FW-HTF-RM: Collaborative Research: Future of Construction Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

Project: Research project

Project Details


The construction industry faces many workforce-related challenges, including a shortage of skilled workers and high accident and injury rates. The use of robotic technologies to augment construction workers can enable new construction techniques and work opportunities. This project seeks to transform the nature of construction work by removing barriers to the formation of human-robot teams on the jobsite. Working together with skilled trade workers, robots have the potential to lower construction costs through more precise cutting and placing actions that reduce waste. Human-robot teams can also increase safety and efficiency by reducing the risk of overexertion and injury to workers. The investigators will address three specific barriers to the widespread adoption of robotics on the construction site: (1) the lack of clearly defined and fully structured robotic tasks for trade work; (2) the need to understand how robots will be integrated into predominantly human-centric trade worker teams; and (3) the need to identify new knowledge and resource requirements that will support robots on the construction jobsite.

This project explores convergent solutions to overcoming barriers to human-robot teaming in construction, using methods from computer science, construction engineering, and social science to: (a) re-define construction tasks by translating the means and methods of trade work into common actions that can be interpreted and performed by robotic systems, and (b) explore how robotic systems can be integrated into current and future human-robot construction teams, as an integral part of the worker, knowledge, task, and resource networks on the jobsite. To achieve these aims, this research will surface which construction tasks can and cannot be automated or augmented using robotics. Of the processes that are well-suited to robotics, basic design information will be converted into defined tasks and ultimately into instructions for the robot and the conditions needed to perform the action. Shared mental models for introducing robots within trade worker teams will be created, which will assist in determining the role of human-made robotic systems, as either active team participants or simply passive tools. Lastly, a meta-network analysis will study the potential vulnerability of human-robot teams to identify the risks and opportunities for improving the reliability of construction project delivery. These efforts will result in a risk framework for understanding the direct (e.g., safety) and indirect (e.g., network vulnerabilities) risks, as well as unintended consequences, emerging from the integration of robots in the construction work context. Collectively, this research will advance the potential for human-robot teams in the construction industry.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/199/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $698,525.00


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