3.11.2004

 

Robots and the construction industry

As mentioned in Robotic Nation and Robots in 2015, there has been very little automation in the construction industry over the last century. In 1950, guys with circular saws and hammers built houses. Today it is guys with circular saws and nail guns. As a result, labor represents a sizeable portion of the cost of a new home. The industry is ready for automation.

Obviously there will be plenty of things for humanoid robots and specialized robots to do on the construction site. There are so many repetitive, mindless tasks to keep the robots busy: framing, roofing, siding, brick-laying, painting, digging, plumbing, wiring, sheetrock hanging, etc.

In addition, robots will make completely new construction paradigms possible. For example, there is this idea:From the article:Also:The "in one day without using human hands" part sounds amazingly like Terrafoam. In addition, there are references to low-income housing, as well as to the use of mud and straw as a building material. Perhaps all of the displaced workers of the future will be living in mud huts erected by robots? See Manna for a view of this future.

The construction industry employs roughly 6 million people in the United States today. Robots will be able to move in and eliminate millions of construction jobs.

There is something else to consider as well. Normally it is good for automation to lower the price of things. In the housing market, however, falling house prices can create some very uncomfortable problems. If house prices fall and home owners are underwater in their mortgages, they are trapped. Everyone has always assumed that home prices will increase in value from year to year, and the leverage that a mortgage provides works well when prices are rising. But if robots and other technologies cause housing prices to fall 25% to 50%, the leverage of a mortgage works the other way and can bankrupt a family very easily. A large number of defaults could ripple through the economy in unexpected ways. It will be very interesting to see what happens as robots begin a rapid infiltration into the construction industry.

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