Over time the construction industry has changed, developed, and innovated in-line with its culture and environment. It has not always got it right, and there are some examples of failed visions in our cultural heritage. Still, the need to innovate in response to changing conditions and availability of materials has always been a significant factor in the construction industries.
In recent years there have been significant shifts in our construction processes motivated by advancements in technology as well as pressure from individuals and governments to implement more carbon-neutral processes. Luckily this has been possible with excellent innovations in home building that reduces the costs of homes and improves their efficiency.
It’s clear that these technologies, among others, will be instrumental in the construction industry going forwards. Sustainability and carbon-neutrality are the latest challenges and they’re being met with innovation and creativity. It looks as if the homes of the future, like the homes of the past, will be adapted to the needs of the natural environment.
SIPs stand for Structural Insulated Panels, and they are fast becoming the material of choice for the walls and roofs of new homes. Made from two sheets of oriented strand board that sandwiched between a thick layer of polyurethane foam, the materials are glued together and result in large thick panels. The panels are then pre-cut according to the architect’s specifications and delivered to the construction site for assembly. All the construction workers need to do is to prepare the foundations and await the delivery.
There are many benefits to using SIPs panels instead of traditional stick-frame construction. Firstly, there is a saving in terms of time and labor. As the panels are delivered to the construction site pre-fabricated, they only need to be assembled. The process of building a new home becomes faster and more cost-effective. Furthermore, a SIPs home is entirely air-tight, fully insulated, and complies with environmental regulations.
SIPs panels are easily the home building construction technology of the future. Although a little is more expensive initially they offer a range of benefits to homeowners that can’t be overlooked. Better energy efficiency, more floor space, easier to maintain, and lower energy costs. Huge savings can be made annually with the excellent insulation offered in a SIPs build. Inside the home, advantages include more living space and no loft, which translates into an extra room in the home. If you’re buying to sell, using Real estate in an IRA SIPs home’s is an excellent option.
In the next ten years, industries across the board, including the construction industry, will be incorporating innovative technologies into their processes to reduce global carbon output. When considering how to reduce global carbon, it’s easy to focus on the significant contributors such as coal and oil. While these are undoubtedly damaging, there are also other sources of greenhouse gasses that need to be addressed. In the construction industry, the manufacture of cement and concrete is a significant contributor.
In fact, cement manufacturers are the second-largest emitters of CO2 in the world, according to some sources. Cement is made from calcium and silica in the form of limestone and sand. Cement is made by mixing limestone and sand together in a kiln and heating it to around 1500°C – this transforms it into cement. The method has not changed since the 1840s. The process produces CO2 first by the burning of fossil fuels to heat the kiln, and secondly by the chemical reaction needed to produce the concrete.
As a substantial emitter of CO2, the construction industry is looking at new technologies to reduce its impact. One of these is low-carbon concrete. The manufacturing process is adjusted to reduce carbon output. Less limestone is put into the mix, and it’s heated at a lower temperature. This reduces the main sources of CO2 from limestone and fossil fuels. Later carbon dioxide is injected into the mixture and transforms the limestone with zero-waste.
If you thought timber was a material of the past, then think again. There are lots of uses for timber in tomorrow’s world, and the technologies used in producing it are only becoming more innovative and environmentally friendly. Wood is one way that carbon can be extracted from the atmosphere; this means that the availability of timber will probably rise. Despite this, manufacturers are also looking at sustainable ways of producing timber materials for construction and Cross-Laminated Timber is one of them.
Cross-laminated timber consists of many small pieces of softwood laminated together to become panels, beams, and supports. The type of wood used in production differs and comes from a variety of sources, including timber damaged by drought and insects. The selections of wood are glued together under immense pressure; this process gives it strength and longevity. Similar to SIPs panels, cross-laminated panels can be made to measure and manufactured more quickly than conventional materials.
Cross-laminated timber is sustainable because it uses a range of inoperable wood to create a quality building material, but that’s not the only reason. The process of manufacturing has a low carbon footprint, and it allows for off-site construction, again similar to SIPs. It means projects can be more efficiently planned and implemented, which adds to its sustainability value. The layered timber is as strong as concrete or steel and at present is used in some city skyscrapers.
3D printing has emerged in recent years as a valid option for architects and developers and has begun to transform the construction industry. Although the technology has been available for use in a variety of commercial processes, it has not been implemented much in the construction industry. Perhaps due to cost and materials. A few years ago, however, the innovative technology was used in the construction of two bridges, and since then construction companies around the world are implementing it.
3D printing accelerates the construction process in several key ways. Firstly it allows architects and designers to manipulate models more frequently before needing to create a new one. In the past, new models would have to be generated frequently. 3D printing also allows designers to create curved designs and complex layouts, when before they were restricted to the straight lines of wood and plastic. When designing new homes, it means that more complex ideas can be considered and the overall design phase can be more efficient.
But it isn’t only in the design phase that 3D printing can be useful. It can also be adopted into the construction process and used in full-scale projects. The printing options and materials have diversified, allowing contractors to use 3D printing to print parts and components on-site. Some of these parts may be crucial to the integrity of the building. In other cases, entire buildings and houses are printed further reducing labor and production costs.
Concrete has a long and illustrious history reaching back to the 1840s when it was first developed as a building material. It is a very successful material in general, but it does come with some issues. The main one is erosion over time, small cracks in concrete allow water to penetrate walls and paths when the temperature drops this water becomes ice which expands, causing the hole to deepen. Repairs to concrete can be expensive and labor-intensive work.
Now, a range of self-healing concretes have been developed that solves the problem. Microcapsules are mixed with the concrete and remain intact until exposed to air or water due to a crack. The capsules then bust filling the crack with the healing agent. Another method uses bacteria that is mixed up with the concrete and has a similar effect; it works to soften the concrete and refill the crack when exposed.