The amount of innovation in the construction industry can sometimes be mind-boggling. To keep it in perspective, I often think back to all the changes my grandmother saw in her lifetime.
Granny was born in 1900 when there were only 8000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads in America. From then, she witnessed the emergence of a national highway system and an automobile-based culture.
Dial telephones—the rotary kind—had only just been introduced, and there were less than a million U.S. telephone subscribers. Telecommunications grew, and in 1951, area codes for direct long-distance calls came into use, followed by touchtone dialing a dozen years later. And although Granny saw cell phones begin to grow in popularity—there were about 92,000 in service by her 84th birthday—she might be surprised to know that today more than 7 million people in this country use only a cell phone as their main number.
She also was there for the birth of commercial radio broadcasts, and later, television. She saw the dawning of the computer age, including the 1981 launch of the IBM PC.
Granny lived through big sociological changes, too. She saw the beginning and end of Prohibition—I remember her tale of once having escaped out the back door of a speakeasy as the feds were coming in the front—and the Great Depression.
She was there as the civil rights and women's liberation movements unfolded. Her life was filled with changes, and she adapted masterfully. If she were alive today, she probably would be sending me text messages.
Like my grandmother, the early adopters of any new technology are brave souls. Embracing change, they almost always are blazing new trails with its use. But frequently it's the second wave of users who discover innovative ways of deploying a new technology, and clear away more of the hurdles for its widespread application.
In this issue you'll find articles about two technologies that are new to U.S. construction, but that actually are riding the second wave. One article explains the use of laser-guided scanning—a technology that has been around for some time but only now is being applied to jobsites. The resulting improvements in data collection and analysis are phenomenal. New applications are steadily cropping up (see our article "How Close are We Getting?"), and the equipment is becoming more affordable, so this technology has the potential to radically change the way the industry works.
The second article, "Pile Driving Gives Way to CIP Concrete"tells how cast-in-place concrete columns are being installed instead of concrete pilings on a New Jersey coastal project. Although the vibratory penetration technology it's based on is used in other parts of the world, this is one of its earlier uses in the United States. Again, the gains in productivity are noteworthy, and the end product superb.
Of course, these two technologies are but a small sampling. The pace of change continues to accelerate. In many ways, the changes Granny saw in her lifetime pale in comparison to those that you and I already have witnessed, and that our children will see. That's an exciting prospect, and one we shall continue to report on.