The construction industry needs robotic revolution

In the debate about the future of workflow technology is often drawn villains. One recent study revealed that 38% of jobs in the United States under the “high risk” of automation in the next decade. In the construction industry forecasts are especially terrible: unemployment estimates for the fault of the robots range from 24% in the UK to 41% in Germany. Automation will certainly change the work processes people, but for some sectors of the economy changes brewing for a long time. Especially in architecture, design and construction.

Robots that build

For an industry with annual revenues of about 10 trillion dollars — about 6% of world GDP, its performance suffers. Worldwide, the average large construction project takes 20% more to build than planned, and is 80% more expensive than thought.most segments of the construction industry is single-family housing construction; multifamily housing construction; construction of roads, highways and bridges; industrial construction saw improvements in recent decades (for example, productivity growth from 2006 to 2016 5.3% in the construction industry), there are many opportunities to improve performance. Industrial construction will have to be much more efficient.

There are many factors contributing to the low efficiency of the construction industry; these include low capital investment in comparison with other segments, hazardous conditions, project complexity, economic failures, a lack of transparency and corruption. However, one of the biggest obstacles is the shortage of skilled workers. According to a study by the Associated General Contractors of America, held in 2017, 70% of contractors in the U.S. are trying to hire skilled workers. This is due to the fact that by 2026 the need for hiring in this industry will grow by 12%.

Simply put, the automation of elements of the construction process is not only a good design, it is also smart business.

Research in the field of construction robotics began decades ago. During the construction boom in Japan in the 1980-ies, for example, the shortage of workers forced the trade group to invest in the development of automated systems. These efforts were not successful, partly because the computing power at that time was weak.this part of the technology rapidly progressed since then, the industry itself — no. A number of the largest companies in the world still doing everything on paper — from order management and supply chain to tracking employee time and wages.

The advantages of building automation are no longer theoretical; researchers are increasingly prove the value of robots. Bork Garcia de Soto joined the new York University in Abu Dhabi and lead a multidisciplinary team that studies innovation in the construction sector, explores how the “digital manufacturing” affects performance during construction. And he believes that technology will save the construction industry.

Comparing the cost and time spent on building the walls through the efforts of people and robots, they found that with increasing level of complexity starts to pay off automation. In addition, built robots, walls, architects, designers, engineers and contractors had more space for adjustments in the later stages without significant increase in cost or delays. Finally, it became known that the more simple designs can be built and people, and more effectively, and this led them to the conclusion that humans and robots will coexist on construction sites for a very long time.

And yet, should be careful to learn the lessons of such research. In the real world, every construction project has its unique challenges and complex interactions between owners, designers, contractors and the public. Study the project for the construction of the walls was quite simple from this point of view. The only accurate conclusion: the benefits of automation can no longer be ignored.

Some of the construction industry has acknowledged this. Such architects as Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, were the first proponents of robotic design, and some cities have vigorously implement automation. For example, in Dubai, under the new rules, by 2025, every building should be built using 25% of materials from 3D-printed sources. Even forward-thinking contractors are turning to single-tasking robots for such works as the painting of bridges, undermining of concrete, welding, binding of reinforcement and repair of roads.

And yet, despite the many advantages, building automation remains a difficult process. To move the discussion from the fields to the mainstream, will require a number of key changes.

First, the construction industry needs to improve communication processes. Because the cost overruns often associated with gaps in the stages of design and implementation, to ensure the effectiveness of technology it is important to improve the exchange of information between project stakeholders. One solution: standardized and automated protocols build information.

Second, the industry should give priority to the scaling effect in the implementation of such technologies. Automation will be cost effective only when widely used tools and methods.

Thirdly, industry needs to strengthen its assessment of the effectiveness of projects. Financial risks from new technologies are highest when introduced without adequate analysis of costs and benefits. Only regular evaluation will allow you to maximize the benefit from the automation of parts of the construction process.

Finally, the government should facilitate the transition to automated systems. Ultimately, it is the public sector that will define the place of technology in the construction industry. But at the moment he lacks foresight. In many regions, building regulations (often outdated) impede the use of 3D-printed designs. To fully exploit the potential of automation, municipal rules and building codes must keep up.