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The Future of Construction – Smart Technology in Building Materials

2018 seems to have been the year of smart home technology as gadgets such as smart locks, lights, thermostats, home assistants and many devices more push past the early adopter stage and are becoming more popular with consumers. All these smart home products can be a great addition for any individual looking to make their home a more comfortable, efficient space – but what about the physical property itself? Basic wood and concrete have been fundamental elements of building construction for centuries, and although construction techniques have certainly improved, there hasn’t been anything necessarily smart about these construction materials until recent developments in building material technology.

What to expect?

While society continues to barrel toward a more tech-based future, new companies are taking advantage of adding smart capabilities to building materials. These developments aim to help make buildings and structures safer, more durable, and technologically capable. Currently, there are a multitude of smart materials in development with applicable uses:

Smart Concrete

Whether a structure is intended for residential, industrial, or commercial use – concrete is a necessary and critical component of any building. Smart concrete is a recent development from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is not only stronger than traditional concrete, but can be monitored wirelessly for strain, stress, and damage before the concrete structure fails. With smart concrete, there will be no need for manual inspection or expensive embedded sensors. The composition of this new concrete can help in detecting areas where damage is present or likely to occur by using voltage monitors.  These monitors allow for timely repairs which is ultimately safer and more cost effective. There are even current developments working to create a version of this smart concrete that can self heal when it comes in contact with water. The applications of this type of concrete are endless, as it requires no special setup or additions as smart concrete is premixed with the necessary material.  To read more on smart concrete, check out this link.

Smart Glass

The future of windows is right around the corner. Smart glass is a new technology that enables glass panels to alter its transmission properties based on a change to either voltage, heat, or light. When a high amount of light is applied, smart glass can dim itself and transition from transparent to translucent.  Given that the glass can respond to a variety of different influences makes this smart material ideal for construction purposes. This glass can be used to replace static building envelopes, with the dynamic ability to respond to climate and adapt accordingly to save costs on electricity, heat, air-conditioning, and even the cost to buy and maintain traditional blinds and curtains. Smart glass is already being used by Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner – more on that here.

Self-Healing Coatings

Self-healing coatings are a revolutionary product set to greatly impact building structures of all types. These coatings are a polymer-based product that can be applied directly to a variety of material, which will repair themselves when influenced by heat, light, or water. The most interesting part about these coatings is they can be used on existing structures, creating self-healing properties for material such as metal, ceramic, paint, glass, and even concrete. Coatings can be used to create building envelopes that can intrinsically correct damage such as scratches, cracks, and even utilize anti-corrosion properties. The application of coatings such as these can potentially save hundreds of thousands in repair and maintenance costs for property owners or managers.

With smart materials such as the above being introduced to the market, we are on track for safer, more reliable, and more durable structures. These structures can respond appropriately to the elements, monitor and repair themselves, and provide useful alternatives to older building components and forms of construction.

Normac is Canada’s premier provider of insurance appraisals, with experience in multi-residential, commercial, light industrial, and unique properties. For more information on the current state of construction or how construction directly impacts the total insurable value of your property – download our most recent eBook here. If you are interested in a no-obligation proposal for an insurance appraisal, request a quote today.

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