Leave it to Japan. Seriously. I recently stumbled upon this video, which demonstrates the mechanized timber frame building technology that is being employed in Japan to build homes quickly, with little human labor involved.
Japan has one of the richest timber framing traditions, with centuries of experience and a host of complicated styles and techniques that have developed over that time — take a look at The Complete Japanese Joinery book for some intense examples of the work of traditional carpenters.
Well, some of that same timber joinery is now being completely created through the use of highly precise machines. As this video explains, a single factory with less than half a dozen human employees makes all of the timber for 800-1000 homes in a single year using this “precut” method. Gulp.
Japan, as always, seems to be a culture fusing both the new and old continuously, in often striking, or contradictory ways. In one sense, it’s great that they are preserving timber framing in new construction, but it is also extremely disheartening that the human input is so incredibly little in the process.
Will the knowledge be lost if only machines are left to make the joinery? How long can one expect to have the huge energy inputs to run a factory like this, anyway?