ABB Robotics and UK tech start-up to deliver sustainable housing

ABB Robotics is collaborating with UK-based tech start-up Automated Architecture (AUAR) to advance the use of robotic micro-factories to build affordable, sustainable low energy timber homes.

AUAR robotic assembly
AUAR robotic assembly - ABB/AUAR

According to ABB, AUAR’s approach to integrating robotic automation into the building process will tackle skills shortages, boost sustainability, and improve health and safety by deploying robots in a global network of local micro-factories.

These micro-factories will construct energy-efficient, affordable buildings from sheet timber.

In a statement, Craig McDonnell, managing director Business Line Industries, ABB Robotics, said: “The increasing capabilities of robots enabled by vision and AI, coupled with their inherent speed, flexibility and consistency, makes them the ideal solution for meeting the growing need for affordable, high quality, sustainable housing.”

Conventional buildings consist of thousands of different components shipped from around the world, making it almost impossible to automate construction. AUAR’s goal is to work with one type of material and one type of machine to simplify the supply chain.

The production process uses standard sheets of timber. A robot cuts the sheets into components and assembles them into units that are transported to site, enabling complete customised homes to be built in a matter of weeks.

While many of the assembly tasks are automated, AUAR’s approach is said to support local jobs by promoting the use of micro-factories close to construction sites, where local contractors and suppliers can coordinate delivery.

The micro-factory approach is reportedly flexible enough to meet whatever each market demands. Each facility can be scaled to reflect local needs, with the ability to ramp up production by adding modular robot cells.

“With the focus on the dual needs of building more affordable homes and minimising the environmental footprint of buildings throughout their lifetime, automated modular construction presents a great opportunity to rethink the way that the buildings are constructed,” said McDonnell. “Our collaborations…mark an exciting step in our efforts to accelerate the use of robotic automation in the construction industry to help address its challenges and deliver the sustainable buildings of the future.”

The collaboration with AUAR follows the announcement by ABB that it is working with Porsche Consulting, a German management consulting firm, to develop new practices in modular housing manufacture.

In a related development, AUAR reported today that it has completed a £2.6m seed round led by deep-tech and AI fund Miles Ahead, alongside ABB Robotics & Automation Ventures and several other investors.