Despite its key role in creating and adapting the spaces in which we live and work, the construction industry has continued to rely primarily on manual labour, with little to no automation. While there have been many important advances in robotics and AI over the last decade, construction has lagged behind other sectors in introducing automation on a large scale.
At tipping point
According to a survey commissioned by robotics firm, ABB, 91% of construction businesses in Europe are predicting a skills crisis by 2030. The shift will inevitably boost interest in this area and drive the application of robots and other automated solutions.
“The construction industry is at a tipping point. On the one side, there’s a growing market driven by growth, population, urbanisation – so needs for building. On the other side, a huge structural shortage of labour and skills. The answer lies in robotics automation,” Sami Atiya, ABB
However, there are obstacles hindering the use and adoption of AI and robotics in the construction industry. One of them is the sheer unpredictability of construction sites. While robots excel at repetitive tasks, a construction site requires adaptability and flexibility. It is more technically feasible to automate predictable physical activities than unpredictable ones.
According to research undertaken by McKinsey, this feasibility is 78% in predictable work and 25% in unpredictable work. The construction industry falls into the latter type.
Construction robots and their applications
Below are some examples of construction robots and the range of activities they can undertake on-site:
Hadrian X is an automated bricklaying machine capable of building the walls of a house by calculating the required materials and movements without any supervision. Developed by an Australian firm by incorporating an intelligent control system, the robot can lay bricks at a speed of 1,000 per hour with 100% accuracy. It can also detect changes caused by external factors such as wind and vibrations and adapt the design accordingly. It has been estimated that the robot takes two days to complete work that, when done manually, could otherwise take around four to six weeks!
Making construction safer
Another important way in which the application of AI and robotics can enhance the construction industry is in accident prevention. Sadly, construction continues to be one of the most dangerous industries for workers. In 2018, it presented the highest number of fatal worksite injuries in the USA – 20% of all workplace fatalities.
Enhanced design and engineering
While most research focuses on the actual delivery of projects in the construction sector, there are many applications of AI within the other phases of project development, such as architectural design and structural engineering. These areas are less dependent on physical work and are relatively easier to empower through AI solutions.
Constructing a better future together
While we’re currently at tipping point, we believe that AI will inevitably take over construction by becoming more integrated into the software and equipment used by the industry and its related disciplines.
However, as the development of computers didn’t remove the need for accounting firms, AI will enhance rather than replace the construction industry. It will achieve this by making construction safer and more effective and introducing greater co-operation between people and machines.
At Cosmos Thrace, we enable businesses from many sectors to implement AI Solutions and optimize their business operations. Through our expertise, we adapt those technologies to each customer’s specific needs, requirements, and priorities in an efficient and timely manner.