Managing construction is not an easy feat in an industry that is continuously evolving, and sometimes construction professionals and leaders can’t keep up with the trends. However, innovation is the only direction where the industry is heading, and we will help you prepare for what’s to come.
Here are 17 innovative building materials that would seem straight out of a science fiction novel that construction professionals can look forward to working on within the next years and in the decades after that.
Concrete That Lasts 16,000 Years
Yes, you read that correctly. Generally, it is common knowledge that concrete structures have a 50-year lifespan until they need repair and severe maintenance. However, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is currently developing this type of concrete that will produce more durable, thinner, lighter, and long-lasting structures in the future! Consequently, this type of material will significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with building materials’ frequent manufacturing. It is a technology worth waiting for.
Ultra-Lightweight Carbon Compound
Steel is one of the essential building materials available, though, in some situations, it can be too heavy to be supported by other materials. Thanks to technology, ultra-lightweight compounds, like graphene, can deliver ten times the strength of a standard concrete with some compounds that can be 75 times lighter than Styrofoam! These features are very suitable in reducing the sizes of foundations and impacts, consequently allowing more options for construction on more delicate soil structures.
Brick was a crucial element in construction history, and it was especially highlighted during the Industrial Revolution when the power of steam was first utilized. It was also the time in history where the first serious are pollution threat arose in the form of coal smoke. Fortunately, the Breath Brick has been developed to help combat this issue by filtering the air from the outside by passing through the bricks, depositing any pollutants at the wall framework’s interior base while delivering cleaner air inside of the structure.
Modular Bamboo Structures
Modular bamboo has become a very famous construction management technology in the past decade as it has outgrown its roots in Southeast Asia. Part of the reasons why it’s been frequently used around the Ring of Fire for centuries is attributed to its resistance to earthquakes, stability, and durability. Latest construction technology advancements allow modular structures to be designed by incorporating this material, which can be two or three times more potent than regular steel and grow up to four feet per day.
By now, it is common and even acceptable knowledge in the construction industry that concrete is bound to crack- it’s inevitable. Construction professionals had tried to combat this dilemma by cutting expansion joints into concrete to prevent cracks from happening. However, what if concrete heal unintended cracks on its own, reducing maintenance and repairs? Self-healing concrete— contains a water-activated bacteria which covers the cracks with calcite to seal them.
Lumber has always been a keystone building material for centuries, being found in random dig sites repeatedly. However, relatively new research introduces a dynamic process that renders lumber typically opaque, almost transparent. The lining in the wood is erased through a chemical process, and then the spaces left are covered with a transparent polymer, making the material virtually transparent.
Synthetic Spider Silk
Steel cables have been a part of the building materials list for well over centuries, too, strengthening a wide-range of structures despite adding unnecessary weight in the process. With further advancements in genetic engineering, synthetic spider silk has been developed using bacteria for production. It possesses the same tensile strength as that of steel but is a more flexible and lighter-weight material. How strong is that? A four millimeter bundled strands of this artificial spider silk is durable enough to hold the weight of a full-grown adult man!
Nanocrystalline Smart Windows
Window coatings, films, and similar modifications have been used for over half of the century. Still, the launch of smart windows with crystalline nano-structures has taken these improvements to a whole new level. With the incorporation of energy to these specially-designed windows, it can enable new options such as switching the level of opacity, improving thermal resistance to hot or cold, all while maintaining privacy to those insides.
Aluminum Foam Panels
Aluminum metal panels have been used to spark architectural and design interest in modern structures for decades. Still, it’s only recently that this light-weight material has been made even lighter and even more versatile. The production of aluminum foam, which pushes air through the molten aluminum, develops a wide range of various unique finishes. Even though some flaws are still being worked out in the large-scale production, these aluminum foam panels show great promise for future construction project management trends and operations.
Concrete has always been present since the Romans’ time in one form or another, but it was only available in an opaque form. The addition of a wide range of additives and admixtures has changed the properties of concrete. Still, none have been known that can change its opaque form until the introduction of glass into the media. The inclusion of fiber optic strands or tiny beads of glass allows light to pass through into the otherwise opaque material, creating various options for lighting up signs, marking sidewalks and stress, and other unprecedented architectural details.
Hydro Ceramic Membranes
Despite the fact that the air conditioning system has been around for centuries, the high expense that comes with cooling interior spaces has led to a non-ending search for more efficient and economical methods for cooling the air around us. One of the most recent innovations is the hydro ceramic membranes, which incorporates ceramic, fabric, and hydrogels. This material uses evaporation and relies on the material’s adaptation ability to the surrounding environments to handle humidity and temperature within the enclosed space or the whole structure in general.
Transparent Photovoltaic Cells
People are fond of the idea of renewable energy but may be hesitant to incorporate them in their homes or may not be able to mount solar panels properly on their buildings. With the inclusion of a large span of glass in various modern homes and businesses, some researchers have created a way to gain more window space while still producing energy. This is through the use of transparent photovoltaic cells into the windows, enabling space to generate power.
Thermal-Regulating Biomass Panels
We talked about hydro ceramic membranes that help cool buildings, but what if you’re in a country with a moderate climate that requires as much heating as cooling? One promising option is the adaptation of biomass panels that help promote thermal regulation. With algae, they use a gel that responds to the temperature outside to regulate the temperature inside the wall structure, cooling when it’s hot and heating when it’s cold.
Ultra-lightweight Composite Materials
As resourceful as they are, contractors have always found ways to lower the cost of materials in project management in construction in any way possible. However, with the environmental issues, we are facing, we are more inclined to recycle building materials and cut waste on the job site. One of the creative alternatives that have been up-and-coming is the combination of chicken feather quills, which are high in keratin, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to improve the thermal stability and mechanical properties for stronger and more light-weight composites.
With time, the architectural and structural designs of buildings are becoming more and more complex. Buildings of all shapes and sizes have been arising everywhere, and building materials is keeping pace with them. As more bizarre structures are coming to light, researchers have developed bendable concrete to streamline the wall building processes. This type of concrete can bend under immense pressure but will not break, perfect, or creating curved structures more practically and efficiently.
Bacteria Building Blocks
This could be the most unbelievable material from this list, but scientists have been growing bacteria in the lab to be used for biological building blocks. Scientists strongly believe that bacteria can be used to grow very durable construction materials that can be for building human colonies on Mars in the near future.
Aerogel is a very light-weight material that you won’t feel when you hold it in your hand. Additionally, it is a very low-cost and natural material that also offers fire protection and self-regulation for indoor climate. With Aerogel having the lowest bulk density of any known porous solid at this time, it works as a potent and efficient insulating material. It is still being researched for more construction applications.
The building materials we’ve listed above genuinely have the ability to redefine and revolutionize many aspects of the constructions we have today. In the very progressive industry that we are in, these innovations are needed whether they appear in the market in another ten years or not. If any of the listed materials are available in your area, your construction business has a better chance of success, all while saving money and energy along the way.
Companies operating with the future in mind are among those that are advancing to the top of the construction industry as we go through the age of digital transformation and with the rise of project management software. Every construction leader is called to embrace change as we build the future of the industry.