If Behrokh Koshnevis has his way we may soon see the first house entirely constructed by robots. Koshnevis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California is revolutionizing the process of CAD/CAM technology, which ‘prints’ out a computer model as 3-D object using layers of plastic. Kohsnevis’ Contour Crafting automated system uses a giant computer-guided nozzle to lay down layers of concrete, while the machine’s robotic trowels give the walls shape.
Now Caterpillar, the world’s biggest maker of construction equipment, has announced it will fund research of Koshnevis’ robotic building machines through a grant to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The goal is to build a complete house in just a single day. This not just a way to crank out cheap suburban tract homes-thought that’s clearly on the minds of executives at Caterpillar. Koshnevis makes the case that this technology could provide affordable housing for millions in poverty or for those who find themselves victims of a natural disaster.
The idea of a robotic building machine sounds like a nightmare for architects, but the invention of any new technology has always been met with trepidation, not to mention howls of derision. Painters swore photography meant the end of painting. Instead, artists started using cameras in unorthodox ways and painters felt free to push the medium far beyond the need to be representational. There is no doubt architects will find ways to creatively engage the robot builders of the future. The fate of human construction workers may not be so bright.