Why are walls always straight? Why does it cost so much to build them? And why do big construction projects so often run late? Construction has always been a conservative industry, used to doing things how they have always been done.
But a new wave of innovation is coming, which will change what buildings look like, how they are made, and who wins in the new era of the construction industry.
Architects have always been limited by what their builders can actually make. But if robots were doing the building, all sorts of new possibilities open up.
Straight walls partly exist for the convenience of builders and architects - but for a robot, a curved wall is almost as easy. So at the DFAB House, a small test building in the suburbs of Zurich, Switzerland, the main wall follows an elegant, irregular curve. It’s built around a steel frame, welded by robots, which humans would have found almost impossible to construct unaided.
Even stranger, the roof consists of a series of flowing, organic ridges, which look as if they were secreted by a giant insect. Awkward to dust, perhaps, but designed by computer and made with 3D printing to achieve the same strength as a conventional, straight roof, yet with half the weight.
The house, built by Switzerland’s National Centre of Competence in Research in Digital Fabrication, demonstrates what a computer-designed, robot-built house could look like.