- The UK could lose almost one-third (600,000) of its construction jobs by 2040, according to new research from Mace.
- Bricklaying is expected to be among those jobs hardest hit by what has been dubbed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." The loss in human-necessitated jobs, though, could help close the UK's productivity gap, adding another £25 billion to its economy during the period.
- The group recommends expediting the use of technology both in training and on the job site to prepare an already short supply of skilled workers to handle new anticipated needs.
Though it's unclear the extent to which automation will enhance, disrupt or completely replace construction jobs, new advances have already formed a solid foundation for the technology's potential to alter the industry.
In October, San Francisco-based startup Built Robotics unveiled its autonomous track loader. The self-driving Bobcat tractor can excavate holes for building foundations at human pace — but it can do so for up to 24 hours each day.
Last year's reveal of Hadrian X, a bricklaying robot manufactured by Australian company Fastbrick Robotics, marked the first in a string of technological advancements that would pique industry interest in automation. The truck-mounted arm, expected to go into full production in 2019, is capable of laying up to 1,000 bricks an hour. That unprecedented feat likely helped pave the way for the company to snap up $2 million in funding from Caterpillar earlier this year.
Caterpillar is also investing in its own automated capabilities. Self-driving, 300-ton mining trucks debuted earlier this year, demonstrating how autonomous and human-operated heavy equipment could interact together on the job site. Two of these self-driving trucks have already been placed on customers' sites, though Caterpillar hopes to see more than 100 of their counterparts in use by the end of 2017.
Offsite construction is another advancement that could shake up the industry. Though the method has been used by some contractors for decades, offsite is gaining ground as budgets grow tighter and skilled workers become increasingly difficult to find. Tech companies will likely help drive more widespread adoption of the method as more general contractors begin to partner with prefab companies.