Advances come thick and fast in the building industry, and it’s easy to forget just how far things have come. So let’s travel back in time to 100 years ago. What was the state of construction in 1915?

The early 20th century saw the advent of a Second Industrial Revolution, which transformed the ability to build large-scale structures. Technological innovations such as lifts and cranes enabled the formation of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings and the invention of power tools and heavy-lifting machinery reduced the manpower needed in the construction process, meaning buildings could be put up en masse, and fast. It was a time of unprecedented achievement in the industry.

Past 100 Years in Construction

Modernist UtopiaBut how different is construction today to that witnessed 100 years ago, and what advances have occurred since then? Let us take a look at the past 100 years in the industry.

From the 1920s onward, governments’ increasing focus on public construction projects led to stimulative macroeconomic housing policy that aimed to regenerate areas through investment in building. These policies harnessed the economies of scale to invest in reasonably priced housing, enabling projects on a scale grander than any seen before, such as the Million Programme for housing in Sweden and Brazil’s modernist utopian capital Brasilia.

>>>Read more about Sweden’s innovative housing programme here

After the Second World War, prefabricated housing was introduced on a huge scale; these cheap and easy-to-erect buildings proving to be a quick solution to the problem of vast swathes of towns and cities having been laid to waste by the war. Materials and construction techniques were simplified to enable mass construction on a scale never before achieved.

The impact of the construction industry’s growth on workers in the industry was improved with the formation in 1971 of a combined Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians. This helped to ensure that any further innovations would not be at the expense of builders‘ basic rights.

The 1980s saw the first architectural use of an innovation that has a huge impact on construction today. Computer-aided design enables large-scale building projects to be planned and carried out with an ease never seen before. Regardless of buildings’ size and the sophistication and value of the individual components, computer modelling ensures that these are implemented with reliable precision.

[bctt tweet=”1980s saw computer-aided design allowing large-scale building projects to be carried out with an ease .”]

The impact of construction on the environment has been an increasing consideration from the 1980s onwards. Building projects that respect ecology and have a minimal impact on the environment are becoming prevalent, thanks in part to governmental and industrial regulations.

Around the same time, builders’ physical safety became better protected, as a series of regulations, including the 1992 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, ensured that gear such as hard hats and earmuffs be worn on sites. This made sure large-scale projects could be carried out without risking bodily harm.

Where we are Today

A more recent innovation is 3D printing, which began to influence the construction industry from 2011, when the first architectural designs in concrete were produced using gigantic three-dimensional printing machines. The potential of this innovation to allow architects to see projects through from conception to completion using computer technology is almost boundless.
3D House Printing
And as this capability becomes better refined, there is every reason to suspect it will be expanded to allow more and more building materials to be shaped using three-dimensional printing technology. In China a gigantic printer has already been used to build entire houses, which it can do at a rate of 10 per day.

>>>Check out 3D printed buildings here

Modular construction is another innovative approach to building that has been introduced in parts of Tokyo and the US. Modular structures are composed of pre-fabricated units built in factories and put together on the building site with the use of a crane. These modules can be standardised, thereby reducing the resources needed to construct each individual component of a structure, making large-scale building projects much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Innovative building materials are also making construction on a grand scale easier than ever before. One of these is self-healing concrete, which includes a self-activating bacteria that produces limestone in its formula, is purported to allow a more sustainable concrete-based building projects. As the material needs fewer repairs, it’s better for the environment and is cheaper to use than traditional concrete.

The Future of Construction

It has been an amazing century for innovation in construction, as it’s now cheaper, faster, easier and safer for builders to erect large-scale projects with high-quality components. One can only wonder what the next 100 years will bring.

We’re currently conducting some research into our predictions in construction in the next 100 years – Will it go full cycle?