The construction industry was built on innovation, and its contributions are growing each year. Every project throws out its own unique challenges and obstacles, and the industry tackles them head-on with new materials, technologies and processes. It's a fast-moving, dynamic field to work in, so let's look at just a few of the biggest ideas coming out of it right now.
Materials With concrete being such an important construction material, improvements in its quality and capabilities stand to help everyone in the industry. Bath University researchers are developing a new form of concrete with self-healing properties to prevent cracking from water exposure. The water actually triggers the healing by activating biological processes within the material itself. In effect, the same thing that causes the damage also repairs it!
A NASA-developed material called Aerogel, originally designed for cryogenic insulation, is finding a new home in the construction industry. It's got the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid substance, and is already being called the "Holy Grail of future glazing technologies".
Green Technologies Meeting the future's energy needs is something we're all having to consider now. Advances in photovoltaic glazing have the potential to turn entire buildings into massive solar panels, and it's only getting more efficient, more practical and cheaper as time goes on.
Kinetic surfaces are another exciting new development in the works - from roads that absorb the energy of passing vehicles and produce electricity to flooring that does the same with simple human footfall. These surfaces can be adapted for use basically anywhere, whether to power nearby electrical devices or to contribute directly to the electricity grid.
Software Software design, like construction itself, is always at the forefront of innovation. Increasingly, we're using it to test our ideas before putting them into practice or to build entire projects digitally before we ever lay one brick on another. Software simulations can provide stress-tests and make solid predictions about durability, or simply help to show the full picture of what we're working toward.
Processes Not every innovation needs to come in the form of a sci-fi material or super-advanced computer program. Sometimes, a good idea is powerful enough on its own to change the face of an industry. Modular construction methods, where pre-fabricated components are delivered wherever they're needed, have been a factor construction since the end of the Second World War. Built to modern standards using up-to-date methods and materials, modular buildings are more than capable of being strong, safe and attractive enough for almost any purpose.
All this, of course, is just the tip of a very large and complex iceberg. In every part of the construction industry, we're seeing new approaches, new tools and new methods that change the ways we're working and the things we're building. In fact, the biggest danger is that far too many of these breakthroughs and innovations are being swept under the carpet.
RIFT R&D is here to make sure that your best ideas are never brushed off. The UK's R&D Tax Credit system is an enormous resource, so get in touch now to make sure you don't miss out.
It’s no secret that we’re heading into a critical time for the whole UK construction industry. It’s going to take an estimated 158,000 new jobs to hit the targets for infrastructure and housing needs...