Who Says You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks? The Case For AI In Construction

Construction Dive Article 4Since its launch in November, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has undeniably caused quite a media storm. In fact, Bloomberg estimates that mentions of Artificial Intelligence and its related phrases have already increased by 77% since last year. Whilst opinions on the topic of AI range from brazen optimism to cynicism and skepticism to down-right horror, what was once thought of as a concept belonging to a distant, technologically advanced future is now our reality. 

In 2019, DataProt’s statistics showed that 37% of businesses and organizations were using AI in one form or another, and with the recent uptick in investment, this the number is sure to increase in the upcoming years. 

Yet, on the other end of the scale, you have construction, one of the oldest and largest industries in the world. A sector that is faced with rising costs (of raw materials, labor hiring rates, or machinery) whilst managing complex challenges around productivity, efficiency and safety. Technology such as AI could hold the answer to its problems, as it has for many other sectors. The question is, then, how does an industry such as construction, which is notoriously slow to implement new technologies, adapt to and embrace AI, and is it worthwhile? 

Worker Safety

Worker safety is a key concern in the construction business, and its relevance is only growing as projects and challenges become more complex. In order to fulfill today's needs, construction safety must improve and evolve by employing the latest breakthroughs in technology. AI-enabled technologies such as robotic process automation, computer vision, and AI-powered cameras can help to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites by monitoring the environment and alerting workers to potential dangers, hazards, or unsafe practices. 

AI’s potential for reducing workplace injury doesn’t stop there. Artificial intelligence analytics can help to identify safety trends and areas that need to be improved. Furthermore, AI can help to automate manual tasks, such as inspection and maintenance, allowing workers to focus on higher-value tasks whilst simultaneously decreasing the potential for injury. All in all, AI has the potential to be a major asset in improving safety standards in the construction sector. 

Productivity and Efficiency 

Completing a construction project on schedule and under budget requires the careful coordination of various operations that create an overwhelming quantity of data. Handling project data and coordinating duties such as scheduling, budgeting, resource management, and project reporting necessitates the attention of numerous full-time staff. Process automation via AI allows businesses to produce accurate, real-time data and optimize critical operations. 

In 2022, Foundry’s survey revealed that whilst 61% of organizations that they polled employ multiple software platforms to conduct daily business activities, less than 40% automate procedures in key areas including budgeting, scheduling, sourcing, and estimating. Process automation improves data accessibility, accuracy, and efficiency. Nevertheless, organizations are not implementing automation effectively, resulting in less efficient procedures. As a result, said organizations frequently rely on largely manual processes, resulting in inefficiencies that diminish productivity, cause missed deadlines, and, in severe instances, may even lead to fines for contractual noncompliance. 

AI-based technologies such as drones, augmented reality, and robotic process automation can help make construction processes faster and more efficient. For example, drones can be used to survey construction sites, while augmented reality can be used to provide workers with detailed instructions on how to complete tasks. Moreover, AI can also help to streamline communication between stakeholders, allowing for better collaboration and coordination. 

Cost Savings and a Green Future

2022 was a challenging year, for construction and many other sectors globally. High energy prices, soaring interest rates, and a general economic slowdown have resulted in the construction industry’s short-term outlook being hampered by significant levels of uncertainty. 

A recent report by Atradius states that labor shortages have become a major concern in mature markets. Wage costs for builders are rising in many mature economies due totight labor markets and a shortage of skilled workers. Moreover, Atradius predicts that building expenses will rise in 2023. Additionally, global efforts to achieve a lower-carbon future will continue in 2023 and beyond, with ever greater investment in renewable energy generation and green infrastructure. 

AI can contribute to this change by improving the design process. It can be used to generate optimal designs that are both efficient and cost-effective; it can analyze data from previous projects and create a design that is tailored to the specific needs of a project. This improved design process can result in buildings and infrastructure that use less energy and materials, thus with a lower cost base. 

AI can also be used to monitor energy consumption and identify where it is being wasted. By using AI to detect energy-inefficient areas in production, construction companies can reduce energy costs and improve their environmental footprint. Likewise, AI can be used to reduce construction waste and improve recycling efforts, whether it is the use of robotics to sort construction waste, or AI-powered technologies to identify recycling opportunities and suggest ways to reduce waste. 

Thus, AI can become a powerful tool in helping the construction sector work towards a greener future. By improving the design process, monitoring energy consumption, and reducing waste, construction companies can reduce costs and improve their environmental footprint. AI technology is making it easier than ever to create a more sustainable, cost-efficient future for the construction industry. 

This article was written by Angelica Krystle Donati from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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