Rise of the machines | The robots entering real estate

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Emma Gordon

It’s more than 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci is said to have sketched plans for a machine built in human form. Unlike the renaissance man’s mechanical knight, apparently designed to move fluidly in combat, today’s robots are being put to work across the property sector for more peaceful pursuits.

What type of robots operate in the property sector?

From building cars to soldering motherboards, robots have been in widespread use for precision tasks for years.

But sensor advances now allow these machines to “see”, so they’re being used increasingly in areas such as facilities management to perform tasks like cleaning floors, washing windows, and gardening.

In 2016, Hilton announced it was testing an artificial intelligence-powered concierge robot for its chain of hotels in the US through a partnership with IBM’s Watson program.

Some agents are already deploying robotics to carry out real estate viewings.

In construction, machines are used to 3D print building components and “work” as masons.

Why are robots important?

Productivity, efficiency, safety, accuracy, profitability… the list of benefits goes on.

With automated systems manufacturing parts and materials will potentially be much more consistent, of higher quality and, because of accuracy and precision, the technology can help reduce waste.

So, let’s take a look at just a snapshot of some of the companies working in this area now.

Zenplace Property Management | With hundreds of tablet-carrying robots operating across California, the San Francisco-based firm says expansion of its robotic viewing service to the UK is on the “roadmap.” The robots — essentially moving video monitors — allow estate agents to give prospective tenants remote tours. And they’re capable of 15 to 20 showings a day unencumbered by frustrations such as traffic jams that increase the time people spend travelling between viewings.

Construction Robotics  | Designed and engineered SAM100, a semi-automated mason. SAM is a brick-laying robot with a number of projects already under its belt and benefits including, the company says, an increase in masons’ productivity by up to five times, while reducing lifting by at least 80%.

Fastbrick Robotics | “Imagine printing the walls of the house with a machine that you drive up to the site and set up by unfolding a boom.” That’s the opening salvo on this Australian company’s website. Working from the original CAD files, Fastbrick says its soon-to-be-available Hadrian X can construct the walls of an average sized dwelling in just two days. FBR says its first construction robot, Hadrian 105, successfully completed the first block-printed structure from a mobile base 20 metres, or 65 feet, away in 2015.

nLink | Robots that provide precise drilling in construction site ceilings based on drawings or BIM models, allowing for faster project completion, according to the Norwegian firm.

Guide Robots DFAB HOUSE MeshMould

ETH Zurich’s robot helped build the DFAB HOUSE here cracking on with some mesh-mould work

ETH Zurich | Last year, the Swiss university announced some of its professors — along with business partners — would build the three-storey DFAB house, slated for completion this spring. This claims to be the first in the world to be designed, planned and built using predominantly digital processes, including robots building the walls, and 3D printers that print entire formworks for ceiling slabs.

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