The partnership aims to address the need for more affordable, sustainable buildings and reduce the environmental impact of construction amidst labour and skills shortages.
“We think there is a clear opportunity to transform this sector and the way homes are built by automating the process of manufacturing modular components,” Marc Segura, president of the ABB Robotics Division, said in a statement. “Greater, more intelligent automation is the answer to widespread labour shortages and this collaboration will boost productivity, allow greater customisation and enable more sustainable and efficient construction practices.”
According to ABB Robotics, construction-related occupations typically dominate the list of labour shortages. In the United States, labour shortages are contributing to a housing shortfall of nearly four million homes, while Germany is forecast to have housing supply shortages in 35 of its cities by 2030.
The traditional construction sector is struggling to meet the demand for new homes, while the environmental performance and efficiency of buildings needs to improve, along with the adoption of more sustainable construction methods. These include reducing the transportation of raw materials to construction sites and eliminating the corresponding costs and impact of removing unwanted materials and waste. This is estimated to account for up to 25 per cent of the material transported to a building site.
According to the partners, modular construction will yield efficiencies through the reduction in material wastage and the number of days lost to poor weather. Factories also provide a safer working environment, as construction workers account for around 30 per cent of workplace injuries and are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident compared with other sectors.
However, the construction lags behind other industries in adoption of automation and robotics. An ABB-commissioned survey of 1,900 large and small construction businesses in Europe, the US and China found 55 per cent of participants using robots, compared with 84 per cent in automotive and 79 per cent in manufacturing. The survey also revealed that 81 per cent of construction businesses plan to introduce or increase the use of robotics and automation in the next decade.
“We will bring our blueprint to life and demonstrate how robotic modular construction can help support the changes our society is demanding. The joint approach will take modular construction to a new level in terms of quality, efficiency, design, and sustainability,” said Segura.