Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have always been fascinated with building structures – from houses to canals to bridges, and more. This makes civil engineering arguably the oldest engineering profession.
While advances in the civil engineering space have always progressed incrementally, this last decade has seen the rise of disruptive innovations and concepts that will immensely shape the future of the field. Many of these innovations have started to be adopted, and their immense value is undeniable. In the post, we examine some of these trends and the promise they hold for the future of civil engineering.
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Although VR and AR have been around for quite some time now, their application in civil engineering is relatively new. Thanks to the advances in these technologies, it’s now possible for project teams and end-users alike to immersively visualize the results of projects.
With sophisticated VR headsets, cardboard viewers and more, stakeholders and designers can gain a virtual immersive experience of a planned construction even before implementation commences. On the other hand, AR weaves reality with graphics to enhance the building experience of the parties involved. These technologies are already making a wave in the industry, and they will continue to do so.
- Building Information Modelling (BIM) for Large Scale Applications
Since the first BIM software tools were developed in the late 70s and early 80s, it has fundamentally redefined civil engineering processes. According to Autodesk, BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure.
Over the past few years, the use of cloud framework has made collaboration easier than ever before. BIM data can be accessed by anyone from any location in real-time, thereby simplifying BIM model sharing. This opens up the opportunity for seamless collaboration between project teams and stakeholders for massive civil engineering projects.
- Drones Are Here To Stay
Drones have been around for a long time, but their common application in the construction industry is fairly recent. Drones in civil engineering mean quick, accurate, and real-time access to data – thanks to the commercialization of drones and the technological advances that have significantly improved their flexibility and reliability.
From aerial surveying to carrying out safety inspections, drones have several applications in civil engineering. The great thing about drones is that they get the job done without risking the lives of construction personnel. Drone application in civil engineering is here to stay.
- Focus on Sustainability
Since it became clear to us that our actions have led to the gradual deterioration of our planet, there’s been an ever-increasing cry towards adopting sustainability principles in all facets of life – and civil engineering isn’t exempted.
Sustainable design has been the hallmark of government and private organizations around the globe. Little wonder there’s been an increasing demand for smart materials, smart buildings with embedded sensors, intelligent electrical grids, and other major revolutionary ideas.
Solar panels for renewable energy production has exploded in the last few years, just as zero-energy buildings have also been on the rise. Green roofs as a thermoacoustic solution, skylights for lighting, ecological bricks, and the growing use of recycled materials are all aimed towards promoting sustainability in civil engineering.
- Smart Buildings/Cities using Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical, digital machines, objects, and people equipped with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network. IoT leverages sensors and network connectivity for communication.
Incorporating IoT into buildings will allow for the accumulation of a large amount of data ranging from variation in concrete humidity, temperature/pressure differentials, and even abnormal deformations. This can be used to monitor the health of buildings in real-time. But more importantly, it can be analyzed to enhance future decisions.
- Advanced Building Materials
A subsector of the construction industry, advanced building materials represent a new generation of construction materials with exceptional properties like enhanced fire resistance and better durability.
Advanced building materials enable new technologies to be integrated into both buildings and infrastructures to make them smarter, energy-efficient, and more sustainable. For instance, the creation of sidewalks that harvest kinetic energy from pedestrian movement.
- Robots for Mundane Tasks
If there are anything robots are good for, it’s to precisely execute monotonous tasks. Many of such tasks exist in the field of civil engineering. And in scenarios where such tasks pose significant risks to humans, adopting robots can help improve overall safety.
Robots in construction have been found to not only improve efficiency and safety but also save costs in the long run. For instance, bricklaying robots can build walls about six times faster than human workers!
However, many challenges are still facing the full-scale adoption of robots. Some of these include high initial cost, reliability, and full-scale feasibility. But with the continuous advances in the field of robotics, we are way closer than you think.
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