Every year brings new and wondrous developments in engineering and architecture, and 2016 promises to reveal some of the most innovative. The groundbreaking building products in this year’s lineup are all problem solvers. Some of them, in a most unusual way.
Here’s what you can expect 2016 to hold. You might not find them at a big box store tomorrow, but they’re making great strides toward the mainstream.
Solar Heat Sink Cladding
In the depths of winter, you have to wonder why someone didn’t think of this before. Solar Cladding performs as a heat sink that captures heat from the sun during the day, which helps reduce thermal losses through the walls, and the product will be released by Nelson Solar early this year.
Solar Activated Façade is the name, and it installs as cladding on an aluminum mounting system. Special wood slats deflect summer’s sun away from the building, but allow radiant energy to enter a cavity inside the system for use when it’s bone-chilling cold outside. The R-value is phenomenal, according to Architect magazine. Expect a range of 65 to a whopping 150.
Qmonos Synthetic Spiderweb
Everyone knows how strong a spiderweb is considering its dimensions. The search to reproduce spider silk has been an ongoing one, and met with varying degrees of success. This year, the Japanese company, Spiber, will release a product called Qmonos. It’s as thin and as strong as spider silk, and it’s made in an unusual way.
Spiber has built on the work of the former company, Nexia, which researched using one gene from a golden orb-weaving spider and a goat egg. The Qmonos material doesn’t use goat’s milk, says Architect, but a “bioengineered bacterial and recombinant DNA.” Although not in a building application, it’s already in the works with a new parka from The North Face.
3D Printed Structural Components
Is there anything that 3D printing can’t do? Apparently not, not even when it comes to building a pedestrian bridge. Using Dutch company MX3D’s “multi-axis metal printing technology,” designer Joris Laarman will begin construction on the MX3D bridge later in 2016.
The process involves industrial robots, welding machines, and molten metal. Robots use the welding machines to print metals, building up from a surface that’s already anchored. The bridge won’t be designed on-site, because of practicality issues, says Architect. Instead, it will be fabricated in a warehouse.
Concrete that Heals Itself
Concrete is a lot of things. It’s strong, doesn’t react badly in the presence of water, and isn’t especially sophisticated or complicated. That is until now. This year, expect to see a whole new side of concrete, one that’s practically autonomous.
Self-healing concrete is currently in U.K. trials. The material comes in different forms. Some have shape memory that are activated by an electric current. One heals itself through organic and inorganic compounds. And one contains capsules filled with bacteria and healing agents, says Architect. The possibilities for self-healing concrete are vast, and could improve the way that buildings, roads, bridges and other structures are created (and repaired) in the future.
Plastics are so commonplace, but they also have a big common flaw. They hang around forever, at least unless they’re recycled. Because some plastics aren’t recyclable, the search for a better material to do the same job has marched on for some time. Read the press release here.
Enter bioplastics. This material, developed by Harvard University Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering scientists, is made from something you’d never imagine: Discarded shrimp shells. The material “matches aluminum in strength at only half the weight,” it’s moldable, and of course it’s biodegradable.
New research and technology comes as a combined effort of scientists, architects and engineers the world over. It’s not just about designing the biggest and most awe-inspiring building that has ever been seen. It’s about solving problems in ways that are better than anything that’s available now.
Closer to home, you need continuing education to stay in the game. That’s why PDH Academy offers hassle-free professional development courses for architects and engineers. Check out our PDH approved courses today.