How robots can contribute to sustainable construction
Globally, robots are gradually transforming the ways we do things. Whether it’s in health and engineering or construction and agriculture
The use of robots in construction has been a huge leap for an industry that is mostly manual-driven. Today, with the right construction robots we can do a lot of sustainable construction projects. Construction robots can perform several tasks from bricklaying and painting to loading and bulldozing. According to Rian Whitton, an analyst at ABI research, construction robots can help protect workers from a “hazardous work environment”, increase workplace safety, and address labour shortages.
With constant improvement in machine learning and artificial intelligence, construction robots can deliver many potential sustainable solutions in construction.
See for yourself ways construction robots are transforming the construction industry.
1. Construction robots can build walls
In Australia, robots are revolutionizing wall construction. For example, the HadrianX bricklaying machine made by Australian-based FBR Ltd (also known as Fastbricks Robotics) uses an intelligent control system to make sustainable bricks. Integrated into the control system is CAD (computer aided design) that calculates the necessary materials and process for bricklaying. To improve the building process and ensure accuracy the HadrianX measures environmental changes like movement caused by wind or vibrations.
Though the blocks made by HadrianX are massive (about 12 times bigger than standard house bricks), FBR noted that they are lighter, stronger and more sustainable.
The HadrianX is not the only construction robot transforming the building sector. There is the SAM100 made by Victor, a New York-based Construction Robotics. Both HadrianX and SAM100 offer improved work productivity. In fact, HadrianX can build the walls of a house in a day than a typical human builder, even better than traditional building methods.
2. Construction robots can work without an operator
Autonomous construction robots can be operated remotely to transport supplies, equipment and materials. The Volvo HX2 is a perfect example. This autonomous and electric loader made by Swedish automaker Volvo can move heavy loads without extra input. Though the carrier does not have a driver; however, it uses a logistics-driven control technology and an integrated “vision system” which helps the carrier detect human movement and obstacles.
Apart from Volvo, Built Robotics is another company building autonomous construction robots. Their autonomous vehicles have AI guidance systems that assist in directing equipment to their destination, ensuring that any work on site is completed safely and accurately. Contrary to what a lot of people think that autonomous construction vehicles and robots are designed to take away our jobs, they are not! These man-made machines are actually a good thing to have on construction sites because they make our work easier and more efficient. Besides, since we make some costly errors as humans, the construction robots and vehicles are designed to eliminate these errors, ensuring workplace safety at all times.
3. Construction robots use imaging technology
Most construction robots have imaging technology and sensors like lidar with Global Positioning System technologies that makes them smart. The robots use these technology to obtain vital information about construction sites. Together with an integrated AI system, the robots can predict what tasks are required.
For instance, Doxel Inc. has a robot designed for that. The robot scans, accesses and collects data of a worksite. It does this by covering the entire site. The information it gathers is used to detect potential errors and problems early. The information gathered is evaluated through a deep-learning algorithm that is stored in a cloud. If the robot points out that a ventilation duct is bad or incorrectly installed, an early detection like this can save errors that may trigger avoidable work hazards.
4. Construction robots can be operated remotely
This is one of the good things about having one on site—we can operate them from anywhere. In fact, without human interventions, construction robots can’t work on their own. For instance, painting drones can be operated remotely using a tablet or smartphone via an app. These drones can be used to collect and report data. Likewise, project managers can use the idea of remote technology to operate construction robots and deliver instructions to the workforce.
For example, Scaled Robotics, a Barcelona-based technology firm designs and offers robots that can be remotely controlled using a mobile device. Its ground vehicle, Husky, is an unmanned roamer that traverses construction sites, collecting and capturing vital information through multiple sensors. This gathered information is used for the building information modelling (BIM) of the project.
5. Construction robots carry out surveillance and inspection
Construction robots can be used to survey and inspect a construction site or worksite before, during and after the work project. It helps to reduce stress of project managers who conduct a physical examination of the site and often walk miles to do so. Unfortunately, this can be tiring. However, using autonomous construction robots makes surveying very easy.
For instance, aerial unmanned drones and ground-based robots can survey a worksite and gather its data using sensors. Likewise using augmented reality can enable project managers to obtain a real-time feel for what the drones are seeing. The best part of using a technology like augmented reality is that project managers can be at a remote location but still have a real-time experience that they are on the worksite. It is an enjoyable, immersive experience. What’s more, the video feed of the site can be saved and viewed later.
Following the tremendous impact of drones, particularly in the military, in the past few years, construction companies are starting to adopt the technology. For instance, in 2018, Chinese drone maker DJI partnered with Skycatch to make 1,000 high precision custom drones to create 3D site maps and models.
6. Building new and regenerative assets with nature.
While climate change already threatens our existence, sadly, the solutions provided to tackle it still contribute to the problem. For example, building reinforced concrete walls and barriers to control a flood may seem appropriate, but concrete construction contributes largely to climate change and is unsustainable. Therefore, it is crucial that alternatives are both natural and sustainable. Using an autonomous robot helps us achieve this and create constructions that are environmentally-friendly and emit less carbon components. For managing floods, autonomous construction robots can be used to design natural defence systems, combining the use of nature and technology to create a sustainable system. The use of AI and ML (machine learning) can help identify things like height, position and orientation of these natural defences. Together with the aid of local workers, these robots can be used to build sustainable assets with nature.
7. Construction robots improve the life of infrastructure
Buildings need frequent repairs. These help improve their lifespan as well as cut down emissions. Some repairs are difficult to evaluate and often drain resources. Examples could be multiple holes or cracks in an old building or potholes. The use of infrastructure repair robots can eliminate the bottlenecks involved in building and infrastructure repairs. For instance, UCL robot prototype showed that it is possible for robots to patrol streets and identify potholes, providing information about them. Using this approach helps prevent problems before they happen, saving lots of lives and reducing car accidents. Furthermore, it reduces the need for unnecessary maintenance.