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Robotics is Changing the Construction Landscape

by | Feb 22, 2018 | Insights, Technology

It’s no secret that we are facing a labor shortage in the construction industry or that productivity has gotten progressively worse over the past 50 years. One of the ways we are combatting these issues is through robotics.

We are currently working on a renovation of the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, VA, a project which requires demolishing and replacing a 14-story brick façade. For this project we have “hired” a special employee, SAM, the Semi-Automated Mason robot developed by Construction Robotics.

SAM is on the job every day. The robot consistently lays 380 bricks per hour. That’s 3,000 bricks each day, for a total of 470,000 bricks for this job, or about 60 percent of the total.

SAM is six times faster than a single mason, meaning this critical task will be completed more quickly. Another bonus is the consistent quality. SAM works with extremely tight tolerances, which means there is less variability in the size of mortar joints because it’s not subject to human error.

SAM requires a technician and two masons; however, it decreases the amount of hard physical labor required by the masons. In this case, one mason loads bricks into the robot and another mason strikes the mortar to make it smooth behind the robot.

Another benefit of SAM on this project is that it doesn’t require security clearance. Poff is a federal building and our contract is with the General Services Administration, which means all workers are required to get security clearance. In our industry, where we already have a shortage of labor, that extra step can create another road block to getting workers.

While SAM is our most visible robot, we are also using nine Robotic Total Stations on our job sites across the country. The stations help us perform layout tasks, including laser scanning and marking excavation lines, concrete forms and anchors, hangers, sleeves and underground pipe. The markings are so precise, that everyone on site knows where components are located or need to be installed, improving quality assurance and quality control. Best yet, the entire task can be completed by one person!

Robotics in construction is still a new area. As the technology expands, we will continue to be progressive in how we use these new technologies to create real value for our owners.


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