FBR-CRH Ventures Deal Signals Uptick in Adoption of Construction Robotics

Partnership to Propel Materials, Robotics Advancements

In recent years, the construction sector has witnessed a profound transformation driven by technological innovations. Among these innovations, advancements in robotics and other machinery have emerged as game-changers, revolutionizing traditional construction practices and offering new possibilities for the materials subsector. From automated material handling to 3D printing with new materials, the integration of robotics and advanced machinery has the potential to substantially impact the way materials are sourced, manufactured, and utilized in construction projects.

Last week, BuiltWorlds Venture Forum member, CRH Ventures, announced that they finalized an agreement with Australian-based robotics company, FBR, for a demonstration program of their Hadrian X technology. CRH Ventures is the venture capital unit of CRH, a global leader in building materials solutions. With its $250M venture and innovation fund, CRH Ventures invests strategically in start-ups across five focus areas including Next Gen Products, Decarbonization, Industrialization, Digitalization, and Marketplaces.

"This collaboration exemplifies CRH Ventures’ dedication to investing in innovation and transformative new technologies. By leveraging FBR's cutting-edge robotics and CRH’s position as the leading building materials supplier in the U.S. we aim to reinvent the way our world is built by redefining how homes are built, contributing to a more efficient and sustainable future."

Eduardo Gomez, Head of CRH Ventures

An arrangement like this isn’t surprising considering the amount of venture activity in the space; over the last 12 months, our team has cataloged 60+ deals specifically relating to materials and robotics across the AEC industry from pre-seed to later stage, which we segment into Building Tech, Construction Tech, and Infrastructure Tech, with the most recent investment being made in United Kingdom-based startup Concrete4Change by BuiltWorlds member Zacua Ventures (data pulled directly from BuiltWorlds’ Venture Dashboard 2.0).

The Agreement

FBR's cutting-edge, dynamically stabilized construction robots have brought the speed and precision of indoor robotics into outdoor, uncontrolled environments. FBR is commercializing products for the construction sector using Dynamic Stabilization Technology (DST). The Hadrian X robot offers significant improvements in speed, safety, accuracy, waste, and ultimately, cost over traditional block construction methods.

Read FBR and CRH Ventures’ announcement of a binding agreement and the option to access FBR's proprietary technology for roll-out across the U.S., given certain metrics are hit.   

"The agreements with CRH Ventures mark a significant milestone in FBR's journey. We are eager to enter the U.S. market with the support of one of the largest concrete block manufacturers, showcasing our technology's capabilities and commencing our scaling plan."

Mike Pivac, FBR Managing Director and CEO

A New Wave of Innovation Or A Passing Fad?

Historically, innovative materials and robotics have not been discussed in the same conversation, especially considering the industry's notoriously slow-to-adopt mentality. Despite this, we’re beginning to see an uptick in the adoption of construction robotics broadly, which likely can be attributed to a few factors such as a rapidly decreasing skilled workforce, safety considerations, schedule & cost savings, and perhaps increased visibility/promotion of construction technology as a career path in higher education settings. The increased adoption of construction robotics is paving the way for the continued evolution of how materials are handled and manufactured. One example can be the role of robotics and other advanced machinery in contributing to the circular economy by enabling teams to efficiently recycle or reuse materials such as unfinished wood and metal.

However, with all promising opportunities come hurdles to adoption. Generally speaking, R&D costs, the need for additional training, site restrictions, and various compliance/regulatory concerns could impact how disruptive advanced machinery and robotics can be for materials. It will be interesting to see what kinds of materials and projects are best suited for robotics, and which are poorly suited, whether that be FBR’s Hadrian X using a special construction adhesive for each block as it is laid—which cures in approximately 45 minutes and is stronger than traditional mortar—3D printing, prefabrication/modularization, or otherwise.

So what does this mean for construction, materials, and robotics? For starters, if CRH Ventures and FBR successfully roll out the designated number of machines and display their efficacy, it is reasonable to assume that others will follow suit with similar programs. Regardless of whether or not robotics continue to disrupt the space, CRH Ventures and FBR’s agreement, along with other similar partnerships, accelerators, and pilot programs, has and will continue to spawn a new wave of thinking when it comes to innovation of process and material.