Within the construction industry, artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to change the way buildings are designed, constructed and utilised after construction. Artificial intelligence is where machines exhibit their own intelligence through using algorithms to solve problems using inputted data. By harnessing robotics, construction managers can utilise intelligent machines that can perform routine tasks that were once completed by humans, such as bricklaying. Alternatively, AI systems can collate and organise information for engineers to use within project planning and design implementation.
Here is how the construction industry is starting to use AI in order to complete projects that contain fewer errors, less omissions, safer working practices, improved workflows, and more on-time worksite completions.
The four categories of artificial intelligence in construction
Within the industry, the utilisation of AI and robotics is broken down into four categories, and these are as follows:
Planning with equipment: Artificial intelligence is used in the creation of construction plans. Autonomous equipment is considered as AI as it is aware of its surroundings and is capable of navigation without human input. In the planning stages, AI machinery can survey a proposed construction site and gather enough information to create 3D maps, blueprints and construction plans.
Before this advancement, these processes would take weeks – now they can be done in one day. This helps to save firms both time and money in the form of labour.
Administrative roles: Once construction has begun, AI is being used to manage the project and control tasks. For example, workers can input sick days, vacancies and sudden departures into a data system and it will adapt the project accordingly. The AI will understand that the task must be moved to another employee and will do so on its own accord.
Construction methodology: AI database systems are now helping to inform engineers on how specific projects should be constructed. For example, if engineers were working on a proposed new bridge, AI systems would be able to advise and present a case for how the bridge should be constructed. This is based on past projects over the last 50 years, as well as verifying pre-existing blueprints for the design and implementation stages of the project. By having this information to hand, engineers can make crucial decisions based on evidence that they may not have previously had at their disposal.
There is also the development of autonomous site machinery, which allows the driver to be outside of the vehicle when it is operating at dangerous heights. Using sensors and GPS, the vehicle can calculate the safest route.
Post-construction: Once buildings have been constructed, whether they are used for commercial purposes or it is a development of new houses, AI systems can be used inside the structure. In the US alone, $1.5 billion was invested in 2016 by companies looking to capitalise on this growing market.
For example, the hotel chain Wynn announced in 2016 that every room in its Las Vegas hotel would have an Amazon Echo feature by the end of 2017. These devices can be used for aspects of the room such as lighting, temperature and any audio-visual equipment contained in the room. These systems can also be used within domestic settings, allowing homeowners to control aspects of their home through voice commands and systems that control all electronic components from one device.
BIM: Building information modelling and retrospective assessment
So that buildings hold informative, historical information regarding their construction, building information modelling (BIM) can be used so that a building’s history from its construction, to the management decisions alongside construction, up until demolition, are all recorded.
Virtual assistants (VAs) can then be used to add a conversational element alongside this information. By combining VAs alongside NFC (near-field communication), VAs can be given additional information to the building itself in real-time from various sensors in the building. For example, if there were structural problems with a building, then VAs could inform engineers specifically where the problem was and how it can be fixed.
Through working collaboratively with engineers, VAs and AIs can help the industry as a whole to save both time and money in the form of labour; AIs can also help to replace redundant labour to allow for the industry to make efficiency savings that weren’t possible before this type of technology existed. As the future of AI becomes more of a reality within construction, only time will tell how reliant upon intelligent machines we will have to be in order to construct innovative building designs.