Shoulders, knees and toes – superhuman exoskeletons and more

From self-sanitising door handles, new earthquake resilience technology and recycled bricks to robotic exoskeletons for shoulders, backs and legs that keeps builders powering through the toughest manual jobs, UK Construction Week will provide a treasure trove of new finds and practical innovations for the built environment.

The Innovation Zone at UK Construction Week (UKCW) is always a huge draw. Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from 5-7 October, UKCW will be the first major live event in construction since the start of the pandemic. It is completely free to attend.

Following a period of extraordinary innovation, this year's show promises some exciting discoveries, including:

  • Acoustic Elegrass (seagrass) which has been woven into reusable natural panels for interiors to provide acoustic benefits, created by Studio Kathryn Larson and inspired by the thatching techniques of traditional seaweed farmers in Denmark; 
  • An amazing range of wearable, lightweight industrial exoskeletons from suitX, which include spring assisted devices that can make users feel less tired and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Using springs to transfer forces from vulnerable muscles to larger ones, the devices include backX (for lifting tasks), shoulderX (supporting the user when they extend from the shoulder) and legX (which relieves the forces on the knees as the user squats).
  • Puri-Face – a new type of interior surface coating (made by LAB. M.O) which breaks down pollutants in the air such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. Used on furniture or other surfaces, it provides an energy-free air purifier which helps to boost building users' health and wellbeing;
  • A modular faced system that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) in urban areas. CO2MP created by Max Stein can be attached to the outside of existing buildings and consists of bioreactors, which provide a habitat for the floating fern Azolla filiculoides, the most CO2-metabolising and fastest growing plants in the world.
  • A self-sanitising door handle by Titanology Ltd, which is designed to prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses in public buildings such as hospitals, shopping centres and schools. A system of partial internal reflection of UV light is used inside a cylindrical transparent door handle tube coated in titanium dioxide (TiO2) by photocatalyzed activity to effectively and safely decompose pathogens.
  • K-Briq, created by Kenoteq, is an external facing brick made almost entirely from recycled construction waste. The K-Briq has just one tenth the embodied carbon of traditional bricks, requiring no cement and not being fired at high temperatures.
  • QUAKE-SAFE, a seismic vibration damper for developing countries, created by Nottingham Trent University. By isolating the foundations, QUAKE-SAFE promotes stronger and sustainable rebuilding techniques in the wake of earthquakes while also protecting local building traditions and culture.
  • Bullfix's universal plasterboard fixing, a heavy-duty fixing that can support weights up to 113kg – that's heavier than your average beer keg.
  • Configured Platforms' pre-engineered aluminium roof platforms – very light yet very strong, configurable platforms for pitched or flat metal deck roofs, with aluminium weighing approximately 33% of the weight of steel.

Nathan Garnett, event director for UK Construction Week, says:

"Disruptors are now present in many different markets, so this year UKCW is shining a spotlight on the serious change-makers in construction. The aim is to promote productivity, speed, quality, sustainability and social cohesion, showing how innovation can create new value in the industry and stop the short-term, purely cost-driven 'race to the bottom'.

"To aid the search for what is genuinely new and valuable, the Innovation Zone will provide a non-sales environment where visitors can explore the new ideas, learn and be inspired."

Free registration to UK Construction Week is now open here.

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