It’s hard to believe but the UK’s construction sites could be almost human-free by 2050.
That’s the claim from construction firm Balfour Beatty who say that within the next few years, automated builders will be manning the country’s construction sites.
The firm says that excavator operators and bricklayers will be replaced by machines and the only humans employed will be needed to control the machines and robots – and even then they will do so from far away.
The prediction from Balfour Beatty comes after they looked into the trends in general manufacturing processes and factories around the world to find robots and machines are quickly replacing humans.
However, while the human hand is still the best tool for many manufacturing jobs, robots can now complete simple and larger tasks.
On top of this, they say the trend will gather pace as 3D printing techniques reach maturity and begin to deliver on a larger scale.
The move to replace humans on building sites took a step forwards last year when the robot builder Hadrian X was unveiled by Fastbrick Robotics.
That’s in addition to a new robot called SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) created by Construction Robotics which could be arriving in the UK.
This robot can lay as many as six times the number of bricks a human ‘brickie’ can do in a single day.
That’s around 3,000 bricks every day – and there’s no need for tea breaks and, if it’s possible on the site, it could work every hour of every day.
The prospect is not just science fiction since robot builders have already begun replacing humans on a handful of building site in America.
In a report, Balfour Beatty says: “The increasing use of automation robots means the industry will become more productive and there will be new roles created for skilled workers in cutting-edge areas. The need for those undertaking manual and repetitive tasks, for example bricklayers, will be reduced.”
They also predict that drones will be used to scan a building site and then send detailed instructions to robotic diggers and cranes as well as the automated builders. The drones will also be able to predict and resolve problems before they arise.
The firm’s report also adds: “By 2050, the construction site will be human free and robots will be working in teams to build a complex structure and using dynamic new materials.”
However, even with an automated bricklayer, someone still needs to load up the machine with bricks and mortar and also clean the excess mortar after the robot has finished.
There is no doubt that on the path for robot builders to replace human builders on our construction sites there will be resistance to the spread of machines and robots but the opportunity of reducing costs and increasing productivity will be difficult for most building firms to ignore.