At some point in the foreseeable future, housing construction will be transitioning to a computerized process from human contractors.
Several years ago Dr Behrokh Khoshnevis, a USC professor of industrial and systems engineering, theorized a concept of Contour Crafting robots using CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design & Manufacturing) to construct structures. Technologically, we are now getting to a point where this can be accomplished.
Even though the doctor was initially focusing on residential applications, NASA has been developing Contour Crafting for constructing extraterrestrial habitats like the Lunar Construction Project.
The fabrication can be done using large 3D printers in a layer by layer process. 3D printers are already being used in aerospace, automotive, and other industries for constructing prototypes and in manufacturing. All types of materials can be utilized, but a concrete base with composite fibers would make a structure lighter and stronger than present construction materials. Even though this animation shows a simple rectangular structure being built, the architectural design options would be endless.
This manufacturing process would be substantially faster, safer, and cheaper than conventional construction. Imagine a 2500 sq ft custom home, built with all the electrical, plumbing, and finishing done in 20 hours? This system will take a while to implement, but Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, has been supporting the automated construction system, and believes one day full scale housing will be built in hours.
There will be an economic impact, as the construction costs will be substantially less. Home building is one of the only labor intensive areas left in the economy. Excuse my bluntness, but hammer swingers, and plumbers will be replaced by designers and computer programmers.
This transition will not be unlike the US agricultural industry. Over the past century, the percentage of the workforce dropped from 62% to only 1 1/2% of the population. There will a need to convert the education system to accommodate the future workforce requirements… but unfortunately the powers that be haven’t done a good job of it so far.