Editorial Feature

The Role of AI in the Future of the Construction Industry

Our world is evolving by the day, and the construction industry is no different. Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI, is playing a large role within this area. However, on the general topic of AI, the examples that first come to mind are self-driving cars and chess-playing computers - how do these incorporate into construction technologies?

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These technologies rely on ‘deep-learning’ and natural language processing, in doing so these systems are trained to execute specific tasks by analyzing large streams of data and recognizing patterns in said data. Other features of AI are its ability to adapt and learn through progressive learning algorithms. (SAS)

The adoption of these technologies has permeated through to the construction industry where construction managers aim to utilize intelligent machines to perform tasks that reduce the time needed to execute tasks and improves the accuracy and understanding the problems faced in the construction industry

There are two types of AI being utilized by the construction industry namely; construction tasks and planning and organizational tasks (National Ocean Service).

In construction tasks, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is used for detecting shipwrecks, mapping a seabed which can show obstructions that can be a hazard to other seafaring vehicles both commercially and can also be used for military purposes.  The main advantage of the AUV is that it conducts its mission without the need for operator intervention where the data will be downloaded and processed after the units return to a pre-programmed location. Fugro and Oceaneering are companies that offer this service.

An example of this is the New York-based firm, Construction Robotics, which has developed and patented a machine called a Semi-Automated Mason (SAM) with the capability to lay up to 3000 bricks per day. Utilising this machine would lead to lower labor costs, improved health and safety as a result and consistent production. While technologies such as these are in its infancy, its widescale adoption could have serious consequences for the general labor force.

In planning and organizational tasks, Building Information Modelling (also known as BIM) is thought to be (and can be used as) 3D modeling, but its systems can incorporate 4D (time), 5D (cost), 6D (Operation), 7D (Sustainability) and 8D (Safety). This multipurpose capability of BIM adds an indefinite number of dimensions to the model for a total outlook. This allows all the history of a specific project to be recorded not only from a construction point of view but management decisions to be present in a single database. This system not only provides a database for future projects on the same site for tracking work that has been done but problems encountered on a project can be viewed by others in similar situations to improve engineering solutions.

Virtual Assistants come into the tail end of the service aspect of the construction industry, post construction.

AI systems can be utilized within the structure and be accounted for during construction, in the case of pre-cast systems. In 2016, $1.5 billion was invested in the US by companies looking to tap into this market.

This can be seen in the hotel chain Wynn announcing that every room in its Las Vegas breach would feature an Amazon Echo. The use of near voice commands (NVC’s) in this system allows for the control of temperature, lighting, and audiovisuals by the visitor. (Debney, 2018)

It is known that AI’s can work collaboratively with engineers to save time and labor and make projects more economically efficient.


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