The building trade has always been founded on innovation, from the Romans developing concrete to help build their eternal monuments, to the latest cutting edge breakthroughs that are helping tradespeople work better and smarter.
Sometimes the trades create technology that help them in their work - and sometimes they find technology elsewhere that can be put to good use. That’s the case with drone technology, which has soon found use for many tradespeople - especially roofers.
Steve Dudley of north London’s Dudley & Co (pictured above) is an experienced roofer who recently discovered the benefits of using a drone when inspecting roofs and sharing his findings with homeowners.
The roofer, who has more than 20 years of experience in the trade, told us: “Roofing is one of those trades that has a bad reputation because some tradesmen can take advantage of people. Being up on a roof, you can see the things they can’t, so bad tradesmen can suggest doing work that doesn’t need doing or exaggerate a problem.”
The solution for Steve was to share his knowledge with homeowners - by taking as many pictures as possible. “I’ve been using cameras for a long time to take pictures, showing homeowners the things I’m seeing so I can explain the kind of work I need to do. Before and after pictures are a great way of letting people know what’s been done and the difference it’s made.”
So when drone technology began to become more available in recent years, it was the next logical step for a forward-thinking tradesman like Steve.
“Using a drone has been a massive success for me. People are always really interested when I bring it out. It’s perfect for what we do - I can send it up and get a good look at people’s roofs, without the need for going up ladders or putting up scaffolding. It saves time and money, and gives people really quick information on what the problem might be.”
Steve isn’t the only tradesperson who’s embracing new or innovative techniques to get the job done.
Guy Hodgson (pictured below) is a handyman and builder who we met while working on an extension constructed from straw bales. While the material itself may be inherently traditional, he sees it as part of a trend towards new building techniques, especially the use of panel systems - joining together pre-made sections while on site to erect building quickly and easily.
“I think we’ll see more panel systems. Building embraced modular a long time ago, from bricks to plaster boards, but I think panels could be the next step. Windows used to mean building frames and hanging weights for the sashes, now they come on a pallet and you pop them in. Panels speak the language of modern building. It’s very flexible for architects.”
Combine panel systems with eco-friendly materials like straw and clay, along with a few modern additions like solar panels, and you have a build that’s both traditional and contemporary.
Of course, while tradespeople can use new technologies, there are some technologies which look to do away with tradespeople altogether. A few years ago, American company Construction Robotics unveiled SAM (semi-automated mason), a bricklaying robot which can lay 5,000 bricks a day, around six times as many as the average brickie. Large construction firms are already using machines to lay pre-assembled bricks for paving. While they still needs supervising and operating, and can’t be used on every site, it’s a sign that many jobs can be taken over by machines - not just supermarket checkouts.
All these innovations change how tradespeople work, but they also have an impact on us, and our homes. Everything that makes a job easier can mean jobs happen quicker, and often more cheaply - while they can also add to the quality and longevity of our properties. Who knows how tradespeople will work - and how our homes will change - in future?
It’s hard to predict will innovations will come next - but it will certainly pay for tradespeople to keep ahead of the curve.