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Build LAB: Lessons in Innovation from Information Technology

David Goldsmith

Goldsmith, David [Headshot]David Goldsmith received his Ph.D. in Design, Construction, and Planning from the University of Florida in 2012. His research in carbon emissions, environmental ethics, and applications of technology in the built environment have been published and presented domestically and internationally. Dr. Goldsmith founded the Build LAB facility in Bishop-Favrao Hall. Build LAB is focused on providing a multi-disciplinary and collaborative laboratory of building technologies and processes. Open to faculty and students as well as the Virginia Tech community, Build LAB houses a range of traditional and digital equipment including 3D scanners and printers; and CNC and laser machine tools.

Information Technology has been the darling of innovation and economic growth for decades. Its practitioners have made strides in our understanding and implementation of innovation, marketing, and development. Those lessons are directly applicable to the way we teach and research problems in construction.

The construction industry represents as large a portion of the economy as information technology, a far larger workforce, and represents the largest portions of energy and natural resource use of any segment of the economy. Construction management has made strides moving toward design-build systems, integrated building information systems, and new forms of labor management. The materials and methods involved are also undergoing transitions because of energy, resource, and political pressures. The industry is ready to implement the lessons of innovation from other industries in a deliberate and methodical way.

The MIT Media Lab created a radically new approach to technology innovation by implementing a novel relationship with industry. The free-form research and development environment that resulted has led to a number of lessons in supporting innovation. The same methods and models utilized in its success can be readily applied to problems in construction

The “Fab Lab” concept is the distillation of the Media Lab’s experiences with rapid development and facilitated innovation. Hundreds of Fab Labs have sprung up all over the planet allowing anyone to have hands on access to such advanced machinery as 3D printers, CNC equipment, and other rapid prototyping technologies. This influence has led us to the establishment of Build LAB, a multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary lab with a mandate that anyone can build anything, out of anything, for any reason.


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