How Are Drones Affecting the Construction Industry?

drone

Drones are emerging as a leading trend in construction technology in 2018. The presence of drones in construction means significant changes within the industry. Drones have already begun changing the way the construction industry operates, and those changes will have continued and lasting effects.

Nearly one in five (18 percent) of small to medium size construction businesses are currently using drones for photogrammetry and mapping. Goldman Sachs estimates that the construction industry will adopt drone usage more rapidly than any other commercial industry.

chart-drone-tech-budgets-by-industry

Here’s a look at some of the ways drones have already changed things and how these trends will impact construction operations in the future.

Surveying Land

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are rapidly replacing traditional land-surveillance methods.

They are growing in popularity so rapidly that some have even abandoned the classic “bird’s-eye view” expression with “drone’s-eye view.” Drones greatly reduce the labor and time involved in producing accurate surveys. Drones eliminate much of the human error involved in the process and have the ability to capture necessary data in much less time than traditional methods would take.

Drone technology is capable of dramatically reducing time and resources needed for surveying. A traditional surveyor would spend up to a month to survey a construction job site in detail, a construction company called Identified Technologies uses self-flying drones to complete the same work within minutes, greatly expediting project timeframes and reducing physical labor costs.

Improvements to Infrastructure

Drones provide superior endurance and intelligence on job sites. Their ability to collect and report data allows work to be completed faster. The need for manual labor is all but removed from the equation. In the future, drones will take on even more integral tasks involved in large projects. They are poised to cut the time it takes to build a skyscraper by a broad margin, thereby cutting costs. Contractors who rely on drones will be able to make much more ambitious bids and complete work on time.

construction_drone

Communication and Management

Drone technology has evolved to the point where instant connectivity and communication on the job site are at a surplus. Drones are being used more and more as a means of maintaining constant contact at worksites. Drones that feature mounted cameras can provide video footage to facilitate communication and surveillance.

They allow companies to keep tabs on employees and workers and are considered an increasingly invaluable tool for superintendents and investors.

Already, communication and management are seeing a sharp increase in efficiency due to the ability to collect real-time data from drones. The decrease in delays in gathering data is having more of an impact each day. The ability to manage workflow 24/7 is unprecedented and is certain to have a significant impact on all manner of construction processes.

Improved Overall Security

The advent of drones is causing a sharp increase in security efficiency. Whether the drones are used to maintain the safety of employees or to protect the job site from theft or vandalism, they are steadily seeing greater implementation in the construction industry.

Accurate Surveillance

Drones have the ability to be practically everywhere at the same time. They don’t just reduce theft and keep workers safer; they create a round-the-clock real-time monitoring system that has already been adopted by a number of construction companies. They elevate onsite security and safety by a tremendous margin.

Even though the FAA exacts strict standards on the use of drones, most models used by constructioncompanies come in under the 4.4-pound weight threshold and 400-foot travel radius required to be considered “Hobby Class.” Drones that meet those criteria are not subject to stringent regulations.

As of right now, they can be flown practically anywhere for any reason. Drones can also safely survey dangerous locations, reducing workplace accidents and increasing job site safety.

Transportation and Inspection

The use of drones in job site inspection also means a drastic increase in worksite safety by eliminating numerous dangers and safety hazards. Using drones to transport goods aerially allows companies to execute difficult inspections and keep track of everything that enters and leaves the job site. It saves money and time and keeps the site secure. Since drones are generally small with high levels of maneuverability, they are being used more and more as an alternative to traditional vehicles. Even better, drones do not have to adhere to traffic laws, which allows them to make deliveries in a fraction of the time, using half of the resources.

So, apparently drones are affecting many facets of the construction industry in a good way. They are creating high efficiency processes and being accepted even by many small to mid-size businesses. Other technologies to watch out for and that are leading the way are autonomous equipment, Augmented/Virtual Reality, and 3D printing.

chart-construction-new-tech-adoption

 


SOURCES/EXCERPTS:

The Balance, 6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry, March 17, 2018.

Software Connect, Construction Technology Trends – 2018 Report, January 2nd, 2018.

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Newport in Action

Newport Ventures hosted a Plan Review for Residential Buildings and a Plan Review for Commercial Buildings in Syracuse, NY on March 14th, 2018. Matt Evans and David Brignati were the trainers for these sessions.

The Residential and Commercial Plan Review and Field Inspection curriculum is very interactive and require participants to engage with one another to perform plan review activities as they typically do in the daily course of their work. For the plan review portion of the course, participants are divided into groups of four or five and given a set of plans and specifications for different types of residential buildings. Together they will go through the construction documents to identify any missing or non-compliant elements. Once they have completed this work, each group will present its findings to the larger audience.

The field inspection portion of the session is less activity based, but still very interactive. Compliant and non-compliant construction details are presented and short videos are used to show attendees visually common problem areas that often cannot be seen ahead of time in the architectural plans. Frequently, actual implementation raises awareness of conflicts between building systems or construction details that result in non-compliance – for instance, thermal bridging at window or door openings or improper air sealing of party walls.

Check out the photos below – see us in action!

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3D PRINTING IN HOME BUILDING


3D Printed Whole House in 24 Hours


What is 3D Printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.

3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

3D Printing in Home Building

3D Printing has made significant leaps and bounds in the last few years. The first 3D commercially viable 3D printed car was debuted in November, 2015 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and is now available for purchase.

In the first quarter 2016 the Oak Ridge National Laboratories showcased the first viable, fully 3D printed home suitable for every-day living. Companies like Apis Cor are producing fascinating results and can print a house within 24 hours. Currently, it lends out its machinery to various other firms.

“Construction the way it’s done today is very wasteful,” says Behrokh Khoshnevis, the director of the manufacturing engineering graduate program USC explained in a presentation on Contour Crafting at TEDxOjai.  “Our solution benefits from advanced technology…It is essentially a way of streamlining the process of construction by benefiting from the experience we have gained in the field of manufacturing.”

The 3D printer lays out concrete and interlocking steel bars as it builds a structure. Khoshnevis says that the printer can handle the plumbing, electrical networks, and flooring for multistory buildings.

Khoshnevis sees the technology as a way to quickly rebuild communities and towns damaged by natural disasters.

“My true hope is that this technology gets to be used worldwide to the fullest extent possible,” he said.
Similarly, countries like China are experimenting with contour crafting. A project by Shanghai based WinSun uses recyclable materials to print houses for $4,800 dollars per unit. In this case, all the parts are printed separately first and later on assembled.

Since bigger construction projects require a massive build area, companies have had to think outside the box. On-site Robotics, for example, have been working with the concept of increasing build volumes by mounting printers on cables and monitoring the process with drones. These concepts are rapidly evolving over time, but they have a long way to go.

3D printing will continue to improve and soon it will be possible for anyone to print just about anything. In the not too distant future, you could fully expect to see every house have a 3D printing room which will be used to print everyday objects like plates, cups, towels etc.

How far off are 3D printed houses in the U.S.?

3D printed housing structures are possible today. So 3D printed housing could be available within the next 10-15 years. The natural place for this to first start is the pre-fabricated home industry. They already have adopted the idea of building the pieces in one location ensuring quality and price controls and then assembling elsewhere. This is a perfect place to use 3D printing of housing materials.

 


Resources

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SMART HOME TECH TRENDS IN 2018

Homeowners are beginning to embrace smart home technology and artificial intelligence in their homes, with connected lighting systems, virtual assistants, and programmable thermostats that learn your preferences. A myriad of new products were on display at trade shows that kicked off earlier this year. There are a few specific trends that seem to stand out and are on the rise. The biggest trend in the home technology field is how everything is not only offering wireless connectivity, but also offering services powered by artificial intelligence.

The vehicle for this vision of the smart home could be those new-age iHome devices that package AI assistants into a more traditional, less intimidating alarm clock exterior. Or it could be familiar smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which everyone has already been receiving as holiday gifts. Or it could be your usual appliances that will just all run on AI.

Samsung announced that it’s aiming to make all its products not only internet-connected by 2020 but also “intelligent”, via its smart voice assistant Bixby (Watch out, Alexa and company!).

Indeed, the biggest takeaway on the smart home front is that it still feels like only the beginning. Tech companies are finding so many ways to deliver the connected smart home that it seems likely to find us one way or another, eventually.

Take a look at the top 3 specific and provocative smart home trends and products that may be widely relevant sooner than later.

Fully Wireless Kitchen

One of the most “futuristic” yet timely technologies was the wireless kitchen developed by Michigan-based startup Urbaneer with small spaces in mind. Wireless charging furniture has been around for awhile, but this kitchen design amps up the technology and in a practical way. Compatible appliances charge and run right on the countertops, so that those surfaces become a cooktop when needed and free counter space the rest of the time.

A wireless kitchen would also cut down on cords in the kitchen, especially important near sinks. The kitchen “island” shown in the photo above sits on wheels for extra flexibility. Everything in the exhibit, from the wireless countertops to the Philips and Haier devices that work with them, are actually already on the market.

Smarter Home Deliveries

Last fall, Walmart and Amazon triggered a collective shudder when they announced in-home delivery services that use smart locks and security cameras to let couriers into your house while you monitor the process remotely via an app.

Major smart lock maker, August, who partnered with Walmart for its in-home delivery pilot, announced it’s opening up the service (now called August Access) to the broad network of retailers that work with same-day delivery startup Deliv.

Next-Level Remote Controls

Physical remote controls aren’t going away in the smart home. They’re just shifting shapes. There’s still many products that boil smart home control down to the press of literal buttons. They are just adding new integrations for smart lights, speakers, thermostats, and more.

However, an interesting approach to tactile smart home control comes from Nanoleaf, which makes modular, internet-connected light panels. This year, the company debuted the Nanoleaf Remote, a palm-sized dodecahedron that works with Apple HomeKit. Each of the remote’s dozen sides can be programmed to launch a different command, be it a specific lighting scene created by the panels or settings for any HomeKit-compatible device, from locks and cameras to outlets and fans.

 


Resource and excerpts: CES 2018: Smart home tech trends you need to know, By Jenny Xie, Curbed.com, January 17th, 2018.

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ENERGY CODES ARE LIFE SAFETY CODES

Energy codes do much more than just help builders construct tighter houses

Building codes ensure and protect the safety of the houses and buildings where we live and work. The International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC, is one of a suite of model national building codes adopted by state and local jurisdictions to ensure a bare minimum of durability, quality, health, and safety.

Once in a while, we hear building officials mistakenly say they don’t adopt or inspect for the energy code, “because it is not a life-safety code.” This comment, however, stems from a basic misunderstanding of the energy code, and what it is designed to achieve. We’re here to correct the record—the energy code fundamentally improves the durability of buildings as well as the health and safety of us humans inside. It’s not just a “nice-to-have.”

(It’s worth remembering, though, that the energy code is the only code that literally pays for itself, saving homeowners and building owners money year after year. The energy code as a whole, and the provisions in it, are tested for their cost-effectiveness. Extra money in your pocket: that is indeed “nice to have.”)

But back to the life safety discussion: The energy code affects the moisture management (rot, mold, and mildew), indoor air quality, fire safety, extreme weather protection, and resiliency of home and buildings. It works in tandem with the other model building codes to ensure safe buildings.

Once a building official good-naturedly joked with us, “You all think it’s the energy code that keeps the buildings from falling down.” There is more than a grain of truth to this. Meeting the requirements of the energy code increases durability of the building envelope —and yes, that helps ensure that the walls stay standing, and that the house remains livable for decades upon decades. Inside the house, the energy code guards against pollutants, mold, mildew, and vulnerability to temperature extremes. Let’s take a closer look.

MOISTURE MANAGEMENT
In a nutshell, the energy code aims to want to prevent rot, mold, and mildew. Rot destroys the structure of the house or building, making it potentially unsafe to inhabit, and mold and mildew wreak havoc on human health. To prevent rot, mold, and mildew, the energy code dives deep into the field of building science—controlling heat, air, and moisture transfer in building enclosures. The energy code is based on the latest advances in building science, treating each building as an integrated, complex system and taking into account climate zone, building materials, and more.

Warm air that comes in contact with a cooler surface can condense water onto that surface. Throughout different seasons and climate zones, houses are full of areas where warmer air and surfaces come in contact with cooler air and surfaces. Preventing that condensation through proper sealing, insulation materials, and construction techniques is what keeps the rot, mold, and mildew from running rampant. Here’s a sampling of energy code provisions controlling moisture:

  • Air barriers. Air barriers prevent air—which carries moisture—from carrying and depositing that moisture right into the wall cavities.
  • Slab-on-grade insulation. Take a cold slab in the winter, and add warm conditioned air above it: you get condensation. Slab-edge insulation, if done properly according to code, reduces the risk of condensation.
  • Rim joists. Rim joists are often easy to insulate but difficult to properly air seal. So, in colder climates, air (and moisture) passes through the insulation and condenses on the rim joists, keeping those rim joists moist for months on end. First the mold sets in, and then the rim joists get rotted out, making the building unsafe. Air sealing the rim joists according to code protects against this.
  • Condensation on windows. Here we have the same story: warm conditioned air that comes in contact with the cold surface of the glass in winter months can condense, damaging nearby wall, ceiling, and floor materials over time. Better-quality windows specified by climate zone in the code significantly reduce this condensation.
  • Ice damming. Ice dams are thick ridges of ice that build up along the eaves. These can tear off shingles and cause water to build up and leak into the house. Ice dams form when warm air seeps through cracks and crevices into an unconditioned attic, causing snow to melt on the roof but refreeze at the cold eaves. Properly insulating and sealing the ceiling assembly, as specified in the energy code, is the solution.

These building science specs are in the energy code for a reason: to protect building stability and durability and protect human health. Many of these moisture issues are hidden from view until the structure is unsafe or health is adversely affected. This leads us to our next “invisible” issue: dangerous levels of air toxins. What you don’t know can hurt you.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY
An unofficial motto of the energy code is “build tight, ventilate right.” Basically, it’s about ensuring safety of the air the occupants breathe. Air that leaks into a home or building can carry pollutants and contaminants—car exhaust from a garage, or radon from under a foundation, for instance. That’s one reason the energy code has very precise details about separating conditioned space from unconditioned space. We also need to ventilate out pollutants that arise from inside the house, such as the gases emitted by certain building materials, furniture, finishes, cleaners, paints and more. Rather than letting air leak in or out from any random crook or crevice leftover from poor workmanship, and rather than gambling on the levels and whereabouts of dangerous contaminants in the air, the energy code seals the hidden leaks and specifies how and when we need controlled, whole-house ventilation.

FIRE SAFETY
It’s the fire code that keep fires from crumbling our houses, spreading to nearby structures, and killing lives in the process. But the energy code helps. The energy code’s focus on tight construction, sealing up all the cracks and holes, and separating conditioned from unconditioned space also helps prevent fire and smoke from spreading through draft openings. If the apartment, condo, or single family house next door catches fire, yours doesn’t get smoke damage or catch on fire as easily.

EXTREME TEMPERATURES AND STORMS
During extreme heat waves or extreme cold freezes, the energy code elevates from a life-safety code to a life-survival code. Every extreme heat wave that triggers a blackout is accompanied by news stories of lives lost from heat stress, especially among the elderly or people with health conditions (for instance, 700 lives were lost in the Chicago’s 1995 heat wave, and more than 100 in the New YorkCity’s 2006 heat wave).

Extended winter outages spur similar news stories. When a cold freeze or blizzard knocks out power, occupants may resort to fires or portable gas heaters just to keep warm, leading to a risk of home fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Leaky houses with little insulation and terrible windows—well, these make the fatality numbers rise.

Tightly-built and well-insulated houses with good windows help maintain livable temperatures for longer, allowing residents to “shelter in place.” A study after Superstorm Sandy (which left 8 million people without power) modeled residential building types versus energy codes and showed that newer codes allow people to stay in their homes for more days during blackouts triggered by heat waves or cold freezes. And buildings constructed to higher performance standards became “so improved that they were merely uncomfortable, rather than dangerous”—a ringing endorsement in this case.

It all comes down to better building envelopes. Although the energy code addresses the efficiency and comfort of all major building systems—including mechanical, hot water, and lighting—in a power outage, none of these will work. One component of the energy code that does continue to work in a power outage: the building envelope. Newer codes (and better enforcement of codes) mean better building envelopes—and that means more lives saved.

DEVELOPED BY EXPERTS IN BUILDING DURABILITY
Each new version of the model energy code is developed through an extensive consensus process by experts in building durability and building science. The everyday users of building codes—builders, architects, engineers, code officials, raters, and more—develop, adopt, enforce, and improve upon the energy code because they care about the safety of our built environment and the health of its inhabitants. The energy code is not a “green code” or an aspirational standard—it is the bare minimum that building officials deem acceptable and that consumers expect they are getting.

INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER CODES
Local officials, through the International Code Council, develop the model energy code in tandem with the model plumbing codes, electrical codes, fire codes, mechanical codes, and more. They all fit together like a puzzle. Leaving the energy code behind—because of misunderstanding its intent or importance—can cause codes to be out of sync and can cause inconsistencies between other code elements. You can’t take a chunk of one jigsaw puzzle, put it in another, and expect it to fit well. It’s better to upgrade the whole suite of model codes at a time, including the energy code.

NEW CODES ARE IMPROVED CODES
Just like other codes, each new version of the model energy code improves on the last. As newer, safer, and more durable building materials, technologies, and techniques become more commonplace, they are voted on and incorporated into the model energy code. The latest version of the energy code also clarifies sections that had caused confusion, simplifies the language, adds flexibility, and removes contradictions between different parts of the code—making it more likely that builders can comply with the code’s intent and that building departments can verify safety and durability. Here’s our tip—always update to the latest code.

Energy codes create safe, resilient, and habitable structures based on building science and physics principals for heat, air, and moisture transfer—all of which have real and significant impacts on human lives and health. Our message to builders, architects, engineers, local building departments, and health and safety advocates: the energy code is a life safety code.

 


About the Author: CHRISTINE HURLEY BRINKER

Christine Hurley Brinker is a senior associate in the Buildings Efficiency Program at Boulder, Colo.-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, where she advances building energy codes, energy efficiency programs, and local policies.

Article reposted from Builder Online

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FORWARD THINKING: VIRTUAL REALITY IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Virtual Reality (VR) was born as a tool for gaming. It enables people to immerse into a new dimension while playing their favourite games. The extraordinary characteristics of VR give users the chance to get thrown into a new, digitally constructed reality, which resembles real life. But the gaming industry is not the only place where VR is useful. Coping with reality is a real challenge for professionals working in the construction industry: it is indeed very well-known, when projects come to life, they can be threatened by a high amount of inefficiencies that result in low profit margins.

Many of the problems found in the construction industry are directly correlated with the inability of field personnel, designers, architects and engineers to truly experience a project before it is built. This creates costly issues, and in many instances work has to be stopped or paused as construction teams stumble upon errors which couldn’t be seen on paper. Essentially, construction professionals have to use a flat 3D model, rather than immersive technology, to visualise how alike a finalized project would be to the initial plans when complete.

VR’s use today is shifting from gaming to other, more practical applications. VR can indeed enable professionals in any industry, but particularly in the construction industry, with an incredible tool that gives them the chance to immerse themselves in a project before spending months, if not years, constructing it.

The challenges of the construction industry

Starting from pen and paper, the construction industry has always been based on tools that enable designers to preview and analyse images and ideas, allowing them to plan which actions should be taken to physically assemble a model.

New technologies have recently been developed to project these ideas in a three-dimensional space; these new advances have profoundly revolutionized the construction sector, helping professionals from all over the world have better and more precise insights on the technical specificities of their projects. Technology such as computer-aided design (CAD), as well as 3D modelling and Building Information Modelling (BIM), are often used to show clients formats, spaces, and systems before a brick is laid.

However, previewing paper and flat computer-generated details still only provides practitioners with a limited experience of the finished building: certain faults related to construction and design arise only when the construction process has already started, and these issues force practitioners to stop work and re-assess the feasibility of the construction. These problems are usually very difficult to spot on a digitally generated image, as even 3D models, due to their lack of depth, cannot visualise clearly exactly how the building or facility will look and feel like when built. Often, these shortcomings also affect business relationships as the designer’s vision for the completed structure fails to match the client’s: when on paper, in fact, it is very difficult for the client to communicate their exact needs, and at times the finalized project doesn’t correspond to the desired outcome.


Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-simulated environment that allows you to interact in a realistic and/or physical way within the environment. An example of virtual reality in construction is interactive 3D modeling that allows you to manipulate the model to test the effect of changes before making them in the real world, which are available from companies like Autodesk via offerings like Revit Live for software and HTC’s Vive for hardware.


Virtual Reality: a solution to these issues

Virtual Reality, as it was designed for gaming, is a tool that can immerse a person inside a virtually constructed environment. 3D modelling and BIM programs, which made huge advancements in the field of project modelling, can now be adapted to VR tools, to visualise a fully virtual representation of an idea in a new dimension at a relatively low cost point. Put simply, the user sees a 3D display through a headset and can get an ‘all-round’ view by turning their head to the side, up and down. For Victaulic’s clients, they can even look “up” and see the headers and distribution piping, visualizing it’s about visulation but what separates VR from 3D is that you can feel it every piece of pipe as if it were hard piped in.

The most obvious benefit of virtual reality for construction firms is that it can save time and money by allowing construction professionals to test any number of features before works starts.  The VR headset allows all parties involved in the construction phase to identify potential conflicts or required changes at the design stage, rather than during construction, when they’re extremely costly to put right. Construction professionals can literally “walk inside” their project with the entire piping system installed and have the ability to spot any fault that they would not have been able to identify on a flat model on a laptop. VR helps guide their judgement, and can confirm whether the designed structure resembles exactly what they had in mind, providing a much clearer idea of whether a building will be fit for purpose and without significant faults.

In addition to this, the client can experience the project virtually, which means they can assess if the finalized building looks and feels exactly how they imagined. For clients, being able to physically look around and visualise how a building will function before it has been built is a major advantage. It provides the opportunity to pick up on the smallest of details, like whether a piece of equipment will fit in a space, and give the contractor feedback accordingly. This greatly improves communication and collaboration between the two parties in an agreement. It provides the opportunity for more valuable input from all, and reduces the possibility for misunderstanding, which could sour future relationships.


Augmented Reality – Augmented Reality (AR) is any technology that superimposes spatially contextual information over the user’s view of the real world, providing a additional data while still permitting interaction with the real environment. An example of augmented reality in construction is the Daqri helmet, which provides workers with real-time information and data about the construction environment, such as animated instructions on how to complete a task, while they are engaged in that task.


Opportunities

VR technology is still in its infancy, but companies in the construction industry are increasingly integrating it in their design processes to enrich their design strategies. Companies are able to create high quality, industry-leading content that gives their customers the ability to view their models in a virtual environment, allowing contractors to complete projects faster than they could with traditional methods.

There are also various money saving opportunities with Virtual Reality (and Augmented Reality) technologies that are benefitting construction firms today. Some of these benefits are:

  • Reducing Rework
  • Improving Safety
  • Lowering Labor Costs
  • Meeting Timelines
  • Resolving Issues Faster
  • Increasing Quality

Over the last 5 years, costs for VR equipment having significantly decreased, opening up the technology to companies and industries that previously couldn’t justify the high costs. These cost reductions, coupled with the software behind the lens becoming more robust, has meant that it can play a much larger role in the construction industry. For these companies they are seeing the value straight away. It requires limited implementation time and users see the value in even the first use.

Conclusion

VR has a future in the construction industry. It reduces downtime and miscommunication between designers, construction professionals and clients, making the planning and building process run faster and more precisely. VR could be at the centre of your daily drawing processes and obtain great results in delivering clearer and more precise projects to your clients.

 


Source: VRfocus.com and Connect and Construct

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ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME DESIGN IN 2018 & BEYOND

Energy Efficient Home Design: The Ultimate Guide

From PANTONE’s 2018 Color of the Year (we’re looking at you Ultra Violet) to brass accents in the kitchen and bathroom, you’ve got plenty to choose from when it comes to this year’s home design trends. But there’s another design trend worth paying attention to this year: energy efficiency, the trend that helps your home run cheaper and cleaner.

Owning a home means providing your family with a warm, safe space for all of life’s greatest moments, and the modern home combines high-performance features and eco-friendly design. The great news? There are plenty of home upgrades that offer this winning combo, and as energy efficiency continues to improve, so do your potential savings.

These home design upgrades are aimed at making your home and community more water and energy efficient. From solar panels to double-paned windows, if you’re interested in ways to make your home look and feel better while conserving energy, we’ve got you covered.

 

1. Solar Panel Systems

We can’t talk about energy efficient home design without taking a look at solar panels. More homeowners are adopting solar energy than ever before, and for good reason. As solar technology improves, many are finding that the benefits of solar panels are worth the investment. Discovering these benefits can be a part of your homeowner journey, too.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels are designed with one purpose in mind: harness the power of the sun to create usable electricity. This means you can sit back and relax while the sun does the hard work for you.

How does this hard work actually happen? When the sun shines on your solar panels, the panels’ cells generate Direct Current (DC) electricity. DC electricity filters through an inverter—essentially the brain of your solar panel system—and converts to Alternating Current (AC) electricity. This electricity can then be used to power your home.

Solar Design Advancements in 2018

As the solar industry expands, so do your choices as a homeowner. Recent developments in solar technology have made solar panels more affordable and design-friendly. These are just a few of the solar trends you can expect to benefit from this year.

    • Double-sided solar panels: Double-sided solar panels are a popular option because both surfaces of the panel can capture sunlight. This increases power output, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.

 

    • Frameless/clear solar panels: Looking for a different style of solar panel to match your home design? You’ve got options, as many manufacturers are now offering frameless panel systems that come with specialized mounting fixtures.

 

    • Tesla solar tiles: Tesla does more than futuristic cars. The company has introduced new roof panels that are designed to provide the power of solar energy without sacrificing style. You can choose from four stylish shingle designs that capture energy from the sun.

 

  • Cloud-based solar system monitoring: Cloud-based solutions are transforming preventive solar panel maintenance. Some contractors are beginning to use cellular monitoring, as it allows them to examine the function of your solar setup in real-time from any location without having to inspect your panels in person. This means problems can be solved much faster, and ensures your solar panels will give you the output you deserve.

How Much Do Solar Panel Systems Cost?

There are many myths regarding solar panel systems, and one of the biggest misconceptions is that solar panel systems are too expensive. The cost of solar has actually decreased by 80 percent since 2008 . As solar panels become cheaper to make, homeowners are finding solar panel systems to be more affordable than ever before.

The cost of installing a solar panel system depends on your region’s policies, how much sunshine your home gets, and the size of system you purchase, but there are ways to estimate overall expense.

According to EnergySage.com, U.S. homeowners can expect to pay between $2.87 and $3.85 per watt to install a solar panel system in 2018. Watts are a measurement of power; wattage indicates how much power output you can expect to get out of your solar panels. The higher the watt rating, the more powerful—and expensive—the solar panel system.

Right now, the average cost per watt is $3.16, making the average cost of a 5000-watt solar panel system $16,800. It’s an intimidating number to be sure, but don’t give up on your solar dreams just yet, as there are ways to reduce this cost.

You can still take advantage of the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This tax credit was first offered in 2006 and will remain available until 2021. The clock is ticking, though; as solar energy becomes more popular, government incentives are being phased out. Until 2019, the tax credit covers 30 percent of the total cost of your solar panel system. Each following year, the rate decreases, meaning your potential savings get smaller and smaller.

With PACE financing, one residential solar panel financing option, you can immediately access the money-saving benefits of solar energy and pay off the panels over time through an assessment on your property tax bill.

How Much Can You Save with Solar Panels?

Solar panel systems are a great way to save money. How much they save you depends on a variety of factors including local laws and rebates, your electric bill, and the size of the system.

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly how much you can save with solar panels, but a recent study performed by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center sheds light on the solar savings in the country’s 50 largest cities. According to their data, customers who invested in a 5,000-watt solar PV system saved an average of $44 to $187 per month during the first year.

 

2. Windows

Windows provide your home with warmth, light, and ventilation, and upgrading them offers plenty of fantastic benefits. New windows can reduce heating and cooling costs, provide more UV protection, and enhance your curb appeal in one fell swoop.

Selecting the right windows is crucial. Older windows are often crafted from outdated materials that don’t hold up. Cracks in a window’s frame allow air to leak in and out, creating unpleasant drafts. These issues can force your home’s heating and cooling system to work much harder, leading to energy waste and higher costs.

New Energy Star certified windows are designed with energy efficiency in mind. Find yourself avoiding the window seat during warm summer months? Inefficient windows allow the sun’s rays to creep into your home and increase the interior temperature. Energy Star certified windows can reduce the amount of heat that penetrates your home without reducing visible light. This means your rooms stay cooler and you still get the light you need, no matter how hot it gets outside.

What Makes an Energy Star Window Better than Non-Efficient Window Upgrades?

Energy Star certified windows have to meet certain criteria: they must be crafted by an Energy Star partner, and are independently tested, certified, and verified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). These windows are also rated by the NFRC under strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

When Should You Replace Your Windows?

Be on the lookout for signs your windows need replacing. If your energy bill seems abnormally high, drafty windows may be forcing your HVAC system to work overtime. If your windows take on a frosty, cloudy appearance, condensation has likely made its way between the glass panes. If you notice your windows are difficult to open and close, there may be balancing issues within the framework. Any of these signs may indicate an issue, but we always recommend consulting with a professional before making any decisions.

Repair vs. Replace

Some homeowners choose to repair their windows before replacing them completely, but this can be a waste of money. While some issues can easily be remedied through at-home repairs, larger framework and sealing issues can have serious consequences. If the structural integrity of your windows is failing, you could throwing away a small fortune in energy costs.

How Much Do Energy Efficient Windows Cost?

Energy efficient windows vary in cost depending on size and style, but we can make some assumptions on overall cost with help from The National Association of Realtors. Their Remodeling Impact Report provides a cost breakdown for installation of two popular window types on a 2,450-square foot house.

The installation of all-new vinyl windows for an average home costs around $15,000. Installing wooden windows on the same house would cost around $26,000. These two examples show that replacing your windows can be a significant investment, but many homeowners find the benefits outweigh the cost, as they enjoy their homes more and save big in energy costs.

How Much Can Upgrading Your Windows Save You?

Data from the Remodeling Impact Report shows you can save hundreds of dollars each year with energy efficient window replacements, and that homeowners generally recover about 80 percent of their costs. This study also found that 61 percent of homeowners have a greater desire to spend more time in their homes after installing new windows—that’s a benefit we can all get behind.

When it comes to energy use, the savings are real. According to Energy Star, replacing existing windows with energy efficient windows can save you between 7 and 15 percent on your energy bill.

 

3. Insulation

Insulation upgrades can have a significant impact on energy costs and your family’s comfort. Increasing or replacing insulation in your home means using your heating and cooling system less. This can help reduce your energy bills and make for a truly energy efficient house design. Older homes usually lack insulation, and bringing your home’s insulation up to modern standards can offer some serious savings.

How to Compare Different Types of Insulation

Every type of insulation features a label detailing the material’s R-value per inch. The R-value defines the material’s ability to resist heat transfer. The larger the R-Value, the more effective the insulation is bound to be. In tight spaces, insulation with high R-Value should be used, but in open space areas, thicker layers of a lower-rated material can do the trick.

There are various types of insulation, generally broken up into four categories:

    • Spray foam: This insulation seals gaps and leaks in walls. A liquid solution is sprayed into the walls, where it then hardens into a solid foam. Homeowners like this insulation because it offers the highest R-value of all insulators.

 

    • Blown-in: This type of insulation uses a mechanical blower to fill a space with white cellulose. It offers a high R-Value, and is especially effective in tight, hard-to-reach spaces. Many homeowners appreciate this insulation’s ability to resist moisture and keep pests and insects out.

 

    • Fiberglass batts: Homeowners looking for an inexpensive insulation solution turn to Fiberglass batts, a cheap type of blanket insulation made of fiberglass that can be stapled into place. As long as they’re installed correctly, these rolls of insulation can prove to be a quick fix.

 

  • Reflective/radiant barriers: This type of insulation is usually found in the attic, as the material helps reduce heat and cold. Radiant and reflective barriers reflect the sun’s rays and absorb heat before it makes its way into your home, keeping you and your family cooler. Generally, this insulation is better for homes that see the sun more often.

How Much Does an Insulation Upgrade Cost?

The price of insulation depends largely upon where you plan on insulating, but many other factors can affect overall cost for this energy efficient home design feature. Common expense factors include the size of your space, the type of insulation selected, and installation fees. The average attic insulation project costs anywhere from $400 to $1,800 according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This investment is a small price to pay when compared to the energy savings it provides.

While federal tax credits and rebates expired a few years ago, certain states still provide rebates and discounts for insulation upgrades. As you draw up your energy efficient home plans, check with your local districts to determine if there are incentives in your area.

How Much Can You Save with Insulation Upgrades?

Investing in an insulation overhaul can pay off in the long run. Insulation helps keep your home at your desired temperature, which means using your HVAC system less. The EPA reports that you can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs with insulation and air sealing home improvement projects.

 

4. New Roofing Materials

In 2018, energy efficient roofing is set to take center stage. Cool roofing is becoming a hot commodity among modern homeowners, and for good reason.

What Are the Benefits of a Cool Roof?

Almost 90 percent of the roofs in the U.S. are dark-colored. The surface of these black roofs can increase in temperature by more than 100°F, leading to a hotter home, increased use of cooling systems, and a shorter lifespan for your roofing materials.

Cool roofs are designed to reduce these effects. Cool roofing systems help reflect the sun’s rays, which in turn reduces heat transfer to your home. Cool roofs provide advantages for more than a single home; these advanced systems can help reduce local air temperatures in areas that have become too hot, often referred to as the Urban Heat Island Effect.

What is the Urban Heat Island Effect?

Urban Heat Islands occur in cities where natural land cover has been replaced with buildings and pavement. These man-made surfaces absorb heat and make surrounding areas hotter, which can increase energy costs, promote air pollution, and lead to heat-related illnesses.

Incorporating cool roofs into energy efficient home design may be the remedy for this dangerous and costly effect. Urban Heat Island Mitigation, or UHIM, uses cool roofs to combat the negative effects of Urban Heat Islands. They’re doing their part in the energy efficient revolution, and so can you.

Various Types of Cool Roofing

Whether you’re considering a full roof replacement or want to buy upgrades for your current roof, making the switch to cool roofing can be a solid investment. There are various methods and types used to create cool roofing for energy efficient homes:

    • Green roofs: Green roofs incorporate rooftop plants. This vegetation forms a barrier, helping reduce the amount of heat that flows into the building. Green roofs work best on urban buildings that have flat or shallow-pit roofs.

 

    • Reflective coating: Homeowners can transform their current roofing system into a cool roof with solar reflective coatings. These coatings are designed to reflect sunlight, helping to extend your current roof’s lifespan and stop the growth of algae and fungus.

 

    • Tile roofs: If you have tile roofs, they’re likely composed of concrete, clay, or slate. Some of these materials are naturally reflective enough to meet the standards for cool roofing, and surface treatments can help tiles achieve this status.

 

  • Metal roofing: Unpainted metal roofing provides great solar reflection, but is generally only effective for steep-sloped roofs. Painting your flat metal roof can help deflect the sun’s rays, keeping your home cooler.

 

5. Smart Home Additions

Smart home technology has transformed energy efficient home design. Adopting some of these breakthrough technologies can help you enjoy your home more.

A smart home provides more than cool, futuristic features; the rise of smart home technology has also seen a significant reduction in energy use and waste. Homeowners across the world are doing what they can to optimize their home for energy efficiency, and the proof is in the pudding: The global home automation system market is expected to grow to $78.27 billion by 2022, and smart features are becoming a hallmark of energy efficient home design.

Certain smart home additions can mean fantastic savings in terms of energy efficient home design:

    • Lighting control: Motion sensor lighting and dimmer controls can help homeowners save money. Motion sensing switches ensure lights are turned off whenever a room is vacated—never leave home with the lights on again. Dimmers can be tailored to your lifestyle, letting you use only the amount of light you need.

 

    • Smart meters: There are advanced meter systems for a variety of home products. Looking to conserve water and energy? Your water heater is a huge energy suck, and whether water is being used or not, your water heater spends astronomical amounts of energy heating and reheating water in a tank. A smart water heater monitor allows you to schedule hot water heating to fit your schedule.

 

  • Programmable thermostats: Smart thermostat maker Nest reports energy savings of 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling among its users as of February 2015. Since the bulk of your home’s energy bill is due to heating and cooling costs, a programmable thermostat can significantly reduce your bills. These systems let you program your HVAC system to turn on at a specific time, so you don’t waste energy to cool or heat the house when no one is home.

Picking the right home improvements can result in big savings. Reducing your carbon footprint has never been so cool, and designing an energy efficient home has never been so easy. Fall in love with your home all over again with these energy efficient home design trends.

 


Reposted from Renovate America from January 4th, 2018

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