Professor Peter Debney of Oasys Software looks at how Artificial Intelligence is impacting the construction industry
As the construction industry continues to advance, the introduction of artificial intelligence has allowed companies to be more experimental with the design of buildings and how they are built.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) sees machines exhibit their own ‘intelligence’ by using algorithms to solve problems based on 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.
How is AI split in the construction industry?
When we look at the construction industry and its use of AI, we can see that it’s split between four categories:
When the construction process begins, plans must be made and this is where AI is first introduced. 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 AI was introduced, this was a process that would take a while to complete – weeks, in fact – but now, this can be accomplished within one day. This helps to save firms both time and money in the form of labour.
A job that was regularly carried out by physical workers, AI is now able to control and manage a 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.
AI is also good for communication, as this type of system can help direct engineers with how to carry out specific projects and better their performance. 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 would be 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.
Construction sites can be dauting, with huge structures and risky heights, but with the introduction of autonomous machines – workers can now be outside of the vehicle. Using sensors and GPS, the vehicle can calculate the safest route.
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, $1.5bn was invested in 2016 by companies looking to capitalise on this growing market.
Information is key
To ensure 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.
Conversation is also key and the use of virtual assistants can help encourage this while providing 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.
The introduction of VAs, building design software and AIs can help benefit any construction company. 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.
Professor Peter Debney
Tel: +44 (0)207 755 4515