Digital Construction: it can be done

CIES lecturer and researcher, and Churchill Fellow Dr Ali Kashani, an expert in sustainable construction design and materials, has returned from his research travels.

Dr Kashani was awarded the AV Jennings / Churchill Fellowship in order to explore the new technologies for rapid construction of resilient and low-cost houses by 3D printing – visiting several institutions and organisations involved in the field in six countries - Denmark, Netherland, France, Switzerland, Italy and Singapore.

Automated 3D printing is one of the promising digital construction techniques which provides freedom of design for architects and can offer sustainable solutions for off-site and on-site construction by reducing material, waste, costs and time.

3D printing can also be used to boost construction in locations that are difficult or dangerous for human access, or in areas with insufficient or expensive skilled labour. This technique can provide solutions for homelessness, as well as fast and resilient accommodation for people affected by natural disasters. 

His report back shows that digital construction is feasible, and that it will become part of the future of the construction.

Key findings and recommendations of his Churchill Fellowship are summarized below: 

  • The range of successful prototypes and projects using digital construction is relatively vast, including houses, apartments, a façade, pedestrian bridges, telecommunication pillars, furniture, landscaping and architectural features. 
  • Digital construction and 3D printing is in its infancy period and requires further R&D to become a routine construction method, but it can offer all the benefits mentioned above when it matures. 
  • The main challenges include the adoption of the construction materials and processes for digital construction, lack of legislation and building codes, risks of failure in large-scale construction projects and resistance in the adoption of new technologies by the construction industry. 
  • With all the challenges and risks, a growing number of small and large businesses and institutions are investing in digital construction to benefit from the sustainable competitive advantages of this new technology.

The Australian construction industry is lagging behind in adoption of digital construction compared to the developed countries, but this situation can be changed through R&D, collaborative projects, and partnership between research institutes and industries. 

Dr Kashani’s full report can be downloaded from the Churchill Trust website:

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