Technology never seems to stop moving forward. Bill Gates once famously commented that we overestimate the technological progress that will occur in the next two years. And we underestimate the amount of progress that happens in ten years. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of construction.
When drones, robots and 3D printing were first introduced to the construction industry, people called them fads. Sure, they might have made an appearance on TED Talks. But since when did appearing on TED mean that technology was suddenly going to be widely implemented?
Those technologies soon matured, however. And now everybody in the construction sector is making use of technology that seemed far-fetched just a decade ago. Structures are now being built in an automated fashion in places like China and it’s disrupting business models. Here’s what the top companies say is happening in the sector.
Building At Scale Just Got A Lot Easier
Building large, complex structures used to be expensive and complicated. But thanks to the march of technology, the price of complexity is falling. Take the New York Freedom Tower, built in place of the World Trade Center. That tower began construction back in 2007. It took seven years to complete and cost more than a billion dollars. But just last year China build a 57 story building in a mere 19 days. This achievement taught the world something: large complex structures are coming down in price. Massive towers don’t need to be mammoth undertakings anymore. We’ve now got the technology to put them up in a matter of days.
Many wondering how exactly companies are making this happen. The key is to understand that it is the combination of data-driven technologies and automation. Putting both together has dramatically reduced costs and improved efficiency in construction. In turn, this is making companies more profitable and increasing ROI.
Data And Automation
One of the ways that construction is being sped up is through the automation of inspection. Inspection has traditionally been a critical and costly part of the construction process. Construction sites must be thoroughly inspected before building work can begin. And once construction starts, inspections must continue to ensure safety and quality. Inspectors have to examine things like soil, vegetation, and drainage. They also have to make sure that workers are safe and quality is maintained throughout the build.
In the past, all of this had to be done by people. But now drones for construction as being used instead. According to experts, this is dramatically reducing the amount of time inspections take. Now, there’s no need for engineers to scale the sides of buildings. Instead, they simply fly a drone with a camera from the ground to the critical area they want to take a look at.
Drones aren’t just flying cameras or an extra pair of eyes in the sky. They’re also being outfitted to collect data from buildings themselves. These data are then fed back to smartphones on the construction site for analysis. The data allow builders to simulate the likely effect of various decisions they make. They’re able to test their hypotheses in advance, without risking their building work.
High-Tech Startups In Germany
Many people think that Boston is the home of the most advanced robot makers in the world. But Germany has had a long history in the sector too. A startup called RoboticsX is Germany’s equivalent of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company wants to make robots that will pilot vehicles to Mars and construct structures on the planet’s surface when they arrive.
Of course, the company’s ambitions aren’t just limited to Mars. It also wants to build robots with terrestrial uses too. One of those uses will be in construction. The company’s idea is that it will build dozens of robots connected via the cloud in a digital factory. These factories will then churn out the necessary pieces for construction all by themselves.
Robots are also being used in other parts of the construction industry too. There’s a move to try to get more robots involved in simple repetitive tasks. A few companies are now focusing on building robots that are expert bricklayers.
Thus, the construction industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Finally, all our promising digital technology is migrating into the real world. Data, big data, and AI are all driving the change. What’s more, these changes are starting to happen more rapidly. Don’t pay any attention to people who say we’re still twenty years away from robots building our buildings for us. It’s more like five.