by T Mackenzie
Can we build a machine to print houses?
We can. Drawing on existing technologies and materials, we can build a mobile machine that recycles construction waste to print custom houses. The Print our Home team have detailed plans for doing so. However, being able to automate construction raises a second question:
On production cost savings alone, automation is widely held to be inevitable in the current market structure (McKinsey Global Institute). Yet a process that stands to affect 5% (CCQ) of the Quebec workforce and that aims to significantly reduce building costs is a machine that will have a profound social effect.
The construction workers and engineers of Quebec are global leaders. In order to remain so, we must adapt. Expertise and experience with large-scale automation and green building technologies are a viable focus for our workforce, our industries, and our training centers.
In addition, construction automation benefits individual workers by reducing the cost of a home by tens of thousands of dollars – up to 35% off a new home with certain techniques. At average prices and mortgage rates in the suburbs of Montreal, this can represent $ 150,000 or more per family over 25 years.
Above all we consult with and respect the needs of the people who may be affected, such as: investors, family and friends, local communities, Kahnienkehaka, Anishanaabe, other First Nations communities, and all others, in a spirit of equity.
We have found that automation and processes related to “Industry 4.0” has other social benefits. They relieve labor shortages, improve the health and safety of job sites, and allow small businesses the economies of scale previously only available to large companies.
We consider the possible effects of our decisions on people and on the planet. We integrate our projects into the local community, to the mutual and long-term benefit of everyone in our region. (To do so, Print our Home have undertaken a long-term data-based and philosophical study of the effects of our technologies and activities: Discussion: Automation and Quality of Life in Quebec).
The demands of planetary stewardship require innovation, too. Thankfully, there is a growing body of research and real world examples of the tools needed to transition to a sustainable economy.
How do we do it right?
What new tools? Do they still satisfy financial bottom lines? Solutions are emerging, things such as full cost accounting (HRH Global Accounting Initiative, Bookkeepers Can Save the World), reduced work weeks (Forbes), basic Income pilot projects in multiple countries (Toronto Star), self-management, and robust open information and maker movements that are rocket-fuelling innovation.(Open Source Hardware Association, Baylor University)
The choices involved in technology are, in the end, the same as in other human endeavors: Can automated construction be done? Yes. Can it serve our needs? Yes. It comes, and we get to drive.