It’s difficult to realize, but we are living in the future that so many science fiction films and books envisioned decades ago. To date humankind has successfully implemented life enhancing technologies like robotic prothetics, stem cell therapy tissue regeneration, and 3D printed affordable housing. These and many other areas of research and technology are in their infancy now, but will enter the mainstream of our daily lives in the coming years. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous drones and vehicles, etc. will shake up many industries drastically, including the residential construction world. Check out these emerging technologies and their expected impact on the future of home building.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Perhaps our only exposure to AR thus far is Snapchat’s 3D face mapping and playful filters, or Pokemon Go, but the rapid expansion of AR/VR will allow us to see or experience anything through a virtual reality headset, and eventually through a tiny digital contact lens, including interior spaces like homes.
During the planning phase, prospective home buyers will explore and walk through architectural renderings in a 3 dimensional field, allowing them to visualize and “feel” the design before it’s built. Once homes are under construction, omnidirectional cameras will likely be used to create 3D virtual representations of the progress, which can be examined with a VR/AR device. Imagine how much easier this will be for home buyers to check in on the status of their project, and to feel secure that progress is congruent with the plan and their wishes.
3D Laser Scanners
Laser scanning technology is already used to analyze material piles for estimation, and other measurement tasks. In the future this technology will be used to generate topographical maps and identify ideal siting for a home on a lot, in addition to providing real-time structural analysis. It is predicted that this technology will eventually replace building inspectors all together, as the computer integrated laser will gather and analyze more information than any human could.
The thought of robots on construction sites probably sounds scary and too sci-fi to be true, but construction labor bots probably won’t be humanoids, and will more likely look something like this:
Although labor robots will likely require human supervision and management (until AI advances further), they will undoubtedly reduce the number of people required to build a home, while increasing accuracy, time efficiency, and reducing waste.
Auto piloted worker drones on the job site will mark a tremendous improvement in efficiency and safety. Drones will be able to transport materials to the roof, apply spray on liquid and vapor barriers to external sheathing, and provide a vantage point from which to mount 3D laser scanners and VR integrated cameras. At Bost Homes we are currently using drones to inspect roofing and to assist in lot selection, clearing, house siting, and orientation. We are not alone; roughly 20% of builders report that they are experimenting with drones, and in the near future drones will be buzzing around construction sites performing tasks that are dangerous and time consuming for workers.
3D printers are incredible devices with the ability to quickly manufacture an increasing array of objects as the technology advances. It is predicted that by 2040, nearly every component of a constructed home will be printed on site to fit the architectural and engineered specifications perfectly. In 2014 a Chinese company made headlines by printing 10 tiny homes in 24 hours. They weren’t fully printed as one object, rather an amalgamation of large pieces joined together like a Lego set; each wall section was printed using a mix of recycled building materials and cement, making it a time and resource efficient method of building.
Considering the pace at which 3D printing has come to fruition, it’s not far fetched to say that we will be utilizing the technology on our jobsites within the decade.
Autonomous or self driving vehicles are already in preliminary trials, and it’s only a matter of time before we develop a self driving vehicle that is safer than a human driver. Once that happens, job site materials will be delivered by a computer driven truck, on time, and off loaded exactly where the project manager requests. For now, self driving vehicles use a combination of radar sensors and cameras to react to the traffic and roadways around them, but it’s not difficult to imagine a smart road system in the future, one where all vehicles on the road communicate with each other through a shared network embedded in the street.