Innovation is a wide concept that includes improvements in processes, products or services. It involves incorporating new ideas which generate changes that help solve the needs of a company and so increase its competitiveness.
The application of innovation to the construction industry is not straightforward, despite the importance of this sector in the development and growth of the wider economy. Every construction project is different, which means that construction companies have to adapt their processes and resources to suit each project. Every site is a singular prototype whose configuration changes over time. Construction works are located in different places, and involve the constant movement of personnel and machinery. In addition, the weather and other factors can prevent consultants from applying previous experience effectively.
This means that although innovative solutions to specific problems add to the overall experience and practices of a company, as innovation is undertaken on a one-off basis, it does not necessarily benefit the company as much as might be expected unless it is possible to incorporate it into the organisation’s standard management processes. Innovation needs to change from being just the application of good ideas to a process that can be managed, measured and controlled systematically. Consequently, the standardisation of innovation is very important. The key lies in considering innovation as a management process. Each part of the organisation can control and improve different aspects of innovation and integrate them into the rest of the company’s processes.
Discussed below are some of the innovations in the construction materials.
Bricks made out of Cigarette Butts
The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researchers found a brick fabrication technique which includes 1% cigarette butts. It could compensate the world annual cigarette production and create a lighter and more efficient brick.
It is an innovative tough material with some interesting applications such as shipbuilding industry or medical prosthesis due to its lightness, flexibility, high chemical and mechanical strength and high stiffness.
Nanotechnology in construction materials
Adding nanoparticles to the current materials like concrete or steel improve their characteristicsbut one special aspect is turning them into “smart” materials, able to measure stress state, deformations or potential failures. An example is “Nano Concrete” (traditional concrete with Fe2O3 nanoparticles).
3D Printed Bricks
If you move to the construction workplace a 3D printer, you could fabricate in-situ ceramic bricks with structural function and customized design. These bricks are fabricated in 15-20 minutes and once hardened it is possible to stack then and create walls, vaults or pillars.
Translucent wood as construction material
We now have translucent wood that can be used to develop windows and solar panels. It is created by first, removing the lining in the wood veneer and then through nanoscale tailoring. The resulting effect creates translucent wood that has various application in the construction industry.
As a very cheap resource, it can benefit projects by reducing cost of resource.
The innovation took place at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Lars Berglund, a professor at KTH claims that transparent wood is a low cost, readily available and renewable resource.
The wood can be mass produced and can be used commercially. The study was then published by Biomacromolecules.
Cooling system in bricks
Through the combination of clay and hydrogel, students at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia have created a new material that has a cooling effect on building interiors.
Hydroceramics have the ability to reduce indoor temperature by up to 6 degrees celsius.
Its cooling effect comes from the presence of hydrogel in its structure which absorbs water, up to 500 times its weight. The absorbed water is released to reduce the temperature during hot days.
Incorporating an innovative cooling system in the current building structure has made Hydroceramics into one of the coolest building materials to revolutionize construction. More progress in this direction, may make household air conditioners obsolete.
Light generating cement
Dr. José Carlos Rubio Ávalos from UMSNH of Morelia, has created cement that has the ability to absorb and radiate light. With this new light generating cement the potential uses and application of it can be huge.
The construction industry is evolving and one of the main trends is the move towards a more resource and energy efficient way of creating structures. Therefore, the implications of cement acting as a ‘light bulb’ are very broad. We can use them in swimming pools, parking lots, road safety signs and much much more. The science behind it: Through the process of polycondensation of raw materials such as river sand, industrial waste, silica, water and alkali. The process is done at room temperature which is why the energy usage is low.
It’s finally done! We have concrete that can be used to build structures in Mars now. The researching team at the Northwestern University, has created concrete that can be made with the materials available on Mars. The new concrete also doesn’t require water as an ingredient to be formed. With the scarcity of water as a source, this crucial benefit can make this innovation truly beneficial for the development of structures in Mars.
In order to make the martian concrete, sulphur is heated at 240° celsius which melts it into a liquid. The martian soil then acts as an aggregate and once it cools down we get Martian concrete! According to the researching team, the ratio of martian soil and sulphur needs to be 1:1.
Over the water of Italy’s lake Iseo, you can see another great innovation in the construction industry Floating piers by artists, Christo and Jean-Claude.
The floating dock system is composed of 220,000 polyethylene cubes of high density. It is a three kilometer long walkway with 100,000 square meters of yellow cloth wrapped around it. The cubes undulate along the waves of the lake.
The beautiful masterpiece extends from pedestrian streets of Sulzano and connects the islands of San Paolo and Monte Isola.
Pollution absorbing bricks
We now have pollution vacuums in bricks! Developed by assistant professor Carmen Trudell at Cal Poly, college of architecture and environmental design, the Breathe Brick sucks in pollutants in the air and releases filtered air.
The innovative material is designed to be part of a building’s standard ventilation system. It has a two layer facade system, with the specialist bricks on the outside and standard insulation on the inside.
Self healing concrete
Dutch civil engineer, Dr. Schlangen at Delft University has created a self healing concrete. In his presentation, he demonstrated the effectiveness of the material by breaking it in two, putting the pieces together, and heating the concrete in a microwave oven. Once the melted material cools down, it joins together.
Of course with this method, the concrete needs heat. If the material is used to create roads, how will they be heated up?? To solve that problem, Dr. Schlagen and his team created a special vehicle that passes induction coils on the road.
Dr. Schlagen estimates that the machine will be used to run on the concrete every four years and that this innovative technology could save the country $90 million annually.
Precise Polymer Nanotrusses
Julia Greer, a materials science and mechanics professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), uses two-photon lithography to create precise polymer nanotrusses that can be coated in materials like metal or ceramic, hollowed out to remove the polymer, and then stacked in a fractal construction essentially a nanotruss made of nanotrusses. The created material couples the structural and material properties of its medium, such as metal or ceramic, to possess previously unheard of characteristics including flaw-tolerance and shape memory. The lab is trying to scale the process from its current millimeter size to that of a sheet of letter-sized paper. It could be likely used in the built space include battery cells, smart windows, heat exchangers, and wind turbines. One can make paper that is un-wettable, thermally insulating, and untearable.
Coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles
For application to glass, steel, paper, and other materials, a new coating from researchers at the University College London resists moisture even after being scratched or exposed to oiltypical weak spots for conventional repellent coatings. Made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, the finish rejects water, oil, and even red wine by bouncing the invasive substances off its surface and removing dirt in the process. Although the coating is currently applied in 20-centimeter-square areas, “we see no reason why this couldn’t be scaled up,” says Ivan Parkin, head of the university’s chemistry department and corresponding author of a paper on the research in the journal Science. Parkin’s team has talked about automobile paint and moisture-resistant coatings as possible applications for the technology. It could eventually be used to create a durable, self-cleaning façade that can better withstand the elements than current options on the market.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a new way to control elastic waves which can travel through materials without altering their composition that could protect structures from seismic events. The team developed and engraved a geometric microstructure pattern (shown below) into a steel plate to bend or refract elastic and acoustic waves away from a target. “By redirecting the shock waves carrying massive energy around the important infrastructures or residential buildings through a metamaterial cloak, civilian lives and common properties can be saved from catastrophic earthquakes or tsunamis,” says Guoliang Huang, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The team chose steel for its ubiquity but Huang says other metals and plastics can be engineered to have similar functionality.
At Purdue University, researchers are adding cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood fiber to concrete. Nano-reinforced materials typically outperform conventional alternatives across a range of mechanical and chemical propertiesamong them strength, impact resistance, and flexibility. When applied to construction materials like concrete, they help to reduce a structure’s environmental footprint by requiring less material to achieve a similar effect. The nanocrystal additive can be extracted as a byproduct of industrial agriculture, bioenergy, and paper production. Its addition enhances the concrete-curing process, the researchers say, allowing the concrete to use water more efficiently and without impacting its weight or density significantly. Construction materials are among the target applications for the additive.
Tesla solar tiles
Tesla solar tiles are claimed to a competitive alternative to regular roofing materials. On one hand, where the regular roofing materials cost $24.50 per square foot, Tesla Solar Roof tiles, at $21.85 will be more affordable and reliable. These solar tiles will be a profitable and economic investment for homeowners. Along with helping to produce its own green energy and save money, these tiles will prove to be more durable than any existing hard roof tiles in the market, thus being sustainable and efficient at the same time.
Laminated Timbers, also known as Cross Laminated Timber are a product used especially high-rise commercial buildings. Although they aren’t commonly used building materials for residential sectors, it has every capability to be.
CLT’s are known for their incredible tensile and compressive strength. Commonly manufactured from young trees, they are a suitable and eco-friendly alternative to most hardwood products. They come in many sizes and are even custom made for large sized structures. They also come pre-fabricated and ready to use state; hence structures take less time to complete.
Building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glazing can help buildings generate their own electricity, by turning the whole building envelope into a solar panel. Companies such as Polysolar provide transparent photovoltaic glass as a structural building material, forming windows, façades and roofs. Polysolar’s technology is efficient at producing energy even on north-facing, vertical walls and its high performance at raised temperatures means it can be double glazed or insulated directly. As well as saving on energy bills and earning feed-in tariff revenues, its cost is only marginal over traditional glass, since construction and framework costs remain, while cladding and shading system costs are replaced.
Hydro-ceramics are new building materials which can very effectively replace the air-conditioning in buildings. These materials are made of hydrogel bubbles which can efficiently store up to 400 times its volume of water. Then on hot days these bubbles evaporate thus significantly reducing the temperature in the given space. Utilising this material in walls and other building materials can significantly reduce energy consumption as well as will be highly economical for the homeowner.
This product has been developed with a formula by which it repairs itself. This formula not only makes aesthetic repairs in cracks of concrete but also works to save the integrity of the building when water seeps in and corrodes the reinforcing
steel. With the use of bio-concrete, it will be possible for the engineers to less reinforcing steel on projects, thus saving overall building cost, as well as costs, are done on repairing.
It is a new generation wallboard product that includes the benefits of both old-fashioned plaster and modern drywall. Habito drywall stands on its own, thus eliminating the need for any anchors for any weight less than 30 pounds. This material has high density and gives great sound resistance and impact resistance, thus giving its applications in media rooms and high traffic areas. It is also known for its flexibility and performance as well as its durability for the building.
Pollution absorbing bricks
These bricks are specifically designed to be used as the building blocks of structure’s typical ventilation system. These specialized bricks are double-layer enclosed and thus provide standard heat insulation. There is a filtration system which separates the heavy suspended particulate matter particles and then they are dropped into the removable hopper situated at the base of the wall. The final result is they help in delivering better quality air and also helps in reducing airborne respiratory disorders.
CABKOMA strand rod
Created by the Japanese Company Komatsu Seiren Fabric Laboratory, this product is a new thermoplastic carbon fiber. It is covered with synthetic and inorganic fibers and then coated with thermoplastic resin.
This product boasts of seismic reinforcement of thermoplastic carbon fiber composite. The interlining is made of advanced carbon fiber and the outer layer is covered with synthetic and inorganic fiber, both of which are then given a finish by impregnation with thermoplastic resin. These are some of the innovative building materials that will bring a new revolution to the construction industry. Builders, architects, and homebuyers will definitely prefer such products. They are not only economic but also sustainable in the long run.
Developing new building materials is not just about making them stronger or lighter, but also about making them more environmentally friendly. A team from Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia has been able to create something that achieves this, with their invention of what they call ‘green-mix concrete’. This uses conventional ingredients for concrete mixed with suitable waste and recycled materials to create an economical and eco-friendly substitute that still performs as well as the original. Some of the materials used include fly ash, recycled concrete aggregates and aluminium can fibres.
Synthetic spider silk
Spider silk is one of the natural world’s most impressive materials, with extremely high strength for its relatively low density that makes it stronger than steel, gram-for-gram. Researchers have long wanted to create a synthetic version, but the secret to its properties has been a mystery until now. A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has used 3D printing techniques to generate fake spiderwebs in order to learn more about their structure. They believe this is the next step towards a synthetic version.
These innovations are going to mark the future of construction market.
Info and image source
- https://iaac.net/wp-content/uploads/ 2015/03/4final-prototype-copy_1.jpg
- https://www.archdaily.com/785175/komatsu-seiren-fabric-laboratory-creates-cabkoma-strand-rod-to-protect-building -from-earthquakes