Construction Disruption: Fastbrick Robotics Editorial Note

Words: Bronzella ClevelandIn this issue of the magazine, we have chosen to cover an impressive new technology for the masonry industry. Covering this type of emerging development is integral to helping you stay ahead of what’s coming, even if the tech is years from being regularly adopted. Fastbrick Robotics, or FBR, is based out of Australia, and is linked to the US through Caterpillar— an investor through a wholly owned subsidiary. I personally had the privilege of meeting with Mike Pivac (FBR’s CEO) and Steve Pierz (FBR’s Chief Innovation Officer) at the World of Concrete last year. Through my conversation with them, I became intrigued at the background, inception, and vision of FBR. Their goal has the potential to disrupt the construction industry in a similar way to the ways Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry and Uber changed the game for taxis. Born out of a home shortage coupled with the skilled workforce shortage in Australia, the Hadrian X is FBR’s brainchild. The Hadrian X does not eliminate the need for humans on a job site. Rather, the proposition is for humans to be safer and use the technology to complete a job with less physical strain and more accuracy. As FBR’s website says, “humans have been laying bricks in the same way for the past 6,000 years.” The one part of their quote I omitted is “until now.” The marketer in me understands why Fastbrick includes the words, but the technology and science behind Hadrian X is a hell of a feat they’ll have to pull off. Likely to happen, but still a work in progress. Through the meetings the MASONRY Publications and MCAA team had with FBR, the more realistic the technology seemed. Trust me, everyone here tried to poke holes in the considerations that are going into Hadrian X, and if they can execute successfully, it’s really going to change things for the whole construction industry, not just masonry. There is no other company out there trying to do the same thing. Obviously, this sort of technology creates a knee-jerk reaction from many that it’s replacing jobs with robots or trying to automate everything. While I certainly see where people are coming from, Steve Pierz repeatedly stressed one thing throughout our conversations. The art of masonry and detail work isn’t what Hadrian is trying to replace, it’s the grunt work of laying block and creating a structure. Masons will absolutely still have a place, but their specific job tasks and roles may change to be more technology-focused. The Hadrian X provides a unique value proposition in that it will demonstrate a technology that can attract younger people to the industry while helping to fill the workforce gap. Additionally, it’s initial debut won’t be in the US, but will instead be tested in markets where there are housing shortages. Further, FBR’s vision uses a proprietary adhesive and can accommodate block sizes that no human would even try and lay. That’s going to mean changes to code and regulations. Big ones, most likely. The Hadrian’s probably not going to be cheap, either, and like the iPhone it’s going to have to prove itself before saturating the market in any meaningful way. Only once the tech is proven by early adopters can it be more affordable. After all that happens, it can become practical for the larger masonry community. Realistically, it’s quite a bit off from making its way to the US, even further off from being adopted by large companies, and the furthest off from being seen on the majority of job sites. But this is where something like Airbnb, Uber, or the iPhone starts. We are covering it from this point onward. We’re going to regularly chronicle the development of FBR and Hadrian X. We will be the only masonry publication in the US with direct access to the latest from FBR and working on stories with the company’s input, so this will be where you want to go for the latest information. A tremendous thanks to both Mike Pivac and Steve Pierz. We had the chance to meet at the World of Concrete and then have the whole team meet with Steve at the MCAA’s office. While there is quite a road ahead in terms of the development of the technology, we’re excited to cover the possible construction disruption.
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