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.

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.