It seems AI has become an almost unavoidable topic in professional and even personal conversations. The rapid rise of popularity, fueled by tech like ChatGPT, spurned desires to learn more and better understand how it’s changing the world as we know it – and also how to take advantage of it.
Many times AI is framed as a revolution that’s right around the corner, however, it’s already begun to make its impact across many industries and the construction industry is quickly falling into that fold. But, where precisely does it fit into the AEC space? And how are we approaching the inevitability of it being a part of our everyday life within the built ecosystem?
This past June at the 2023 Americas Summit, BuiltWorlds announced the formation of a new track of research – The AI/ML Research Track – dedicated to answering that and the endless list of other questions surrounding the ever-shifting enigma that is artificial intelligence.
AI is not only moving at breakneck pace in popularity and implementation into our everyday lives, both on the site, in the office and at home, it’s also a very deep and complicated subject. Researching the topic can seem to be like running on a treadmill that’s going faster than you can keep up. That is why the newly created AI/ML Research Track is critical in our understanding of how this tech affects the AEC ecosystem.
From our first research survey on the subject, below are the top 5 identified uses of AI in construction:
#1. Defect Detection: Defects can occur on any project. The ability to leverage AI to detect these defects early in a project is crucial to minimize the risk of the defect becoming more difficult to correct at a later stage. Reality capture companies have found ways to incorporate AI into their existing tools and making them more powerful, accurate, and useful. Scanners with other uses have also been given the AI power boost such as the robots used by the lumber reclamation company Urban Machine. This company is using scanners to pinpoint screws and nails in used lumber so that robots can easily remove them – making the wood usable again.
#2. Design optimization: Parameters and constraints within a design project can seem endless and overwhelming. Until recently designers have crunched equations and parameters to determine whether or not something is viable as part of the design. AI has already begun to help solve these equations in a fraction of the time helping designers move more swiftly and accurately through the project. Autodesk recently introduced AutoDesk AI which helps automate repetitive tasks to minimize errors and free up time; and analyzes complex project data to offer predictive insights. Other firms such as Arup are even using their AI software called MassMotion to better understand how pedestrian traffic will interact with a site once the project is complete.
#3. Sustainability: We’ve all heard that construction is one of the largest waste-producing industries in the world. With the power of AI, contractors are able to more accurately determine the exact needs of a project without the risk over purchasing and wasting materials. An example was seen this past May when material giant USG and robotics drywall company Canvas formed a partnership aimed at revolutionizing the drywall industry and allowing companies to more efficiently gauge and predict the drywall needs of projects.
Aside from materials, companies like SoloInsight use AI-powered sensors to track the flow of people within a building. Allowing the building to determine the most effective use of resources and minimizing the waste of heating an area of the building that isn’t being occupied.
#4. Risk assessment: Even the most diligently planned projects are filled with unforeseen risks that can quickly derail everything resulting in costly setbacks and overruns. Join is a company looking to use AI to allow companies to easily integrate software solutions they’re already using in order to get better insights, forecast more accurately, and communicate across all the various departments of a project more efficiently to minimize risks from every phase of a project. Another example would be companies like Document Crunch using AI to digest dense legal documents to pinpoint and highlight the most important information so nothing is missed.
#5. Other: Although listed at 5 – the most popular response received in the survey was all of the other uses combined. This goes to show that the powers of AI are fairly wide-ranging and it can be used in many ways to bolster project efficiencies. One way the legacy tools and equipment company Hilti has been leveraging AI is through the use of their new Hilti ON!Track product. This allows users to place sensors within tools and equipment to get a better sense of the amount of use they are receiving. This will help predict when tools need maintenance or may even be dangerous for crew to use.
Join us as we continue to dive into research and conversation around the topic as we meet in Atlanta, GA in February for the first ever AI/ML Research Track annual meeting. Capacity is limited to 30 attendees for this event that includes a full day of panel discussions and high quality networking with peers and thought leaders from the field.