Emerging Construction Technology

The construction industry appears to be heading for a major overhaul with the development of certain construction techniques and autonomous robotic workers. What are the potential advacements, are they within reach or simply wishful thinking. Of all the the concepts and theories circulting 3 topics have been chosen. Claytonics, 3D printing and domed cities are touted by many as revolutionary construction methods, each topic will be explained and reviewed to determine what real world applications could exist, if any. The first topic discussed will be claytronics.

Some readers may not have heard of claytronics, admittedly it is a relatively new topic to FFR so some digging was required. The global research University of Carnegie Mellen has teamed up with Intel to develop a claytronics project which they define as collaborative research into programmable matter. They state that claytronics is the combination of ‘modular robotics, systems nanotechnology and computer science to create the dynamic, 3-Dimensional display of electronic information’. Micro robots form the matter, which could take any programmable shape. One theory is that the shapes could provide base building blocks for construction of any object exceeding current methods or structural limitations of today’s methods. Some believe claytonics could become a reality by 2020. The Carnegie Mellen and Intel project is not the only claytronics project currently being conducted, however limited information is currently available, which leads us to the the next topic 3D printing.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Not 20 minutes go by before something new has been 3D printed, but there are still some very interesting advacements. 3D printing is not a new concept especially in the field of construction, however some of it’s uses for construction is intriguing. CNET published an article in mid January 2015 about a Chinese company called WinSun that constructed a 5 storey apartment block from 3D printed materials, most of the plastics were recycled making the contruction even more interesting. In December 2014, the International Space Station was able to 3D print a ratchet wrench from code that was beamed up from mission control. The wrench was not used but returned to earth for comparison to earth based printed objects. Printing objects in space from materials that could be to heavy or dense to print with on earth could have enormous implications for construction. The ability to build large-scale objects with load bearing qualities could revolutionize the entire industry. Just imagine buildings being lowered into place or spaceports being built from raw materials in space. It could also be a key to building an outpost and later a colony on Mars. The last topic reviewed is domed cities.

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Domed cities have been theorised for decades, in fact the earliest documented mention of a domed city was cited as far back as 1881. The concept appears straight forward, build a city under a domed glass roof, seems simple enough. The main premise is the atmosphere in the dome can be controlled allowing a comfortable existance regardless of the external enviroment. The city of Dubai is attempting to build the world’s first domed city, however it’s probably not what you’d imagine. There is a central dome containing green space and other social areas but also an extensive enclosed interconnecting walk ways to shops, hotels and other facilities the domed city plan appears as a spider’s web of climate controlled walk ways and hubs. Extreme heat is a driving factor for the Dubai domed city project but extreme cold weather cities can also benefit from controlled atmospheres such as domed cities. The challange for domed cities will be if they can achieve zero emissions, thereby not impacting the environment surrounding the domed area.

The three topics of claytronics, 3D printing and domed cities are defiantly not the be all and end all of construction methods and techniques being practices and theorized. On the contrary the number of concepts currently being discussed would mean this blog would take a week to read if each topic was analysed. All we know is that construction along with other emerging technology sectors are evolving at exponential rates. How we as human beings build cities and where we live on this planet could be unimaginable with today’s technology but quite frankly we’re very excited.

Emerging tech for developing countries (part two)

This is part two and final post for emerging technology for developing countries which focuses of waste management, housing and construction and information technology. Enabling and supporting emerging technologies for developing communities has far-reaching positive impacts as highlighted by the first topic for this post, waste managment.

Waste management has been a health and welfare issue for many countries, not just developing countries. The need for clean and safe waste Management is imperative to all communities. The re.source Sanitation organisation based in Haiti created a portable household toilet for informal settlements. The need for this concept was borne from the natural disaster where a great deal of infrastructure was destroyed and many people died from the diseases that took hold.

The housing and construction in some unforgiving environments can be a tough ask. So, how do you build cost-effective housing in these areas, simple. The Enactus Cairo University’s has developed earth bag housing. Utilising sandbags and some engineering knowhow the project can erect a sustainable, low-cost and stable dwelling within 15 days. The earth bag walls also protect the inhabitants from flooding and earthquakes and also provide a safe refuge during gunfire. Dwellings in some developing countries lack a reliable power source or any power at all. The liter of light – Switzerland organisation has developed an ecological solution to darkened dwellings during the day. Utilising a water and chlorine solution in a clear plastic bottle, then in half and half in the roof of a unlight dwelling. The results provide a defragmented light source equivalent to a 55 watt light bulb.

With the improvement of basic Information technology infrastructure benefits to developing countries are astronomical. Due to the high risk of tuberculosis and limited medical facilities, the Operation ASHA developed an Electronic Medical Record System (EMRS) to obtain biometric data through the use of fingerprint scanned and a wireless network device such as a small tablet. The device is referred to as an eComplience, which gathers data from tuberculosis suffers and transmits observations to a central medical team to monitor the patients health. Operation ASHA state that eComplience can be utilised to measure any long term diseases in patients. Utilising this emerging medical technology in these areas provides a level of care and welfare that may not have been present previously.

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There are a number of organisations like the Empowering People Network and charities such as the International River Foundation striving to improve the lives many people in developing countries that should be acknowledged and supported. Not all the technology is cutting edge, but emerging technology doesn’t always have to be. By very definition ‘emerging’ is for something to become apparent. Dedicating just a small amount of resources to improving any group, community and just an individual’s life is never a waste.