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Smarter and Greener: How cutting edge methods, materials and tech are making the world a more environmentally friendly and productive world.
Cutting Edge Construction Methods
Robot swarm construction
What is it? Researchers at Harvard have built small construction robots programmed to work together as a swarm to build structures.
How it works? The large swarms of robots can use artiificial intelligence to construct buildings, taking inspiration from insect swarm builders such as termites. Being a swarm, if some of the robots for some reason can’t work the others will still be able to complete the job.
What are the benefits? Quicker and safer construction of buildings without the need of human attendance on site. Perfect for constructions in dangerous places or space/colonized planets.
3D Printed Houses
What is it? Using giant 3D printers to build the main structural components of houses and other structures.
How it works? Giant 3D printers take raw materials and fashion them into buildings.
What are the benefits? Quicker construction and less production of waste in the building process. It is also thought that 3D printing may be how we build on the moon and other planets.
Is it being used yet? A small number of teams across the world are pioneering this method, including DUS Architects in the Netherlands, who are building a 3D printed Canal House that is under construction in Amsterdam and the Chinese company WnSun, that have built ten demo houses for $5,000 each.
What is it? Uses live micro algae growing in glass to generate renewable energy and provide shade.
How it works? The microalgae are supplied with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide. They are then harvested to create biogas.
Where it’s being used? Arup have used this technology in the BIQ house as part of the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg, 2013.
What is it? One of the least dense substances in the world, Aerogel is almost as light as air and has super-insulating properties.
How it works? By removing liquid from gel you are left with the silica structure. This can be spun out to create sheets that have up to four times the insulating power of fiberglass or foam insulation.
What are the benefits? Better insulation in buildings could reduce the environmental burden of heating.
Is it being used yet? Recent reduction in the price of Aerogel has made it viable for usage in construction. Some predict it will soon take over the market in insulation.
What is it? Aluminum oxynitride or AION is four times harder than fused glass and 85% as hard as sapphire.
How it works? Aluminum oxynitride powder is stuffed into a rubber mourld and compressed in hydraulic fluid to 15,000 psi. It is then fused together by heating for days, then polished until clear.
What are the benefits? Although currently excessively expensive, it could be very useful in the construction of skyscrapers and in providing fire-resistant glass.
It is being used? It’s expense means it is more likely to be found in military tech than in the city.
Features of Smart Buildings
It’s not just materials that are making buildings better, technology is also playing its part
System integration – Systems that interact with each other can better understand, and respond to, the movement of people and resources around a building.
Environmental control – Smart building systems should be able to understand when lights and heating can be altered and turned off. This reduces wasted energy.
Data collection – By collecting data on how your office space is being used, a smart building can help you manage desk and office space more effectively.
Productivity benefits – By monitoring staff productivity through your building, it is possible to see what makes your staff more, and less, productive.
Buildings that Break the Mould
The Edge – Amsterdam
Often called the smartest building in the world, the Edge combines green building techniques with smart building innovation to create a place that’s great to work in and isn’t a burden on the environment.
BREAM rating : 98.36%
Electricity – 70% less electricity than comparable office buildings
Energy – The solar panels on the roof produce more energy than the building consumes
Heating – Aquifer thermal energy storage system provides all of the energy required
Water – Drained rainwater is used for cleaning and flushing the toilets
Lighting – LED lighting can be regulated via smartphones. Sensors measure occupancy and adjusts energy use.
The Crystal – London
The Crystal showcases state-of-the-art technologies to make buildings more efficient and more sustainable.
BREAM rating: outstanding
Energy – 20% of energy is from solar panels. 70% lower emissions.
Heating – 100% natural heat sources. Has 199 ground source heat pipes
Water – WC water is taken from non-potable sources, 80% of hot water is heated by solar heating and ground source heat pumps
Light – Triple-glazed windows let in 70% of natural light