Posted on January 16, 2019

Here at Lobster Towers, we like to look ahead to the future once in a while, to get a feel for what sort of developments and innovations are set to shape construction, architecture and engineering in the future.

Our last post on futurism - The Technological Horizon looked a good fifty years ahead, so this time, we explore a few things that could well happen - and some that are already happening - in the nearer term.


1. OH MY GOD, the robots have taken my job!

As you can see from the video above from the amazing Boston Dynamics - robots are coming to the construction site. The one featured can’t seem to do complex tasks... yet... and there’d be a temptation to send it to stores for a long weight or some tartan paint. However, the ability to safely navigate unmapped and uneven terrain, including stairs, is really impressive. They’ve clearly learnt from the debacle of the Daleks!

Rather than the autonomous robot working alongside humans on construction sites, we think it’s more likely that sites will become entirely mechanised. If the whole site is off-limits to humans for large periods of time, then the management of safety becomes a lot simpler - robots can work all hours, and don’t need the same level of protection as people. 

Check out this video by B1M for more.


2. Print me a house!

The next interesting development is 3D printing. Though still in its infancy, there’s a lot of potential, as the next video shows:

We’ve used 3D printing for a couple of parts of our Lobster Pot camera - to build a complex battery enclosure that held three different types with levered covers - the whole thing could be built as one piece instead of many small parts.

Of course, currently, the type of 3D printing seen in the video is only suitable for smaller projects, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see megastructures built this way any time soon. However, the ability for 3D printing to make complex geometric shapes easily and quickly will really help contribute to the ability of architects to conjure amazing new shapes for buildings.


3. The Digital Twin

Greg Bentley of Bentley talks about the concept of Digital Twins:

Digital Twins are a really interesting idea - that for a construction, engineering or infrastructure project, more than ‘just’ a model is prepared - rather, an entire digital version of the project is created. This will include the model geometry, but also the build schedule over time (turning a 3D model into 4D), the quantities, the costs, the environmental impacts and things like thermal insulation values, clash detection and more. Once the building is complete, this becomes a digital ‘Operations and Maintenance’ manual, replacing the often paper-based shelf of books with a single, dynamic and verifiable manual.


4. BIM integration

You got us... We couldn’t make a post like this without some mention of what we’re doing! Our BIM integration is helping clients all over the world to share, manage and ensure compliance on projects large (mega, in fact!) and small.

We’re the established leaders in this integration, having invented the technology to do this in association with Synchro (now part of Bentley), back in 2017.


5. AI and the Internet Of Things

We’ve been part of the Internet of Things (IoT) since before it was a term - our cameras have had full cellular internet access since 2008. Like many things, ‘Internet of Things’ is subject to a certain level of hype - as well as stories of fridges that can automatically order supplies, there have been horror stories of poor default security making printers hackable, among other things - however its certain that we're moving towards a much more intelligent infrastructure, both in construction, and wider.


Conclusion: We welcome our new robot overlords

The worry that ‘this new technology will take my job’ is well documented, and goes back at least as far as the Luddites. Luckily, this has largely been disproved, time and again. Mechanisation, industrialisation and computerisation have greatly increased productivity and, far more importantly, moved huge swathes of the world out of extreme poverty. Employment has just moved on to different roles - who now doesn’t use a computer for work?

We take the vaguely Boserupian view that technology will remove tedious and repetitive work and free us all up to be more creative, to have less impact on the environment, and to enjoy more satisfying work in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction.... and beyond!


What do you think is next for construction?

We'd love to hear from you. Just drop us a message here or on our social channels.