ETH Robot Builds Curvy Reinforced Concrete Wall

©. ETH Zurich via Designboom

Is this the future of construction?

There are many who say that, in the not too distant future, construction sites will be human-free. According to the British firm Balfour Beatty and quoted in BuildingCo:

The country’s biggest builder said it expects drones will hover over construction sites collecting information and sending instructions to robotic cranes, diggers and automated robotic builders. Humans no longer needed on site will occupy overseer roles, remotely managing multiple projects accessing 3D and 4D visuals and data from the on-site machines, ensuring the build is proceeding to specification.

DFAB_HOUSE_INTRO from designboom on Vimeo.

If you think this is unrealistic, watch this video from Designboom where ETH Zurich (known to TreeHugger for its robot bricklayers) demonstrates how to build a curvy concrete wall by robot. It will be used to build the DFAB HOUSE opening next year. According to Designboom:

The DFAB HOUSE is distinctive in that it was not only digitally designed and planned but is also built using predominantly digital processes. With this pilot project, the ETH professors want to examine how digital technologies can make construction more sustainable and efficient, and increase the design potential. The design and planning of individual components were digitally coordinated, and these are now manufactured directly on site according to this data. As a result, the conventional planning phase is no longer needed.
robot welding rebar

© ETH Zurich via Designboom

Here the robot is welding the reinforcing bars together into a tight mesh,

concrete filled cavity

© ETH Zurich via Designboom

Tight enough that the reinforcing acts as its own formwork when filled with a very stiff mix of concrete.

finished wall

© ETH Zurich via Designboom

How they get the concrete on the outside of the reinforcing and get it all to bond together is not explained clearly, but they have obviously figured that out, too. The floors will be "a smart slab... a statically optimized and functionally integrated ceiling slab, the formwork of which was manufactured using a large-scale 3D sand printer. "

The finished product will be a three-storey building built mostly by computerized tools working with concrete and timber. Like a conventional building, it uses different technologies for different purposes instead of just squirting everything out of a nozzle like some of the other attempts at printing houses; this is a real building with real complexity. It may well be the future of the building industry. More images at Designboom.