When you think of innovation, the construction industry may not be the first sector to spring to mind. Traditional stereotypes of middle-aged men in hard hats and fluorescent jackets aside, construction isn’t all about brick houses and glass office blocks. Constructionis constantly using new innovations in technology and design to develop the industry and its workers.
Construction firms’ attitudes to innovation
CIOB’s 2007 survey showed that innovation and creativity is encouraged through grants, collaboration, access to new technologies and innovation programmes. Some of the most popular areas of innovation were carbon reduction, sustainable energy, improved off-site fabrication and training. 83% of companies said that innovation was very important for the future of construction.
So how far has the industry come since then?
Pinnacle@Duxton, Singapore – an apartment complex of seven 50-storey towers connected by two skybridges which offer amazing views, leisure facilities and a way to evacuate residents in case of a fire.
Manitoba Hydro Place, Canada – this office building has the world’s most energy efficient design, using 70% less energy than similar-sized traditional buildings with winter gardens, natural ventilation and lighting, and a geothermal heat pump system.
Bahrain World Trade Center – a pioneer of renewable and passive energy reduction measures, this is the world’s first skyscraper to be designed with integrated wind turbines. The two sail shaped office towers house a luxury hotel and shopping mall.
Bricks that absorb pollution, floating piers, conductive concrete and biodegradable furniture. Some of the latest construction materials are mind-blowing. Often created from specific responses to environmental and safety concerns, they combine cutting-edge technology with construction techniques to produce a new way of thinking and building.
As a manufacturing technique, 3D printing might be the future. It’s all digital and so 100% paperless, incredible accuracy means there’s zero waste and almost no need to rework plans, plus it finds the most efficient designs to minimise materials.
This year a steel pedestrian bridge is being printed in Amsterdam, while in China the first 3D printed housing estates are being trialled.
Pioneering construction projects
The World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group’s report, ‘Shaping the Future of Construction’ has highlighted some of the best new construction approaches. These include the @one Alliance, a partnership between Anglian Water and its suppliers designed to work collaboratively, drawing from each other’s strengths; and the "flat-pack" construction approach by China’s BROAD group, which manufactures parts offsite and increases build time, cost effectiveness and energy efficiency.
These innovations open up a huge range of exciting careers in the construction industry, including 3D visualisers who create photo-realistic 3D images of proposed buildings, ecologists who study the impact of proposed construction works on animals and plants, and hydrographic surveyors who map the world’s underwater surfaces.