Prefabrication has come a long way and is gaining in popularity as pressure ratchets up on project budgets and timelines.The technique has a few big advantages:
- Building elements in a factory before on-site assembly keeps more of the job out of the elements that could potentially delay construction.
- With external conditions well-controlled, fewer workers are needed to build prefabricated parts compared to what would be needed on site.
Expect to see more projects utilize prefabrication techniques — especially those on strict deadlines with tight budgets.
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
BIM has also been around a few years, but the technology improved to the point where contractors and owners are finding it extremely useful.
BIM software allows designers to produce 3D mockups of a planned structure that also incorporate cost and time information. Variables — such as construction methods or different materials — can be manipulated in the software to compare the costs over time of differing techniques or materials used.
Virtual reality / Augmented reality
Construction companies have begun using VR/AR tech to enhance worker safety training. It allows workers to visualize what they’re learning instead of just reading it in a booklet.
That reinforces how serious construction site hazards can be and has made worksites safer.
Firms also use apps that tie VR/AR tech to their BIM software. This allows contractors and owners to do virtual walkthroughs of a structure long before it’s complete.
That allows owners to make more informed design decisions earlier in the construction process, saving time and cutting costs.
Overuse or inappropriate design of roads or other concrete structures has taxed municipal sewer systems and forced local governments to spend precious public resources on runoff mitigation.
Permeable or porous concrete uses larger stones and less sand. It’s just as strong as traditional concrete but contains between 15% and 20% empty space.
The concrete allows rainwater to seep down into the ground as it normally would instead of pooling or running off.
That’s shown to take the burden off municipal sewer systems, extending their life, saving repair costs and eliminating the need for costly upgrades.
Fly ash bricks
Waste ash is typically stored in “ash ponds” that do nothing but sit, posing serious risks to groundwater.
That was the case in India, where the rapid expansion of coal-fired plants prompted concerned locals to wonder whether there was a way to use the mountains of coal ash quickly rising across the country.
Fly ash bricks are lighter and stronger than traditional bricks or cinder blocks. They’re also cheaper to make. It’s helped mitigate the fly ash problems in India while also making it cheaper to build dwellings for a rapidly-increasing population.
Solar roads and materials
The technology is expensive and has yet to be perfected, but the potential benefits of dual-use materials such as solar roads has proved too attractive to abandon.
The maturation of technology that allows electric vehicles to charge up while in contact with solar roads sweetens the pot.
Solar-capable building materials may put the enterprising fly ash brick makers out of business, but they may also help end our reliance on fossil fuels for power generation.
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