Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used in Construction

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Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used in Construction

Until relatively recently, artificial intelligence was viewed by many in construction as something of the future—not necessary at the moment and not within their reach, financially or technically. But AI is gaining a significant foothold in the construction industry as the technology evolves, more potential uses are explored, barriers to adoption lower, and the AI market expands worldwide. 

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AI and Machine Learning 

The term “artificial intelligence” has been around since the mid-1950s, referring broadly to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The development of AI technology has been driven by the goal of creating machines that are capable of mimicking the human mind’s learning and problem-solving processes. That requires the ability to: 

  • think logically 
  • structure and store information 
  • set goals and plan 
  • understand and generate human language 
  • interpret sensory information 
  • adapt and improve performance based on experience 

Machine learning is what gives machines the ability to learn from and make decisions based on data. It involves the development of algorithms and statistical models that enable machines to operate based on patterns and inference instead of explicit instructions. 

Applicability in Construction 

The construction world is complex, with many moving parts, competing priorities, and stringent statutory, contractual, safety, and quality requirements. And it’s a world rife with opportunities for errors resulting in delays and cost overruns. Fortunately, AI is opening up opportunities to assess the potential impact of all those variables, take into account mountains of data, and prevent such errors. 

How AI is Used in Construction

Generative Design 

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is not a newcomer. Architecture, engineering, and construction teams generate their own plans and 3D models, typically in multiple iterations. AI-powered generative design tools create multiple design alternatives and layouts based on functionality, material efficiency, structural integrity, aesthetics, and other factors. These design tools learn more with every iteration of every plan. All of that data, and more, ends up in the BIM system and can be accessed where and when needed. 

Historically, one of the biggest challenges in managing construction projects was to detect real or potential clashes between conflicting models from the various teams and sub-teams. Today, AI enhances BIM by automating clash detection and optimizing construction schedules. 

Cost Estimation 

AI-powered cost estimation software analyzes data from past projects, as well as current market trends, to provide accurate cost estimates for new projects. This enables contractors to submit accurate, detailed bids. AI can also predict cost overruns by analyzing project size, contract requirements, track record of project managers, historical on-time performance of suppliers and subcontractors, and more. 

Supply Chain Optimization 

AI optimizes the supply chain by predicting demand for materials and scheduling deliveries accordingly. This optimization streamlines the entire procurement process and ensures that materials are delivered exactly when needed, applying just-in-time principles to reduce storage costs and material waste. 

Project Planning and Management 

AI is impressively effective in construction project planning and management because it can analyze enormous amounts of data quickly and accurately, providing insights that enhance decision-making processes. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, AI can predict potential project delays, cost overruns, and resource allocation issues, and proactive measures can be implemented to mitigate risks. 

AI’s capacity for real-time data integration allows for dynamic adjustments to plans, ensuring that projects stay on schedule and within budget. Furthermore, AI can optimize scheduling by analyzing historical data and current project variables, leading to more efficient use of resources and labor. This ability to learn from both historical data and process data acquired in real-time can boost productivity while enhancing safety by identifying potential hazards before they cause harm to people or property. Ultimately, AI’s ability to provide comprehensive, data-driven insights transforms construction project planning into a more precise and continuously improving process. 

Predictive Maintenance 

AI systems predict equipment failures and maintenance needs by analyzing data from sensors embedded in machinery. Using AI to monitor equipment performance and develop a maintenance schedule based on predicted maintenance needs goes a long way toward reducing downtime and maintenance costs. 

Construction Site Monitoring 

AI-driven drones and robots monitor construction sites in real-time, capturing 3D scans and feeding them into an AI-driven system that compares daily progress against schedules to identify discrepancies and take action to ensure on-schedule project completion. For example, real-time data from construction site scans reveal the location of workers and equipment to inform decision-making about their deployment. 

AI site monitoring can also detect safety hazards and regulatory violations that need to be addressed without delay. The sad fact is that construction workers are five times more likely to die on a job site than laborers in any other industry. AI tools can help lower that statistic by analyzing job site scans for safety hazards, such as improper use of protective equipment, improper storage of materials or tools, and so on. 

Fatigue is a common factor in job site accidents, but it requires a different kind of monitoring, which can be accomplished using AI-powered wearable devices. Wearables can monitor workers’ vital signs in real-time and send alerts advising them to take a break or get out of the sun, for example. It’s believed that in this way, wearables can reduce safety incidents by at least 60%. 

Process Automation 

The integration of AI and robotics is well underway in the construction industry. For example, the autonomous driving trend has a strong footprint, with self-driving vehicles moving tools and materials around job sites on an as-needed basis. And AI-enabled machines are doing some of the more repetitive, labor-intensive, or dangerous work, particularly in demolition, site preparation, and excavation. 

How AI Can Be Used in Construction

This blog is not an exhaustive account of possible uses of AI in construction. Still, it provides a solid foundation for exploring AI’s potential and how it can benefit your company. The future of almost all industries is AI and keeping your finger on the pulse of its innovative developments can help you stay ahead of your competitors.

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