A new generation in construction more comfortable with technology is expected to advance the use of robots in the industry in the drive to make up for labor shortages and improve efficiency. Ian Harvey interviews industry leaders on the subject and notes examples of how robots will play various roles in construction.



Time is money. It’s a cliché but a constant in the construction sector.The question is, can technology speed up the process once shovels get in the ground and more importantly can robotics ultimately cut costs and counterbalance the shortage of skilled trades?

Technology and robotics are increasingly being deployed in the construction sector but it’s a long way from mainstream.From drones programmed to record site progress, map out terrain and boundaries, automated machines to build brick and block walls, lay paving stones, 3D printing using pumped concrete, robots to mud and tape drywall, robotic “dogs” that patrol sites to record progress, provide security and more.

Then there are demolition robots, rebar tying robots, exoskeletons and factories where robots churn out panels for modular homes and offices.These machines already exist and are being used daily around the world and, to some extent, in Canada.

Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association, says we’ll see more and more of it driven by concerns over shortage of labour supply and the drive for efficiency.There will still be a need for humans in the mix, she says, but a robot programmed to repetitive tasks works faster and longer.

“With a workforce shortage and the pandemic, they’re not all doing human work, they’re complementing humans. Even in hotels, you order room service and a robot brings it to you,” she says.The knowledge transfer from those sectors to construction is inevitable and as new generations familiar and comfortable with technology move through the ranks of the sector, there’s less resistance and more willingness to innovate.