already been used in modern skyscrapers, smart cars, and a lot more.
A good example of these smart materials in modern construction would be the solar panel design by Polysolar. Called the PS-CT panel, these use photovoltaic glass as a structural building material for a building’s roofs, windows, and other areas that require glass panels. These panels produce renewable electricity, which can significantly reduce the energy consumption of a large building.
VR and AR: a different view of construction’s reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality seem to be the most promising tech innovation for the construction industry. It’s because these two allow us to view and test every part of a structure or building without needing to be there physically. All these are done in a safe, computer-generated environment—there’s no risk of injury or death if and when something goes wrong. Thus, these tech are quite essential in assessing and managing dangerous risks involved in construction.
Many manufacturers already use this construction tech to test the resilience of their products. For example, the resilience of roofs and other roofing materials are tested against different loads of rain, winds, or even snow just to know the limits they can withstand. AR and VR can also be used to forecast impending damage from untoward occurrences like earthquakes and erosions. They run computer simulations of these events with close-to-reality settings.
Leading construction startups have tested the endurance of roofs with the different wind, rainfall or snow levels to gauge levels of destruction. AR and VR equip construction companies to predict steel and iron erosions in building structures using computer simulation mounted with close-to-reality settings.
3D printing and additive manufacturing brings us closer to the future
A few years ago, it would be extremely hard for engineering and architecture professionals to come up with detailed models and real-size parts or objects for their construction projects. It’s because there’s no way to build them as accurately as possible. Fortunately today, they can now turn to 3D printing to create these models, and even use it to augment the actual construction of a structure. It is now feasible to 3D-print a house on-site, creating them at a fraction of the cost of building them through traditional meals. This boundary-pushing process took less than 24 hours to complete, and it’s nothing close to disposable: it is expected to last up to 175 years—way more than the lifetime of most structures.
Another up-and-coming tech related to 3D printing is additive manufacturing: a layer-upon-layer approach to construction. This process creates objects using materials like metal, concrete, or even plastic at the same time. This reduces production time and simplifies the engineering process, and quite possibly creating more durable and reliable products.
To show how this could impact our future, let’s look at MX3D, a startup from the Netherlands. They research and develop robotic 3D printing tech, producing or “printing” mainly sustainable materials like metals and synthetics in all forms or shapes imaginable. As proof of their value in the construction field, the company 3D printed the first steel bridge of its kind in Amsterdam.
Simplifying software: AI & construction management software
Aside from shiny new hardware and loads of new and emerging tech, there are also startups who are fully invested in software. With the emergence of Big Data and AI, companies are now turning to software solutions to make more sense of the numbers in the construction process. Their main goal is to use this information to save valuable time and money, as well as make the most of their available resources. Such software is used for measuring and managing warehouse stocks, predicting procurements for upcoming projects, and even automating the invoicing system for their purchases.
Construction management software solutions “simplify” running a construction company, as it gives you a clear understanding of the analytics and reports of anything that involves numbers. Pair this innovation with powerful cloud services, and you’ll get innovative construction solutions that give you all the information you need anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
Here’s how top-notch construction management software companies like Procore Technologies help optimize construction workflows by removing roadblocks like rework orders from clients.
They provide a platform to manage projects, resources, and financials, aiming to streamline and simplify construction management for firms regardless of their size.
The future of construction is here with green building
As it stands now, further tech innovations can threaten our environment. The more we embrace technology, the more we’re likely to neglect the environment. Fortunately, there are new wave construction startups who are championing the idea of green building for quite some time now. Green building is the holistic approach to resource efficiency and environmental responsibility in the construction field.
This is where the use of smart materials comes in: a green building would be equipped with energy management systems that can minimize energy use throughout its life. This involves using photovoltaic glass, batteries, and more so that it can be self-sufficient, or at least drastically reduce its reliance on traditional sources of electricity. The building can also be designed to be more energy-efficient, reflecting as much light and heat possible to reduce air conditioning consumption. Some of them are adopting passive cooling designs to use air to dissipate the heat in some areas.
A good example of tech startups in this field is Upgen, an Italian company that aims to harness the kinetic energy in roadways. With their solution called LYBRA, they aim to retrieve the kinetic energy wasted by vehicles during their deceleration. Their devices are installed on the roads, in areas where vehicles are required to reduce their speed due to speed limits. Energy collected can then be used to power street lighting, traffic signs, and more.