The Revolution of Construction Robotics: Automating the Construction Industry

June 20, 2023

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Let’s begin with an observation: imagine a construction site where robots are solely responsible for building our homes and buildings. Performing tasks like bricklaying, concrete pouring, landscaping and more. This could be the future of construction and robotics and what we will be discussing in this article. A world of automation and collaboration that has the potential of reshaping our construction practices all the while making the industry safer and more efficient.

Construction is a vital economic force, contributing approximately $840 billion or 4.2% of GDP to the $20.6 trillion worth of goods and services produced in the U.S. in 2018. Yet, it faces some challenges today. According to an AGC-Autodesk Survey (2019), 80% of contractors reported difficulty finding qualified workers. This labor shortage threatens broader economic growth for the industry. And, it’s not only the U.S… Spain – 39% (El Confidential, 2021); Europe – 32% (Statista, 2023)(Euronews, 2023).

At the same time, the construction industry grapples with issues related to quality, schedule, safety, and complex environments. These challenges could be mitigated through the adoption of robotics and automation (R&A) technologies, which have already benefited industries like automotive, logistics, manufacturing, healthcare and aerospace to mention a few. With the construction industry increasingly under pressure due to an ageing workforce, lack of skilled people, and decreasing productivity, the potential benefits of more efficient and streamlined processes that R&A can deliver should not be underestimated.

Construction workers collaborating with robotics on a futuristic construction site.

What is Construction Robotics?

Construction robotics refers to the fusion of robotics technology and automation (R&A) in construction processes. They assist in a multitude of tasks, from the precision of robotic bricklaying to the power required for demolition and digging. Companies like Dusty Robotics, Construction Robotics, Boston Dynamics, Built Robotics and others are innovating the way we build, manage and define safety parameters in the construction industry.

Automation and robotic technologies in construction fall into four categories: off-site prefabrication systems, on-site automated and robotic systems, drones and autonomous vehicles, and exoskeletons. Off-site prefabrication systems, initially developed in Japan, utilize robotics to enhance the quality of building components, inspired by the success of robotic use in automotive manufacturing. On-site systems emerged later, introducing robots directly to construction sites (Delgado metal, 2019). 

Drones and autonomous vehicles represent the latest advancement, providing inspection, monitoring, and maintenance capabilities. Exoskeletons, while not strictly robotic, are wearable devices that augment workers’ capabilities. These devices, which could blur the line between human and machine labor in the future, represent a significant potential for human-robot collaboration. The overarching goal of these technologies is to streamline construction activities and increase efficiency, and it is expected that future construction sites will see a seamless integration of human workers, robots, and automated systems (Delgado metal, 2019). 

The Use of Construction Robotics

On-site robotics and automations are increasingly being used within the construction landscape. They come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and can perform a variety of different tasks both collaboratively and autonomously. There are two main differences when it comes to robotics on-site: collaborative robots and autonomous robots.

Collaborative Robots

Collaborative robots or “cobots” where introduced into the workplace as more of a supportive technological advancement. These types of robots where put in place to help workers with mundane, repetitive, heavy, and duller tasks.

One good example of such robotics are the exoskeletons which are a growing game-changer. They provide safety and support for construction workers when lifting heavy objects, squatting and operating heavy machinery for a prolonged time. This assistive technology provides support to various joints, thereby boosting workers’ stamina and minimizing injury risks. 

“Cobots” act as supportive innovative technologies that where specifically designed to aid workers with their daily construction routines, also creating a safer and more efficient environment. 

Autonomous Robots

Autonomous robots, contrary to “cobots” have the potential to replace repetitive and precision-related tasks. Automation robots may seem like something out of a futuristic SyFy film, but are indeed something very real. Outside of the construction arena, autonomous robots such as Automated Mobile Robots (AMR) have been active for quite some time now. A well known application of such robots are used for warehousing and distribution centres. Amazon, for example, has unveiled Proteus, its first fully autonomous mobile robot (AMR). This feature significantly reduces the walking distance required by Amazon workers to retrieve items and increases the efficiency of the processes involved in their warehouses.

Now, visualize a robot autonomously performing bricklaying, pouring concrete and digging trenches with extreme precision on-site. Autonomous robots, made popular in the construction industry by firms like Built Robotics, do just that. By handling repetitive tasks, these robots are changing the face of construction sites, making them more efficient, safer and productive. Currently, Built Robotics is putting their autonomous robots to work building large scale solar farms and enabling fully autonomous trenching. They are paving a future for more efficient and safer working conditions. They claim that their autonomous robots can work 3 to 5 times faster than any human can. 

“They will take people out of harm’s way, reducing noise exposure, strain, struck-by and pinch hazards.” – Noah Ready-Campnell 

Robotics companies are paving the way in the automation future of construction. FBR has developed a next-gen automated bricklayer named Hadrian X. Hadrian X, they claim, can lay up to 500 block per hour, build up to 3 storey buildings and lift blocks that weigh up to 45kg. 

Another notable mention within the field our automation and robotics is the use of on-site 3D printing. S-Squared 3D Printers is a New York-based company that has introduced its patent-pending Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS). The ARCS 3D printer is capable of constructing homes, roads, bridges, and commercial buildings. It is said to outperform traditional construction by reducing both time and cost by up to 70%. The company’s mission is to revolutionize the construction industry by building homes faster, stronger, cheaper, safer and better for the environment. The system takes an estimated six hours to build a home and the buildings created with ARCS are said to have a structural integrity that are twice as strong as the industry standard and require little maintenance. (Image below SQ4D First 3D printed home for sale) 

3D printed home for sale in New York

The Impact of Robotics in the Construction Industry

Robotics in the construction industry isn’t just a concept; it’s a reality that’s revolutionizing the way we build.

Boosting Productivity

With their ability to work round the clock, construction robotics are game-changers for the industry’s productivity levels. As mentioned above, brick-laying and other large-scale autonomous robots can greatly increase productivity as they run continuously and reach the end result much quicker and more precisely than an average worker. Boston Dynamics has developed a robot that can do on-site monitoring, collect 3D data, efficiently create accurate as-built models, and survey confined spaces that keep workers out of hazardous environments.  

Improving Safety

Safety is paramount in construction. Surveys conducted in both the USA and the UK suggest that construction is a significantly more hazardous and dangerous workplace compared to other industries. Robotics in the construction industry can handle hazardous tasks, reducing the risks of workplace accidents. Robotics and automative technology companies boast on how their robotics make sites safer environments.

Bridging the Gap

The construction industry often grapples with a skill gap and worker shortages. With a shortage of skilled construction workers worldwide(La Informatica, 2022)(Forbes, 2022)(Pheng LS, Hou LS, 2019) the construction industry may see a lack of workers to fulfil the on-site tasks and jobs needed in order to complete the builds. According to ABC news, in the USA there was a shortage of 430,000 construction-industry workers in the past few years. Construction robots can potentially step in to fulfil these mass shortages. 

Autonomous and collaborative robots in construction can also play a crucial role in addressing the skills and knowledge gap in the industry. With the increasing complexity of modern construction projects, finding qualified personnel for high-level construction work has become a significant challenge. Robotic technologies, through their ability to perform intricate tasks with precision and consistency, can supplement this shortfall. The robots can handle repetitive and strenuous tasks, reducing human errors and workplace injuries, thereby improving overall productivity and quality. 

Simultaneously, these technologies can free up human workers to focus on higher-level, cognitive tasks that demand human judgment and creativity. As these robots often come with intuitive interfaces, they enable even less experienced personnel to carry out complex operations, effectively bridging the gap in skills and knowledge in the construction sector.

Other potential benefits of R&As

Customization and Flexibility: Advanced robotics technologies enable agile and flexible manufacturing processes. Robots can be programmed and reconfigured quickly to adapt to changing production requirements and handle various product designs, sizes, and materials. This allows for greater customization and responsiveness to customer demands.

Data-Driven Decision-Making: Automation systems generate vast amounts of data that can be analyzed in real-time. Managers can leverage this data to monitor and optimize processes, identify inefficiencies, and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement.

Revolution of Construction Robotics

Robotics and Automation Challenges

While the advent of robotics and automation in the construction industry is bringing about significant advancements, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not all pros. While these robots are somewhat designed to be robust and require less frequent maintenance compared to human labor, they are not completely immune to breakdowns. When they do malfunction, the cost of repairs can be exorbitant. Not only are the parts and components expensive, but the services of highly skilled engineers are needed to diagnose and fix the issues. These engineers, with their specialized knowledge in robotics, command high salaries, adding to the overall cost. Thus, while the promise of efficiency and precision is enticing, the financial implications of adopting autonomous robots in construction should be carefully considered, at least for the time being.

The integration of automation and robotics will lead to a transformation in the workforce. While some job roles may be displaced, new positions will emerge that require skills in operating, programming, and maintaining automated systems. The workforce will need to up-skill and adapt to work collaboratively with robots and advanced technologies.

Robotics to Change the Future of Construction?

So what does the future hold for automation and robotics in construction? Let’s gaze into the crystal ball.

We are not quite there yet… As the benefits of robots building houses and other structures become evident, we foresee a rise in adoption rates across the industry. Yet, the widely predicted robot revolution hasn’t quite happened at the anticipated speed. The adoption of robotics varies across nations/countries and depends significantly on a country’s policy environment, not just market forces. 

The future of construction robotics will likely aim for more versatile, easily implemented processes that can be applied to various tasks, facilitating swift adoption of new technologies. The main challenge lies in bridging the gap between disciplines and making robotic technology more accessible for those in the construction field. Key areas of focus for future research include: (Parascho, 2022)

Accessibility: Research will explore making robotic technology more user-friendly and intuitive, enabling designers and construction workers to leverage this technology without having to be experts.

Versatility: Developing adaptable processes that can be applied to different materials and environments could significantly reduce the time and effort needed to set up a process. Achieving this is challenging given the vast range of parameters in construction tasks.

Upscaling: The scale of robotic setups compared to construction projects remains a challenge. Research will need to decide whether to focus on larger machines or smaller machines with extendable reach.

Creativity: Encouraging more creativity within robotic processes could allow the design community to engage more fully with these tools. Improving interaction and communication between humans and machines could pave the way for innovative co-design approaches.


So, are we ready for revolution of construction robotics? With the advancement in construction robotics, will we be witnessing a shift in how we construct and create? Will robots building houses and other structures bring promise of a more productivity, safer, and more efficient future? These are all questions that, with time, will be naturally answered. For now, things are moving slowly and with reason as this could be a substantial change for the construction industry. However, it is important to keep a close eye on what the future of construction and robotic technology may bring as it could potentially change much of how we approach the building process. Still, much is yet to be understood and challenges addressed… 


  • What are construction robotics? They refer to the use of automation and robotic technology in construction processes.
  • How do construction robotics enhance productivity? They can perform tasks quickly, accurately, and continuously, hence boosting productivity.
  • Are construction robots safe for the workers? Potentially yes, by handling hazardous tasks, robots enhance worker safety. However, much is yet to be learned regarding autonomous robots I construction.
  • Can robots bridge the skill gap in the construction industry? In most cases yes. Robots efficiently take over strenuous tasks, enabling workers to focus on complex operations.
  • Can robots perform construction work? Yes, they can and are already doing so with remarkable efficiency and precision.
  • How are robots changing the construction industry? They are boosting productivity, improving safety, and bridging the skill gap.
  • What is the future of construction robotics? We predict increased adoption and advancements in technologies.
  • Will robots replace engineers in construction? No, robots are intended to complement human skills and creativity, not replace them.

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