Construction Robots in Service!!
Automated Construction Workers for Habitat for Humanity
by James Matl, Gabriel Tello, Bobby Dwyer, and Yerania Hernandez
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy days to read our pitch on our idea for the future of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity has been a very beneficial organization to society since its inception in 1976, but more can be done to improve its efficiency. My team and I propose that Habitat for Humanity adopt the emerging technology of automated construction workers. This website discusses how this innovation will help fix problems such as a lack of volunteers, unskilled workers, and safety risks to volunteers. Visit their website here to learn more! http://www.habitat.org/
What's the Problem?
Robots are Cost Effective
Habitat for Humanity has provided over 4 million people with homes since its inception in 1976, and new technologies can help to double that number faster than ever thought possible (“Putting Habitat”). Automated construction workers are a cost effective way to help Habitat for Humanity become more efficient and helpful to society than ever before.
Habitat for Humanity is in need of automated construction workers to perform specific tasks effectively and efficiently that volunteers normally perform. Currently, week long trips can cost volunteers an average of $2000 which results in a lack of volunteers and a need for more (“Global Village”). This creates a high cost and low turnout of volunteers for the organization. In addition, the untrained volunteers often build sub-par quality housing that leads to problems for the owners (Leland). These houses lead to many problems for the very people they are trying to help. Lastly, volunteers with little preparation are put in danger and can likely get injured (Murillo). When workers get injured, Habitat for Humanity often has to provide money to take care of the volunteers as long as their injury lasts. All of these problems create a need for better efficiency in Habitat for Humanity.
Three criteria to be met for a solution to be acceptable. First, it has to fit the budget for Habitat for Humanity. It does this. Currently, construction robots can cost as much as $650,000, but new technologies are exponentially decreasing this cost in the next few years (Cook). In addition, the organization will see a return on investment in three years or less. Secondly, the solution has to provide professional work. The solution fits this because these machines can do a better job than most experts with years of experience (Markoff). Third, it has to have an efficient implementation. The solution does this. Crossland Construction Company saved $850,000 by implementing automation (Kronos). Habitat for Humanity can do the same by adopting automated construction workers. Although it is a large initial cost, it pays out and will save money long term. Habitat for Humanity needs to adopt automated construction workers in their projects. As a relatively new technology, many people might believe that this is way too expensive and unreliable; however, they are wrong. As the demand for automated construction workers increases, the price will drop and Habitat for Humanity will save money. It is also efficient because they perform work much safer, faster, and better quality than volunteers can. The organization, volunteers, and people being served all benefit.
Luckily, the question of whether this solution will work and save money is already being answered by companies such as Crossland Construction Company who have already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by implementing this technology. Automated construction workers will reinvigorate Habitat for Humanity by reducing the number of required volunteers, creating professional quality homes, and keeping workers safe. Without automated workers, Habitat for Humanity will continue to lose volunteers and build poor quality housing for the same price as other companies. These robots are a fairly large capital investment, but the returns are well worth the cost. Automated construction working are about to become the next big thing, and investing now will put Habitat for Humanity at the forefront of global charities. This solution will be very cost effective and provide quality homes to people all around the world at a price they normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
Robots Reduce the Number of Volunteers Needed
Technology has become such an influential part of our lives and has also provided the answers for many of today’s greatest challenges. Similarly, with the use of technology such as automated house building robots, Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer issues could be drastically diminished.
One of the biggest problems faced by nonprofit and charitable organizations aside from funding may be the lack of resources including volunteers. Consequently, the lack of volunteers has the ability to create various problems. For example, according to a news article published on WKOW on June 18th, 2015, the lack of volunteers for Habitat for Humanity caused house projects to be delayed in Reeedsburg, Wisconsin, resulting in families being left homeless. It is clear that the huge dependence on volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and not being able to meet the need creates various issues.
After consideration of the issue regarding volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, criteria was established to bring about a solution. First, the solution should aim to reduce the reliance of volunteers. Second, the solution should be efficient in work. Lastly, the solution should require minimum human input. As a group, we believe that automated house building robots can fix the issue regarding the lack of volunteers, as well as many other issues, by aiding with the bricklaying aspect of the house project. Through evaluation of the solution, it was decided that this in fact met the criteria. First, the robots would decrease the reliance on volunteers. According to an article published on Gizmag by David Nield on June 30, 2015, Australian engineers built a robot named Hadrian that can create brickwork 20 times faster than humans. By using robots such as Hadrian, Habitat for Humanity could benefit by not having to rely on as many volunteers to be able to complete house projects. Furthermore, the robots can help build houses faster and more efficiently. According to the same article published on Gizmag, it was stated that robots such as Hadrian could complete laying brick on houses in just two days. Since these house-building robots have the capability of finishing so quickly, Habitat for Humanity could theoretically build up to 150 homes per year per robot. Additionally, the robots have the ability to free up volunteers to do other work. According to an article published on Digital Trends by Steve Castle on June 29, 2015, these house-building robots use a CAD program to calculate the location of every brick, cut the bricks, and apply the mortar. Since the robots require minimal input or help besides delivering mortar and bricks to the robot, volunteers could be used to do other work that is safer and requires more attention instead of doing skilled work that they may or may not be qualified to do anyway. Lastly, the automated house building robots will only really replace humans in the bricklaying aspect of the house project; therefore, volunteers will still be needed to do other work such as carpentry, plumbing, etc.
A possible scenario for using these robots would be to ship them to a job site as soon as they brick is ready to be laid on the houses and have them finish a new house every two days, which is possible since the robots could work continuously without breaks and could save time since they would not require much setup including scaffolds. However, if the solution is not adopted, the continuation of reliance on volunteers may lead to further delays on other house projects due to the lack of volunteers like mentioned earlier, or it could also lead to the injury of unskilled volunteers such as Ron Mellinger who died while volunteering according to an article published on Lancaster Online by Ryan Robinson on April 5, 2010. For these reasons, it only seems logical that the implementation of automated house building robots is the best option. With the use of this technology, Habitat for Humanity could potentially reduce the number of volunteers required as bricklayers which could greatly help it become a better and more efficient organization.
Robots Reduce Training Required for Volunteers
In the age we live now, a shortage of construction workers and a need to increase construction has led to robotics automating construction and building. To give you an idea of how much faster, a private Chinese construction company was able to raise a 30-story hotel in 15 days through just robotics. In order to develop quality houses that continue to be provided to families at a low-cost, Habitat for Humanity should focus on using automated construction workers.
Urban projects tend to be more complex to deliver and one of the main factors is having suitable staff with the necessary skillsets. In an article written in 2008 by Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, he pointed out that more people were now living in urban areas than in rural areas and that 95 percent of this urban migration was occurring in developing countries. For Habitat, this means an urgent need for low-cost housing in urban areas and therefore, Habitat must be ready to meet some of these new challenges. As previously mentioned, the Fairway Oaks development made it possible for many low-income people to have a home of their own. However, John Leland, a journalist from The New York Times in 2008, claimed that seven years later, about 50 of these house owners had problems with their homes, such as cracks in house ceilings and concrete slab foundations.
As a result of the presented issue, I have established three criteria that need to be met for a technological solution to be acceptable. First, there must be a reduction in construction time. Second, there must be a reduction in financing costs. Lastly, it should be user-friendly and safe for volunteers and workers. Therefore, I propose the use of robots that automate construction and building, due to their rapid results, better budgeting of materials and resources, and there easy button operations. Julia Sklar, a journalist from MIT Technology Review in September 2015, stated that robots lay three times as many bricks as construction workers. To provide a comparison, while a human lays about 300 to 500 bricks a day, a semi-automated mason, also known as SAM, is able to lay about 800 to 1,200 bricks a day, according to Sklar. Habitat builds for the prosperity of a community and therefore the proper investment in robotics is necessary. According the journalist Jack Nicas in The Wall Street Journal on January 2015, automating constructions helps mitigate any shortage of staff that needs to have certain skills to get the construction. Sklar also addresses having a human with one SAM is equivalent in productivity to having four or more masons on the job. Many pieces of technology might seem tedious to handle, but these robots will already be programmed with their specific tasks. Human operators would only have to monitor progress and handle the more subtle activities.
As a matter of fact, these robots are fairly adaptable, being able to correct for differences between theoretical specifications and what’s actually in site, definitely helping the quality of housing. Automated robots, such as SAM, are not meant to replace humans but instead meant to leverage human jobs, which allow for volunteers to participate in meaningful ways. The reduction of time and cost all add up to a more efficient way of budgeting resources and being able to reach out to more people due to increasing need for low-cost shelters. Having to search for adequate staff that can provide the skill set necessary has been a hassle and will continue as there is a shortage of people in these specified areas. A possible negative effect for my solution is the initial expensive cost for buying just a few of these machines since it might take a couple of years before actually beginning to see a difference. In conclusion, using robots to automate construction is a new technologic solution to address the current challenges the organization is facing, specifically finding specialized workers to perform urban housing projects.
Robots Keep Volunteers Safer
As seen above, Habitat for Humanity is a great charity that builds homes for many people in need of a place to live. But because of the nature of what the charity does it can be very dangerous to work as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Building sites are very dangerous and even people who work construction professionally can still be killed if safety regulations are not followed. But the use of automated robots for some of the more hazardous jobs on site would eliminate the risk of human lives.
Construction sites are very dangerous places. “Construction sites are dangerous places because of the equipment and tools being used.” (pa-workers-comp-lawyers.com). Habitat for Humanity does everything it can to train its volunteers and avoid an accident on site. But when using volunteer labor to construct houses accidents are bound to happen. According to OSHA.gov, in 2014, 874 construction workers died while working on site. These are professional construction workers who are very educated and are still being killed. On a construction site where paid construction professionals are working, OSHA regulates and has safety standards that all companies are required to follow to keep employees safe. But OSHA cannot legally enforce its rules on construction sites where only volunteers work. This means that there is virtually no regulation on a Habitat for Humanity build site except for the few site managers. Volunteers have been killed working for Habitat for Humanity. One man who dies was Ron Mellinger. Mellinger was a 73 year old man who volunteered his time to Habitat for Humanity and was electrocuted on site when a piece of metal he was carrying touched a highly charged wire. He died at the hospital on August 4, 2011. Another example of a lost life was Mel Hechel. According to the Dailyreport.com, Hechel fell through a hole on site that should have been covered, but for some reason, was not. Hechel was not just a volunteer with no construction experience, he was the founder and owner of M.M. Hechel Construction. Habitat for Humanity has even been sued in the injury of a man who, while volunteering, was injured on site. According to leagle.com, Lambert DeVries was climbing up a ladder when he fell off and was seriously injured. He sued and the case was DeVries v. Patterson Habitat for Humanity.
These accidents could have been avoided by using automated robots on site. Robots are being put into dangerous situations every day instead of risking the loss of human life. Robots do not die or complain about a long day of work. Robots are being used to defuse bombs and put out fires. According to Nationalmedia.com, that in 2014 a bomb defusing robot cost about 12 million dollars and cheaper alternatives are being produced. This is an example of a very expensive and valuable robot being put at risk of being reduced to nothing but metal pieces if the bomb was to go off. If this seems like it financially seems unreasonable, you need to ask yourself one question. What is a human life worth?
To sum everything up: the problem is the possible loss of life on a construction site run by Habitat for Humanity and the solution is replacing volunteers with robots for some of the more dangerous jobs. If the solution of using robots on site is implemented then Habitat for Humanity will not only be more efficient in construction because robots never quit, but they charity and its volunteers will be at less risk. This is why Habitat for Humanity should use automated robots on construction sites.
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