Published February 28th, 2020
The history of construction could very well be defined by the history and evolution of mankind itself. For as long as human beings have been forming societies and making advancements, these advancements have been reflected in the way they have built and constructed their homes, their meeting places, their spiritual centers, and their government buildings. In short, if you want to know where man stood at any point in time, look to what he was building.
Early construction by man was simplistic , man was highly nomadic and nothing needed to be permanent with early dwellings needed merely to provide shelter from the elements for a few short weeks or, at most, months before the group moved on, following weather patterns and migrating animals as a food supply.
As society changed and agricultural methods advanced, man began to build more permanent structures as enduring societies began to form. No longer nomadic, humans needed lasting homes built from more durable materials, they also needed places to store the fruits of their agricultural labor. As these societies began to take root, new buildings began to be needed. Alongside their homes and food storage, they built ceremonial meeting centers for religious and organizational purposes. Civilizations began to form around these constructed buildings and, slowly, the development of architecture as an art form took shape. Architecture gave birth to some of the oldest monuments still standing today from ancient civilizations that have left their mark upon the globe such as the pyramids in Egypt and Middle America or the Great Wall in China. These large-scale projects, taking years to complete, helped form the backbone of permanent societies and gave rise to the kingdoms and later nations we now recognize across the Earth today.
As societies developed and leapt forward with new inventions, so to did the construction taking place. More people demanded more living spaces and greater challenges. Throughout the early centuries, roadways sprang up interconnecting the communities, larger dwellings demanded greater water supply and sewage systems, organized religion and government required creative and beautiful ideas to express a society's values and interests, and modern invention ever pushed the world forward with the greatest changes arriving with the Industrial Revolution in 19th century Europe and America.
The Industrial Revolution brought with it the rise of the skyscraper and steel production. Mass transit was perfected and railway stations and airports became focal points of society. This period in time also saw a greater number of immigrants across the globe rushing into developing societies and providing armies of cheap labor to help raise these steal monuments, pushing society upward and forward into the 20th century and beyond.
At the dawn of the 21st century, the name of the game in construction is still being dictated by the changes in society. As technology moves away from brute force and machines belching smoke towards computers and programming, so to has construction followed suit. Buildings and their workforce must now be integrated to computer software and those who construct these buildings must take this into consideration.
As the workforce changes, so too does the construction industry integrate technology into their labor. Drones are now used to survey projects and landscape; architecture is done through computer programs capable of predicting dozens of situations to help improve safety for workers on the site and for the future of the buildings they are producing. 3D printing and virtual technology are being tested on worksites as ways to cut costs and reduce waste. There is also a new focus on sustainability which has proven to be important to future generations. All of these changes also result in a smaller required workforce. Where once it took hundreds of men to raise a building now can be accomplished with machines, computers, and a few dozen workers.
In short, while the future may already feel as though it is here today, the history of construction is as long as humankind and ever changing and adapting to meet the demands of the civilizations and societies it helped formed the backbone of for generations, forever on the cutting edge and pushing human beings forward into a new tomorrow.