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Construction Science Fiction: Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

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As Huan arrived at work he was confident that it was going to be a good day. He had been working with this client for some time and he was glad that the project was finally breaking ground. The owner programming reviews had been a little more lengthy than anticipated. The complexity of the automated robot manufacturing plant had forced a number of revisions to the intelligent-build model. But now that the plant owner had received the approvals of the review board, the project could move forward. Huan was hopeful that this project would challenge his education and understanding of construction using a build-design delivery method with intelligent machines and equipment.

Since his graduation from the National Construction University with a degree in Building Formulation, he had worked on number of building formulation projects ranging from residential rest units to hyper buildings. This new job assignment was his first as a Level II Project Implementer in control of all the intelligent systems and machines required to build and design the proposed project. This new project, when complete, was to be a 100,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art automated robot plant in which to assemble the new Doctor6 class of medical robots.

Huan entered the project control room at his office complex and took a seat at the podium. In front, above, below and to both sides was the large film monitors on which the model data would appear. He had visited the proposed construction site virtually during the programming stage and felt he had received all the information required to start construction. Through advanced cartography and GPS triangulations used by satellite mapping, all the existing land contours and site imagery were readily available and projected. Additionally all site requirements such as utility locations, transportation options, local building code and ordnances requirements were loaded into the model’s database by an intelligent address search engine. The reality of the projections was such that Huan was virtually onsite complete with a site investigation report. Now that he was “there” he could begin initial layout and establishment of construction control points in order to start construction.

Drawing from past data on all 100,000-sq-ft robot assembly plants that have ever been built, the intelligent formulation system developed an optimal building configuration, foundation design, and layout specific to the site and uploaded it to the build model. Now Huan began the sequencing routine that would determine the optimal CPM schedule for construction. Not only did this intelligent agent determine best sequencing, it also determined best materials and assembly methods for this particular site and program requirements meeting the highest levels of cost savings and sustainability ratings. It also issued and tracked a request to bid to qualified subcontractors and suppliers of the prefabricated, rapid-prototyped equipment and systems required.

The model and all the related information was now ready to be validated and accepted by the inspection authorities. It was only minutes before the municipality’s checking routine authorized continuation to construction. Additionally Huan’s office’s checking routine also activated beginning billing cycles and contract preparations and authorizations.

Concurrently the mobilization of the site was started. A host of robotic intelligent machines were arriving at the site and indexing themselves to the control coordinates. These machines were capable of a multitude of operations utilizing a variety of attachments to complete many different tasks. They were autonomous robots that needed no human interaction to operate. They were even equipped with self-diagnostics and repair routines that virtually made them indestructible and able to work continuously at the highest levels of operation. Huan was amazed by these machines every since he was a student at the University and took a course in Construction Robotics. He remembered from the history that construction equipment used to be maintained and operated by humans. There was much down time and productivity interruptions due to the human’s inability to process large amounts of data and inability to work continuously.

Now indexed and uploaded with all the data required to construct the foundations and slab, the robotic equipment began systematic construction. Construction Contour Crafting had begun back in the early 2010’s but was now a well accepted and practiced methodology. The materials had evolved from traditional concrete and steel to new epoxies and high strength plastic extrusions. It was quite a sight to see as the autonomous robots scurried around the site excavating and depositing an array of materials at specified points. An extrusion of materials formed all the walls and openings needed. It all came together in approximately four hours. A new 100,000-sq-ft slab, foundation, exterior walls, interior walls, and all the utilities connections ready for the next phases of construction.

While Huan virtually looked on, the robotic equipment changed out tooling and attached additional lift mechanisms that would enable an intelligently controlled gantry to place the required equipment, all finishes, and complete the roofing. Autonomous shipping trucks with cargo of all the prefabricated conveying and control equipment along with all other construction materials needed to complete the project were arriving according to the predetermined construction schedule. Logistically it was a great feat but for these intelligent systems working in unison, it was just a smooth orchestration of data interoperability. Each move was 100% efficient with no mistakes and use of material was without waste and of the highest level of quality and sustainability.

As the project was coming to a close and the finishing touches were being applied, all the subcontractors and vendors that had supplied materials and services to the project were being notified of their completions and final payments awarded. The self-checking routines were commissioning all the systems and all building permits were being signed off. All as-built designs and facility management data were integrated in to the model. It was time to inform the owner that their building was complete and operational at the end of these eight hours.

Huan closed down his control podium and prepared to leave work. While leaving he wondered what it must have been like to be a Construction Manager when you had other people to interact with and daily challenges involved.

 

CAPANO

Dr. Craig D. Capano, CPC, is a Professor of Construction Management at Everglades University in Sarasota, Fla. His research is in Construction Informatics and he has presented a number of seminars nationally and internationally on this topic. He has held appointments to the Board of Trustees of American Council for Construction Education, Associated General Contractors of America Foundation, and the Associated Schools of Construction.

To see all of the stories in ENR's Imagining Construction's Future science fiction collection, click here.

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