Numerous innovations in technology are fast-advancing the world of construction materials, bringing new products to market that could make a big difference to our built environment. Here, we take a look at three particularly impressive developments.


Whilst cement is one of the most widely used materials in construction for its strength and durability properties, it can crack when exposed to water or chemicals over time, undermining structures.

A research team at the University of Bath in the UK are now developing a form of “self-healing concrete” by adding mirco-capsules to mixes that contain calcite-precipitating bacteria. When water enters cracks in the concrete, these bacteria germinate to produce limestone, filling the cracks and preventing any steel reinforcement from corroding due to prolonged exposure.


Kinetic paving is a new concept that harvests energy from the footsteps of pedestrians moving around a building or a public space and converts it into electricity.

A UK-based start-up called Pavegen have developed the energy-harvesting paving slabs made almost entirely from recycled tyres. The slabs flex 5mm when stepped on, generating 8 watts of kinetic energy. Each tile has its own wireless transmitter that uses 1% of its power to store and send data on its performance to a central database.


4D printing refers to 3D printed objects that have the ability to reshape or self-assemble over time. The concept was born out of the Self-Assembly Lab established by Skylar Tibbits at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under research supported by Stratasys and Autodesk.

It involves strategically positioning rigid and expandable materials next to each other within one 3D printed component. When the expandable materials come into contact with water, they grow to up to 200% of their original volume, changing their shape and re-positioning the rigid materials either side of them.

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