4/28/2011

S.MA.R.T. Skyscraper constructed by futuristic robot bees

What to think of this S.M.A.R.T. skyscraper? In particular its workers which have the form of bees? I have a strong interest of this apparent combination of architecture/engineering and robotics, and precisely biologically robotics (or biomimetics). If you remember, I have shared, in a previous post, a video found on the site of Fabricate 2011. This video shows Ruairi Glynn and Bob Sheil's Multiple Axis Robot that is constructing, I presume, a building. The question that this video poses is Robots the future of building?
S.M.A.R.T. Skyscraper © Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han

I concluded this short post with this: Multiple Axis Robot opens up new perspectives for architects and engineers. Consequently this leads to a question, which impacts will the introduction of automation construction, robotics systems have on architecture and engineering? The question may have found a first answer with this project S.MA.R.T. Skyscraper and its hard workers, futuristic robot bees. This project is designed  by Korean architects Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han, both from Seoul. What does S.M.A.R.T. mean? Swarm Manufacturing and Augmented Reality Technology. The principles are to use a combination of digital tool and a positioning system, precisely CAD and LPS (for Local Positioning System) to create and control the robot bees.
S.M.A.R.T. © Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han

These bees are programmed to "augment the structure virtually, turning virtual information and data into physical realities", the architects say.
These robots can utilize cartridges filled with agents which permit them to construct literal physical material. The tower is conductive. The envelope is a responsive system: electricity and data flow throughout the envelope. Thanks to this system, the pulses are directed to very specific locations.
Data displayed by high-definition video cameras which function is to receive and process these data can be requested and controlled via the user's mobile device. As the architects say, as the bees are conductive, "information can be shared between S.M.A.R.T. buildings instantly, providing an unprecedented level of information sharing."
S.MA.R.T. Skyscraper © Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han

So what can we think of this project? As I wrote above (at the beginning of this post), robotic systems and automation construction open up new perspectives in terms of construction. The rising problems regarding construction, such as quality, safety, working conditions require new approaches of constructions. Other problems are added to this list. Given the introduction of new increasing issues like global warming, urban population growth, new technologies, to name a few, revolutionary solutions will be required. Hence robotics and automated construction have the potential to improve the construction field as well as, and generally speaking, architecture and engineering fields. The smarter our societies, the more complex the building construction. Safety will be much more important than before. Human workers will face difficulties to operate in some construction sites, in particular contaminated sites. For example: the construction of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement which, due to the high potential risks on site, such as radioactive dusts, requires an interventions off-site of some parts of this new confinement. With automated process, it enables the possibility to operate on-site without the presence of human workers. Another example concerns new technologies, such as wireless networks, GPS/LPS (General Positioning Systems/ Local Positioning Systems), sensors, etc. Building may be able to communicate with its environment, internally and externally. New Technologies will facilitate (and at a large scale, cities) the adjustment of buildings to environmental constraints. For instance, minimizing energy consumptions. The introduction of new technologies may enhance the performance of building to save a maximum of energy, or better: new technologies can make the building self-sufficient. The introduction of plants (algae, plants) as well as bacteria in the entire building or, in some components, can be accompanied and facilitated with robotics processes. Hence the renewed interest for robotics.
S.MA.R.T. Skyscraper © Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han

Numerous researchers have stated the fact that it is "inevitable that intelligent machines will find their way into construction" (Bernold, 1987). As I just mentioned, the integration of new technologies will require adjustments on constructions on sites as well as in the planning and design phases of buildings and, at a larger scale, cities. Automation of construction can be used as a means of saving costs, reduction of project duration, high quality, and safety.
Biomimetics is one of these examples of this renewed interest for robotics. Architecture and engineering expand their fields of research by developing new bridges with biomimetics, robotics to respond to becoming-complex (or devenir-complex, if we want to use the Deleuzian word of devenir) and intelligent of construction of building. The higher the building, the smarter the facade, the more responsive the building, the more difficult the construction. Biomimetics is the study of adapting design from nature to solve modern problem. Biomimetics means to imitate biological systems. According to researchers on biomimetics — including architects and engineers who link biomimetics to architecture and engineering —, the development of a new class of biologically inspired robots, like these robot bees, will facilitate human intervention tasks: planning/design as well as manufacturing.
Take a look at eVolo 2011 Skyscraper Competition. Which remark can we draw? BIOMSgroup/Maria-Paz Gutierrez's Detox Tower, Geoffrey Braiman and David Bell's Voronoi Tower, Kinchun Ma and Chiawei Liao's Urban Swirl, Julie Defourneaux, Irène Galente, Jean Paillard, Laetitia Paneta, Guillaume Pele and Charles Murzeau's UP2U (Up to You Skyscraper) are among these design proposals that may need the intervention of robotic process from the planning and design to fabrication of the entire tower, or at least, some components like the facade.
S.MA.R.T. Skyscraper © Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han
These skyscrapers appear to be complex, "intelligent". They are announced to be capable of responding to the environmental pressures; they may require the integration of complex systems that only an automated system can offer. In terms of construction, the design of these skyscrapers may require another type of intervention than that of human. Robots, be they biological or not, may facilitate tasks, construction duration, safety, and high quality for these skyscrapers.
To conclude, and back to our S.M.A.R.T. Skyscraper designed by Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han opens up new interrogations, new approaches in terms of constructions. It is clear that the integration of a "smart" system, i.e. new technologies, will require a new way of construction. It will however not limit to construction but will include design-to-production process — computation playing yet more important role in planning and design phase with the advance of CAD/CAM technologies including software, CNC (computational numerical control) machine, etc.

Source: eVolo
See also: Rohana Mahbub's thesis: An investigation into the barrier to the implementation of automation and robotics technologies in the construction industry.
Martin Berthold, "The Return of the future: A second go at robotic construction", in Architectural Design, Vol. 80, Issue 4, (July/August 2010).
Bernold L.E. (1987), "Automation and Robotics in Construction: A Challenge and a chance for an industry in transition", International Journal of Project Management 5(3):1-2

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