Construction’s future? According to the experts, it’s an evolution of innovation, technological advancement, and advanced collaboration. The face of construction looks incredibly different than it did a decade, five years, or even one year ago. Connected collaboration, augmented reality, and prefabrication are no longer far-flung concepts, but present-day realities in construction. Furthermore, today’s new working environment has only accelerated changes that were already afoot in the industry and solidified the need to adapt to up-and-coming trends.
Today we’re highlighting three of those trends that have emerged as pillars of the construction industry's future.
As we mentioned, much has been said about sustainable construction—so much so that it is becoming a buzzword. As an industry, we know construction can be wasteful, producing upwards of 40% waste. Nearly all forward-thinking construction companies are united in a goal to reduce waste and our global impact.
Reducing impact is one thing, but can construction projects actually give back to the environment? That’s the question the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design project sought to answer in the recent documentary, The Kendeda Story.
Located in Metro Atlanta, Georgia, the multi-disciplinary, non-departmental building sits on the Georgia Institute for Technology campus and spans 36,978 square feet. The net-positive facility is regenerative and pursuing full certification from the Living Build Challenge, the world’s most ambitious building performance standard.
The Kendeda building serves as a blueprint for construction’s future and sustainability. To hear the Kendeda team talk about it, sustainable construction isn’t just about saving money and reducing waste, it’s also about changing the future for our planet. “Most people may not realize that the way that we design a building can actually change the future. But it truly can. Being able to see ahead of time, plan ahead and think about how buildings are designed in the first place can create incredible catalytic change,” Shannon Goodman, Executive Director, Lifecycle Building Center.
Climate change remains a global issue, one that is more pressing than ever before. In the future of construction, we’ll see teams take a bigger role in helping to solve climate-related issues and build resiliency. Rapid and frequent extreme weather events will become more common in the future, putting humankind, infrastructure, and property at risk. Much has been said about sustainability in recent years, but resiliency is now emerging as another new concept for construction’s future. Construction teams will need to consider the design and build strategies that allow infrastructure and properties to weather climate change. Weather events to consider include everything from hurricanes to droughts. Teams can expect to face these challenges when building new structures and retrofitting existing infrastructure.
The Rising to the Challenge: Afsluitdijk documentary addressed the resiliency challenge head-on, detailing how innovative design and construction are being used to fortify the Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands. For many residents, the Afsluitdijk represents feelings of family and travel; heavy storms and high tides were threatening its ability to hold as the water level continued to rise.
Levvel-blocs were a critical part of fortifying the dike while meeting safety and environmental requirements. Bas Reedijk, Head of the Coastal Engineering and Water Management Department at BAM Infraconsult / Delta Marine Consultants, pioneered the use of the levvel-blocs on the project. He explained, “It's an interlocking block. It works together very well with its neighbors, and it's designed to withstand very high waves on the North Sea and also designed to withstand these waves in combination with very high storm surge levels. High hydraulic stability, low concrete demand, low CO2 output, good for the ecology, but they form basically the whole appearance of the Afsluitdijk. The majority of the dike, so some 30 kilometers of the dike, will be protected by these blocks. My team has designed the block and finally, in Google Earth, you will be able to see it from space.”
The Afsluitdijk fortification project leveraged process innovation to future-proof the results. It included a unique mix of manufacturing, connected construction, and advanced technology. This mix allowed the team to avoid waste and increase efficiencies. Menno de Jonge, director digital construction, Royal BAM Group, highlights this fact: “I think there's a number of very innovative aspects on this project. In the design, we can take account of the best way to design this dam with the most advanced technologies and also materials. The credo that we use in our organization is, ‘We build it before we built it.’ First, we produce our design in a fully digital way before we start constructing it in a physical way. So that really leads to less waste.”
We’ve all faced tight timelines that are sometimes fixed in stone. The pressure to deliver can be overwhelming, especially as we adjust to remote work, changing schedules, and dispersed workforces. Hansen Yuncken faced immovable deadlines when working on the Sydney Coliseum Theatre. The firm was already in the midst of deploying innovative technology to improve planning and execution. However, once they reviewed the required design changes, they calculated they could meet the deadline—with just one week to spare. The challenge was immense, but the Hansen Yuncken team recognized an opportunity to showcase how far they had come in the digital journey.
To meet the impending deadline, the firm leveraged industrialized construction methods. By applying manufacturing techniques in the construction process, the firm completed several key activities in parallel on- and off-site. Vanja Krumpacnik, Project Manager, Hansen Yuncken, explains this benefit, “Adopting manufacturing processes can help with construction in a few different ways. The ability to manufacture something off-site. So you can actually do it in parallel to some of the on-site activities. From a cost perspective, it can be beneficial. Because you are manufacturing something in a controlled environment.”
The documentary, Building an Icon: the Coliseum, highlights the steps and processes Hansen Yuncken took to meet the immovable deadline and deliver the multi-mode, 2,000-seat auditorium right on time.
Industrialized construction is certain to be a critical part of construction’s future. As Brett Casson, Senior Principal Major Projects, Autodesk, puts it, “It represents the single biggest opportunity for the industry in a generation. But it also represents an enormous challenge in that the whole of the industry needs to completely re-imagine what it means to construct.”
All of these pillars share an intersection of challenge and opportunity. Prepare to meet both head-on in the construction industry's future by diving into our recent documentary series.
Join the conversation! What key principles do you see guiding the industry’s future? Share in the comments section below.