For our building industry, the future has always been comprised of unimaginable, fantastic and out-of-this-world technologies with marvelous features which make it seems as if it will never be achievable, until now!
The world has certainly gotten smaller. So small in fact that everything seems to be within our grasp. Logistics, a factor that has always been the main impediment that slowed down the progress of the building industry is now perhaps no longer an issue. Because in the manufacturing world, order your parts or products of any scale or complexity in Shenzhen and it arrives at your door in New York City two to four days later. That in itself is inconceivable a few years ago and certainly a game-changer for almost any industry. How can we duplicate this for the building industry?
Additionally, with the arrival of IoT (Internet of Things), communication and collaboration within different time zones have now become non-issues. Furthermore, sharing information and collecting data which were all laborious hurdles in the past have now become remarkably simple.
Technology has certainly changed our world and now, we are seeing it beginning to change one of our oldest professions.
There are several factors which slowed the advancement of our building industry. The first and foremost consideration is the segregation of our trades. It used to be that Architects, Engineers, and Contractors think and act completely independent from one another. This was not only the way things work but often necessary in order to get things done and sometimes, it is also a pride factor. Architects take pride in being creative, Engineers take pride in being logical and Contractors take pride in being skeptical. The blame game was the most popular activity on any project.
But now, that is no longer the case where integration is the only way to work and all parties are required to collaborate as a single unit. Major proponents of this change in the way we work are driven by the advent of Building Information Modeling (BIM), Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). These new processes and technologies have not only changed the way our industry behave but also how we function and execute from this point onward.
A world more connected than ever.
From design to fabrication to assembly, our industry now has the ability to be just one single supply chain.
Integrated Design: Everyone is now connected to the clouds. We share our work, ideas and thoughts virtually every day. This has given us the ability to work around the clock and keep us constantly connected. No longer is a phone called needed during working hours to clarify an issue, but rather an instant message that can be responded in any timezone. Our ability to be constantly connected and virtually integrated has allowed us to continually work side-by-side. Solving problems are no longer tedious tasks, but rather many instantaneous and interactive exercises.
Digital Fabrication: The next revolution comes down to how we connect the digital world with the physical world through the mechanism of digital fabrication. In recent years, this process has established itself as a unique and relevant practice for architecture, engineering, and construction. Mainly because it allows for an interactive loop between digital technologies, manufacturing, and construction process which have always been a linear process. The real benefits of digital fabrication are the effective use of production resources, material-specific designs, and constructive durability mainly due to its seamless integration of digital design environment with the physical manufacturing world.
The New Manufacturing Revolution: The fourth industrial revolution is happening right now and the manufacturing industry is again in the driver seat. However, this new era of manufacturing is more or less will be a localized event. The idea of production across the globe was never truly feasible or sustainable, even with the new speed at which we can get to our commodities. Nevertheless, in order for our economies to become independent and self-sustainable, localized mass production will be needed and a must for every industry — especially the building industry.
Economy of Scale: Nothing is more revolutionary than the act of producing for the masses in record speed. Amazon and Alibaba have proven that reaching the masses in different regions is now as simple as delivering pizzas down the street. But production and manufacturing still have its limitations. In order to make a real impact in our building industry, a scaleable process that is designed to produce for the masses is not only necessary but a must. This is where pre-manufactured parts and fabricated-ready assemblies make the biggest impact. No longer do we need to laboriously build everything on-site, but instead, we only need to assemble. In order to scale, our industry will need to be comprised of modularity, systematic design, and quality-controlled manufacturing. In this newly connected world, reaching the masses does not seem to be an issue, but rather scaling the products that the masses need and want are our biggest concerns.
Automation: The future has always included artificial intelligence and machines that outperform human. Even when that arrives, the future will still include even more advanced form of AI and machines. As skill laborers are becoming increasingly more expensive and scarce, the manufacturing industry has turned to robotics and automation as a way to offset the mass demand and supply worldwide. This path will be the same for our building industry. In reality, it wouldn’t be a “future” if it didn’t include robots and machines that not only enhance our capabilities but at the same time, change the way we perceive and build our world.
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