Automation, Robots and the College Campus: A Case Study on the Future of Design

Automation continues to find its way through manufacturing, service, and retail. The construction sector is also seeing a dramatic increase in robotic automation, drone usage, and machine learning to help complete projects, opening up new possibilities for architects and general contractors.

In more countries around the world, factory built homes, through the help of robotics, have become increasingly popular. In Sweden, for example, around 40 percent of residential dwellings are prefabricated by robotic builders. This technology has shown promise for an industry mired by low employment, waste, and struggling productivity growth.

The case is no different in Milan, where Italian architect Carlo Ratti’s firm has begun construction on a new science building on the campus of the University of Milan. Mr. Ratti is not employing typical construction workers to do the job, however.

The external facade of the building will be constructed and designed with the help of robotic workers. The exterior brickwork has the ability to be reconfigured in the future and will be designed to the style of renaissance-era academic buildings.

Ratti, a professor at MIT, is no stranger to employing robotic aides throughout various industries. The Italian architect has also developed a plan for the district the campus is located on to be the “first neighborhood in the world” to accommodate self-driving cars. Using Wi-Fi enabled poles connected to a fleet of monitoring drones, Ratti is hoping to revolutionize Italian roadways to adapt to the new era of self-driving vehicles. As the construction sector continues to show a costly fall in productivity worldwide, robots could very well be the solution to quicker, waste-free, and affordable alternative to traditional human builders.

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