Researchers at MIT have confirmed that the future of the A/E/C industry is now in fact here.

In the proof-of-concept, a vehicle of sorts, moving along a track, carries a robotic arm that utilizes a precision-controlled nozzle to place a variety of materials including spray foam insulation and concrete. ScienceDaily reports:

Structures built with this system could be produced faster and less expensively than traditional construction methods allow, the researchers say. A building could also be completely customized to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker. Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways; different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties.

Ultimately, the researchers say, this approach could enable the design and construction of new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods.

The robotic system is described this week in the journal Science Robotics, in a paper by Steven Keating PhD ’16, a mechanical engineering graduate and former research affiliate in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab; Julian Leland and Levi Cai, both research assistants in the Mediated Matter group; and Neri Oxman, group director and associate professor of media arts and sciences.

And this is what that future might look like:

Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but it seems that right now across the internet, a lot of attention is being paid to how the word “engineer” is defined. Merriam Webster, a fairly respected dictionary, offers three definitions of the word, engineer:

  1. “a designer or builder of engines”
  2. “a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering”
  3. “a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance.”


Internet of Things, or IoT, is the concept in which everyday objects such as lightbulbs, thermostats, garage door openers, etc. are imbued with network connectivity and the capability for communicating with other devices. But just as is the case with our computers and other networked devices, security is an increasingly critical factor.

This was made abundantly clear when the BrickerBot malware hit the scene. Catalin Cimpanu, of reports:

If you’re unfamiliar, BrickerBot is a new malware family that was first identified at the start of the month by Radware researchers. The malware made headlines because it was the first threat of its kind that intentionally bricked IoT and networking devices, by rewriting the flash storage space of affected devices with random data.

After successfully made contact with the developer behind the hacks, this is what he had to say:

The IoT security mess is a result of companies with insufficient security knowledge developing powerful Internet-connected devices for users with no security knowledge. Most of the consumer-oriented IoT devices that I’ve found on the net appear to have been deployed almost exactly as they left the factory.


I hope that regulatory bodies will do more to penalize careless manufacturers since market forces can’t fix this problem. The reality of the market is that technically unskilled consumers will get the cheapest whitelabel DVR they can find at their local store, then they’ll ask their nephew to plug it into the Internet, and a few minutes later it’ll be full of malware. At least with ‘BrickerBot’ there was some brief hope that such dangerous devices could become the merchant’s and manufacturer’s problem rather than our problem.

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

Emoji are going to be some of the most recognizable icons of the 21st century, says architect Changiz Tehrani, which is why he decided to cast 22 of them in concrete and use them as decoration for a building in the Dutch city of Amersfoort.

“In classical architecture they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the façade,” Tehrani told The Verge. “So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’” The answer was obvious: emoji.


Construction on the building finished in 2015, but commercial occupation only began last summer, with official pictures published last month. The reaction has been uniformly positive, says Tehrani, though he admits he never asked older residents of Amersfoort what they thought of the construction. “I don’t know if older people recognize the emoji,” he says. “But if you have a smartphone, you will have seen them.”

Future cultural anthropologists will have quite the field day, I suspect.


Melissa Dewey Brumback, a partner at North Carolina-based Ragsdale Liggett PLLC, recently tackled the subject of what to do as design professional if you have received a “Reservation of Rights” letter from your insurer as part of a claim against your firm. As she explains:

Reservation of Rights (ROR) letters are sent for a variety of reasons- most notably, when some portion of the construction lawsuit against you is not covered under your E&O policy.  The letter must state the reason(s) that the ROR is being issued.

With the ROR, the insurance company is telling you that it reserves the right to withdraw from your defense and/or deny payment of damages at a later date, depending upon how facts in the case develop.  The notice is intended to let you know that there *may* be issues later, and to put you notice that  you have the right to hire your own lawyer (at your own expense) to protect yourself from that future potential risk.

In a follow-up post, Brumback focuses on a question many A/E/C professionals involved in disputes have: “Do I really need my own lawyer if the insurer is giving me one?” Brumback’s response is worth paying attention to:

The short answer is that you do not *have* to hire your own lawyer.  But, it can be very useful.  And, it can be done economically so you don’t have to break the piggy bank.  You see, if you hire your own lawyer, they can be “back up” and simply monitor the lawsuit, while the insurance-retained lawyer does the yeoman’s work.  That way, if the insurance carrier begins to make noise about filing a declaratory judgment to deny the claim, you have your own lawyer already in place, knowledgeable about what’s happened in the case from the get-go.  But if the insurance company never “pulls the trigger” on denying the claim, then your private lawyer’s involvement (and bill) will be minimal.

As California continues the transition to renewable energy, practical issues sometimes create unforeseen complications. One example: California requires that ALL residential buildings constructed after January 1, 2020 produce at least as much energy as they used. By 2030, all new nonresidential buildings must meet zero net energy requirements.

Additionally, the state is requiring that 50% of existing nonresidential buildings meet the zero net energy requirements by 2030, although some details obviously need to be worked out as far as deciding which 50% of those buildings must comply. (more…)

Besides aesthetic considerations, maintaining a clean facility has numerous benefits including prolonged useful life of building components, improved indoor environmental quality, reduced exposure to pathogens, and it can even mean improved efficiency lowering energy costs. So it should come as no surprise that “green cleaning” practices are integral to more sustainable operations and maintenance of various buildings. (more…)

Writing for Forbes, Richard A. D’Aveni weighs in on how he perceives the economic impact of 3D printing on the construction industry:

Take construction. It’s a huge industry worldwide, accounting for $9 trillion in revenues and 6% of global GDP. It’s also been a technology laggard, with productivity barely rising over the past few decades. Even with digital blueprints and other fancy software programs, we still put up buildings pretty much as we did a century ago.

3D printing represents a true paradigm shift for the built environment, promising real disruption to the industry over the next couple decades. Combined with advances in material science, 3D printing offers a number of benefits:

Those buildings will also be a lot cheaper to construct. Because everything is digital, we’ll rely on robot printers to do much of the work. Already the Institute for Advanced Architecture in Gaudi’s home town of Barcelona has developed “minibuilders,” an experimental array of small robots that swarm around and put up a building in less time and at lower cost than it would take human workers. The process also generates a lot less waste. And this isn’t just about making dull concrete structures. The robots also work with composites of wood, plastic, and metal.

That’s for building on site, but if you prefabricate the structures and ship them over, you get even greater savings. Prefabrication has been around for a while, but 3D printing allows for such precision that the assembly process is literally a snap. Saudi Arabia, whose population is exploding, is talking with Winsun about printing as many as 1.5 million housing units over the next five years. Winsun thinks this technology could eventually go a long way to solve the global scourge of substandard housing.

Folks, the handwriting is on the wall. Ignore it at your own peril.

Google Creative Lab, one of the many, many research and development cells within the advertising giant, just released its latest experiment in artificial intelligence (AI) to the public for free. According to the Google Blog:

Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw.

Here is a video to give you an idea of what that actually means:

Via: Laughing Squid

Skilled labor shortages affect more than just the construction industry. As craftsmen in various trades and industries from the Baby-Boomer generation retire or change professions, there aren’t too many younger apprentices to train or to otherwise transfer that knowledge. The brain drain could have drastic impacts on modern conveniences that most of us take for granted.

Case in point: COBOL programmers.

What’s a COBOL, you ask? COBOL is the nearly 60-year-old Common Business-Oriented Language that most banking software depends on. Anna Irrera, reporting for Reuters, elaborates on the issue:

And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it.

The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services.

The industry’s aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems.