The Week in Summary: 3D Advancements, Keeping Workers Safe & 'Solar Freakin' Roadways'

Last week was a whirlwind! Thanks to everyone who participated in Friday's webinar, "Getting Started With Dynamo & GenMEP." We had a great turnout and very positive feedback. If you missed it, not to worry – you can find the presentation here. Now here's a quick look at a few stories that grabbed our attention last week.

3D to the rescue! No funny glasses required. 3D technology is advancing at a momentous pace, affecting everything from how we watch movies to how we manufacture goods. But how will these advancements affect AEC? SPAR 3D asked the same question and took a look at five examples of how they see 3D tech improving the built environment. Enabling better collaboration in building information modeling (BIM) practices, helping to automate construction equipment, and assisting with rigorous project monitoring are a few key areas that underscore how rapidly developing 3D technologies can help us build more quickly and more safely while simultaneously lowering overall cost and, often, environmental impact. 3D printing, for example, has been proven to increase efficiency and reduce waste: "Arup has used 3D-printed steel components in a project and saw a 75% reduction in weight and a 40% reduction in material compared to traditional approaches." That translates to less impact on the planet and more cash in the client's pocket.

Job sites are often not the most hospitable places. Extreme heat or cold, working around traffic, and working at great heights are just a few of the health and safety concerns construction workers face on a daily basis. Now, thanks to ever-expanding options for wearables and the advent of the IoT, many of those concerns can at least be minimized, if not altogether eliminated. Construction Dive examined various types of wearables aimed at construction and illustrated how and where they can be of use. Unlike your handy step-counting Fitbit, "Tracking worker exposure and alerting and protecting them from hazards in the natural and built environment is a primary driver of wearable design for construction." From vests designed to keep workers warm or cool to headbands that monitor EEG brainwaves to watch for excessive fatigue, most forthcoming wearable technology is aimed at taking some of the hazard out of what is often a hazardous occupation.

Technology is allowing us to build faster, safer, and cheaper than ever before, but it's also shifting how we think about what we're building. Building Design + Construction took a look at "maker culture" and examined how it is shaking up the way AEC firms tackle design problems. Contrary to previous approaches where failure was not an option, maker culture encourages failure as part of the process to find not just what works, but what works best. "The emphasis is on the act of creating in order to get a first-hand look at the results, whether good, bad, or a bit of both. In the maker movement, 'doing' is usually more important than what has actually been done." Firms like Sasaki Associates are creating in-house maker studios, encouraging their employees to get away from their desks and "get their hands dirty." The ultimate goal is that an idea, hashed out through hands-on trial and error, will ultimately lead to a building solution with real-world applications.

"Hands-on" really means hands-on! This Sasaki employee is creating in the company's maker studios. (Source: Building Design + Construction)

Remember that guy from a few years back who very enthusiastically yelled about "solar freakin' roadways!?" It turns out that enthusiasm may be paying off. Thirty of the specially designed roadway panels were put into commission in Sandpoint, Idaho, by Solar Roadways, and now they will be put to the test. The panels not only gather solar energy; they come equipped with a series of LED lights that can be combined in a multitude of colors and used for everything from road markings to warning drivers of collisions and other hazardous conditions on the road ahead. Naturally, concerns about their real-world practicality abound, but didn't someone once say that about the computer...? For a more in-depth look at the panels' functionality (and some pure entertainment), check out the crowdfunding video. Happy Hump Day!

These solar panels are Solar Roadways prototypes in Sandpoint, Idaho. (Source:CAD Digest)


As you may have noticed, we've been doing a lot of writing about the impact of computational BIM, generative design, and the future of how we work. One thing we haven't done is turn some of this thinking into more rigorous analysis. But now we're ready to do that! 

If you work for a general contractor, subcontractor, or design firm and want to collaborate on whitepapers that quantify how computational methods of working will change our industry, reach out to us and let’s talk about what we can do. We're open to collaborations worldwide and have lots of ways of measuring performance indicators to gain insight into change in our industry. Contact Brett Young at

Tags: BIM Safety 3D Technology

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