Can Artificial Intelligence Change Construction?

For a considerable period of time, the construction industry has been lagging behind in implementing AI technology. But now, it seems that the industry is finally ready to embrace Artificial Intelligence and undergo a technology revolution. The main aim of adopting AI in construction is to make the industry more efficient and provide a safer workplace to workers, as construction is considered one of the most dangerous professions in the world. So, can Artificial Intelligence change construction and increase productivity, safety, and other critical areas of the business? Let’s find out.

So far, the construction industry has been slow in adopting the latest technology. But, things might a different turn for the better in the near future. According to a recent McKinsey study, artificial intelligence will be “construction technology’s next frontier.” AI, according to a McKinsey analysis, could offer extensive benefits to the engineering & construction industry.

Carlos Serra, a Managing director at JJL, a global real estate management firm, is of the opinion that impact of AI is, at best, 5 to 10 years off, mainly because of the lack of standardization in the construction industry. So, it will take some time for the construction industry to experience radical changes due to the adoption of AI and IoT.

Maciej Kranz, IoT expert and VP of strategic innovation at Cisco, said, “With AI, users can learn patterns that lead to failures and make predictions such as construction equipment failing if it is not serviced after a certain amount of time.” He further added,  “The AI system might also recommend how to operate the equipment to maximize its useful life, offering trade-offs between performance and longevity.”

So, in the coming days, AI is anticipated to alter business models in several areas of the construction industry such as logistics, finance, customer-relationship management, support, training, and workflow. Predictive AI solutions can provide critical insights for better decision-making by forecasting project risks, constructability, as well as the structural stability of technical solutions. AI can make testing of various materials more efficient and less time-consuming.

Further, image recognition technologies can handle the issues related to quality control such as early detection of critical events, safety risks, unsafe worker behavior on project sites, etc. AI can ensure better safety for workers on construction sites with smart helmets and vests that can track biometric data and also by monitoring construction sites with the help of image recognition technology.

Presently, the most common uses for AI in construction are scheduling and risk mitigation. Risk mitigation refers to the prevention of injury to workers and predictive equipment management. AI can analyze complex, voluminous construction documents and project plans within a few minutes and thus, can provide critical business insights to business development managers for better decision-making. This can help increase both productivity and profitability. AI can gather and analyze data from all the stages of a construction project and thus, reveal inefficiencies and weaknesses in various processes. This will translate into better productivity, cost reduction, and an increase in efficiency.

The applications of AI in construction is still at a nascent stage, but it is gaining momentum slowly. However, it will face some challenges such as cultural resistance to change, security, and the all-pervading notion that AI is a job killer.

Nevertheless, some positive developments have already taken place in the market. For instance, IBM and Fluor, a global engineering and construction company, have partnered with an aim to leverage the supercomputer’s computational skills to make building more efficient. Another example is the new Watson-based system, which has been in development since 2015. The system will be able to analyze a job/construction site and it has already been used in some select projects.  

Apart from these, some other ACE firms are creating their own systems. Los Angeles-based engineering firm, AECOM has introduced a new web and mobile platform Capture, which can analyze construction sites continuously and can also prepare a 3D model at any point in time.  

To sum up, AI will definitely change construction for the better. But, it will take time before we see a widespread application of AI in all the stages of construction.

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