2020 will be the year robots take over the construction industry.
That’s what the World Economic Forum predicted back in 2017. They looked at the impact robots would have on different industries over the next decade.
“Robot takeover” might conjure some dramatic imagery in your imagination. But will this year mark the turning point? Is it the year that it will write its destiny with artificial intelligence?
If only a crystal ball could tell us. Here are the ways that construction robots are impacting the industry.
Construction Robots Will Make Building More Efficient
A robot can complete tasks out of reach of humans. It can also operate more fluidly than human-operated machinery. This has serious benefits, especially in managing the costs and efficiency of the construction projects.
Robots don’t need breaks. If they use sustainable energy sources like solar, they can work almost constantly. This improves the time it takes to complete a project.
The term constructioneering was coined to define automated, robot-run construction sites. Redundant tasks like bricklaying will be able to be completed at record speeds. While dangerous jobs like demolitions will be safer for humans and more productive.
Automation Will Optimize Design and Project Planning
Predictive analytics will be able to analyze data to choose the best location for new developments. This will change the way we build cities and choose locations for businesses, hospitals, and government offices.
Highly accurate digital models will be able to show what a building future will look like and how it will function. This will be profound when it comes to budgeting and raising capital for projects.
Automation is also making it possible for buildings to work independently. Smart buildings can optimize themselves to operate in the most efficient way.
Onsite Materials Made-To-Order
The idea of 3D printing definitely creates some exciting possibilities for construction. Automation makes it possible for construction sites to operate without humans. But 3D printing makes it possible to have construction sites where materials are created onsite.
For example, a company in China completed a development project made completely from 3D printers in 2019. The project was a massive wall erected to protect coastal ecosystems. It’s reported that the project is cheaper and faster than traditional methods.
Drones Will Be the Ultimate Site Inspectors and Monitors
Drones make it possible for humans to access any property and inspect it from an ideal vantage point. Development sites can cover acres, and they aren’t always easily accessed and vetted. Drones make it possible for stakeholders, buyers, and inspectors to assess large and hazardous properties in a completely new way.
Drones can also monitor construction sites to ensure they are safe and running optimally.
We Will Start to View Robots More Like Artificial Organisms
Smart materials will develop self-sustaining robots that operate more like biological organisms. Robots will evolve to become responsive and adaptive to their environment. This will work like a cuttlefish that can camouflage their skin to hide from predators.
Materials and composites will be at the core of this change. Demand for more soft materials that are compatible with sensors and the ability to change form will increase.
We’re already the early stages of this in the forms of heavy equipment coatings like rubber. Global research is being done to further expand the capabilities of rubber and other composite materials to adapt to this.
This enables robots to be self-sustaining. Robot skin also makes machines safer for humans to interact with.
Remote and Future Viewing of Projects
Augmented and virtual reality can allow stakeholders to view and track projects in real-time from a remote location. This makes teams more connected.
It also makes it possible to collaborate in ways that were before unavailable. It creates a new level of security on construction sites.
The commercial real estate industry can use virtual and augmented reality to create and sell visualizations of developments that are still in the concept stage. It can also improve the process of logistics planning, making it possible to only order exact amounts of materials. This technology can also map a building’s longevity over time.
But with all this talk of processes and systems, how will it impact humans who work in construction? The human role in construction will experience a significant shift.
The workforce will see the changing tides in the growing gap between skills needed. The needs of a technologically advanced industry will be different from the current knowledge and experience of the existing construction labor force.
The skills of today’s construction workers do not match the needs of the future. A report about technology in construction and how it impacts the workforce found many solutions to this problem. The industry should invest in improving academic instruction, training, and credentialing.
The report also said that the industry should devote resources to rewriting the narrative of construction and position it as tech-focused sector. This would help the industry attract new talent.
The construction industry will need to establish clear career pathways with desirable trajectories. Corporations must embrace technology to get the human capital needed to succeed in the world of tomorrow.
Robots and Smart Cities
The development of smart cities is one reason robots in construction are inevitable. We can’t predict what smart cities will look like. But we do know that they are here and will revolutionize all aspects of human life.
Smart cities aim to optimize work and lifestyle by connecting us all in real-time. Life will move faster. And we’ll need to support buildings with technology-focused design and completely connected infrastructures.
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