The construction industry is one of the least automated industries in the world. Due to the delicate nature of the work and the precision required to build buildings and the reflexes needed to navigate the dangerous terrain of a construction site, the work hasn’t been handed over to robots or automated systems; although, it is slowly but surely, catching on to virtual assistants. However, machines are quickly closing the gap and the repetitive, manual and time-consuming jobs involved in construction will be carried out through automation soon enough.
There are various new robots under development that are packed with artificial intelligence and virtual assistance to make sure that the most complex of projects are handled with the finesse and precision required.
This aspect of the job will be much more efficient and more cost effective if done by robots for the very reason that it’s a destructive job, not a constructive one. Virtual programs are used to construct blue prints of various buildings in great detail, why can’t they be exploited to destroy them? The automation involved in this industry may include mapping out the environments of the buildings to find out which points are the weakest in order to target them specifically. This will make destroying buildings more efficient and less time consuming and it will, in effect, pose less danger to human life than before.
prints of various buildings in great detail, why can’t they be exploited to destroy them? The automation involved in this industry may include mapping out the environments of the buildings to find out which points are the weakest in order to target them specifically. This will make destroying buildings more efficient and less time consuming and it will, in effect, pose less danger to human life than before.
More virtual assistance in this aspect will mean that bigger and better 3-D printers will be produced in masses and will allow the building of buildings much faster than before. In fact, through this technique, eventually, entire buildings may be built without the need of assembly. That would in fact be one of the most revolutionizing aspects of automation. It may make the construction industry and building housing, much, much cheaper than before.
I remember reading about many of the greatest buildings ever built in history, specifically the Seven Wonders of the World and they almost always featured accounts of workers dying or suffering while building them. This is true of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Coliseum of Rome. While not as prevalent as before, the death of workers on great construction projects is still the norm.
According to a report released in 2017, by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), around 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions in the United States and a total of 4,836 construction workers were killed on the job in 2017. There is no doubt in my mind that this will change with greater virtual assistance to workers and with a greater burden being taken away from manual labor. Automation will also lead to many lives that would otherwise be needlessly lost, being saved.
The Loss of Jobs
This is something that we can’t tiptoe around. All throughout history, modernization and automation of any industry has led to the elimination of jobs and the obsolescence of an entire population of workers and skilled laborers.
According to a report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which analyzed the skills and tasks of more than 200,000 workers in 29 countries, the construction sector will see huge changes when it is automated. There will be three waves of automation between today and the mid-2030’s. These will be the algorithm wave, the augmentation wave, and the autonomy wave.
As a result of this, up to 40% of jobs in the construction industry will be affected by the mid-2030’s. Some jobs will be replaced completely, but not until the very end. By the 2030’s, over half of the 40% affected by automation will be lost as robots will take over routine tasks and become advanced enough to work out simple problems by themselves.
These jobs could include brick-laying, cement mixing, shoveling and plastering etc.
Gain of Jobs
It has to be noted however, that the loss of jobs will inevitably result in a vacuum being created for new jobs and new professions. This has historically been an aspect of automation as well. In any industry, when modernization rears its head, there is a slew of jobs to be filled. In the case of construction, more and more people will be required to construct more complex algorithms to operate machinery and to monitor and make more efficient, the processes involved in construction.
There will also be a boom in need for skilled individuals that know how to operate these complex machines and design their various parts and monitor their function.
People who design increasingly cheap materials to use in 3D printing and those who design increasingly efficient houses and standard molds for these designs will be needed to feed the burgeoning construction industry.
With more and more ambitious projects such as oversea bridges and increasingly tall skyscrapers being built, more and more engineers and architects will be required.
The Fate of the Construction Industry
While it is difficult to imagine a world where only robots will be 3-D printing huge buildings and carrying out the tasks assigned by programmers from thousands of miles across the world, it is going to happen. It’s something we can’t avoid. However, we can prepare for it. Using the latest insights in to construction programming and construction automation can allow governments and universities to introduce courses and workshops to familiarize old workers with new software.
There can be an entire drive to help people adjust to the new normal. We won’t be able to save everyone, but we can soften the blow. All in all, construction automation will be a boon to the world, but as with every gain, there is something we’ll have to sacrifice.