Man’s early existence began as nomadic hunter-gatherers then advanced to building structures with permanency which created the infrastructure for our modern cities and countries.
At present 3D printing has ushered in cutting edge technology in regards to the construction industry. 3D printing has resulted in positive changes in the construction industry including “reduction of the costs and time, minimising the pollution of environment and decrease of injuries and fatalities on construction sites.” The technology is in the infancy stage with the accompanying growing pains such as quality control but those are being addressed.
“Companies worldwide are automating the construction of homes, offices, and other structures through techniques like 3D printing, robotic finishing, and automated bricklaying. And as more join this club — and governments and investors ramp up their support — the possibility of automation soon becoming the norm in construction is not so farfetched, addressing construction efficiency, sustainability, and even labour and housing shortages.” In regards to cost “the company can produce its units in 2 or 3 weeks, at a cost that’s about 40% lower than similar-quality construction and with almost zero construction waste..”
A second trend is a reversion to sustainable and green building where a green building is “a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.” Materials such as bamboo are used for sustainable building. Other sustainable materials for building are mud and clay bricks. They are said to have “minimal environmental impact and are an affordable building material.” Strawbales are another example of sustainable housing using natural resources.
Today, materials such as Aircrete which is concrete with bubbles is a new trend in the construction industry. Aircrete is used since it is a “lightweight, non-toxic substance” used for housing basically using air and concrete. One advantage of Aircrete is that it can used for unsual shapes in construction including a circular domed building. Second, Aircrete is said to use less resources for construction.
These new-aged technologies and sustainable measures are said to protect the environment where “a clean environment is essential for human health and well-being.” For example, the negative effects of sand mining a critical ingredient for construction “continues to drive biodiversity loss, exacerbates flood risk in removing natural barriers to storm surge such as dunes, affects the livelihoods of fishing communities and even fuel conflict.” Sand is a non-renewable resource with sand depletion increasing and the corresponding negative fallout. Biodiversity matters as it is said that “biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.”
Technological advances especially in the form of automation and artificial intelligence are expected to cause major disruption and displace human manpower in the construction industry. This is expected to result in major layoffs in the construction industry. What happens to our youths who are the key labour force in the construction industry when automation is the new norm in the construction industry?
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programmes are the basis for robotics. In regards to robotics in the construction industry “robotic automation offers huge potential to enhance productivity, efficiency and manufacturing flexibility.” Thus, each and every young individual owes him/herself a duty to seek out knowledge and the know-how of navigating the new internet age. Second, we the older ones owe a duty to guide and encourage our youths to excel. Our youths are required to be tech-savvy and learn software programming skills to complete in the new construction computer age for continued success.
The day would arrive where a trowel and hammer may no longer be needed in construction but rather the computer and know-how of understanding how to navigate the new software for building technology. The need for physical, low skilled labour is expected to decrease as “modular and prefabricated construction is becoming more common. This work can happen in a factory environment with automated tasks.” The construction industry has boomed and acted as the driver of Grenada’s economy during the height of Covid-19 where the majority of labour is physical and low skilled done by our youths.
The old adage, “education lifts you out of poverty” still stands as with each generation. Tertiary education institutions such as TAMCC offer courses in information technology and building technology. Training institutions such as the Grenada National Training Agency help to provide certification to individuals in the construction industry to meet their goals for certification. The opportunities are there and one simply needs to take advantage of the many avenues for education and development. For the September 2022 cohort, SGU is expected to expand its information technology offerings. Grenadians are blessed with very low cost for post-secondary education compared to countries such as Canada, the United States and UK due to various government initiatives including scholarships. Students are provided with a world-class tertiary education which is accredited by Caribbean and global educational institutions thus making our youths more marketable in the global marketplace.