Someone recently contacted me to ask for my opinion on advancements in construction technology.
They were curious about how the advent of sensor technology was bringing robotics and BIM to construction and how impressed they were about a story they recently read about a bridge that was printed by a robot.
It was clear to me that this person was combining a number of technologies together and that they were confused about how these technological advancements were or were not related.
So of course I unwound that for them and helped them to understand that these are all unique and individual advancements.
I explained that maybe one day these technologies might all be united into one revolutionary piece of tech, but that at the moment, these advancements are all individually contained.
So in light of my confused friend, I thought I would publish a multi-part series that unravels the confusion and explains the current state of each technology.
In this article I’ll give you an overview of the these advancements, but I invite you to stay tuned for the next few articles where we will take a more detailed look at their current state.
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
For a series like this, I feel it makes most sense to start with Building Information Modeling also known as BIM Technology.
BIM Technology has been around the longest of all these technologies. It is also the one technology that unites all other forms of tech.
BIM is a form of Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) that creates a three dimensional model of an object. This object is more than just a line drawing that represents an object, it has embedded properties that a computer can interpret.
BIM Technology is used by many Architect and Engineers. BIM models are being used to design buildings and is the basis for some of the other technologies we will explore.
There are several forms of sensors being used in buildings Today. The most common sensors are the ones used to monitor equipment.
These sensors are used to monitor the performance of different components such as pumps, fans, and transformers. Several of the most advanced equipment manufacturers are now producing equipment that have these sensors already built-in.
The newest forms of sensors are less than 10 years old and are used to monitor occupants. These are the sensors that are getting the most attention these days and are creating the most buzz.
Sensor technology is used by Facilities Managers to monitor equipment performance and also to track occupancy rates and make informed decisions on space utilization.
Robot technology has always captured our imagination. We conjure images of humanoid machines performing jobs once performed by humans.
The reality is that robots don’t really look the way they do in the movies. However, we are in an age where we are starting to see machines performing functions that were once too complex for simple machines to perform.
Simple robots like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and the Husqvarna Auto-mower are more indicative of the types of machines we can expect to see in the future. In construction, we have a few robot advancements. Most notably is a robot called SAM 100 that can lay bricks like a mason. There are other similar machines in development, but these technologies are still quite expensive and have yet to be widely used.
A small number of specialty firms currently have construction robots but more widespread adoption can be expected as labor shortages persist.
Printing technology is another exciting technology front for construction. This is the most exciting and currently the most viable advancement in construction.
In October of Last year we saw the first 3D printed steel pedestrian bridge in the Netherlands. Since then a number of others have jumped on the 3D printing train and have advanced this technology to also include 3D printed concrete bridges.
Additional advancements have been made which allow entire houses to be erected using 3D printing.
There are a number of small companies that are currently working with this technology and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has placed this technology at the center of it’s technology program.
We are living in an exciting time for construction technology. Today these advancements are all enjoying isolated albeit incredible success. In just a few years we can expect some of these advancements to become more widespread. When that happens the way we design and build buildings will be changed forever.
Join me next week where we will begin diving deeper into each of these to see how the industry is using these technologies Today.
What do you think? Which if these technologies excites you the most? Which do you want to try first? Tell me your stories.
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