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Innovations in Construction for the Very Near Future


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Sunrise over the Solar Decathlon

People want more for less when it comes to their homes, a trend that has intensified as a result of the slow economic recovery. While recent months have brought a surge in new construction for multifamily units, new building enterprises for single family homes remain cautious. Succeeding in this new market requires construction innovation that allows firms to build faster, less expensively and with a watchful eye on their environmental impacts.

The great news for the construction industry is that some amazing advances in construction technology are here to help firms reinvent the business of building from the ground up. Innovative building projects in places like New York, British Columbia, Norway and the UK are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the industry and what the very near future may look like. Here is a look ahead at some of the most fascinating and innovative construction materials and techniques that will soon become the new standards.

1. Moisture-barrier ICF

Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) have been around for decades but new building techniques in modifying the opening buck and window fittings have made these inexpensive, interlocking blocks as water resistant as glazing or cladding systems. A recent report out of British Columbia, ICF Wall Testing and Modeling, presents the findings from various tests and forms the basis of a new best practice guide for installing ICFs using industry-standard details and installation practices.

2. 3D Steel Printers

3D printing of building materials has finally become practical over the last two years, under the industry name of Additive Manufacturing. Designers and engineers working for Arup in London recently previewed their steel nodes that they custom printed on the spot. They are demonstrating how 3D printing will redefine the construction industry by speeding up builds, lowering costs, eliminating waste and reducing the sector’s carbon footprint overall.

The Klein Bottle Opener by Bathsheba Grossman 3D Printed in Stainless Steel

3. Aerogel

This eerie substance is sometimes referred to as “frozen smoke” for reasons that are obvious the first time you see it. It is made by saturating a foam of solid glass with microscopic air bubbles. Not only is it the lightest substance in the world, it is a near perfect insulator. Walls and windows that weigh virtually nothing will be able to insulate homes better than anything on the market today. A marketing consultant in Norway has alreadyused aerogel in building his dream home.


4. Rammed Earth

Sometimes the newest ideas are very, very old. Rammed earth is one of the very earliest construction techniques, long before civilization began. Today, new techniques are turning this concept into a futuristic building material. In Wales, the walls of the Sheppard Theater, part of the Centre for Alternative Technology, were built by a proprietary circular shuttering system that bonded the clay together at a molecular level. The earth used was 320 tons of waste dirt that had already been processed from other building projects. Lime rendering made it a weather-resistant and load bearing miracle material that was naturally insulating and environmentally responsible.

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It’s an exciting time to be in the construction industry, as techniques and innovations that sound incredible are simply new tools for more efficient and ecologically responsible construction.

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