The way the homes we live in are built hasn’t changed hugely over the past several decades. The cement mixers and other machinery might look more modern but essentially does the same job as models of previous generations.
Insulation and some other materials used in houses have also seen improvements but bricks and mortar are still the basic materials used for most residential buildings. However, within as little as a decade many forecast that the next big revolution in construction technology will become a reality. Change will sweep across both the materials the next generations of houses and apartments are built from and the way they are built.
A recent article by The Times explores some of the big technology developments that are on the verge of becoming a reality in the way we build the future and will hopefully ensure we can suitably house the world’s burgeoning population.
3D Printing Technology: 3D printing technology is already being used in construction but mainly for simple abodes tackling housing crisis in the developing world or disaster areas. Austin, Texas-based 3D printing start-up recently unveiled simple houses that can be printed in 24 hours at a cost of less than $10,000. Entire homes have already been built using 3D printers in several countries, including the US, Netherlands, Russia and Dubai. The latest technology in the field, which is quickly developing, should lead to construction becoming both much faster and cheaper.
It is accepted that within the next couple of decades, 3D printing will be the mainstay of modern construction but there is some debate quite how quickly that will happen. A report on the trend commissioned by building contractor Colmore Tang Construction, written by Dr Ian Pearson, a leading futurist, predicts the construction industry will be revolutionised by 3D printing by as soon as 2025. However, other experts believe there is some way to go before the technology will offer the dexterity and be able to use the materials that will mean it becomes a mainstay of mainstream construction within the next decade.
Drones and Robo-Builders: if Pearson is right, the ubiquitous ‘builder’s bum’ could also be well on the way to becoming a thing of the past by 2025. He believes that it is inevitable that the majority of construction work currently carried out by human builders will be done by robots and drones in the foreseeable future. The kind of precision necessary is close to being facilitated by developments in AI that use networks of cameras and sensors.
On this website late last year we wrote about robo-bricklayers that can lay 3000 bricks a day, with far less margin for error, compared to the 500 the average human bricky manages. Construction expert Mark Farmer told The Times this week that this and robots performing more intricate and less repetitive construction jobs will soon “radically change the way we approach building homes and infrastructure.”
The End of the Traditional Building Site: anyone who has ever lived or worked next door, or in close proximity, to a building site will be very happy to hear it looks like their days are numbered. At least in the format we are used to. 3D printing and the use of drones and robots in construction is likely to lead to a much more modular process to construction.
It will almost certainly become the norm for modular sections of buildings to be manufactured in factories and then efficiently assembled on site within days or a maximum of weeks, rather than the months to years current building sites typically exist for.
London stock market-listed house builder Berkeley Homes has already announced this year a giant new factory site that will churn out the sections for at least 1,000 pre-fabricated homes every year. The company expects 25% of the homes it builds to be pre-fabricated within a decade.
ConstrucTech Financing: Fintech, Meditech, Edtech, Adtech and a range of other ‘tech’ industries disrupting traditional models have seen huge finance poured into them from the private and government sectors in recent years. Now it’s the turn of ConstrucTech. Among the new initiatives in the space is a new £10 million fund that has been put together by a Colmore Tang and Virgin StartUp joint venture. The fund will invest in start-ups working on tech to revolutionise construction.