Construction monitoring by robots

December 16, 2020

This is how digital works: Construction monitoring and (literally) stocktaking has recently been carried out for Foster + Partners by a robot from Boston Dynamics.

Since the invention of the science fiction genre, robots have accompanied us in fantasy as automatic helpers and heroes of everyday life. Although we are still a long way from the fictional human-like automata à la C3PO in reality, robotics is increasingly closing the gap between "fact" and "fiction". In fact, more and more robots are finding their way into all kinds of application areas, at least in the context of research projects. The construction sector is one of them. A collaboration between Foster + Partners and Boston Dynamics shows how helpful the use of robots in construction monitoring could be in the near future.

grafik (7)© Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners

Artificial quadruped Spot®

Spot® looks as if it has its role models in the animal world rather than among humans. No wonder, after all, he is supposed to be able to move safely and autonomously on difficult terrain. The upright gait, which even humanoids usually take more than a year to master, would be more of a hindrance here. Consequently, it has four legs and a firm footing. And he needs it, because the terrain on which Spot is currently moving is the Battersea Roof Gardens construction site. Here, the artificial quadruped must not only be agile and mobile enough to react to changes in its environment, it must also observe them very closely.

grafik (6)© Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners

Consistent high-quality data

Equipped with various sensors, the robot developed by Boston Dynamics walks a predefined route on the construction site once a week, collecting data on its surroundings as it goes. "Spot's ability to repeatedly and effortlessly perform routine scans in an ever-changing environment is priceless not only because of the consistency, but also because of the large amount of high-quality data it collects," says Martha Tsigkari, partner at Foster + Partners. With the help of this information, construction progress can be matched against both schedules and the 3D building model. The prerequisite, of course, is building based on BIM.

grafik (4)© Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners

Spot in the inventory: digital twin in 4D

The regular, highly precise comparison between the target and actual status allows construction-related errors and deviations to be quickly identified, which could otherwise have a negative impact on later work or even the construction quality. Furthermore, another field of application for Spot is in existing buildings. Before it was unleashed on Battersea Roof Gardens, Foster + Partners had already used it on their own campus in London. Here, the data was used to create a digital twin in the form of a 4D model that shows how the space changes over its useful life. From this, the architecture firm is now in turn drawing conclusions for more efficient building operation and the performance of future designs.

grafik (5)© Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners