Thanks to its futuristic approach to brick laying, a university building under construction in Nevada could have ramifications for home builders dealing with a shortage of skilled labor.

The SAM (Semi-Automated Robot) 100 bricklaying robot is currently working on a $35.5 million University of Nevada School of the Arts Building in Reno, the first time the system has been used in the state. SAM is a creation of Construction Robotics based in Victor, N.Y., and was brought to the project to lay 60,000 of the 100,000 units of bricks that will eventually provide the university with new space for a 287-seat recital hall, labs, rehearsal space, recording studio and art museum.

While the robot does the heavy lifting, humans are still needed to set up scaffolding, program the design, load bricks and mortar, align the row, clean the mortar joints and do the finishing touches to set the brick. The robot is designed to work on large, uninterrupted walls but corners and trim still need to be done by hand.

The robot has sped up the brick veneer installation process by 50 percent, according to the university. The machine can lay up to 200 to 250 bricks per hour, while a mason averages 250 per day. With SAM on the job, what would have once taken about four to five months to complete can now be done in two to three months. A

The robot is helping supplant a need for qualified masons in the area. “I can’t get enough masons in to do the work that SAM can do,” said Robert DeBenedetto, masonry foreman for A-1 Masonry. “While I have a crew of five guys working with SAM, I can get other crews doing other parts of the building.”