Residential construction isn’t always quick to adopt new technologies. That said, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days—executive to laborer—who isn’t using a smartphone to augment some aspect of their job. Meanwhile, more than 20% of builders say they’re experimenting with drones, while others report they’re using 3D printers. And even those technologies seem minuscule when compared with robots that can lay 1,000 bricks per hour or install steel studs, sheetrock, or tile.
Technology is taking over the home building industry at a rate that would seem preposterous to someone 20 years ago. According to author and construction lawyer Barry LePatner, builders better get used to it if they’re going to meet the demand for 100 billion additional square feet of living space by 2030.
Second to drones, 3D laser scanners were the most widely used emerging technology among builders in 2015; they can capture details of a structure down to 2 millimeters worth of accuracy. Commercial contractors already use drone-mounted scanners to measure stock piles, and experts say those uses will multiply as the technology becomes more affordable. Collected data, along with CAD files, will become the basis from which a host of technologies function autonomously. Once paired with drones and autonomous vehicles, future jobsites could be “self-driving” and manned not by skilled laborers, but by IT professionals.
In terms of how you’ll visit those jobsites, you may buzz out to them in an autonomous drone. But you may not have to since data will be fed in real time to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) wearables—like today’s VR headsets or Google Glass. Technologies already exist that superimpose 3D renderings over your real field of vision, but tomorrow’s holograms will be indistinguishable from real objects and will become as much a part of our everyday lives as the smartphones we carry today.
As technology ramps up, future jobsites will include swarms of intelligent life—not all human—as microchips replace hammers. Superintendents might know nothing of nail guns or drywall mud, instead applying the tenets of IT to the building envelope. Or even perhaps even they will be figments of the imagination, generated by AR.
On that note, buckle your seatbelt as we do a flyover of what the jobsite of the future might hold. Scroll over the numbers in the interactive below to learn more about the technologies.