Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Five robots that could change the face of construction

3 September 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

As construction starts to embrace new technology, so the robotics industry is starting to create alternatives to manual labour.

While still in its infancy, some construction robots are now either already commercially available, or nearing the point where they could be sold or rented to contractors.

Here are five robots that have already been developed for the construction industry.

1) The robot decorator

Construction tech start-up Okibo has developed what it claims is the world’s first autonomous plastering and painting robot. Its maker claims that it can cross the rough terrain of a typical construction site and uses 3D scanning to map its environment without any prior information. A robotic arm has floor-to-ceiling reach. No manual programming is required.

2) The robot bricklayer

The Hadrian X robot, developed by Australian firm FBR, has a 30m-long robotic arm that can be mounted on a truck or car and can, its maker claims, lay bricks faster than humans, at a rate of up to 1,000 bricks an hour. Earlier this year, it completed a demonstration home in Australia in three shifts, laying 200 bricks an hour.

3) The robot site surveyor

Spot, the robot construction dog, which carries out site inspections, has been given an upgrade by its manufacturer. Robotics firm Boston Dynamics has partnered with a San Francisco-based software company to produce a new version of Spot. SpotWalk, which uses software from HoloBuilder and is controlled by the firm’s SpotWalk app, can walk through construction sites autonomously, capturing 360-degree images that record the progress of a construction project over time.

4) The robot excavator

UCL Robotics has partnered with gas network company SGN to tackle what they say is the industry’s most costly and disruptive job – excavation. The Robotic Roadworks and Excavation System (RRES) project combines an industrial robot, an all-electric track drive system, below-ground locating sensors, artificial intelligence, machine vision, and new vacuum excavation methods.

SGN and ULC Robotics claim that the project, funded by energy regulator Ofgem, will reduce accidental damage to buried infrastructure, minimise carbon emissions and improve the safety and speed of utility excavation and construction

5) The site security robot

An Edinburgh-based technology start-up that has developed a security patrol robot and aims to test its invention on construction sites. The robot, called Ziva, has been developed by Casta Spes Technologies, run by 24-year-old Heriot-Watt University graduates Selby Cary and Michael McDonald.

The compact, two-wheeled robot provides 360-degree CCTV coverage and is designed to be driven remotely or set automatically to patrol specified routes using sensors and autonomous navigation. The company claims that it can save 92% on the cost of a manned patrol. It can also be modified to include licence plate recognition and threat classification.

The machine, which can travel on different terrains including grass and gravel at speeds of up to 19kmh, is primarily aimed at taking on perimeter security roles in remote areas or locations with limited infrastructure.


The Spot walker survey is interesting. I was actually talking to a guy at the CIOB MF in 2019 about exactly this type of tech. I can foresee more of an automated drone though rather than the walking dog. Even swarms of drones to scan and record daily progress on sites which will provide the QS with exact daily measures and allow for the projects program to be monitored allowing for any issues to be identified at an early stage. Not forgetting the benefit of providing a indisputable record should any claims arise and of course a record of all 1st fix works before it’s covered up . One benefit of drones being they could access areas such as a birds eye view of cavities. The CI has so many ways which tech can be used obviously the value of the project will determine the tech but the more that larger projects adopt them the more the tech will be rolled down hill as it’s many benefits are seen and the costs driven down. It would be great to see more exoskeleton systems being used to aid Manual workers improve the H&S. I would imagine if you asked older tradesmen if they suffered from back pain or other niggles due to their years in the trade they would all say yes, exoskeletons would aid the next generation From suffering these woes and also aid productivity.

Mark, 3 September 2020

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