by Zohra KhanJan 20, 2020
The future of architecture may be a myriad mix of styles and technologies, and this ever omniscient, ever transforming question may have an answer lying several years into the future. However, what we are looking at here may very well be a feasible, manifestable stepping stone into the future of the project management industry. Designed in its automated behaviour and form to emulate a dog, SPOT has been put to test by Foster + Partners’ Applied Research + Development (ARD) Group as part of Boston Dynamics’ Early Adopter Program to explore the potential of a robot in such a dynamic environment as a construction site. The ‘machine’ is touted to capture changes and progress in the building in real time, being able to compare the “as designed” digital models with the “as built” reality.
In an ever changing, ever engaged landscape such as a construction site, monitoring progress and capturing errors, wherein both these things have real monetary and temporal implications, become the perfect space for testing out the utility of robotics. Amongst several contractors, manual workers and stakeholders on site, SPOT fulfils the need for consistent and precise monitoring of the execution of designs. While certain deviations and lapses in management/communication are bound to happen on site, their timely notification and rectification can help the project not deviate from its timeline and budget too much. This is obviously apart from supervising procurements and logistics, daily, and relaying progress from a fixed frame of reference that ensures precision in everyday monitoring. SPOT’s utility especially shines in the new world order forged by COVID-19, wherein its completely remote operation with minimal management helps produce reliable scans and reports from the site. SPOT is also terrain agnostic and can follow a pre-mapped route repeatedly, while avoiding obstacles and even climbing stairs.
SPOT was employed on one of Foster + Partners’ new upcoming projects in London itself, the Battersea Roof Gardens mixed-use project, part of the Battersea Power Station Development. The team devised a test map to set up the missions and areas SPOT would need to follow on the site, keeping in mind certain areas and the specific data it needed to capture. SPOT was deployed on the construction site on a weekly basis, running the same missions, yielding a sequence of highly comparable, consistent models allowing for real time progress management. The robotic dog by Boston Dynamics was also employed to construct a digital twin of the Foster + Partners campus in London, allowing the team to build a “four dimensional” model, showing how the space changes over time.
On the future promise that SPOT offered, Adam Davis, Partner, Foster + Partners, said, “Combining temporal and spatial information with data from sensors that read environmental conditions and occupancy, we can construct an intricate model of how people, furnishings and environmental conditions interact. This, in turn, helps us to operate our premises more efficiently and to anticipate how new designs will perform”.