January 5, 2018
The potential for artificial intelligence – or AI – is high on the social agenda. Seemingly, everyone from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Tesla CEO Elon Musk have an opinion on the impact of AI on our everyday lives. But how will the AI technology of today impact the construction Industry of tomorrow?
When it comes to technological innovations like artificial intelligence, the construction industry has been a bit late to the party. But that’s all changing. Robotics are being introduced to job sites, filling roles similar to factory assembly lines to assist in the construction of buildings. But, Artificial intelligence goes beyond the actual work-site, though, with devices being rolled out across the world to improve office operations, as well as mapping and surveying sites before construction even begins.
There are five main factors when it comes to the relationship between the construction industry and the advanced artificial intelligence we now have to help. We can assess the way 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.
Drone technology is changing the way buildings are constructed and maintained, with devices able to be loaded with AI programs that allow the drones to seek out data.
While drones loaded with cameras are already being used to map out topography and ground services to assist in construction, their true value lies in maintenance.
A team of engineers could spend lengthy periods of time assessing a structure, which could be a dangerous exercise in itself, only to miss a vital flaw because of human error. These drones are able to reach areas where normal access is restricted, time consuming and dangerous. AI drones are able to map topography and find flaws that humans may not.
BIM (Building Information Modelling) has proved to be a game-changer in construction and its use is set to grow, because of advancements in technologies like AI. BIM is a shared knowledge resource for all the information on a building project – before, during and after construction. BIM provides a set of interrelated and cross-referenced information. For example, objects in the model are linked to related information including manuals, specifications, commissioning data, photos and warranty details.
AI software can train and improve itself based on experience. There is huge potential for BIM to provide new insights as the digital data of our built environment is compiled and AI software has the potential to learn from this data too.
The first stage where artificial intelligence used is in the construction planning. 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.
This is an activity that can now be completed within one day, whereas at one point, it would take weeks. This helps to save firms both time and money in the form of labour.
Not only can AI be used for the planning stages, but also in managing the actual project. 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.
Not only can AI be used to create the structure of a building, it can also be used for the inside too. In the US alone, $1.5 billion was invested in 2016 by companies looking to capitalise on this growing market.
Las Vegas hotel Wynn said that they would be implementing the Amazon Echo to every hotel room by the end of this year – improving the customer experience and keeping them up to date with the latest technology. 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.
Adding sensors and devices to our existing homes to make them more intelligent. Automation, for the the lights, blinds, appliances, heating/air, water ect. Sensors, to monitor use, what rooms you spend your time in and when, which utilities you use the most and when, when do you not need to use these, ect. This gives you your data, and from there, algorithms can easily tease out meaningful associations. The home that knows when to turn down the action given a certain context will be cheaper over the long term, and more efficient. Companies like Nest are starting to do this, and there’s a huge market for it.
Now, more so on the design side, all sorts of ideas have been tossed out. Large datasets of home features could be tossed into a simple machine learning algorithm to see what features that already exist work, finding the patterns and similarities between them. Or, for an even more novel approach, genetic algorithms could be used witch take a set of features, combine them, mutate them (under some constraints) until a specified goal is reached. This could be used for almost every factor you’re trying to design (efficiency, safety, maximal space ect.) I think it’s this area where the biggest change in thinking will occur. These will allow for new concepts to be revealed, more factors to be considered, and a larger array of simulation potential.
But one cannot forget about everything else, architecture is more than just design, there are many other considerations that need to be taken into account. The infrastructure for how the buildings and structures will be built will also be improved by ai, in terms of optimization, scheduling, and construction. Automation of other more mundane tasks architects spend their time on will be less invasive as well, such as contacting clients, and typical practices most business owners deal with.
Safety is one of the positive aspects of AI that benefits everyone. During the Build Conference in Seattle this year, Microsoft showed how AI in construction could make sites safer and more productive.
Construction is the second-largest industry in the world and, unfortunately, one of the least safe, currently causing 20% of U.S. worker deaths, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
Using onsite cameras, facial recognition and info about objects and people, new software is allowing project managers and businesses to monitor jobsite work in real-time. This would allow the auto-enforcement of policies and regulations. The new platform can monitor which employees are using equipment, and it even knows which workers are certified to use it. By simple facial recognition, AI is keeping track of any worker who might in violation of policies or causing danger to those around them.
The main benefit is time compression. New technology allows engineers, architects and surveyors to make better decisions quickly, optimising design, automating engineering or reducing the risk involved in off-site and on-site construction. Project life cycles can be shortened, boosting productivity.
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