In the past two decades global climate change has had a profound effect on how we design, construct, work, live, and play in our built environment. The efforts of professional associations such as USGBC, the Green Building Initiative, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, and others spurred renewed interest in green building and sustainable design. Standards, specs, and guidelines were developed. Building products and construction methods improved. Communities embraced green codes and mandated conservation. But as green building and sustainable design has become an expected practice, the once hot topic is waning. Magazines that were solely published on the subject no longer exist and tradeshows on green building are getting smaller or have been cancelled altogether. Now that sustainable design is accepted and expected, what is the next trend in the industry?
As a whole, our industry has historically been slow to embrace tech, but this is rapidly changing. Research by leading independent institutes is showing enormous market potential. Investors are stepping in to fund product development that is increasing the pace of innovation. Top firms are pioneering new applications and pushing the demand. The trickle down from all these efforts will become a flood of exciting technologies, tools, and systems available. We also shouldn’t forget the trickle-up benefits to AEC clients (owners). AEC clients are adopting technology at the same pace and should be a consideration of AEC to see beyond just their own domain. The reality is that no firm will be able to be competitive without evolving their practice to use them.
This construction tech revolution is greater than anything our profession has experienced in the past. Technology is faster, it is cheaper, and it is coming at us at breakneck speed. The drivers of the latest change include cloud computing, low-cost chips and sensors, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, drones and robotics, mobile phones, hand-held and wearable computing, IoT, and a build-up of data centers to handle the endless stream of digital information.
All of these tools can enable improved project performance and increase our ability to reduce our carbon footprint, lower energy consumption, and use fewer resources to make our buildings and infrastructure safer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly. Construction will be more efficient and less wasteful. Principles of manufacturing are lending offsite fabrication techniques to the building process. The technology is available for greater digital collaboration and project execution, from the design and engineering office to the jobsite.
It will be the technology that optimizes and supports those outcomes. We are living in a very complex world and the tools are going to make it easier to excel. The new emphasis is on project performance, and it is technology that will drive the AEC industry forward. Technology is the new “green”, but we need to remember that technology isn’t replacing green.
Technology innovation has been running in parallel to the “green revolution” and in many cases is enabling it. Tech is improving the ability to build with greater sensitivity to sustainability and the environment, both with new products and new processes. Green will continue, enabled by tech.
AEC Science & Technology is helping lead the charge around these developments. On June 5-7, 2018, in Anaheim, California hundreds of companies will show their latest product and software developments. Scores of associations and publications will share their input. Several thousand tech-interested AEC users will share, learn, and network. It is an industry-wide, collaborative dialog and we need your help to create the best forum. Our Call-for-Proposals is now online. Go to https://www.aecst.com/conference/ and send us your ideas or pass the link along to those who inspire you. Join the discussion. See you in Anaheim next year!