How is artificial intelligence impacting the way we build?

Artificial intelligence- known as AI- is revolutionising the construction industry, transforming the way that buildings are planned, constructed and used. 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.

In collaboration with building design software specialists Oasys, this article analyses the developments in the construction industry and its use of AI, for improving workflows, increasing efficiency, eliminating errors, reducing emissions, creating safer working practices and boosting the rate of on-time work completions.

Artificial intelligence: the four stages

There are four identifiable stages in the utilisation of AI and robotics, and they follow the chronology of a project from planning to completion:

Using equipment to plan

Intelligent drones have become a part of the pre-build stages in many projects; they can survey a site and produce 3D maps, precise blueprints and envisage the construction plans. Before this process, these processes would take weeks – now they can be done in one day. This helps to save the firm both time and money in the form of labour.

Using AI in administrative roles

Paper-heavy projects will become a thing of the past, as AI will provide streamlined digital communications for those involved in a construction plan. Programs are now being used that allow architects, engineers, construction workers and others on a project to work collaboratively by exchanging documentation on a cloud based network, as opposed to sending physical documents. Therefore, project plans can now be manipulated and changed and sent to the necessary person who is working onsite straight away.

Developing new construction methodologies

In the future, AI database systems will theoretically be able to advise and depict a construction plan for building new bridges, by helping to inform engineers on how the project should be ran. This is based on past projects over the last 50 years, as well as verifying pre-existing blueprints for the design and the emrgence of new structure analysis software. By having this information to hand, engineers can make crucial decisions based on evidence that they may not have previously had at their disposal.

AI in a post-construction role

AI systems will also become commonplace inside the completed project, whether it is a residential or commercial development. In the US alone, $1.5 billion was invested in 2016 by companies looking to capitalise on this growing market.

There are already visions of the implementation of AI into the hospitality sector, as the hoteliers Wynn announced in 2016 that by the end of 2017 every room in their Las Vegas hotel would have an Amazon Echo.

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.

Building information modelling and retrospective assessment- BIM

Records of a building’s history from construction, to the planning process up until demolition can be filed on BIM- business information modelling and retrospective assessment- and accessed, so that buildings retain important historical information.

Simulating human conversation is the goal of VA’s- virtual assistants- and they will eventually be used to present 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.

A collaborative effort from VAs and AIs can help to keep the labour costs down and target time-consuming older practices; 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.

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