Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Construction

How artificial intelligence is changing the construction industry

Artificial intelligence, more frequently referred to as AI, is fast becoming an everyday worker in its own right. You'd be hard-pressed to find a sector that doesn't utilise artificial intelligence to some degree within its processes, and the construction sector is no exception. Machines possess the capacity to complete an array of tasks, from administration documents to physical tasks like bricklaying. The technology is also being used as an intrinsic part of design and planning within construction. In this article, we explore the manner in which robotics and artificial intelligence are changing the face of the construction industry, and if its implementation can build a more accurate, timely, and safer work environment. Related: Industry leaders discuss building for the future

Key AI areas

Technology is used primarily in four locations within the sector: planning, administration, methodology, and post-construction.

Stage one: Planning

AI can be used in many ways to support the planning and design stages of a project. For example, drones can be deployed on a site to scan and survey the area, offering a wealth of information. From this, blueprints and maps can be built. This task used to be a monumental one that could take many weeks to complete. But with the clever use of robotics, this survey can now be done in a single day. Related: Construction courses

Stage two: Administration

AI has blended seamlessly into the office environment too. Its skills within administration include, but are not limited to:
  • Document exchange — using networks like the Cloud, anyone involved in a project can quickly share documents and data. This replaces the long process of sending across physical paper documents.
  • Plan updates — any changes to the plan can be swiftly reported and shared with everyone. This is vital to make sure the right person is working on the right aspect of the project in the event of a different decision.
  • Availability — a quick glance at software can let the team know who is and isn't available on any given day, and the workload planned accordingly.
Related: 6 bizarre facts from the history of construction 

Stage three: Methodology

With a wealth of data stored at its disposal, AI can now advise engineers on methods in which a project should be constructed by comparing it to past structures or similar obstacles faced by others in the sector working on similar projects. So, if a retaining wall build encountered a certain issue, AI would be able to compare that with other projects over the last 50 years and offer retaining wall solutions. This database access helps engineers with vital decisions, which can be backed up by evidence from historic examples.

Stage four: Post-construction

Once the structure is built, artificial intelligence doesn't leave the worksite. In fact, most new builds have AI woven into the very design of the building. Consider how in the US, $1.5 billion was invested by companies in the area of AI implementation for buildings in 2016. An example of this is the inclusion of an Amazon Echo in every hotel room in Wynn's Las Vegas hotel before the end of 2017. With this technology, guests can use artificial intelligence to adjust their room temperature, turn lights off or on, and control other technology available in the room, like TVs or radios. A lot of modern homes are seeing AI woven into the structure too, with people now able to similarly control their heating settings and electronics with voice commands or smartphone apps. Related: 10 cities with the best architecture  illustration of artificial intelligence in the form of a construction robotic arm

Staying with the project until the end

With the development of building information modelling, also known as BIMs, artificial intelligence remains with a structure throughout its lifespan, gathering information about its planning, construction, use, and eventual demolishing. This means that, in the instance of a decision needing to be made regarding the building's structure or layout, BIMs can be consulted to see if a previous manager had been faced with a similar decision and the outcome of it. Related: Health & Safety Regulations: Protect yourself from lawsuits in construction This information can be delivered by another, more conversational and personal branch of artificial intelligence: virtual assistants. VAs work in tandem with near-field communication to access real-time information from the building's sensors, allowing it to warn engineers about changes to the building, like structural issues. This makes for a quicker response and resolution before the otherwise unseen problem can grow. It's easy to see how effectively the construction industry has implemented artificial intelligence and robotics into its processes. It's also clear what a huge benefit the technology has been, not only to the physical building and work but to elements of safety and time-saving. No doubt we will continue to see AI grow and evolve within the sector, offering new ways to work and cutting-edge building design possibilities. Guest Post written by Professor Peter Debney of Oasys.