The construction industry has always been slow to use technology, as Nick and Ron know well from trying to market their mini-computer-based Construction Accounting System in the 1970s. While acceptance may still be slow, uses of technology in the industry are proliferating:

  • 3D technology is being used to build entire structures – homes. and even multi-story buildings. (Charities are using the technology to build homes and schools in impoverished areas,)
  • 4D technology is able to create electrical circuits.
  • Robots have been used for spot and arc welding since the 1960s, but now robots are able to lay bricks faster than a bricklayer journeyman, paint high walls, and saw wood to specifications.
  • Robots will be used to store and transfer material on job sites.
  • Drones are being used to improve safety by flying around job sites, identifying problems.
  • Robots are acting as security guards.
  • Swarms of drones are being used to transfer material in high-rise construction. (So, without buckets on pulleys, this classic request for sick leave will make no sense for future generations!)

The impact on jobs will be substantial. An issue for the industry and its unions is that, with lower-level jobs (such as laborers) being eliminated, and much of the support work for any journeyman automated, the whole apprenticeship process will need to be re-thought.




Machines replacing humans (Robotics/Construction – 2018-04 – John Wong)



A robotic excavator can dig a pipeline trench without a human in the cab (Heavy Equi9pment/Robotics - 2020-03 - Wired)

The International Union of Operating Engineers is training members to work with a modified Caterpillar 336 excavator that uses onboard computers and sensors to perform by itself some of the work the center trains human operators to do, such as digging trenches for gas pipelines or wind turbine foundations.

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Boring Company completes first tunnel under Las Vegas Convention Centre (Tunnels/Hyperloop - 2020-02 - Singularity Hub)

In February 2020, Elon Musk’s Boring Company finished excavating the first of two tunnels for a new transportation system that will run underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center. The second tunnel will run parallel to the first, creating a loop to carry people back and forth in modified Tesla Model 3 and Model X cars at up to 155 mph. The one-mile-long tunnel was completed in 90 days.

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A community of 50 3D-printed homes is under construction in Mexico (Homebuilding/Additive Manufacturing - 2019-12 - Singularity Hub)

Housing nonprofit, New Story, announced construction of their first community of 50 3D-printed homes, in Mexico’s southern state of Tabasco, of which 2 have been completed. The 500 sq.ft. houses have two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. House frames are printed in about 24 hours, using a Vulcan II printer. They are intended for families currently living in makeshift shelters, who have a US$76.50 monthly income.

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These 3D-printed houses are made with on-site soil, along with bits of rice, and hydraulic lime (Homebuilding/Additive Manufacturing - 2019-10 - TechRadar)

Houses are built in 2 days with the Crane WASP 3D-printer, which constructs the eco-abodes on-site using 25% soil from the ground, and 40% straw and chopped rice, 25% rice husk, and 10% hydraulic lime. An example is a house made with raw earth measuring 21.6’ in diameter, and standing 9.8’ tall.

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Roofing drone nails down shingles (Roofing/Drone - 2019-09 -

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a pilot version of an autonomous octocopter that attaches asphalt shingles to roofs with a nail gun. This requires positioning the nail gun on a nailing point, placing the nail, and moving to the next point.

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A Swiss house built by robots promises to revolutionize the construction industry (Robotics - 2019-09 - Quartz)

Swiss researchers at ETH Zurich university and 30 industry partners have, over a 4-year period, built the first habitable building designed and planned, using a choreography of digital fabrication methods. The 3-level building near Zurich features 3D-printed ceilings, energy-efficient walls, timber beams assembled by robots on site, and an intelligent home system. The DFAB House, measuring 2,370 sq. ft needed 60% less cement and has passed the stringent Swiss building safety codes.

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Eventually, nearly every job on a construction site could be completed faster and safer with robots (Robotics - 2019-05 -

Robots are being used on construction sites for laying sheet piles, using 3D-printing to lay concrete or manipulate steel, laying bricks, and demolition.

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Using blockchain to eliminate business process waste in construction projects may save 5+% (Blockchain - 2019-04 - CoinBase)

A World Economic Forum report indicates that, by eliminating transactional costs associated with fragmented supply chains, blockchain drives value by simplifying processes and providing greater transparency. This will lead to greater trust and collaboration in construction projects.

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There will soon be a whole community of ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes (Homebuilding/Additive Manufacturing - 2019-03 - Fast Company)

The “Vulcan II,” a massive, 33×11 ft machine can 3D-print the concrete frame of a small house in less than a day. Adding a conventional roof, windows, and utilities can be completed a day later. It will be printing a neighborhood of >50 homes in 2019.

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Big Area Additive Manufacturing technology can rapidly manufacture molds suitable for precast concrete manufacturing (Concrete/Additive Manufacturing - 2019-03 -

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using Big Area Additive Manufacturing (‘BAAM’) technology to manufacture molds suitable for precast concrete manufacturing. The molds use carbon fiber reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a common thermoplastic compounded with chopped carbon fibers. Each mold takes up to 19 hours to make. A Brooklyn tower is the first building to use the molds.

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People will be living in 3D-printed homes in 2019 (Construction/Homebuilding - 2018-12 - Architectural Digest)

The world’s first 3D-concrete-printed homes, fully outfitted with multiple rooms, will be built in 2019 in Eindhoven, Holland. The homes will first come in single-story units, with multi-level homes to be built shortly thereafter. A special concrete composition, which does not need steel reinforcements, was developed for the printers.

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The most amazing 3D-printing projects of 2018 (Construction - 2018-12 - MIT Technology Review)

The 6 3D-printing projects are: A steel pedestrian bridge (for Amsterdam); Concrete homes; BMW’s millionth component since 2010 (a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster); The Refabricator (turning old plastic items into filament for printers); Self-tracking plastic objects (transmitting usage information); and Weddings (including a bouquet).

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The first 3D-printed steel bridge has been completed (Construction - 2018-10 - MIT Technology Review)

MX3D is 3D-printing a fully-functional stainless steel bridge to cross a canal in Amsterdam.

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This Japanese robot contractor can install drywall (Construction - 2018-10 - The Verge)

Japan’s Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has developed a humanoid robot that can carry out simple construction tasks, like installing drywall. The research institute is aiming for autonomous replacement of labor at assembly sites for large structures, such as buildings, houses, aircrafts, and ships.

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US Marine Corps Systems Command used a 3D printer to construct a concrete barracks measuring 500 sq ft in 40 hours (Construction/Buildings - 2018-09 - New Atlas)

The US Marine Corps Systems Command constructed a 500 sq ft prototype concrete barracks in 40 hours with one of the world’s largest 3D printer. (If soldiers receive a safe barracks in a shorter time, it could potentially save lives.) It normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a similar hut out of wood.

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Netherlands building world's first habitable 3D printed houses and cycle bridges (Construction/Home Building - 2018-06 - The Guardian)

Offered because of a shortage of skilled bricklayers, the Dutch city Eindhoven is building concrete, habitable homes made by a 3D printer. Designs can be customized to whatever shape a purchaser wants. Foundations are conventional. Five houses will be rented in 2019. A 3D-printed cycle bridge was built in 2017.

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AI-powered drones increase efficiency, reduce cost, spotting problems humans might miss (Construction - 2018-06 - TechRepublic)

Drones monitor construction sites, farms, and critical infrastructure, sending back real-time data, which is subjected to AI analysis to spot problems. This increases efficiency, reduces costs, and may spot problems humans might miss.

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Japanese companies are using robots to help build skyscrapers (Robotics/High-rises - 2018-04 - MIT Technology Review)

Japanese companies are using robots in the construction of skyscrapers to weld beams, move supplies, and install ceiling panels. This only represents about 1% of the total labour. 

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MIT’s robot carpenters will saw wood for you (Robotics/Carpentry - 2018-02 - The Verge)

Researchers from MIT have created a new system of robot-assisted carpentry that could make custom furniture and fittings creation safer, easier, and cheaper. AutoSaw is made up of design software and semi-autonomous robots. Users select a template and then adjust for size and shape. This robots autonomously pick up and saw the necessary materials to the correct size. Then users put the finished product together.

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