You’ve probably heard a lot about the use of artificial intelligence in construction. Robots, drones, intelligent work gear, sensors – it all seems like something that should be in a Star Wars movie rather than on a construction job site. But artificial intelligence is the real deal when it comes to getting construction projects completed on time, on budget, and safely. Here’s how AI in construction is being used, how the right management software can help, and why you’d be wise to consider getting on the bandwagon!
Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning Defined
What’s the difference between artificial intelligence and machine learning? Artificial intelligence is the umbrella term used for when machines execute tasks and perform processes that humans have traditionally completed. This includes things such as problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.
Machine learning is the subset of artificial intelligence that trains a machine to automatically learn from project data construction reporting and improve its performance over time without being explicitly programmed to do so. The machine automatically learns the relationships, patterns, and correlations from the project data it is given and uses that information to predict outcomes or make recommendations.
Artificial Intelligence in Construction
So, what does this mean for construction projects in the real world? Some of the construction industry’s biggest challenges are cost overruns, time or schedule overruns, and construction safety concerns. Using AI in construction can offer more comprehensive solutions for these common issues and many others.
Think of all the documentation and reports generated throughout the lifecycle of each construction project. Wouldn’t you like to have a dollar for every specification book and daily report you’ve slogged through to extract the information you needed to make an informed decision? Manual reporting processes are tedious and time-consuming at best. They are also subject to human error.
That’s where smart construction techniques can help. AI and machine-learning applications can give you the information you need in an easy to understand format. And they can provide it quickly, especially for the construction sector.
Project management is one area of construction where AI can be quite effective. As every project manager knows, it takes proper coordination of hundreds of different moving parts to produce the desired end result in the owners and other stakeholders’ timeframe. Using AI in construction makes the construction process more efficient and glitch-free for construction professionals.
AI is especially useful for estimating construction cost overruns and citing issues that could cause delays. By uncovering and pointing out these potential issues before they occur, project managers can make revisions to the plans, avoiding costly problems and project delays.
Using AI in construction can also enhance overall project planning and job costing by helping provide a better distribution of labor and machinery across jobs. Plus, it can also make scheduling suggestions as to the duration, sequence, and cost of work.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of AI in construction is its predictive capabilities and its ability to run through multiple “what-if” scenarios. What if a permit is delayed? Or, what if a specific material is delayed? AI can suggest the most beneficial way to proceed. Its predictive capabilities really shine when it comes to upfront planning. That’s where it can make a significant difference with communication in construction as well.
For now, the most common uses for AI in construction include scheduling, risk reduction, predictive machine maintenance and injury prevention. Here are some examples of how AI is currently being used in construction.
Generative design. Creating a building plan that meets the owner’s criteria, complies with regulations, and can be completed within the budget and timeframe is one of the most challenging parts of a construction job. Arriving at the best possible option used to require manual scripting of every viable alternative. The planning stage took a great deal of time and was responsible for most construction projects’ delays. Using AI during the planning phase can speed up the process, making it more problem-free, since many alternative solutions can be generated in a short time.
Clash detection. The cables have been installed, and the walls are all closed up. The project is on budget and on schedule. Except for one thing: the cables have been installed in the wrong location. Now, you have to rip out the walls and reinstall the cabling in the correct location. That entails delays and rescheduling of other jobs and resources such as manpower. And that adds to the cost of the project. AI tools can compare the Building Information Modeling (BIM) model against the actual physical construction in progress to point out any deviations and potential clashes so you can make necessary adjustments and avoid headaches like that.
Tool/machinery location. Instead of wandering around the job site or calling other workers and disturbing their work, a worker can use image recognition software to locate a specific tool or another item. All it takes is a query to the AI to find a tool that is not in use. That can save many hours of lost productivity.
Logistics optimization. Transporting material to the job site as quickly and economically as possible is always a challenge, especially with rising transportation costs. Using AI in construction can identify the best transportation methods and the best routes to get the material delivered.
Safety enhancement. AI systems can be equipped with sensors that monitor many aspects of a construction project, including safety. For example, based on what they “see,” AI systems can analyze the risks and warn against potential dangers and hazards. And they do it quickly. In a competition to spot job-safety risks that pitted humans against AI software, the AI processed 1,080 job site photos in less than five minutes, while the humans took more than five hours to complete their assessment!
From pre-construction to post-construction, using AI in construction can make the overall project process go faster and smoother. And that could be the difference between making a profit or barely breaking even.
Why the Construction Industry Needs to Get Onboard with AI
The construction industry is known for being slow to embrace change, but not getting onboard with AI technology will be a big mistake if you’re a contractor. Delays and cost overrun significantly impact nearly 90% of large construction projects. Adopting AI can save companies money by improving worker productivity, job site safety, and project monitoring and providing automatic communication among stakeholders.
Applications for Artificial Intelligence have indicated that it has the potential to increase labor productivity by 40% and bring in construction projects at 10% below budget. Based on the evidence, many companies are recognizing the need to invest in technology to stay competitive in the marketplace. A recent report forecasts that the construction industry will spend more than four billion dollars on AI by 2026. Make sure yours is one of them!