Technology and Pandemics and How they Influence Construction Trends Around the World
The world we are currently living in is very different to what it was a few years ago, in-terms of technology, as we advance so do the materials and methods used in architecture and construction!
Skyscrapers have never reached such heights and buildings never been so “smart”. Another incredible thing is how this has affected how we think about our surroundings in terms of being more health conscious, more sustainable as well as ensuring materials are clean and germ free.
30% of all building materials are produced in China, and Italy produces huge amounts of glass and stone. Both these countries were hard-hit by the pandemic in 2020. Throughout this time, construction companies reported shortages in building materials. This has made consumers less brand loyal and more focused on just procuring building materials they need.
Specific types of materials, such as plexiglass, have experienced large increases in demand due to social distancing guidelines—who knew plexiglass would be the most sought after material in interiors in 2020.
Let’s look at emerging developments and construction trends, and how new materials are being used to ensure a healthier, sustainable environment for us all.
Solar Panels & Smart Glass
Number one on our construction trends list is Solar panel technology and smart glass. Research is constantly being done to develop more efficient and cost-effective panels. Transparent panels could insure that glass in all windows easily be replaced with solar panels around the world. Making panels smaller but just as effective could mean much less space is needed to get the benefits of solar power.
Switchable smart glass is a new and growing trend amongst building materials that is being used in hospitals, offices and residential properties. Smart glass provides UV protection, is durable and can help save energy costs by up to 30% when used correctly. Smart glass allows users to control and adjust the amount of heat and light that enters a building and can quickly turn opaque to provide privacy when needed.
Concrete is the worlds most used building material, but it has a downfall, its unavoidable cracking! This is usually caused by exposure to water, weather and chemicals—until now.
A team in the Netherlands infuses concrete with certain bacterial spores that actually patch up cracks caused by water seeping through. This is truly ground-breaking! These self-healing concretes are made with the help of infusing bacteria that can survive in concrete for thousands of years. The bacteria creates limestone that fill up and repair the cracks. This reduces the corrosion and improves the life of these concrete structures.
It’s kind of exactly what you imagine—SLIP is an abbreviation for Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface. This construction trend is still widely in it’s research phase, but a team at Harvard is investigating how to produce these surface that would let germs and bacteria slip right off of the surface—including other things like dust, ice or even graffiti–meaning this would be useful in many industries and a lot more hygienic—especially helpful in times like these.
Building interiors and exteriors with this surface could change the way we interact with our surroundings greatly.
Making New Materials by Combining Technology to Old Materials
Technology is helping us develop far beyond what was once perceived possible. One example is when nanotechnology is combined with ultra high strength concrete, nano-materials like Carbon nanotubes are formed which create materials so strong that steel reinforcement is no longer necessary and makes the building process much faster and easier.
Another example is Mass timber. Mass timber comes in several forms such as glue-laminated beams, cross-laminated and nail-laminated timber, the most common form used is cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT can be used to make ceilings, floors, walls and even entire buildings. Currently, the world’s largest CLT structure is an 18 story building with plans of an even larger 80 story wooden tower planned for Chicago.
Mass timber reduces carbon emissions as well as resulting in much faster construction times which in turn result in lower labour costs when building.
In 2021, the first CLT manufacturing facility opened in Spokane, Washington and many more will open around the world with this new effective way of building. If mass timber construction is correctly coupled with sustainable forestry, it could significantly improve the impacts that manufacturing building materials has on the environment. For instance, concrete and cement manufacturing alone is responsible for 8% of GHG emissions and the global iron and steel industry responsible for another 5%.
13% of GHG emissions can be avoided with the substitution of Mass timber. This will eliminate the need to use fossil fuels to make concrete and steel structures.
This might not sound appealing, however, new materials from Zurich aim to help make your building sweat, and yes—you actually do want that. These materials used on rooftops absorb rain water and only release stored water once certain high temperatures are reached which result in cooling of your home naturally, no need for expensive cooling systems.
Aerogel & PET for Insulation
While buildings in colder areas need insulation, people are demanding greener options. Climate change as well as a need to minimise temperature control costs related to heat or cooling mean people want a more sustainable alternative. Aerogel was developed by NASA, and now as similar products made by different companies for commercial and residential use have emerged , a new, efficient and sustainable way to insulate buildings has also emerged.
One example is Polyethylene Terephthalate(PET), these foam cores have higher temperature resistances and are compatible with various production processes. The incredible thing is that they are made of 100% post-consumer recycled material and can be recycled again after usage. In the next few years, the usage of PET in the composite industry can be expected to increase.
PET is the most recycled polymer found in bottles, recording tapes, and electrical components and makes up 18% of total polymers produced worldwide. PET is made of 100% recycled material and produces much lower rates of carbon dioxide emissions than other polymer foams.
PET foam panels perform well in temperature resistance, and fatigue resistance. PET can be used in concrete to improve strength and durability. It can also help improve the stability of road pavement and thus as a material can be very useful for many forms of building.
Not something you’d expect to be a construction trend… Recently developed, wool bricks are an almost zero carbon product and are 37% stronger than traditional bricks. Over 3.9 billion traditional bricks are manufactured every year. Consumers want more sustainable alternatives to these bricks that create greenhouse gases and airborne toxins in the production process. Wool bricks reduce the gases produced when making them as they naturally dry and don’t require the energy intensive and polluting process of firing that traditional bricks need.
How Will Construction Trends Change in the Future
As people become more conscious of their surroundings and living conditions, its easy to see that construction practices will move to favour a more environmentally friendly and consumer-conscious approach.
If you need a professional construction team to assist with your projects, our team is the ideal contracting partner. Get in touch with us today to get started.