Midwest startup uses AI and robotics to build modern homes
By Laura Cowan
Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.
Terran walls have an adobe structure and are built by drone using AI.
It's no secret lumber costs have skyrocketed, which opens the door to new building materials and technologies. Enter Terran Robotics, a Midwest startup funded by the NSF and recently run through the ODX accelerator to use proprietary AI and robotics technology to build modern homes.
Founder and CEO of Terran Robotics Zach Dwiel tells Cronicle that the company uses custom designed drones to emulate traditional "monolithic adobe" or "cob" structures. The drones are 8.5 feet in diameter with a payload of 100-plus pounds. The machines place building material pieces of about 10-15 pounds each onto each other to build a monolithic wall section in which pieces "are glommed onto each other... as opposed to a wall made of bricks."
After the drone places the material on the wall, it uses a hammer tool to sculpt the wall into the desired shape. This portion of the building process has been in testing, and the company hopes to build its first full-scale wall in the next 1-2 months.
Can AI and robotics really replace traditional building methods? Terran will test their methods as they build their first full home this summer. They are working with several developers in South-Central Indiana who have expressed interest via letters of intent. The plan is to work with a developer on a housing development in 2023.
Terran walls are half the cost and one-quarter the carbon of standard construction.
The Terran walls can be built for half the cost and one-quarter the carbon of standard lumber construction. Dwiel says Terran hopes to build large-scale developments -- even charter cities -- to create a healthy affordable lifestyle for residents while reducing environmental impact.
The building material used by Terran is more than just cheaper and waste reducing. It offers improved soundproofing, fireproofing, and temperature and humidity control. "Paired with passive solar design," Dwiel explains, "homes built with our walls could have energy bills close to zero for several months of the year."
To check out the tech involved, visit Terran's website.