How Technology Changed Civil Engineering For The Better

Andy Schmidt, Vista Projects
Andy Schmidt, Vista Projects
The rapid pace of technological advancement is changing every single aspect of our lives — and all of the industries and sectors in which we work. Consequently, civil engineering is not an exception here. For instance, there are plenty of ways in which technology has altered this industry for the better in the 21st century — and we will explore some of them.

Photovoltaic Glazing
Just like any other industry, civil engineering is also susceptible to the influence of specific trends that come and go. However, some of these turn out to be more than passing fads — becoming industry staples in the long run. Among them, we can single out environmental sustainability.

While this is something that civil engineers have only recently begun to consider at a serious level, it’s definitely a technology that’s capable of shifting focus away from unsustainable energy towards more renewable energy sources.

Considering that, you will find that photovoltaic glazing is an interesting concept. This is a type of glazing that serves to provide independent structures with their own energy source; pretty much turning the entire structure into its own solar panel. Plus, you can use photovoltaic glass to create electricity from daylight. As you’ve probably gathered, this kind of photovoltaic technology has the potential to significantly reduce the need for external sources of electricity, as well as the energy consumption for cooling and heating.

Modular Design
One of the other technologies that have pretty much defined how we think of the future of civil engineering is the modular design, also known as prefabricated structures.

Ever since Henry Ford invented the first assembly line — serialized production has become more and more effective and applicable to the widest possible range of industries. When it comes to civil engineering and construction, in general, serialized production was only developed in the sense of individual construction materials and parts.

However, the wonders of modern production are set to change all of that. These days, contemporary technology allows us to perform serialized production of entire buildings by dividing them into prefabricated sections that are simply put together at their final destination — much like LEGO cubes.

This kind of construction allows for a level of efficiency hitherto unimaginable. Huge buildings that would’ve taken entire years to build can now be constructed in nothing more than a couple of weeks.

Civil engineering is becoming far easier with prefab construction; we’re talking about buildings that are more than 70% completed before they get transported to the construction — or rather, assembly site.

New Materials
Apart from photovoltaic materials, there are countless other new futuristic materials that have become a staple of the modern civil engineering project. For instance, metamaterials are one of the next big things in this industry.

So, what are these materials? Well, we’re talking about synthetic materials that were designed in a laboratory for a specific use; their purposes are solely to make incredibly innovative engineering projects a reality. A huge number of these are still being tested — but there are some that have already entered semi-commercial use. One of the more well-known ones would be graphene.

Graphene is a material that’s incredibly strong; it is hundreds of times more durable than steel. But at the same time, it’s utterly light and extremely flexible. Indeed, you don’t have to be a civil engineer to appreciate the kind of construction versatility that the use of graphene provides. And we’re talking about one of the thinnest synthetic materials ever produced — an average strand of human hair is a million times thicker! Plus, it’s a conductive material, spreading its range of potential utilizations even further.

Apart from this, scientists and engineers have developed self-cooling bricks - completely cutting down HVAC expenses for future buildings. These bricks are created with a polymer of hydrogel and clay; the former absorbs any water or moisture and reduces the temperature of the building by releasing it.

Wrapping Up
Materials like graphene are set to completely revolutionize the world of civil engineering; their potential for all kinds of construction projects is limitless. The number of new technologies that are making a positive impact on civil engineering is truly astounding. And all of them will become much more commercially viable in the near future.
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