The construction industry uses more natural resources than any other industry world over. However, continuous use of natural resources results in environmental degradation. Currently, there are measures in all industries meant to control the usage of such resources in order to enhance environmental sustainability. Just like other industries, the construction industry has also taken necessary steps in changing its practices so that it can meet the needs of the present generation, without depriving the future generations the opportunity of meeting their needs (Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) n.d.). Since this industry uses concrete in most of its operations, it needs to control the frequency of reconstructions of structures in order to limit usage of this material. Engineering of most composites that produce cements to increase the strength of the material minimises reconstruction of structures within short periods since the raw materials last indeterminately. Apart from technological development, industries are working to ensure that their current materials and methods of operation are environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and efficient.
Modern practices are replacing traditional methods of construction due to several reasons, such as failure by strategic infrastructures to withstand slight earthquakes and emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. Modern practices have regulations that must guarantee safe constructions for all participants unlike in the cases of traditional practices where safety did not feature prominently among key construction regulations. Currently, new methods of construction are coming up to replace the traditional methods. For example, there are methods that distribute line materials using a remotely controlled robot system on the ground, thus increasing efficiency. In installation of line materials, the construction method permits safe, simple, and efficient options. In addition, the robot installs heavy devices on poles, thus accomplishing the main task of overhead construction (Modern Construction Materials 2007). The system has winch arms that provide easy access to heavy devices on the utility poles, semi-automated system frames that expedite the tightening of bolts and nuts, and an effectual visual system providing easy accessibility to the manipulator tool. The robot system has reduced the number of workforce that had been operating the traditional line distribution techniques to one man located in the operation room. This new method reduces fatigue among workers, as well as augments the efficiency of the entire process.
Over the past 25 years, there have been massive adjustments within the construction industry in terms of building methods and materials. Composites are currently reinforced using fibres and are used in the automotive industries. Some materials change their properties in responding to outward settings. At the same time, non-corrosive steels and steel alloys have found their ways into the construction industry given that they help in increasing the lifespan of strategic infrastructures, as well as raising the efficiency of renewal of such structures (Modern Building Materials n.d.). Other innovative materials include 3-D concrete printers, solar polymers, and self-healing bio-concrete, which have been essential in enhancing sustainability and efficiency in the construction industry. The ability of the solar polymers to generate their own power to heat and cool rooms reduce energy consumption. Evidently, the method will reduce energy consumption in the world over the next years with a substantial value. Overreliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation will also reduce with a sizeable percentage, thus helping in conserving the environment for both fauna and flora. In the current world, concrete painting using 3-D concrete printers occurs through automated instructions from programmed computer systems. Therefore, the printer is able to build physical objects at a well-coordinated procedure and pace.
Here, the computer monitors the development of a concrete from layers that emanate from concrete printing. These new options enhance precision, thus reducing waste and CO2 emissions in comparison to the traditional practices and unreinforced materials. From this dimension, the new moves take great care of the environment and reduce cost of construction given that printing is an on-site activity, as there is no need for transporting the concretes (Illingworth 2000). In houses, materials that provide better air indoor quality are applied in living spaces such as moisture and heat regulation. The Hyundai Engineering and Construction found out that concrete printing process is commercially viable as a future method applicable in on-site construction. The construction company uses printed concrete as a building material by applying the current engineering knowledge in modifying rammed earth. Rammed earth has air-dry layer compressions that make it as a low impact material and weather-resistant material. Unmodified rammed earth has been the main road construction material in Africa. With constant impacts on such roads, they become prone to high rate of deterioration, thus necessitating the use of strengthening materials in order to improve durability. Aggrebind is another material that has gained entry into the construction industry. It is a cross-linking styrene acrylic polymer, which helps in strengthening soils to increase their long-lasting nature (MacEachrane 2006). This polymer is functional in both corrosive and non-corrosive materials; therefore, it is used in strengthening adobe buildings.
Research and development (R&D) has been keen on bio-mimic materials. These materials mimic nature, and are made from deep knowledge of biotechnology and material science. The photovoltaic roofing material provides shade, 3,000KWh of free electricity and has aesthetic appeal. Together with the transparent photovoltaic window glazing, the roofing material reduces energy consumption in houses, as their generation capacities can power a domestic house. Structural glazing uses sealant adhesives in attaching glass to walls of buildings. The material has witnessed exponential growth in the last 20 years by making sure that sealants are compatible with other accessories under any structure (Allen & Iano 2009). Such technological moves have been crucial in gaining acceptance from the public and in the marketplace.
From this dimension, innovated construction materials help in reducing environmental degradation in countries that uses fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and fuel oil in producing electricity. This Polysolar technology also aims at providing low cost of replacement for standard roofing and window glass, which have longer life span than the normal materials. The fabrication of off-cuts into timber constituents that bear great loads has led to the departure from concrete frame structures. In using timber off-cuts, the system removes all timber wastes within the construction sites, hence helping in keeping the environment safe. In terms of cost reduction, manufactures of timber building systems are quite economical to concrete or block frames. For the purpose of sustainable development, companies in the construction industry agree that innovations in materials and methods of construction are core to their business strategy. The removal of such debris helps in conserving space in existing landfills, assisting communities and contractors in complying with local policies like salvaging objectives and mitigating transportation effects of raw materials on the environment. Developers, architects, and contractors must ensure that a waste management plan is in place when engaging in large construction projects.
Lean construction as a productivity tool for improving flow method eliminates wastes and increases profits as well as meeting the needs of their clients (Lean Construction 2013). In specifying all the requirements and responsibilities of workers, construction managers improve the usability of the available resources. Large construction projects using lean production process reduce misuse of resources as idleness of labour and resources are extremely minimised. Since lean production technique eliminates wastes, non-value adding activities, and cut outs of the system, the flow production process will highly be transparent. In large construction projects, wood, cardboard and gypsum wallboard are highly likely to be the main eco-friendly materials that remain after work completion. The reduction strategy identifies potential wastes at the construction designing stage and devises effective and efficient prevention processes. After identifying how to prevent waste, a contractor goes further to identify salvageable wastes for donation, or reuse in the current or another scheme. These techniques are effective in reducing costs at which contractors will dispose waste materials. Besides, firms that give priority to waste management market themselves to numerous clients who have great interest in participating in programmes that keep the environment green. By recycling and preventing waste materials, contractors are reducing depletion of natural resources, reducing emission of greenhouse gases and creating less pollution due to reduced manufacturing emissions (Lean Construction 2013). Recycling is also a technique that helps in managing wastes from large construction projects. Rubbles that are not reusable or salvageable can go through this technique, thus reducing disposal costs. Such debris can cause soil pollution from landfills in which wastes are buried. In this process, the use of source-separated recycling facilities can assist in separating materials like drywall, wood, and metal in different drop boxes upon generation.
The Environmental Agency together with other key environmental strategists came up with a sustainable appraisal method for both construction practices and materials. This method assesses impacts during sourcing and manufacturing to the end of construction. The method helps in comparing between available alternatives at the early design stages, thus helping in choosing sustainable materials. In making effective decisions during the early phase of construction, the method saves time for designers and contractors. In addition, there are comparable standard layouts, which are repetitious, and aid in assessing the sustainability of materials in the entire phases of construction. In maintaining standards, construction firms improve their technologies, streamline their production processes, and meet regulators’ benchmarks. An Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) is a building skin that helps in keeping moisture from outer walls (Allen & Iano 2009).
The EIFS ensures long life and reductions in cost of renovation given that it adheres to standards. In 2000, sodium Hydroxide Solution was exposed to EIFS, which led to weakening of the material. Further improvements have resulted in reinforcement of EIFS to glass components that are resistant to alkali actions. Wood-plastic composites are also innovative materials in the construction industry; they use plastic and recycled wood like park benches and window frames. This alternative for decks is economical from the point of recycling wastes at construction sites. The reuse of materials in other places is not only a waste management technique in construction projects, but also a cost saving strategy for large projects undergoing remodelling. Reuse and salvage relieve contractors from cost of storage as some projects may lack storage spaces (Allen & Iano 2009). Apart from being economical, wood-plastic composites are environmentally friendly materials. For instance, plastics, non-biodegradable materials, pollute the environment and even reduce fertility of soils in which they exist.
Assembly processes that are based at construction sites use innovative designs in moulding traditional components. For instance, increasing the unit weight of a micro-cellular structure aircrete planks to attain the strength of concrete (Broadbent & Broadbent n.d.). The two key categories of these methods are superstructure components and lightweight cladding systems. Such materials are used on the exterior walls of any building to provide structural support. Volumetric approach involves production of three-dimensional units (Broadbent & Broadbent n.d.). The bolting together of the units occurs at the construction site with frames usually made of timber, concrete and steel. Using adhesives to fix brick slices vertically utilises the lightweight cladding systems given that it involves low structural loading and installation speed. Cladding systems have integrated timber cladding to improve sustainability on both external and internal areas of the building. Insulated siding (IS) uses the cladding material as an insulator, and it has to adhere to the required thickness. Closed-cell foam insulation makes buildings more energy efficient, as well as decreasing harm to the environment, as it uses non-hazardous elements. These elements do not deplete the ozone layer.
These new methods and materials used in construction come with high uncertainty level on their future performance. For instance, in using combustible and lightweight materials, it is highly likely to permit fire spread to large sections of structures, thus raising the cost of claims. Further, there are always hidden voids within component parts that are fixed together. This increases smoke and water permeability in buildings, resulting in high losses from small incidences that could have been managed if traditional methods and materials were used in the construction. Repairing a building constructed of pods consume more time, as the contractor has to order for removal of pods. The process causes delay, disruption as well as increases reconstruction cost (Modern Construction Materials 2007). High costs are applicable to replacements and not to initial construction of the structures. The new and innovative methods are far much cost-effective at the initial construction of buildings and other structures as compared to the traditional practices and materials that have been in use for a long time. At the same time, these methods and materials pose threats of water loss and storm fatalities since their ability to resist strong flooding remains anonymous. A contractor’s experience is also a key challenge in handling the new options within the construction industry, as this is vital in ensuring quality finishing at low cost. Cases of poor finishing may require application of more than one technique, which may be expensive in the end (Modern Construction Materials 2007). Poorly finished structures present numerous risks to users and the public. Notably, high risking structures imply high premium to insurance companies, which is quite expensive. These new methods of assembly integrate large open spaces forcing them to rely on sprinkler systems to regulate fire at the initial points. There is stringent need to maintain the sprinkler protection in order to avoid financial losses given that such buildings have extremely little basic structural strength. Properties ought to have higher criterions of structural fire protection and greater sub-division to reduce financial losses in case of fire.
For a better future in the construction industry, methods and materials that help in minimising natural disasters, environmental degradation, construction and maintenance cost, and construction time will have to be applicable. Since carbon emissions do not only come from cars and vehicles, construction materials that tend to produce such emissions into the environment have to be abandoned (LEED Construction: Building a Brighter Future 2009). Additionally, construction methods that consume large quantity of water and materials that emit large quantity of CO2 will have to alter their mechanisms in order to be in line with the requirements of the United Nations Environmental Programme. There is continuous pressure to reduce energy consumption in structures over the sustainability issues. The move requires application of new skills and activities in reducing waste and water usage. Such off-site activities require greater specialisation and multi-skilling in order to install multifaceted pieces of equipment. With urgent need to make environment green, innovative methods and materials for construction that care for the environment will continue to dominate the construction industry. At the same time, traditional options that have been causing great harm to the environment will cease to exist. There will be continuous use of robotics in construction sites, as well as use of high-level computer aided designs to reduce on-site trades. In essence, these new methods and materials will require vast training for contractors in order to acquire numerous and up-to-date construction skills. The US government, for instance, have offered financial incentives to boost green construction in order to eliminate volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, heptane, toluene, and methylene chloride.
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