Robotic technology pilot underway on mass timber building at Murdoch Uni in WA

11 May 2022

David Rowlinson

World-first robotic technology is been trialled on the construction site at Murdoch University in Perth. Delivery partners at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have developed a purpose-built robot to address cumbersome screw fixings on the mass timber building, in what has been classed as a world-first operation.

The robot, which is equipped with wheels and a six-axis arm, is being used to install the industrial-sized screws that secure the timber framing to the wooden floor.

Building 360 will be a high-tech, engineered timber project – the largest of its kind in Western Australia to be constructed from locally sourced timber. The proponents are committed to achieving a 6-star Green Star rating for sustainability.

“Mass timber is a completely renewable resource and a more sustainable construction material than conventional steel or concrete, which is a huge contributor of greenhouse gas emissions globally,” said Murdoch vice chancellor Andrew Deeks. “The building will also have a large array of photovoltaic cells to supply its power needs.”

The use of robotic technology on the project is only a pilot at this stage, but building partner Aurecon estimates the productivity gains of the technology could be substantial.

Aurecon anticipates that the robot may save between 15 and 20 per cent on the construction schedule, as well as reduce the margin for error and ensure better work safety. There are around 300,000 screw fixings on Building 360, and the robot is being trialled on the installation of 50 to 100 fixings as part of the proof of concept.

Aurecon’s managing director for built environment Tim Spies said the pilot project showed that the timber industry could lead the way in improving construction project outcomes through the new technology.

“The project’s immediate objective is focused on a proof of concept, to demonstrate the robot’s capability of installing screw fixings in an accurate manner,” Spies said.

“The long-term objective is to prove that the modular nature of timber construction will benefit from the automation of some on-site construction activities, helping to increase productivity, reduce cost, improve workers’ occupational health and safety, and advance innovation in the construction industry.”

Article first appeared in ArchitectureAU

Photo of the author: David Rowlinson
David Rowlinson

David hails from Lancashire, England and has lived in Australia since 1994. He studied Architecture at Sheffield University and also has an MBA from Macquarie University and a Master of Marketing from UNSW. Prior to joining Planet Ark in 2016 David was Marketing Manager then CEO of a major Sydney-based manufacturer of modular carpets used in all commercial building applications. His proudest achievement was the development of an industry-leading environmental sustainability agenda, including the unique Earthplus product reuse program.

Recent Articles