Disruptive improvements to look forward to
We have all experienced the impact of disruptive technology in our everyday life, be it internet search based decisions or on-line shopping or mobile app based services. What possible disruptive improvements can we look forward to in the construction industry?
Cement production process the world over is responsible for 7% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. A team of scientists led by Gaurav Sant in UCLA, USA have shown that the carbon dioxide given off during calcination can be captured and recombined with calcium hydroxide to recreate limestone — creating a cycle in which no carbon dioxide is released into the air. In addition, about 50 percent less heat is needed throughout the production cycle, since no additional heat is required to ensure the formation of tricalcium silicate. The process entails less energy requirement and also less time, in addition to making the cement production process carbon-neutral. This method of cement production when scaled up from a lab experiment stage to factory production stage will disrupt the established method, benefitting the environment.
Cracks occur in concrete structures for a variety of reasons. Research on concrete infused with organic and inorganic healing agents is at an advanced stage in the UK. When cracks appear, the agents get triggered to react by way of cementing the cracks through organic or inorganic processes. This technology will contribute positively to the safety and durability of concrete structures, particularly in critical areas and in vulnerable zones. Self-healing concrete once commercialised will cut down the repair and maintenance cost drastically in case of both concrete roads in cities and concrete highways. It would also address the vast maintenance requirement of old buildings. The benefits of precast piers, pier caps, elevated corridor box segments and slabs have already quickened the metro rail projects. China has shown the fast pace of multi-storeyed construction possible in amazingly quick time, by adopting precast technology. The increasing thrust now on affordable housing and the mission of providing housing for all necessitate wide adoption of precast concrete technology in a standardised manner.
Precasting factories could come together to bench mark the requirements, formalize the design and acceptance criteria, and adopt uniform grades, sizes and component specifications for precast buildings including the composite elements of walls, columns, beams, slabs, lintels, toilet units etc. This would boost the adoption of precast technology in a wide manner all over, enabling low cost and quick construction of houses on a large scale.
Photovoltaic Wall and Roof Panels
Photovoltaic glazing of building wall and roof panels will enable solar electricity generation in a sustainable low cost manner. The multifunctional panels could be precast elements with appropriate cladding along the outer walls and roof slabs to convert the solar energy into electricity. The panels could house power banks as well, supplying direct current to lights and fans inside the buildings.
4D Graphic Information Modelling
As software capabilities improve and as the adoption of BIM / GIS modelling practices widen in the construction industry, we could see computer aided design evolving to generate space-time models. One would be able to see the entire construction process in 3D motion picture visualization from different angles at each stage of construction. This will enable better understanding of the technical requirements to achieve results on ground in a lean manner, cutting down on waste. This would assist resolution of engineering conflicts besides enable quantity take-offs and progress monitoring, leading to better management of projects for timely completion within budgeted costs.