The construction site of 2050 will be virtually human-free, as work is moved offsite, machinery is operated via remote control, and new materials and techniques are exploited to lower costs and improve safety and efficiency, a study released by the international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty predicted.
The report, “Innovation 2050: A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry,” examined the pace and rate of change within the industry. Researchers observed that the rise of digitization and robotics in construction is poised to bring about a huge increase in productivity, as technologies such as building information modelling (BIM), augmented and virtual reality, cloud data storage, telematics, drones, and data analytics enable construction companies to deliver projects more efficiently and effectively.
The report painted a picture of a construction site in 2050 in which robots work in teams to build complex structures using dynamic new materials; elements of the build self-assemble; and drones flying overhead scan the site, inspecting the work and using the data collected to anticipate and resolve problems before they arise. The drones then send instructions to robotic cranes and diggers and automated builders, with no need for human involvement.
Researchers further predicted that the main role played by humans on this future work site will be to remotely manage projects, accessing 3D and 4D visuals and data from the onsite machines, and ensuring that the build is proceeding to specification. “The very few people accessing the site itself will wear robotically enhanced exoskeletons and will use neural-control technology to move and control machinery and other robots on site,” the report said.
Yet researchers acknowledged that the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and accelerating change will bring challenges as well as opportunities.