Civil engineering has always progressed incrementally, but over the last decade, disruptive innovations and concepts have emerged that will significantly influence its future.
FREMONT, CA: Building structures such as houses, canals, and bridges has fascinated humans since the beginning of civilization. The civil engineering discipline is, therefore, one of the oldest in engineering.
While advancements in civil engineering have always been incremental, the last decade has witnessed the emergence of transformative innovations and ideas that will profoundly impact its future. Numerous innovations have begun to be implemented, and their immense value cannot be denied. In this post, we explore a few of these trends and the potential they hold for the future of civil engineering.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Although AR and VR have been around for some time, their application in civil engineering is relatively recent. Thanks to these technological advancements, project teams and end-users can now visualize project outcomes in an immersive manner.
Before implementation, stakeholders and designers can gain a virtual, immersive experience of a planned construction using sophisticated VR headsets, cardboard viewers, and other technologies. AR, on the other hand, combines reality and graphics to enhance the building experience for all involved parties. These technologies are already causing a stir in the industry and will continue to do so in the future.
Large-Scale Building Information Modeling (BIM) Applications: Civil engineering processes have been fundamentally transformed since the early 1980s when the first BIM software tools were developed. According to Autodesk, BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that provides architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals with the knowledge and tools to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.
The use of cloud frameworks has made collaboration easier than ever before in recent years. BIM data is accessible in real-time, facilitating BIM model sharing. This allows enormous civil engineering projects seamless collaboration between project teams and stakeholders.
Drones Are Not Going Away: Drones have existed for quite some time, but their widespread use in the construction industry is relatively recent. Drones in civil engineering allow easy, quick, and accurate data access due to their commercialization and technological advancements.
Drones have multiple applications in civil engineering, including aerial surveying and safety inspections. Drones are great because they do the job safely without endangering construction workers. Applications of drones in civil engineering are here to stay.
Focus on Long-Term Thinking: Since it became apparent that our actions have contributed to the gradual deterioration of our planet, there has been a growing call for adopting sustainability principles in all aspects of life, including civil engineering.
Globally, government and non-profit organizations have embraced sustainable design as a defining characteristic. It is not surprising that the demand for innovative materials, smart buildings with embedded sensors, intelligent electrical grids, and other revolutionary concepts has increased.
Solar panels for renewable energy production have exploded in popularity recently, as have zero-energy buildings. Green roofs as a thermoacoustic solution, skylights for lighting, eco-bricks, and the increasing use of recycled materials are all intended to promote sustainability in civil engineering.
Internet of Things-based smart buildings and cities: The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, and people with unique identifiers and the capacity to transfer data over a network. IoT enables communication via sensors and network connectivity.
The incorporation of IoT into buildings will enable the collection of a vast amount of data, including variations in concrete humidity, temperature/pressure differentials, and abnormal deformations. This can be used for real-time building health monitoring. Moreover, it can be analyzed to improve future decision-making.
Advanced Construction Materials: Advanced building materials, a subsector of the construction industry, represent a new generation of construction materials with enhanced fire resistance and greater durability.
Advanced building materials enable the integration of new technologies to make buildings and infrastructures smarter, more energy-efficient, and more environmentally friendly—for example, the development of sidewalks that harvest kinetic energy from pedestrian motion.
Robots for Routine Work: Robots excel at precisely repeating repetitive tasks. Such tasks are prevalent in the field of civil engineering. And in situations where such tasks pose substantial dangers to humans, robots can help improve overall safety.
The use of robots in construction has been found to not only increase productivity and safety but also reduce costs over time. For example, bricklaying robots can construct walls approximately six times faster than humans!