Construction robots paving the way to sustainable and affordable housing for everyone
By Lindgard Buder
The 2023 edition of the AI for Good Global Summit will take place in Geneva, 6-7 July. Over 30 cutting-edge robots are gearing up to take part in the Robotics for Good exhibition, which will show the potential of autonomous robots to drive progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In this series of blog posts, we will be introducing some of the robots attending the Summit and explain how they are contributing to the SDGs.
Episode 5: Robots in construction
The construction industry is at a pivotal point, with an increasing global population, rapid urbanization, and an urgent need for sustainable, safe, and efficient solutions. Despite remaining the largest sector of employment in a majority of countries, the industry still faces the impact of the worldwide labour and skills shortage. The implementation of robotics and automation in the construction sector commenced in the early 1990s, with the primary objective of improving equipment operations, enhancing safety, and ensuring a high-quality workspace for building occupants. Nowadays, innovative construction robots, such as Noether and AuAr, are at the forefront of this transformation, addressing the challenges faced by the industry and contributing to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Transforming the future of construction with robots
At the upcoming 2023 AI for Good Global Summit, we will present two construction robots, Noether and AuAr, that have the potential to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Noether is a robot developed by Naska.ai, a startup based in Spain. This unmanned ground vehicle is equipped with advanced imagining tools like LIDAR and cameras to perform precise scans of construction sites. Using an AI construction software platform that connects BIM data, reality capture, and the schedule, it is possible to automatically compare the data captured on-site by the robot against the project (BIM model), delivering high-quality information to reduce risk and uncertainty on project delivery.
AuAr (Automated Architecture) is a Bristol and London-based design and technology firm that has developed a modular timber building system that uses robotics and automation to provide high-quality, sustainable, and affordable housing. The system consists of building blocks made from timber, a renewable material, which are robotically prefabricated and assembled into dwelling units. The production chain of the modular system begins when a robot assembles timber sheets into individual building blocks. Then, the blocks are stacked into easily transportable units and delivered to a local site for assembly by local craftspeople and builders into homes.
How robots in construction can support sustainable development
Integration of construction robots into various aspects of the industry has led to significant improvements in worker safety. Robots like Noether, developed by Naska.ai, utilize advanced imaging tools such as LIDAR and cameras to perform precise scans of construction sites, identifying potential hazards and ensuring that proper safety protocols are in place. By taking on hazardous tasks like excavation, heavy material handling, and welding, these robots help minimize the risk of accidents and injuries for workers. They also improve overall site efficiency by streamlining processes, optimizing workflows, and reducing the need for rework. This increased safety and efficiency directly contribute to SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Construction robots also have the potential to significantly reduce waste and environmental impact. Their ability to accurately measure and cut materials ensures a more efficient use of resources, reducing material waste and associated costs. Automation capabilities can also lead to faster completion times and lower energy consumption, which in turn minimizes the environmental footprint of construction activities. Furthermore, construction robots can facilitate the use of eco-friendly building materials, such as timber, which contributes to a lower carbon footprint. AuAr already leveraged this step towards sustainability with its modular timber building system and robot-assisted prefabrication and assembly. The company aims to reduce Co2 emissions by as much as 80% in comparison with traditional construction. By adopting sustainable construction methods, these robots are advancing SDG 13: Climate Action and paving the way for a greener future in the industry.
Robots like AuAr are playing a crucial role in promoting sustainable urban development and contributing to SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. By leveraging advanced technologies to create innovative solutions, such as modular and prefabricated building systems, construction robots can help meet the growing demand for affordable and sustainable housing. These systems can be customized to fit local needs, preferences, and environmental conditions, ensuring that the end result is both functional and sustainable. Furthermore, the decentralized construction processes supported by these robots engage local communities, fostering an inclusive and participatory approach to urban development.
As construction robots continue to advance, it is essential for the industry to invest in education and training programs to ensure a skilled workforce can operate and maintain these systems. “Essentially the problem we are trying to solve is that whilst we are mostly designing digitally, we’re still constructing manually.”, explains Stuart Maggs, CEO of Naska.ai. By providing training opportunities and promoting collaboration between human workers and robots, the industry can prepare for a future where technology and human expertise work in harmony to create a safer, more sustainable, and efficient construction sector.
The adoption of construction robots in various aspects of the industry signals a transformative shift in the way we approach construction projects. As technologies like Noether and AuAr continue to advance, their potential to address key challenges in worker safety, environmental impact, and sustainable urban development will become even more pronounced. This will ultimately lead to a more sustainable, efficient, and safe construction sector, benefiting both the industry and the communities it serves, while also playing a critical role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Register for the AI for Good Global Summit to meet and interact with the construction robots and its creators.
Watch our Global Summit video: