Monthly Archives

February 2016

Sustainability in construction

Modern software and sustainable construction: A new era

Architecture, Construction, Sustainability, Technology | No Comments

The modern construction industry is an ever-evolving world. With each new development, firms must shift to accommodate it or falter and stagnate. These advances both dictate and are dictated by the big issues in contemporary society. With global awareness of climate change growing, sustainability is taking centre stage in the design industry. Design elements like sustainable and or recycled construction materials, water reuse and collection features, smart glass, green roofs and smart roofs are all helping structures make better use of natural resources, whilst limiting their impact on the surrounding environment. 

The industry has introduced numerous innovations to combat environmental issues on-site, but designers and industry professionals now realise that sustainable practices need to be incorporated at every possible stage, including the rudimentary design phases and internal communications. As a result, modern software is on the frontline in the fight against climate change in the construction industry.

BIM

Like the move from paper to digital design in the 1980s, BIM represents the next evolutionary step in the construction industry’s development. Building information modelling is revolutionising the way we see buildings; not as a mere structure, but as a static element of our everyday environment. As a result, designers are now considering how they can construct buildings capable of lasting 100 years or more.

Designers can use BIM to test the durability of a building before it’s even constructed, enabling designs to be tweaked to optimise energy saving techniques. It can even study the effect of external factors on a structure, such as its ability to withstand natural disasters or the effect of sunlight on the interior temperature. By being able to study these external elements, the structure can be optimised to provide maximum exposure to energy resources and maximum protection from elements that could increase energy resources.

As urban areas become more developed, designers and construction experts also need to consider the effect new structures will have on the surrounding landscape. Through BIM software, new developments can justify their presence on the skyline while improving the surrounding area through the use of smart sustainable technologies. BIM gives access to accurate design data before a single foundation has been laid, so why have construction firms been so slow to adapt?

With an increasing awareness constructions effect on the natural environment at an all time high, we can’t afford to dither when it comes to taking a more sustainable approach to the construction of buildings. As our building requirements become more complex, BIM becomes an ever-greater necessity. Construction without any attempt to gauge the sustainability and durability of a building is destined to end in wasted energy, materials and manpower.
Sustainability in construction
Building Information Modelling can calculate a building’s energy efficiency before construction begins

3D printing

Despite the wealth of articles bemoaning the sudden ‘miracle-cure’ dialogue surrounding 3D printing, the technology still has a lot to offer the construction industry. The process involves using building data created in BIM software to digitally create a 3D product. Although there has been significant debate in architectural circles as to its real sustainable value, the technology is constantly developing and will only add to efforts to reduce carbon emissions before, during and after construction.

The chief criticism seems to surround the general public’s misconceptions about what 3D printing is best used for. 3D printing’s most practical contribution to sustainability so far has been to print digitally composed models for testing different functionalities. These micro-models allow designers to test buildings against different settings and adjust the design accordingly.

Although there are currently several firms attempting to employ 3D printing to create entire buildings, large-scale 3D printing is not yet at the stage where it can produce durable and ecologically sound structures on a mass scale.
software and sustainable construction
3D printing’s main application today is to create highly accurate models of structures to study their reaction to the effects of different elements 

Virtual and augmented reality

After fading into obscurity following a brief popularity in the early 90s, virtual reality is witnessing a resurgence in the construction industry. With the potential to map out structures using BIM software, clients can now ‘walk’ around their developments before they’ve even been constructed. This gives designers the opportunity to maximise the integration of sustainable features through intelligent adjustments.

Augmented reality, meanwhile, involves blending elements of virtual reality created through applications and projecting them onto the world around you. By overlaying information onto a virtual or actual view of a site, the design process can be streamlined, lowering building costs.

The key difference between augmented and virtual reality lies in augmented reality requiring a physical built environment. Despite this, it has been successfully applied to interior design projects and can give designers a better understanding of the spatial planning element of the design process. In turn, the insights gained from using augmented reality can influence the overall functionality, and even levels of sustainability, of the building’s interior.
Sustainability in construction
Virtual reality allows clients to walk through a building before it’s even been constructed

Cloud storage

The cloud is an innovative technology that stores data on external servers, rather than saving to individual hard drives. The service provider is responsible for software maintenance, enabling firms to stop relying on expensive, inefficient hardware and reduce the amount of office space required. Because data is uploaded to a central cloud for storage, any user with the relevant permissions can access the same data from anywhere in the world. This has particular ramifications for the construction industry.

Being on-site no longer has to mean limited interaction with those in the office. Apps like Google Hangouts, available on most mobile devices, can capture video through instant messaging, allowing visual issues to be identified and discussed on-site.

The entire design and construction process is streamlined, reducing loading times and allowing large files to be shared around the world in a matter of seconds. By being able to create and contribute everywhere, innovation no longer has a time-limit. You might wonder how this particular software and sustainable construction are connected, but cloud storage also reduces the need to print both in and outside of the office, enabling firms to achieve higher standards of sustainability whilst reducing the likelihood of duplicate documents.

software and sustainable construction
The Cloud connects everybody with the same data, in real time, anywhere in the world

In the ongoing struggle to limit the environmental impact of our building projects, every new innovation represents a new opportunity to alter the industry forever. Just as techniques develop over time to meet the needs of the industry, the industry develops to meet the needs of the society in which it’s based. Sustainability is one of the most pressing needs of modern society, and software innovations can help meet this need only when effectively implemented. It’s the responsibility of the entire industry to utilise the technology on offer to build a brighter future for tomorrow.

The biggest challneges facing the global construction industry

5 technologies changing construction forever

Construction, Feature, Google Apps, Industry, Technology | No Comments

The construction industry is constantly changing. As new technologies replace redundant methods of construction, practices adjust and our perception of the world evolves. The industry’s post-industrial evolution has largely been a fluid progression from one logical step to another. Thanks to the sharing power bestowed by the internet, however, the past twenty years has seen a host of standout technologies changing construction, and the way we construct our world, forever.

Google Apps

As technology develops and international boundaries blur, designers have been quick to take advantage of the newfound possibilities in collaboration. The administrative side has been slower to adapt, to the detriment of the entire industry. Google Apps offers construction firms the opportunity to revolutionise not only the means by which they communicate internally but also the way in which the entire industry operates.

The nature of the software allows for collaboration a scale unthinkable just a few years ago. Because company information is shared on the Google Drive, the process of access, sharing, and editing is streamlined, while the risk of losing information is reduced to a near impossibility. With the Google Cloud storing all information, access to vital data, renders and details are simplified, while the hardware on which it is accessed becomes less relevant. It also makes the transfer of large image files easier, safer and less time-consuming.

With the Google Cloud storing all information, access to vital data, renders and details are simplified, while the hardware on which it is accessed becomes less relevant. It also makes the transfer of large image files easier, safer and less time-consuming.

With Google Apps, file transfers and shared calendars streamline the sharing of information whilst keeping everyone updated in real time. For construction projects, alterations to a design,  materials or staff can be shared and explained via video with Google Hangouts. The result is multiple users to contribute and come to an appropriate solution promptly.
Technologies changing construction
Google Apps is already revolutionising the way the construction industry operates

BIM

Without a doubt, one of the most significant innovations in the construction industry in the past twenty years, BIM, or Building Information Modeling, has changed building design and the construction process forever. BIM software allows designers to generate and manipulate a digital representation of a building, meaning a project can be created and studied before a single brick is laid.

BIM gives designers the opportunity to study the effect of external factors on a building, allowing them to manipulate the design to achieve optimum levels of efficiency. By creating digital models, construction firms now have a fully realised and intricately detailed design from which to work. The technology behind BIM also means designers can prepare buildings to be adapted as technology evolves, ensuring projects stay relevant for as long as possible.

Some leading industry figures have questioned the integrity of information used in BIM, as well as the willingness of some clients to invest. But these are kinks in a relatively new design technology which will inevitably be ironed out as it develops. Today BIM is used on a range of software platforms for a variety of projects across the world. As a constantly developing technology, the potential to factor new considerations into the design process ensures it will continue to play an invaluable role in the future of construction.
Technologies changing construction
A building diagram constructed through BIM software

3D printing

Despite a recent backlash against 3D printing, the technology still holds huge potential for the construction industry, and for society as a whole. 3D printing can be applied to a whole range of construction materials, including sustainable cladding, concrete foundations, insulation and even entire buildings. Projects like the WASProject in Italy have even utilised the technology to create temporary shelters for victims of natural disasters using water, clay and sand.

Luke Henderson, Director of Print 3D in China, a 3D printing start-up based in Shenzhen, explains the shift from traditional materials; “The increase in availability of this technology has allowed smaller companies to try out new ideas without worrying too much about cost,” adding “poorer countries can bootstrap the process of creating architectural models by using consumer grade FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printers.

3D printing comes with a host of other advantages. By handing the actual process of construction to a printer, there is no longer room for human error. In turn, complex geometrical designs are now no longer the sole preserve of the wealthy. As Hod Lipson explained in ‘Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, in printing: “Complexity costs the same as simplicity.”

Technologies changing construction
A 3D printer in action/ photo credit: 3D Printer at the Fab Lab via photopin (license)

Prefabricated building materials

Although designers are still sceptical about the true potential of prefabricated design, the reality is this technology has been a major element of construction, existing in some form since the 19th century. The past twenty years, however, have seen the technology evolve to a previously unimaginable scale.

Prefabricated designs have grown in popularity largely because of the proliferation of new technology, allowing designers to create ingenious interlocking designs that can be assembled relatively easily on-site. The approach saves not only time but money, manpower, and natural resources, making buildings safer and more sustainable in the process. Because around 90% of all construction takes place in the factory, the construction requires less time and uses less concrete and water.

The Broad Group construction firm in China utilised the prefabrication method to achieve some of the fastest skyscraper construction times in history. The group first made its name in construction with a six-story building built in just one day at the Shanghai Expo in 2010. The firm went on to construct a 15 story Ark Hotel in just six days before building a 30 story hotel in Hunan Province in just over two weeks.

Each of these projects was filmed and released as time-lapse videos, showing the entire construction process in the space of a few minutes. The end result is not only an incredible piece of meticulous coordination but an indicator of the potential timeframe for the construction of future large-scale projects.Technologies changing construction
A prefabricated facade post assembly/ photo credit: building via photopin (license)

Robotic construction

Whilst robots have been used in constructing materials for well over half a century now, it’s only in the past ten years we have seen the real potential of On-Site Construction Robots (OSCR). When combined with 3D printing technology OSCR’s can massively reduce construction times, cutting costs and enabling the construction of more complex designs. As a result, architects, designers, and construction personnel can begin to explore new aesthetic approaches.

With OSCR’s also capable of reducing the amount of manpower required, some have been reticent to acknowledge the full potential of robots in construction, partly out of fear of eroding the element of human skill. But projects like the proposed Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) in Shenzhen, by Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, could prove robots and humans both have their place in the construction process.

In an interview with Dezeen magazine, Coop Himmelb(l)au founder Wolf D Prix argued engaging with these processes was essential to enable the trade to progress, stating: “If you combine 3D printing and assembling by robots, then the building industry has more chances than ever,” adding “The combination of robotic construction and 3D printing is the future of the building industry. It gives the architect more freedom to invent. The ideas that right now are killed, by the argument that it costs too much or it takes too long, will be not killed anymore.”

Prix has identified what each of these innovations are about. Each technology was born of a need to allow ideas to flourish. Just as the needs of the client evolves over time, so too must the technology to meet these needs. By encouraging and engaging with the latest innovations, designers and engineers can continue to build a brighter, more secure future; both for the construction industry and the world they create.

Google Apps for the global construction industry

How Google is revolutionising the global construction industry

Architecture, Construction, Industry, Technology | No Comments

The global construction industry is in a perpetual state of change. As the global market shifts and traditional practices change, firms too slow to adapt will inevitably be left behind. As technology develops, the industry is taking steps to improve its fragmented structure, inconsistent construction practices, and its lingering dependence on outdated paper-based communication processes. Historically, firms have been slow to make the change. That’s why it’s vital the modern construction firm stays up-to-date with the newest and most effective software and design tools. Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps people connect and work efficiently anywhere in the world with an internet connection. The full potential of Google Apps for the global construction industry is still being explored, but the key aims of the system are:

  • To enable growth through real-time collaborations.
  • To streamline communication through the use of a single document shared between relevant parties.
  • To enhance communication and enable firms to collaborate and communicate from multiple locations.
  • To provide search capabilities for previous email correspondence.

Google Apps offers a range of advantages over the traditional software suite, allowing construction firms to focus on delivering exceptional projects whilst enabling them to keep pace in one of the most competitive sectors on earth.

Mobility

Mobility is a vital attribute in any industry that requires successfully maintaining contact with clients and colleagues. This is particularly true in construction where people have to be onsite but want to continue interacting with people in the office. With the video function of Google Hangouts, you can raise construction issues and show video evidence in real time. This also means visualisations can be transferred quickly and efficiently, meaning issues can be resolved at the time they arise. Construction work can also entail significant travel time between site and office, or overseas. Google Hangouts and the collaborative capabilities of the other Google Apps makes communication and collaboration from anywhere in the world easier and more efficient.

Google Apps for the global construction industry

Collaboration

Construction often requires team leaders and foremen to complete documents in the field. With traditional software, this means carrying excessive amounts of paperwork to the site to keep track of new developments. Google Apps stores all of this information on the Cloud, making it easily accessible to colleagues and relevant authorities. It also makes the transfer of large image files (a daily occurrence in the global construction industry) easier, safer and less time-consuming. Colleagues can place large files on the Drive, meaning there is only one copy and only the appropriate people have access. Because multiple users can edit documents at the same time, ideas can be shared, discussed and decided upon there and then. In this way, Google Apps ensures every stage of the design process is truly collaborative, from design to bid management, all on one integrated platform.

Always up-to-date

Because all files are shared via the Drive, any alterations, edits or additions to a file will happen in real time. The Drive also allows you to receive notifications whenever someone makes an edit. This allows you to keep up to date with all the latest news, opportunities and designs, no matter where you are in the world. If an alteration needs to be made to a floor-plan during the construction process, using Google Apps in conjunction with your design software means everyone with access to the design will see the update in real-time; preventing confusion, mistakes or discrepancies further down the line.
Google Apps for the global construction industry

Multi-device functionality

Google Apps works across a range of devices and browsers, allowing you to keep in contact with colleagues and clients even if your own device is down. Because Google Apps can function on mobile devices, tablets, laptops and PC’s, you can keep your projects on track even if you’re travelling light or don’t have access to traditional computing devices. This means even if your design team uses Apple software and your operations team use Windows-based software, both can access, edit and share the same documents through Google Apps.

Cost-saving in the global construction industry

Even with all the innovations Google Apps provides for the construction industry, Google Apps for business can still save, on average, 50% of IT costs compared to firms using Microsoft 365. Add this to the time and effort saved by using Google Apps in comparison to traditional proprietary software and the savings are even greater. Firms can make further savings by eliminating the need for call-outs for hardware engineering issues, with all data now stored in the Cloud and available 24-7. Google Apps is such an effective cost-saver, it can free up your IT team to focus on hardware issues and on developing your company’s technological capabilities further.Google Apps for the global construction industry

Unlimited Cloud storage

The very nature of the global construction industry means firms regularly share documents, tenders, images, renders and other communications. All of this sharing inevitably eats into a company’s internal storage system, forcing staff to prioritise information and delete potentially valuable communications. Google Apps comes with unlimited Cloud storage, freeing companies up to focus on finding new opportunities, maintaining regular client communication and ensuring every project is completed on time and on-budget. Because Gmail allows you to navigate all your documents and emails with intelligent filters, information can be found with minimum time and effort, further streamlining internal and external processes.

Security in the global construction industry

Security is a major issue for any firm. It’s vital every firm can be confident that all data and communications are protected. Features like the sync & sharing controls alert workers when they try to share a file with someone outside the registered company database, ensuring data can’t be leaked outside the company accidently. Likewise, Google’s encryption feature ensures all work is regularly backed up and encrypted, even whilst travelling.
With app and domain whitelisting, all communications, domains, emails and IP addresses associated with the company are visible and always allowed to the appropriate people. Because each email is registered to a range of devices, any suspicious activity (for instance signing in from a new device) will result in a company admin acquiring a suspicious login notification, further strengthening the systems security. In addition to these features, Google Apps also allows network administrators to delete data from lost or stolen devices, protecting data from falling into the wrong hands. Add in Google’s world-class security, dedicated to protecting all data on the cloud, and you have one of the most secure networks in the world.
Google Apps for the global construction industry

Increased accountability and verifiable input

An often neglected but infinitely useful feature of the Google Apps, the sign-in system means all data input can be traced back to the individual user. In turn, this allows management to receive performance reports which can be immediately audited, as well as providing an extra level of accountability to tasks. The software logs what time people open files, what they’ve done and who was online at the time. It also keeps a record of all work previously kept on the file. This has the added benefit of allowing staff to recover previous work in the ‘Edit History’ section if necessary. Google Apps also gives IT managers increased control over the system, streamlining company operations and consolidating responsibility to a specific authority.

Google Apps isn’t just a viable alternative to traditional software suites like Microsoft, it’s the next logical step for the global construction industry as a whole. It’s only by adapting and keeping pace with the latest advances in technology that firms can hope to stay afloat in an ever evolving market.