Watch the bricklaying robot which could solve East Anglia's construction crisis
PUBLISHED: 10:38 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:55 18 September 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
Bricklaying robots which can build a house a day could be the answer to the skills shortage which is holding back East Anglia's construction industry, according to a new survey.
Research published by Altus claims the UK’s construction industry is more receptive than any other country in the world to using drones and robots on building sites, to make up for the lack of skilled labour available from Europe after Brexit.
However the idea that construction could be taken out of the hands of bricklayers was met with caution by Norfolk house builders.
Paul LeGrice, managing director of Abel Homes in Norfolk, said the technology would have to prove itself first, saying: “I’ve heard about construction robots within the industry, but I don’t know whether or not we would get the same quality or finish that we do with our skilled bricklayers.
“That could be offset by improvements in how quickly a robot could work, and increase production, but for the time being our priority remains to keep local people employed in the industry by supporting our sub-contractors with apprenticeships.”
He added: “I think improvements in technology are important in moving the industry forward, and I won’t say it’s something we wouldn’t consider, but for now we’ll watch to see how the technology performs.”
According to the survey, 47% of the 400 major property developers interviewed predict that construction site robots will bring disruptive change, compared to 34% of firms globally.
British developers were also more likely to see the potential for using drones on construction sites, with 41% predicting major disruptive change, compared with 28% globally.
Altus Group director Ian Wimpenny said: “With EU net migration having fallen to its lowest level since 2012, and record employment, contractors are already struggling to fill vacancies and close skills gaps, so it’s unsurprising that UK developers are more open to disruptive technologies to keep Britain building post Brexit.”
The robots’ manufacturers claim they can lay 3,000 bricks a day, compared with the typical 300-600 bricks for a human bricklayer.
Drones, meanwhile, are used for surveying, inspections and progress monitoring.
Companies such as New York-based Construction Robotics and Australia’s Fastbrick are among the market leaders in new construction technology.
The Altus research also showed that 65% of developers globally are facing challenges with labour shortages.