Architecture is an exciting field to be in because; it’s never static, it is always changing, and adjusting to whatever technological innovation is available during each era. You only have to take a brief walk through architecture’s history to see this in action. Take the case of the construction drawings which evolved from etchings in stone walls as evident in the temple of Apollo in Didyma to it being digitised and stored through a drawing management software for construction.
The way our houses were built also changed throughout the ages – from dwellings built from mud, wood, clay to modern houses and skyscrapers made from a combination of metal, bricks, and concrete.
But technology does not stop there; it is constantly evolving, and the field of Architecture is changing with it. Let’s take a look at the new technological innovation this 2019 that has the potential of changing architecture as we know it today.
New Material Innovations
New material innovations will change the way our structures which include commercial buildings, roads, and our houses. Below are some cutting edge materials; some still in the development stage, and some already available out in the market.
- ALON ( Transparent Aluminium)
If you are a fan of Star Trek; you’ll be familiar with Transparent Aluminium since this is the material that’s used to build the starship’s windows and portals. Today, it is a reality. Transparent aluminium, which is marketed under the name of ALON and sold by Sumet, is not metal; it is a form of ceramic.
ALON is incredibly hard ( scoring a 7.7 in the Moh’s hardness scale) and is bullet resistant.
- Graphene Bricks
If the word graphene seems vaguely familiar to you, it’s probably because it has the same composition as graphite or lead in your pencil. The difference lies in the atomic level, in how the carbon atom matrix is arranged. Graphene’s atoms are organised in what is termed as a single layer hexagonal matrix. It is in this matrix that makes graphene the lightest yet the strongest material on Earth.
Nanoscience professor, Monica Craciun, at the University of Exeter is experimenting with graphene by suspending it in water and using the liquid as a main ingredient to make concrete blocks. Tests that were made have shown that this material is stronger, more elastic, and more water resistant than regular concrete.
This material can change the way buildings are built in the future because structures can be built using half of the material needed and the buildings last longer to those made out of concrete.
- Self Healing Concrete
Self-healing concrete can repair micro cracks by itself. The technique was first discovered by a Henrik Jonkers, a Dutch microbiologist, when he added limestone (calcium carbonate) producing organisms to a concrete matrix. From this initial finding researchers and engineers have found new and better ways for concrete to self -heal; some of which are as follows:
- By Adding Hydrogels and Superabsorbent Polymers. The hydrogel is placed in a capsule, and when cracks happen, the capsule is exposed to moisture in the air and swells. The swell seals the crack and is followed by other chemical reactions that will fix the crack.
- Autogenous Healing or the ‘healing’ with the help of moisture. This is done by adding microfibers and dehydrated cement in the concrete matrix.
- The addition of organisms that produce calcium carbonate. By encapsulating these organisms, and adding them to the concrete mix; it allows them to heal the crack when the capsule is exposed to moisture in the air. Once water is introduced, these organisms will start to produce calcium carbonate and start the process of healing the crack.
Fairy Lights (Touchable Hologram)
Fairy lights or touchable holograms was developed by a team led by Dr. Yoichi Ochiai from the Tsukuba University in Japan. To make it touchable, the research team used Femtosecond technology, derived from the same technology that bought about laser cataract surgery, to project 3D objects that can be controlled by touch.
The fairy light system emits a high-frequency laser in pulses that last one femtosecond, or a millionth of a billionth of a second. The holograms, described by people who have experienced it, are said to feel like sandpaper, while others likened it to a static shock.
Science fiction fans are particularly giddy about this technology because they think it’s a precursor to the realisation of the Holodeck – a part of the starship – where people can talk, touch, and interact with holograms. And, while this might sound a bit far-fetched for now, fairy lights have the possibility to change the way architects make and manage construction drawing. But at the very least, it can make for an incredibly amazing client presentation.
Robotics and 3D printing
3D printing, as a technology is not new, but with the addition of robotics; 3D printing is making it possible to print bigger life-size structures with new materials that were never thought of as being possible before.
Let’s take the example of 3D Metal Printing which was pioneered by a startup Dutch company under the name of MX3D. The company developed a 3D printing method called WAAM (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) which ‘prints’ 3D structures made from metal (aluminum, bronze, Inconel) with the assistance of a 6-axis robot.
This company has printed out a 12 m long functional pedestrian steel bridge which is set to be installed in Oudezijds Achterburgwal Amsterdam sometime in 2019. The metal printed bridge is now going through load tests which are conducted by the lead structural engineering firm, Arup. In addition to testing; the bridge is being equipped with sensors so that that it can gather data to be used to create the bridge’s digital twin which will eventually become the basis for the new design language that will run the new process.
Truly, it is an exciting time for Architecture given all the new technologies that are cropping up. And given the speed that these technologies are moving, we might just find ourselves passing through a metal printed bridge on the way to home to a house or building made from graphene.