Alabama Construction News

OCT-DEC 2017

Alabama Construction News is the states only bimonthly magazine dedicated to the commercial construction industry.

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HOAR CONSTRUCTION'S CURRENT JOB—the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, Virginia—on the surface looks like many other jobs: a federal courthouse needing renovation. The project requires demolishing and replacing the existing brick façade of the 14-story building, hydrodemo and pour back of the existing parking garage and installing perimeter security and access control upgrades. But setting this project apart is a specific worker on the job site: SAM, a Semi-Automated Mason. SAM is a brick-laying robot designed and engineered by Construction Robotics in New York. The robot can do the work of six masons each day, laying approximately 3,000 bricks per day. This is the first time Hoar Construction has utilized the robot on a job site. This particular project's brick package is worth $7.5 million, and it requires the installation of 470,000 bricks on the east and west elevations of the building. Approximately 3,345 bags of mortar and 478 tons of sand will be utilized in the installation as well. In addition, roughly 945 course of brick will be installed from the brick ledge at the ground to the top of the parapet at the roof of the building. SAM will be used to install the brick work on the main walls on the east and west elevations. "This is a pretty straightforward brick project, so it's an ideal scenario for utilizing the robot," said Hoar Construction's Director of Operations, Alabama Division, Will Watson. "The robot will end up laying about 60 percent of the brick on the job." The robot is computer-controlled, so a technician and two masons are required to utilize SAM. A team member loads brick into the robot and SAM lays the brick and applies a coat of mortar from a reservoir, but a mason must strike the mortar to make it smooth. While it doesn't remove the need for a mason altogether, it does lay the brick itself, so it requires a decreased amount of hard physical labor by a mason. There are numerous other benefits that come along with SAM. One that with it being a federal job—it's being performed under a contract with the General Services Administration (GSA)—it can be difficult to get security clearances for workers. SAM is a way to have all the manpower needed. "The robot is also reliable, you know it will be on the job every day, and it is proven to produce consistent results at around 380 bricks per hour," said Watson. "From a quality control standpoint, it's also great because it operates with extremely tight tolerances. That means there is less variability in the size of mortar joints and things of that nature because it's not subject to human error. It's very consistent." The project started in early 2017 and is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2018.

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