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Building better: the future of construction

Construction technology is growing- and shrinking. New research and innovations in engineering, like carbon nanotubes and 3-D printed houses, are making a sizable impact. These are two of the new techniques being explored in our industry that we’ve been keeping an eye on for what they could mean for the future of our engineering practice.

With the ability to stretch a million times longer than their thickness, carbon nanotubes should win the award for the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any material on Earth. Nanotubes are incredibly tiny; a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, which is much thinner than a sheet of paper, but when implanted in other building materials, like concrete, metals, wood and glass, they increase tensile strength and density. Engineers are also exploring nanoscale sensors that detect potential breakages before they happen by monitoring stress inside building materials.

While nanotubes excel at being small, 3-D printing is going bigger than before. A Dutch architecture firm has built one of the world’s largest 3-D printers, the Kamermaker, to construct a 3-D printed house for a public art project. Likened to the process of Lego-building, the Kamermaker lives up to the meaning of its name, the “room maker,” by using the same material as smaller printers to produce plastic parts that fit together into rooms which fit together into houses. Meanwhile, a Chinese company is creating houses with repurposed cement and construction waste sprayed by a 3-D printer.

Just like the people who built the earliest mud-and-straw houses, today’s engineers and scientists have created carbon nanotubes and 3-D printed homes inspired by a spark of ingenuity and curiosity of how we could build better. As far as we’ve come, we are still just at the beginning of ever-advancing construction technology. To learn more about nanotubes, 3-D printing and other new construction advancements of today and the near future, click here: