Our world is driven by innovation. Advancements in technology occur all the time. Remember that old Best Buy commercial that advertised the company’s “Buy Back” program? It showed all of these people with their new cell phones, TVs, laptops, etc. looking at a newly released upgrade of that product. It seems every time we turn around something new is on the market. Most of these are minor upgrades and advancements, basically just adding a few new “cool” features and integrating existing technologies. However, every once and while something comes along that truly changes the game, whatever that game may be. I know it has been quite some time, but remember when the first iPod came out? Game changer. Go back even further, how about the microwave? Game changer. These innovations took things already existed (portable music players, ovens) and made them better, faster, more user-friendly, not to mention cooler.
The world of building technologies works the same way. We are constantly trying to improve what we currently have (building materials, construction methods, etc.) and leverage new advancements in technology and science to make them better. Browsing through my morning e-mails while sipping my coffee (IMO the Keurig is a game changer) I came across a list of new building materials that have the potential to significant impact the building industry. Most of the time these lists include those minor upgrades that I hinted at earlier. Wait, I can now get my iPhone in blue? But these ones were different. The complete list can be found here but I will share with you a brief synopsis of some of my favorites.
Can your paint tell you where your building is cracking? Didn’t think so. A team of researchers from NC State and the University of Eastern Finland are in the process of developing a conductive paint that can actually find areas of a building structure that are being compromised. This type of paint and system could be invaluable for a wide variety of structures, particular those in earthquake zones. The potential to find structural damage before a potential disaster or accident would greatly increase the safety of the buildings using this product.
Photovoltaic panels on windows are nothing new. This type of technology has been around for some time, although all PV technology has come a long way in recent years. However, typically if you are in a room with PV panels on the windows you know it. While a traditional solar panel collects sunlight using dark silicon cells, this new technology actually channels specific wavelengths of light (those which are not visible to the human eye) onto a heat engine which produces electricity. This type of technology could be integrated into tall buildings with a lot of windows or even on smaller devices such as cell phones, tablets, and e-readers.
Real-life Legos? Sounds like an architect’s dream doesn’t it? Imagine all those buildings and structures you built as a kid and how simple and easy they were to construct. That simplicity and ease of construction is exactly what a company Kite Bricks is aiming to do with a new building material called Smart Bricks. Essentially, these bricks are Legos that can be used to build structures we can work, play and live in. While the company is still raising funds to actually create the product, the future construction of buildings might look very similar to when you were in grade school.
If your phone runs out of battery as often as mine does you will find this technology particularly interesting. Through advanced technology sound can transmit energy, as many of you are already know. A company called uBeam is developing ways to take that energy-generating technology and integrate it into building materials. The process involves embedding a transmitter into some sort of material (currently uBeam is focusing on wallpaper and wall art). That transmitter takes electricity and converts it into ultrasonic sound which can then be picked up by your mobile device. Your device will then convert that sound back into energy to keep it charged. I can never find my phone charger anyways!