The use of technology in the design and construction of buildings


The Built Environment

Technology is rapidly evolving and being integrated into our everyday lives – IOT (Internet of Things) via smart watches, smart phones, smart meters and almost 24/7 connectivity to the internet in one form or another. The first smartphone was developed by Ericsson Mobile Communications in 2000 (not quite as we know them today) and Tim Berners Lee launched the World Wide Web in 1991 – not that long ago really considering the developments that have been made. Technology is creating vast changes in the design and manufacture methods used to develop buildings and becoming an increasingly essential part of the construction industry. Although the industry has been criticised in the past for being slow to innovate, there are now a wide range of sophisticated modern techniques and practices, which incorporate the latest in design, surveying and structural analysis. The art of a draughtsman Once, a building was created by visiting a vast in-house architectural library to gain inspiration for materials to use and everything drawn up by hand on paper by professional draughtsmen. However today, computers have an increasingly important role in their design. There is a vast array of online material directories, where you can see full ranges of products available, from door bells to lead flashings. There are a number of different tools and software packages, which help a designer plot a building with precision. Some believe that the use of technology in design has made the process faster and clearer. Computer Aided Design was first utilised in the aircraft industry in the 1960s. The software evolved in the 90s, when tools emerged to provide 3D drawings and object oriented design systems. Nowadays these tools can create, simulate and analyse construction alternatives for a wide range of purposes. Design documents can be fashioned by CAD tools in 2D and 3D to be used for construction design as well as for animations and other presentation materials. Drawings can be generated at a wide range of scales thanks to accurate information inputted such as dimensions. CAD files for all of our Secondary glazing units are available for download on our website to assist in the design process for use with popular drawing tools such as AutoCAD. Architectural maquette models To be able to visualise the overall design of a building, it used to be standard practice for a scaled maquette to be made (3D model) from card or foamex, which was painstaking work. Although still used today in some instances, technology is superseding this practice. Today; creating a digital model of a building has never been easier thanks to the process of Building Information Modelling (BIM). However, BIM has taken this one step further and is not just about creating a 3D model, but allows the structure and facilities to be virtually assessed and tested prior to the build phase. This greatly reduces construction setbacks and errors. Another form of digital modelling that has been enabled by the development of CAD and BIM is 3D architectural renderings using Computer-generated imagery (CGI). Nowadays, it is difficult to distinguish between CGI and photography due to how realistic computer rendered images can look, but provide enormous assistance during the design stage of a construction project. Computers not only support design but also assist in manufacturing. Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) is the process whereby the initial design information is turned into files used to programme machines, which then produce building components. An example that has broadened the range of possibilities in CAM is the use of 3D printing - a computer controlled sequential layering of materials that manufactures 3D shapes. It is useful for prototyping but can also produce objects and components that are geometrically complex.  Once considered a very expensive operation, in recent years it has become more economically viable for companies to design products and manufacture tools. Construction 3D printers, as the name suggests are 3D printers developed for the construction industry. There are companies who are working on manufacturing fully 3D printed homes. 3D Printing At Selecataglaze, protoypes of new sections or proposed new locking mechanisms/handles are created on a 3D printer to check whether they are fit for purpose. To begin with, a 3D digital model of the item is created in AutoCAD. The printer then reads the design files and then layers printing mediums in liquid, powder or sheet material, which are fused to create the item. The use of drones in construction design, planning and monitoring has significantly increased in recent times. Building surveyors often use drones to perform surveys to save time, money and cut out any health and safety pitfalls. The same applies in construction site inspections, where potential dangers can be reduced by drones carrying out visual inspections of high risk sites, as well as site logistics with HD footage sent to stakeholders for analysis. The use of a drone can effectively record project progress with aerial shots and video. Thermal imaging recording can also be captured by drones to decipher and repair building defects. To conclude, technology is evolving at an alarming rate, with people having to continually develop new skills to integrate them into their work life. There are many pros in the adoption, whereby health and safety risks can be reduced, design and manufacturing processes are sped up and the longevity of a building can be accurately assessed. However, are we at risk at losing some age old skills and crafts as a result? It could also be said that some of the architectural details and nuances are also being lost in the effort to integrate as many new technologies as possible in the process to speed up the construction process. It is a fine balance and certainly extremely interesting to watch the developments – but what will come next?