The beginning of the end.
In the beginning early humans used their hands to fashion materials into a structures for refuge and thus the world of construction began. As time passed the use of only hands evolved into using tools to make tasks easier. The structures became more complicated along with the tools, one thing however has always lacked, the efficiency of processes. It is only in recent times with the introduction of computers that the world of construction saw exponential growth in this area. With rapid growth and advancements in technology the abilities of the worker were multiplied significantly making way for structures to be erected at a much greater speed. Now as we enter the digital age the elements of control that governed the way a site progressed to completion have evolved. I believe this evolution will lead to the end of an industry as automation will shortly begin its takeover with the birth of two new advanced processes.
A fundamental component of construction is layout. This is basically the physical planning of the structure on site. This is the first process that will be changed through current trends. Typically blueprints were used to help construction crews determine locations and dimensions of the structure along with the functions of their installed equipment in relation to building operations. Tools for layout have progressed at a steady rate up until the arrival of GPS technology, prior to this it was necessary for almost all designated trades to have an intimate understanding of the blueprints. Thus at every building site there are “layout specialists” within most trades teams. These specialists envision the finished product, reference the blueprints and then instruct trades workers on building the product. This process has remained unchanged, leaving the accuracy and responsibility of on site layout in the hands of the tradespeople with the required amount of experience. Tools for measuring saw advancements but the responsibility of laying out always remained in the hands of the workers on site. GPS technology has now expanded beyond directing humans to locations, it can be used to accurately pinpoint specific locations on a job site to with a fraction of a millimeter. This new technology will allow companies to streamline the process of laying out while eliminating the need for workers to perform this highly skilled function. Three dimensional models created in the virtual world can be inspected, proofed and scheduled before ground is even broken on site, GPS layout tools then perform the function of the layout and this refined process takes over a component of the construction industry. It is a an efficient process that cannot be denied as the cost saving measures are tremendous and the finished product far superior in accuracy.
The second aspect of construction involves the physical creation of the structure, the building part. Designated trades workers who have mastered their craft install and build, without the worker construction wouldn’t be possible. Trends in 3D printing will vastly affect the present formula for building. The progression of technology has allowed workers to complete tasks with greater ease and efficiency. Prior to the nail gun, nails were individually hammered, the nail gun allowed carpenters to accomplish their task at a much faster pace. There are many examples of technology influencing efficiency, making the worker much more productive. In the sixties it took about five to ten plumbers to install a drainage system for a single home, with the invention of plastic drain pipe one plumber can complete the same installation at a much faster rate. The general consensus has always been focused on saving manpower, fewer hours worked equals less money spend. Tradesmen who performed their jobs well commanded more wages and were highly sought after for their abilities. There is a new process of creating which will eventually eliminate the need for as much skilled labour on a construction site. The invention of the 3D printer has revolutionized the manufacturing process and will impacting the labour force of the construction industry the most. 3D printers allow for the creation of a much superior product free from the inadequacies of human error, it’s just a matter of time before 3D printing capabilities penetrate the construction industry. The efficiency of this process cannot be ignored as the cost saving measures are tremendous and the finished product far superior in quality.
The current trend in construction processes still supports an existing infrastructure that our economy is dependent upon. The merging of GPS layout tools and 3D printing has already begun and the technology is advancing in other parts of the world where economic infrastructure poses less resistance. There are two video links posted illustrating the early stages of these processes.