Construction in the 21st century

Building homes that are adapted to the needs of their residents and making the best use of new technology are two concerns that have come to the fore in the construction industry of the 21st century, and this year’s Beyond Building Barcelona-Construmat, the updated version of the International Building Fair (Salón Internacional de la Construcción) at Fira de Barcelona will be addressing them both from the 19th to the 23rd May at the Gran Via site.

“One of the challenges that is shaking up the building industry is related with the digital tools that are now available for design and for construction. I am convinced that this will shape the way the industry works over the next few years”, says the director of BBB-Construmat, Jaume Domènech. In fact, digital technology is already having an impact on the way things are done in the sector.

The Future in 3D

The use of 3D printers to create large sections of homes from materials that include recycled industrial waste, cement or fibreglass, among others, or the use of large-scale robots to replace manual labour in the building process is a trend that is constantly growing. “The future of the sector lies in the application of construction technology to creating sustainable and intelligent spaces”, says Domènech.

impresora_3DIn Holland, for example, there are several major projects under way for printing buildings in 3D, the cutting edge of digital technology’s contribution to construction. One of the most outstanding is the Landscape House, designed by the Universe Architecture studio of Amsterdam, which uses the printer D-Shape developed by the Italian architect Enrico Dini, one of the world’s leading experts on 3D printing.

The innovation space of BBB-Construmat, designed in collaboration with the Institut d’Arquitectura Avançada de Catalunya (IAAC) and FabLab Barcelona, proves that the technology has come to stay. The director of FabLab Barcelona, Tomás Díez, says that “besides 3D printing, there are other processes such as robot manufacturing which will change the construction industry”.

BIM Technology

construmat_2Another development which is reorganizing the way the construction sector and even the industrial design sector works is BIM technology (Building Information Model), which is defined as the process of generating and managing data about the building during its life cycle, using 3D building modelling software in real time. In this context, last February the Generalitat de Catalunya and Barcelona City Council agreed to introduce this technology in 2018 in new public works, with a budget of more than two million euros.

Tomás Díez says, “digital technology will help to rearrange urban spaces in accordance with the demands of its users”. We are therefore moving closer to the emergence of smart cities, with intelligent, sustainable buildings that are connected.

The professor of Applied Economics at the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville, José María O’Kean, is the author of the report ‘Designing a new cycle of value in construction’ written for BBB-Construmat, and states that “cities will be at the centre of the changes in model for the future of the construction sector”. According to O’Kean, “there will be ever greater need for intelligent communications, connected supply infrastructures and transport systems, waste management, environmental resources and energy saving”.

Professor O’Kean agrees with Díez and Doménech on this point. “The use of 3D printers, Machine to machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way we think about buildings, and the way our devices interact with our home and the buildings and infrastructures of the city”.

A glimpse of recovery

In his report, José María O’Kean predicts growth rates of 5,1% in 2015, (3.3% residential building and 6.4% non-residential) and of 4.5% in 2016 (4.8% residential, 4.3% non-residential). At this time, there are indicators such as the consumption of cement and the number of building permits, which support a mood of moderate optimism. For example, the consumption of cement in Spain grew by 8.5% in the first quarter of the year, rising to 2,553,962 tons.

As regards the building permits for new homes, they increased by 39% in January compared to the previous year, to 3,466 permits, the best figure registered in January since 2012, according to the Ministry of Public Works (Fomento). Besides this, 5,467 permits for renovation were issued in January, 27% more than the year before.