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5 Things We Learned at FutureTech

5 Things We Learned at FutureTech

by TODD STOLARSKI in San Francisco | March 25, 2015

An article containing all of the things I learned at the ENR FutureTech conference in San Francisco this month would be gargantuan. For those of you who couldn't be there, here are my highlights:

Dodge Data & Analytics' Steve Jones: "BIM is not the thing. BIM is the thing that will get us to the thing." 

Dodge Data & Analytics' Steve Jones: "BIM is not the thing. BIM is the thing that will get us to the thing." 

Lockheed Martin's FORTIS exoskeleton suit.

Lockheed Martin's FORTIS exoskeleton suit.

1 - Workers of 2025 will look different and be safer than today. Todd Wynne of Rogers-O'Brien Construction spoke of intelligent safety vests, smart hard hats, and an exoskeleton suit as new products all still in development. With the ability to put useful technologies into our mobile devices, it's high time to put them into the safety of workers on the job site. From small details of a GPS module in a hard hat, to the amplified promise of strength and precision sewn into an exoskeleton suit, the future construction worker may look more like a cyborg, but he/she will be much safer;

Coming to a job-site near you!

Coming to a job-site near you!

2 - Drones are here to stay, and they are coming. We knew that already, of course. In many places, they already are on site, taking nifty pictures and video. So, it's easy to see the immediate practical photographic uses of UAVs in just documenting work progress, but this wasn't PresentTech... it was FutureTech. So speakers talked of drones as role-based, task-oriented machines. Imagine heavy-duty UAVs hauling loads of bricks up 10 flights. Now, think of another industrial blimp drone flying in to drop off your concrete load. And on and on... We're getting there;

3 - Prefabrication drastically reduces construction time. Somewhat of a no-brainer, it's still staggering to see the numbers. According to Mortenson Construction, for example, a standard hospital bathroom assembled on site consists of some 4,000 parts. That same bathroom, prefabbed offsite and shipped for installation may only require 60 parts. That's 'sixty', a small enough number that I can actually write it out;

4 - Building materials are radically changing. We're not facing a future of just steel and concrete.  Tomorrow's building materials will be self cleaning, self healing, and self adapting. And they will be much more friendly to the environment. Consisting of bacterial spores, for example, BioCement could prove a viable path toward more sustainable structures;

5 - Cameras on the job site. If you live in a modern metropolis, you are well aware of the fact that cameras already are everywhere. They're on your train ride home, at the restaurant watching you eat dinner, and next to the traffic light when you ran that red on your way home. So, why not at the job site, too? Increasingly, such cameras are now beginning to play a larger role. The advantages they provide are not limited to allowing the superintendent to monitor the project remotely, but now include boosting safety, regulating site access, and enabling the public to view projects 'live', and being able to shoot time-lapse videos like this from EarthCam:

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