It’s fair to say the construction industry has been slow to adapt to new technology. In fact, construction is one of the least digitized industries in the world. However, there’s a new technology on the horizon that could bring construction into a new phase of growth. That technology, dreaded by some, embraced by others, is artificial intelligence or AI. You may have heard about AI from the new chatbot, ChatGPT, an AI system capable of writing essays and articles that sound like a person wrote them (don’t worry this one was written by a human). But what does AI have to do with construction? This article examines the different ways AI can benefit construction and how companies could potentially implement it.
What Exactly is AI?
Artificial intelligence is a technology that combines large amounts of data and computer technology such as algorithms to enable problem solving. Essentially, AI works by taking large amounts of information and using it to solve an issue, create content, and perform other tasks. Some AI can even go a step further with technology known as “deep learning”. With deep learning, AI “learns” in a similar way to how our brains do; through artificial neural networks that mimic human neural networks. This makes the AI able to learn new tasks and information without human programming. AI with deep learning capabilities can solve even more difficult problems with even larger data sets.
How AI can Benefit Construction: Why AI?
AI is clearly a powerful tool that is sure to cause a stir. By some estimates, AI is even set to boost the GDP by 7%. But how, and more importantly, why, should AI technology break into the notoriously stubborn and slow to adapt construction industry? In short, because AI has the potential to be extremely beneficial for many different areas in the construction industry. AI has the power to streamline the design process, boost productivity, reduce risk, make jobsites safer, improve helpdesk and customer service, improve sustainability, reduce waste on construction sites and much more.
Areas to use AI in Construction
1 | Design
AI will have the ability to take older designs of projects and create new ones based off of the original. This can help streamline the initial design process while leaving room for changes by the designers.
2 | Productivity & Efficiency
Scheduling, budgeting, and coordinating a construction project is no small task. Often, this involves huge quantities of data. With AI, budgeting, scheduling, sourcing, and estimating could be automated to produce faster, more accurate results.
3 | Safety
Worker safety has always been a big concern in the construction industry. Construction is a dangerous job and AI can help keep people safe. AI cameras and sensors could monitor the worksite and inform workers of hazards before they encounter them. Artificially intelligent robots might actually do more risky or menial tasks and let workers focus on the more complex issues that require a human touch. Additionally, AI could analyze unsafe trends and suggest changes to further improve workplace safety.
4 | Risk
AI could potentially reduce risk by being able to recognize things like flaws in the initial design, events that will cause delays, and material that is incompatible with the project.
5 | Customer support
You probably have already encountered customer support systems that use AI. Any time you “chat” with a robot in an online store for example, you’re interacting with AI. Artificial intelligence can act as a first stop for your customer support needs. Advanced AI may be able to help your customers get answers to their burning questions even when staff is unavailable.
6 | Sustainability
AI has the potential to significantly contribute to making your construction projects more sustainable. AI will likely have the ability to monitor energy levels and point out inefficencies as well as analyze data to prevent over consumption. It may also sort construction waste to determine recyclable materials and suggest ways to reduce waste in general. Perhaps most sustainable of all, AI could take data to generate a design that factors in all aspects of a project to find the most green solutions possible before ever breaking ground.
Artificial Intelligence basically runs on data- and it needs a lot of it to be successful. The problem with data in the construction industry is that it’s often kept close to the vest. A lot of construction companies and entities are hesitant to share their data due to competitive concerns. Without these companies banding together to help AI get more data, it may take longer for AI to be appropriately accurate.
There is a Huge Caveat to using AI for Construction
Machine learning and AI, for now at least, still requires a human touch. ChatGPT, for example, was found to “generate misinformation, incorrectly answer coding problems, and produce errors in basic math.” in some cases.
Still, you may be concerned that AI will replace your job, however, many experts stress that AI should be thought of as a tool rather than an employee. AI can streamline processes by automating some of the more tedious tasks, but it still requires highly skilled human beings to fact-check, analyze, and control each stage and every nuance of a construction project. There is so much at stake in construction projects- safety, time, money, resources- that we cannot fully rely on AI to do the job.
AI could soon become a powerful construction industry tool. As AI tech advances you could soon see it improve efficiency, protect workers, make your projects more sustainable and much more. What do you think? Will AI be able to break into the construction industry?
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