Building the Future of Future Building

by Brian P. Murphy, J.D. on 2018-05-25 1:30pm

Image 7      Image: World Economic Forum


Pictured above: It is estimated that by 2050, two-thirds of the world will live in cities. While many urban centres face a shortage of land space prohibiting urban "sprawl," they may elect, instead, to build upwards to accommodate both residential and commercial space. This is the design concept of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is a mixed-use modern skyscraper with hotel accommodations, residential living, and commercial space - in essence, a vertical city.



Walk through any city in the world and you may see a series of sights comfortably familiar connecting them all. Walk a different direction and you might spy another host of images strikingly unique to each location setting them apart from each other. Some differences may be based in historical and cultural approaches to architecture, or commonalities may be found in many due to climatic and geographic similarities.


In this broad survey, we'll perform a fast circle around the globe and see what developments over the past decade leading up to and including impending construction innovations might be coming our way soon … and which ones might already be here.


We'll break our innovations out into several classifications beginning here with developments in construction materials and methods.

Construction Materials and Methods

Self-Sealing Concrete

Cement is one of the most popular building materials in the world, but cracking is a major problem in concrete construction, mostly due to water and chemicals. Bath University researchers are working on a concrete mix containing bacteria within microcapsules, but the process still needs some debugging. When wet, the bacteria capsules germinate, producing limestone that fills in the cracks before corrosion can attack the steel reinforcement.

Quick-Drying Concrete

In another advancement in concrete materials, a school in Texas facing a crisis in completing construction in time for the students' return, used Aridus Rapid Drying Concrete, a ready-mix concrete manufactured to prevent moisture-related deterioration issues in flooring, chosen for its rapid drying time, high early strength, compressive strength, and low permeability. 20,000 cubic yards of concrete were needed (including 5,000 cubic yards of Aridus) to cover 120,000 sf of floors. They were able to install final flooring 21 days after concrete pouring, in contrast with a typical drying time of four months or more.

A 3D-Printed Bridge

Photo: Thijs Wolzak/


A 3D printed steel pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam is being used as a testing ground to prove that 3D printing has an immediately applicable function outside the lab setting. The bridge is made of a newly developed type of steel, spans 40 feet, and is scheduled to be installed sometime in 2018 in the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam. This futuristic, outer-space designed footbridge is intended to demonstrate 3D printing's potential within the construction industry. In addition to improved production times, 3D-printing comes with environmental benefits: it generates no waste and generally requires little rework. Savings through optimized shapes make 3D printing a highly eco-friendly technology as well.

Energy Innovations

"Energy-Glazed" Building


Building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glazed windows can transform an entire building envelope into a solar panel creating its own electricity. Companies specialize in producing the BIPV windows, building façades and roofs. BIPV has been proven effective even on north-facing, vertical walls, as well as demonstrating high performance at increased temperatures.

"Kinetic" Footpaths and Highways



Kinetic energy technology is creating methods for turning daily activities into energy. One of these technologies uses simple flooring to convert footsteps into electricity. Usable indoors or out, the technology is well-suited to high traffic areas, generating power through an electromagnetic induction process and flywheel energy storage capturing the energy from footsteps. [A football pitch (soccer field) in Rio de Janeiro is among the larger venues using this, currently powering floodlights for the field. A temporary installation outside London’s Canary Wharf station also uses it to power street lights.]


The same concept is being explored by Italian startup Underground Power, examining the potential of kinetic energy in roadways. This leading technology is able to collect and convert the energy of passing vehicles into electricity. The newly generated power is integrated into the electricity grid. This system both improves road safety and promotes sustainability of road traffic.

Planning and Modelling Methods

Image: World Economic Forum

Smart Planning Systems

The Edge, Deloitte’s new HQ in Amsterdam, with the technological flexibility to provide 1,100 workspaces serving 2,500+ staff, is considered by many to be the most sustainable office building in the world. The Edge produces more energy than it uses, employing a single network that controls every technical system in the building, including tens of thousands of individual sensors. The multi-story glass atrium faces north, gathering lots of daylight, while south-facing concrete walls absorb heat from sunlight and solar panels convert sunlight into energy. The elevator, lighting, cooling, coffee machines, towel dispensers, and even the robotic security guard all can be centrally controlled and operated.

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Currently open but not to be fully operational until sometime this year, the New Karolinska Solna (NKS) University Hospital in Stockholm at an estimated $1.6 billion is considered to be the world’s largest public-private partnership project. The facility contains over 330,000 square METERS, 730 inpatient beds, 36 operating theatres, 100 rooms for outpatient care, and 17 MRI scanning units. Through use of BIM, all information pertaining to the hospital’s design, construction, and inventory is stored digitally, creating a single system in which designers, contractors, and facilities managers may collaborate. NKS also is climate-neutral due to energy-efficient insulation, a geothermal energy plant, and conversion of food waste to biogas.


And this barely scratches the surface of all the innovative construction ideas being explored globally.


Read More About These Innovations At These Locations:



Brian P. Murphy, the author, is a researcher and writer for At Your Pace Online, an online provider through