When building for the future, especially on a city-wide scale like Christchurch is experiencing, it pays to ensure the solutions you adopt aren’t about to be replaced, outdated or made obsolete through new legislation; and there are some pretty exciting initiatives emerging across the world.
What are the frontrunners? Sustainability is the new normal and technology and prefab the big players in that.
The advancements and increasingly widespread implementation of technologies such as building information modelling (BIM), virtual reality (VR), drones and 3D models continue to transform the way projects are designed, built and experienced.
Technology solves the inherent issues construction faces prior in the conference room, instead of as they happen in the field.
The main concerns surrounding technologies are based on the fear that automation supersedes human capabilities, but rather than resulting in job cuts, automation in buildings looks likely to be a job creator.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Work report noted that, when looking at installation and maintenance jobs, the role “will see great productivity enhancements and strong growth in green jobs such as the installation, retrofitting, repair and maintenance of smart meters and renewable energy technologies in residential and office buildings, but – at an aggregate level – will also come face-to-face with the efficiency-saving and labour-substituting aspect of the Internet of Things”.
In essence, staff in IT and facility management roles will need adapt but not change course, in that they will spend less time finding problems and more time fixing them.
Prefabrication refers to any part of a building that is made off site.
Prefab and new technologies together achieve a better built environment – higher quality, smarter, greener, safer, faster, more innovative and efficient building solutions.
So what are other countries’ solutions?
The modular classroom movement in Australia is gaining momentum, primarily due to it making possible access to high-quality classrooms in regional areas that don’t have the skilled labour for conventional site construction.
Further benefits of factory built include improved worker safety, removing the risk of delays due to bad weather, and a better working environment, resulting in a higher quality build.
New-gen modular classrooms are bright, adaptable to different configurations, and well insulated against the elements and noise from outside. They also take into account thermal and acoustic performance as well as indoor environment quality to achieve a high-quality learning space.
Europe is a big player, with energy efficient building technology spending in Western and Eastern Europe expected to grow from $83.5 billion in 2017 to $111.9 billion in 2026.
Advancements in intelligent building technologies are evolving toward an integrated ecosystem of components and sensors that work together as a platform for optimising facility operations.
Picture this: two towers of micro units soaring above Manhattan, connected by two platforms, with greenery running the height of the building and various landing pads affixed for flying cars.
That is firm Humphreys and Partners Architects’ answer for addressing the big-city issues of affordable housing, lack of parking space and the need for sustainable architecture.
The apartments would be fitted with photovoltaic glass intended to reduce energy consumption by up to 34 percent.
Other sustainable elements in the building include wind turbines located under the upper platform connecting the two towers, which would be used to power the homes; vertical farming; the use of solar panels; and the use of tidal power through the Hudson River. The base of the development would house an Amazon Go-type store and co-working spaces.
Hughes explained that the technology for much of this development is already in place, but that legislation hadn’t yet caught up to allow for such a project.
Indicative of buildings trends of the future, the stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the New National Stadium, is being heralded as unobtrusive and rather simple in its initial impression.
Multi-tiered but relatively squat, its roof unpeels to reveal a latticed wood framework, the forecourts dotted with trees, and the entire complex is hugged by parkland, pointedly emphasising its relationship with the natural landscape.
The building’s 2,000 cubic meters of cedar and larch are said to come from every prefecture in Japan.
A Kiwi company believes it has come up with a solution to one of the world’s biggest environmental problems.
Enviroplaz takes plastic waste and turns it into the building blocks of construction.
“We’re basically taking just a complete mix of plastic out of the waste stream, then we’re converting it into a useable aggregate for concrete.”
It’s made from any mix of plastic and, unlike recycling, it doesn’t have to be sorted or even cleaned. It goes through a thermo mechanical process which turns it into product they call Plazrok.
Similarly, ByFusion has developed technology that converts every type of waste plastic into an alternative, green building material called RePlast.
Getting creative: Getting paid for not using power
Imagine being paid for not consuming energy.
Lawrence Orsini, founder of LO3 Energy, suggests that getting paid for turning things off at the right times is just as easy as paying for electricity being generated at the right time.
LO3 builds local grids to help people with solar panels on their roofs supply neighbours with power. The challenge here is that power being generated at the grid edge – solar panels, smart appliances and other close-to-home sources – requires a different grid architecture.
Chief operating officer at Electron, Joanna Hubbard and her team are providing that flexibility by creating a trading platform intended to allow producers, consumers and start-ups to collaborate on generating and purchasing energy.
“All parties can pay less and deal more efficiently, ultimately lowering bills and carbon emissions,” she said.
By Lydia Truesdale